1 out of 3 marketing teams have implemented AI in their workflows

Looking to personalize at scale and boost efficiency, marketers rank AI adoption as their top priority and challenge, according to a new report.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer
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Advancements in data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are prompting marketers to rethink, reconfigure, and revolutionize how companies connect with customers, according to Salesforce's 2024 State of Marketing Report.  For the report's ninth edition, Salesforce surveyed nearly 5,000 marketers, generating 4,850 responses from marketing decision-makers across North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.

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Marketers are evolving their practices in a highly competitive landscape. They're looking to AI  -- both generative and predictive -- to help personalize at scale and boost efficiency. Marketers rank AI adoption as both their number one priority and challenge. Here is the executive summary of the report captured in five key findings:

  1. Marketers shore up their data foundations - Businesses have long struggled to connect disparate data points to create consistent, personalized experiences across customer journeys. Yet as third-party cookies are depreciated and AI proliferates, that quest is only becoming more critical -- and challenging. Only 31% of marketers are satisfied with their ability to unify customer data sources.
  2. Marketers embrace AI with an eye on trust - Marketers are intent on successfully applying AI in their operations with the right data, but are concerned about security and customer trust as adoption ramps up. Thirty-two percent of marketing organizations have implemented AI in their workflows, and an additional 43% are experimenting with it.
  3. Full personalization remains a work in progress - What constitutes a "personalized experience" continues to mature, and there's a stark difference between how the highest- and lowest-performing marketing teams adapt. On average, high performers fully personalize across six channels, compared with underperformers who fully personalize across three.
  4. Marketers seek unified analytics - There is no shortage of data sources, but putting that data to work is a challenge. Only 48% of marketers track customer lifetime value (CLV).
  5. Deeper relationships emerge with ABM and loyalty programs - Companies are increasingly turning to strategies like account-based marketing (ABM) and loyalty programs for better customer acquisition and retention. Yet many of these programs' information sources remain disjointed, and so is the resulting customer experience. Thirty-nine percent of marketers say loyalty program functionalities are accessible across all touchpoints.

This article will focus on the report's findings related to AI and data-related research. 

AI tops marketing agenda

Taking advantage of AI is the marketer's biggest priority -- and biggest challenge. Maintaining trust, another key area of focus, is a core part of successful AI deployment. In fact, 68% of customers say advances in AI make it more important for companies to be trustworthy. 

Marketer's top priorities:

  1. Implementing or leveraging AI
  2. Improving use of tools and technologies
  3. Improving marketing ROI/attribution
  4. Engaging with customers in real-time
  5. Building/retaining trust with customers

Marketer's top challenges

  1. Difficulties implementing or leveraging AI
  2. Engaging with customers in real time
  3. Building/retaining trust with customers
  4. Measuring marketing ROI
  5. Creating a cohesive customer journey

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The report found that marketers use an average of eight different marketing tools and technologies. All AI projects start as data projects. Capturing customer data from a large set of marketing tools that are not integrated creates a challenge for marketers to unify, harmonize, and create a 360-degree view of their customer engagement touchpoints. Only 32% of marketers are satisfied with how they use customer data to create relevant experiences.

Marketers shore up their data foundation

Marketers use an average of 9 different tactics across the entire customer journey. The most common data sources for marketers are:

  1. Customer service data
  2. Transactional data
  3. Mobile apps
  4. Web registrations
  5. Loyalty programs
  6. Subscriptions
  7. Online learning platforms
  8. Access to discounts
  9. Interactive tools
  10. Cause-based marketing

The report found that 38% of marketers don't use third-party data.

The modern marketer's challenge isn't a lack of first-party data -- it's fully integrating this data across departments to glean insights, plan campaigns, and suppress messages from reaching the wrong audiences, to name a few examples. 

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Only 31% of marketers are satisfied with their ability to unify customer data sources. Data integration across the enterprise app landscape is key to high-performance marketing.  About two in five marketers still don't have real-time data at their disposal for crucial tasks, relying instead on potentially outdated insights -- or even intuition. Even teams with live data are slowed down by their ability to activate it. While over half of marketers say data is available in real time to execute a campaign, 59% need the IT department's help to do so. Most customer data is trapped in business, with limited or no access to marketing. 

Marketers embrace AI with an eye on trust

In 2022, 68% of marketers had a defined AI strategy. Today, 75% of marketers are already rolling up their sleeves and experimenting with or implementing AI. Yet a closer look reveals an uneven landscape. High performers are 2.5 times more likely than underperformers to have fully implemented AI within their operations. Already, generative AI use cases rank among marketers' favorites alongside more established predictive AI applications.

Top marketing AI use cases:

  1. Automating customer interactions
  2. Generating content
  3. Analyzing performance
  4. Automating data integration
  5. Driving best offers in real time

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Marketers do have concerns with AI.  Eighty-eight percent of marketers worry about missing out on generative AI's benefits, compared to 78% of sales and 73% of service colleagues. And 41% of CMOs cite data exposure as a top concern compared to 29% of VPs and 32% of team leads. Ninety-eight percent of marketing leaders believe trustworthy data is essential. But, just as the data must be trustworthy, so should its integration with AI.

Ranking of marketer's generative AI concerns:

  1. Data exposure or leakage
  2. Lack of necessary data
  3. Lack of strategy or use cases
  4. Inaccurate outputs
  5. Copyright or intellectual property concerns
  6. Distrust in generative AI
  7. Biased outputs
  8. Fear that AI will replace jobs
  9. Adherence to brand guidelines
  10. Difficulty learning how to use AI

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The State of Marketing report reveals the importance of data and AI in terms of measuring success and meaningful outcomes. Performance metrics continue to focus on revenue. Marketers closely monitor their marketing/sales pipeline (64%) and funnel (63%). And 48% of marketers track customer lifetime value. The most important marketing metrics include the following: customer retention rates, customer acquisition costs, customer satisfaction, customer referral rates and volumes, and customer lifetime value. 

To learn more about the 2024 State of Marketing report, you can visit here

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