Marketers are ready to tackle the new year, as evidenced by a new CMO Council report in which 65 percent of marketers say they plan to increase marketing spend through 2021. Just 10 percent will reduce their budgets, while 24 percent expect no change.

Spend will focus on key areas that help marketers embrace automation and a digital-first environment as consumers increasingly favor digital interactions. According to a recent CMO Council consumer poll, in 2019 only 10 percent of consumers said they preferred interacting with brands in a digital-only environment; in 2020, 21 percent said they no longer had a need for in-person interactions.

Marketing leaders will seek to improve their customer journey, acquisition and conversion (50 percent), digital growth strategy planning (36 percent), campaign, execution and measurement (35 percent), demand generation and pipeline (32 percent) and actioning on customer data insight (26 percent).

Sixty-nine percent of respondents will ramp up investments in marketing technology (MarTech) to fill in gaps along the customer journey. Marketers’ top three MarTech priorities are: sourcing and using analytics, insights and intelligence (53 percent), executing campaigns more effectively (36 percent) and improving operations and performance (35 percent).

Half of respondents’ top organizational priority is working more effectively with lines of business. Additionally, across company sizes, regions and industries, marketers aim to save costs through efficiencies (40 percent). Doing a better job of both globalizing and localizing marketing campaigns (36 percent) will also

Just 25 percent plan to downsize or restructure their marketing organizations in 2021, while 64 percent will not.

The report notes that while smart tech investments will help marketers reduce inefficiencies, striking a balance between digital advancements and authenticity will be key. Through artificial intelligence and chatbots, marketers should create digital experiences that let customers self-serve, but still give them the option to escalate to a live person. 

These findings are based on an audit of nearly 200 CMO Council global members.