Coupled with convenience, personalized messages and experiences are a top consumer demand from brands. According to the sixth edition of Salesforce’s State of Marketing report, marketers reported a 186 percent increase in artificial intelligence (AI) adoption to enhance how they source and manage data needed to deliver these types of experiences.

Salesforce surveyed nearly 7,000 senior marketing leaders from around the world to understand how they live by three critical values for recovery including a relentless focus on the customer experience, an unwavering commitment to helpfulness, relevancy and trustworthiness and the continuous pursuit of innovation.

Customer Experience

At a time when brand loyalties are easily shifted, brands endeavor on connecting and building trust through empathy and prioritizing customer experience. In 2019, Salesforce research found that 84 percent of customers believe the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services—up from 80 percent in 2018. To provide a seamless experience, marketers have shifted their priorities while facing new challenges.

Marketers who are completely satisfied with their overall marketing performance and the outcomes of their marketing investments, what Salesforce refers to as ‘high performers,’ prioritize innovation, improving the use of tools and technologies, complying with privacy regulations and engaging customers in real-time and improving marketing ROI and attribution, in that order. Among the most challenging of these are engaging customers in real-time and creating cohesive customer journeys across channels and devices. Notably, a greater percentage of high performers utilize all communication channels as compared to moderate performers and underperformers, with the exception of websites.

Moderate performers prioritize innovation and are most challenged by engaging customers in real-time, while underperformers prioritize complying with privacy regulations and are most challenged by budgetary restraints.

To ensure a positive customer experience, brands have shifted their marketing approach from a traditional focus on specific stages of the sales funnel or on solitary tactics like email or social media, to a broadened focus on every stage of the process. from branding to acquisition to advocacy. In fact, 69 percent of marketers believe that traditional marketing roles limit customer engagement, hence their shift to a collaborative and comprehensive approach.

In terms of collaboration, Salesforce found that today’s highest-performing marketers are “data-savvy collaborators.” Sixty percent of marketers rate their teams’ communication skills as advanced—a welcome figure given that brands now build helpful and cohesive experiences for customers through peer collaboration and by keeping marketers engaged through every stage of the customer’s journey. 

Commitment To Helpfulness, Relevancy And Trustworthiness

Issues involving privacy and trustworthiness in branding and marketing are nothing new, though now more than ever before, marketers are taking steps to exceed regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation given that privacy remains a crucial element of how customers choose between brands. 

According to Salesforce, 57 percent of marketers go beyond regulations and industry standards to protect and respect customer privacy—an increase of 13 percentage points since 2018. High and moderate performers rank compliance with privacy regulations as the third most important priority while underperformers rank it as the highest priority.

Another way marketers are adapting to meet customers where they are and to remain helpful is through omnichannel marketing as customers expect to be engaged across channels. With 71 percent of customers having used multiple channels to complete a single transaction, agile and adaptive marketers have increased their adoption of diverse digital touchpoints with increases of 40 percent, 35 percent and 34 percent for SEM, customer communities and mobile apps, respectively. 

Tailoring brand messages and content to a customer’s activity on other channels is one example of how multi-channel engagement can be made to be more dynamic. Marketers have made immense progress in this department where more than half of them describe their cross-channel content as dynamic—a significant rise from the less than one-third who reported the same in 2018. To further illustrate this evolution, the number of marketers with siloed cross-channel content, in which channels have no coordination, decreased from 29 percent to 15 percent between 2018 and 2020.

Continuous Pursuit Of Innovation

Under the current circumstances, a commitment to innovation is imperative to success and growth. Roughly 76 percent of high performers state they do a great job at innovating marketing technology, tactics and strategies—versus just 47 percent making that claim among underperformers.

Given the uncertainty and shifts in market behavior since the pandemic began, marketers have adapted and will continue to adapt their use of certain technologies over the next year. High performers, in particular, utilize a range of digital tools and platforms to engage customers at the perfect moment and on the right platform, according to Salesforce. 

Marketers’ use of AI, for example, has skyrocketed to 84 percent in 2020—a stark increase from 29 percent use in 2018—as they leverage it for personalized experiences in individual channels, improved customer segmentation and lookalike modeling, and surfaced insights from data. Fifty-six percent of high performers state that they will increase the use of AI in the next year, as compared to 46 percent and 41 percent of moderate performers and underperformers, respectively. Further, 70 percent of high performers claim they have a fully defined AI strategy, as compared to the 35 percent of underperformers who claim the same.