In the digital-first era of marketing, marketers have had to assume two critical roles: the stewards of customer relationships and the engines that fuel growth. As technologies and marketing evolve, so does data, which plays a critical role in delivering personalized and trusted customer experiences and optimizing campaigns and programs to maximize return on investment (ROI). 

Despite the difficulties inherent in gathering, making sense of and utilizing the data, 33 percent of marketers strongly agree that they gain insights fast enough for impactful decision-making. But as rules around customer privacy shift, it’s increasingly more and more important to capitalize on the marketing data available to advertisers.

Salesforce’s third annual marketing intelligence report surveyed over 2,500 marketing decision-makers globally. The study addresses how marketers are utilizing data for growth, particularly by creating personalized customer experiences, navigating new privacy regulations and the trends shaping cross-channel marketing in a digital-first ecosystem. Here are the study’s four key findings. 

Today’s marketer has two areas of focus: nurturing customer relationships and growing revenue.

Roughly 50 percent of marketers report that customer satisfaction is their most important metric, followed by return on marketing investment. Less than 40 percent report feeling successful in evaluating any of these metrics definitively.

In addressing this challenge, marketers prioritize proving impact on growth and customer experience. To do so, they also emphasize data in the form of accurate, timely and consumable insights, according to Salesforce.

Privacy changes have led to shifts in marketing strategies and investments.

Privacy changes over the last few years have forced marketers to develop a consumer-first, consent-based approach to data collection. Marketers are simultaneously experiencing downstream effects in their analytics as performance metrics like email opens are now less relevant as privacy policies preventing tracking are implemented. As much as 90 percent of marketers believe that the recent data privacy shifts fundamentally changed how their marketing performance is measured.

In response, most marketers have turned to technology to provide them the means of measuring performance, understanding customers and offering individualized experiences. In fact, 90 percent of marketers plan to increase or maintain investments in marketing analytics while 88 percent plan to increase or maintain investments in customer data platforms. Eighty-seven percent plan to increase or maintain investments in real-time interaction and personalization.

Salesforce also found that about 50 percent of marketers have increased investments in paid social, mobile marketing and web experiences, unsurprising given that 58 percent of customers and 80 percent of business buyers expect to shop or conduct business online more often post-pandemic.

Data quality is paramount, but not universally accounted for.

Marketers require dependable data to demonstrate the value of their strategies. Roughly 80 percent of marketers report that high-quality data is imperative for driving marketing-led growth and customer experiences. Still, not everyone can obtain reliable data; and if they can, they may not have the tools to unpack it. Marketers responded to Salesforce’s survey by saying that employee resources and manual data integration are top challenges in efficiently evaluating performance. Only 51 percent of marketing teams currently have employees dedicated to analytics.

This gives marketers the opportunity to engage artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to stimulate manual data integration and analytics processes plus it enables marketing resources to be diverted to other pursuits.

Data-driven marketing cultures require a centralized view.

Marketers can’t give meaning to data-driven marketing efforts without a clear and holistic view of data. Salesforce’s report found that 98 percent of marketers emphasize the importance of having a complete, centralized view of all cross-channel marketing. Nevertheless, 71 percent continue to assess the performance of their cross-channel marketing in silos.

Marketers must not only integrate data across business units and sources—they must also share it. Doing so will create greater value, spark collaboration between and within teams and connect marketing programs to business outcomes. With data all in one place, marketers can better lead growth and engage their customers.