The customer experience is restructuring marketers’ mindsets and driving organisational changes. That’s the key takeaway from Salesforce research’s State of Marketing Report 2017, released today.

The report is based on data collected from global marketing leaders and said in addition to the customer experience focus, “technology, particularly AI, is raising the bar for efficiency and personalisation.”

“Customer journeys are the silver bullet to marketing success,” said Kevin Doyle, director of advertising products, Salesforce JAPAC.

Silver bullet solutions are understandably met with caution, but the shift to a customer experience focus for marketers is now widespread and the numbers make a compelling case.

“High performing marketers are personalising messaging across all owned and paid channels, and are seeing real increases in revenue as the result. Technology has caught up to the vision that digital marketing promised, allowing the best performing marketers to run omni-channel campaigns personalised for each customer,” Doyle said.

Marketers in the local region also see the approach as vital. “Australian and New Zealand marketers in particular believe that a connected customer journey is paramount to a successful customer engagement strategy customer journey personalisation,” the company said.

The report surveyed 3,500 marketers holding management positions, or higher leadership roles, from various countries, including Australia and said customer experience is the “brand battlefield”, with 68 per cent of those surveyed saying their company is increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience.

That number rises to 86 per cent when surveying high performers – marketing managers who are “extremely satisfied” with the current outcomes realised as a direct result of their company’s marketing investment. Suggesting those embracing the customer experience focus and personalising journeys are reaping the rewards.

This shift may become a necessity. 52 per cent of customers and 65 per cent of business buyers in B2B said they were likely to switch if companies couldn’t provide personalisation. The report said consumers were more willing than ever to exchange their data for the personalisation. “Among millennial consumers 58 per cent will share personal data in exchange for product recommendations that meet their needs as will 52 per cent of Gen X consumers,” the report said.

There are four key trends that “are disrupting the status quo” of marketing, according to the Salesforce report.

1. Marketers Move to Evolve Journeys, but Data Woes Linger

Research in the report indicated marketers are moving to create unified, evolving customer journeys across several channels, but significant challenges remain. Top performers identified creating a shared, single view of the customer was their biggest roadblock, while moderate and underperformers are hamstrung by budget constraints.

The challenges of a unified customer view are fuelled by difficulties in leveraging disparate data from multiple sources and emerging channels.

“On average, marketing leaders today say 34 per cent of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago,” the report said.

Leaders are coordinating their message across channels and touchpoints to evolve journeys, rather than sending identical messages. Even among leaders, this is a key differentiator, the report said.

However, there is still plenty of work to do, with only 23 per cent of marketers being “extremely satisfied with their ability to leverage customer data to create more relevant experiences”.

Source: Salesforce State of Marketing Report 2017

2. Shifting Priorities Spark Organisational Change

The shift to a customer journey approach is having a profound effect on marketers’ roles, but is also driving greater organisational change, the report said.

“89 per cent of top teams are aligning marketing roles to a customer journey strategy” and “64 per cent of marketing leaders believe customer journey strategies require organisational shifts.”

Leaders are collaborating with other departments and align closely with sales, the report said.

One area where the shift is being felt is social.

“Thanks to the boom in social media, 65 per cent of marketers agree that customers broadcast positive experiences more publicly than they did five years ago,” the report said. Providing a good example of organisational change; “To accommodate changing customer behaviours, 64 per cent of marketing teams work in tandem with service to manage social inquiries and issues.”

3. Marketing Tech Makes Waves

In the quest for connected customer experiences, technology is playing an important role for marketers.

“Marketers’ ability to orchestrate touchpoints in a journey is as much a technology challenge as a teamwork challenge,” the report said.

One to one marketing is the “ultimate goal” and leaders are leveraging their tech stack to achieve it. High performers said an effective data management platform is their most essential tech tool with CRM and analytics rounding out the top three. Underperformers were still relying on data targeting and segmentation, according to the report.

In the ANZ region, “marketers say their current tech stack is extremely or very effective at increasing productivity (62 per cent) and improving collaboration across marketing functions (57 per cent),” the company said.

Artificial intelligence is being touted as the next big area of tech growth and data in the report indicates leaders are embracing it.

Source: Salesforce State of Marketing Report 2017

4. Marketing Embraces the AI Revolution

A staggering 51 per cent of marketers are already using AI, according to the report. However that number isn’t as shocking as it sounds according to Salesforce.

“AI has its roots in tactics like product recommendations and predictive lead scoring, which successful marketers have been using for years,” the report said.

The technology is more than a novelty for marketers. 57 per cent of marketers said AI is “absolutely or very essential in helping their company create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint”.

AI is anticipated to impact customer experience innovations, according to the report.

“57 per cent of marketers expect AI will substantially impact automated social interactions using chatbots and interfaces. Another 58 per cent expect the same impact on marketing via IoT-enabled products.”

Source: Salesforce State of Marketing Report 2017
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