Social media is the most popular method of engaging with brands

Salesforce​ surveyed over 3,500 consumers worldwide to gain a pulse check on how consumers engage with brands, focusing on the channels, messages, and promotion types that are resonating during the pandemic. Social media is the most influential channel for communicating with consumers.

Salesforce surveyed over 3,500 consumers worldwide to gain a pulse check on how consumers are engaging with brands on different channels and what type of content is most engaging during the pandemic. Earlier this year, Salesforce collected data from 7,000 marketing leaders across the globe for its sixth annual "State of Marketing" report. 

The report demonstrates the values that will remain critical as marketers and their businesses recover. The report notes that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, standards of customer engagement are shifting yet again, and marketers are at the forefront of innovation. Here are the three key takeaways of the State of Marketing 2020 report: 

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Consumers are engaging with brands using social media as their top channel preference.

Kirill Kedrinskiy
  1. Marketing transformation takes on new urgency. The expectations and behaviors of consumers, businesses, and society at large are shifting with unprecedented speed and magnitude. Marketers are under tremendous pressure to overhaul their organizational models and use of technology to provide differentiated, digital-first customer engagement. Innovation is marketing leaders' number one priority. 
  2. Customer data sets set the stage for empathetic marketing. As customers navigate a series of "new normals," personalized, empathetic engagement has never been more important. Delivering messages and offers that resonate with an individual's unique needs and expectations requires deep insights. Marketers are shifting how they source and manage customer data and ramping up the use of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) that help them make the most of it. Marketers report a 186% increase in AI adoption since 2018. 
  3. Marketers double down on business value. As businesses shift from crisis triage to recovery and adaptation, marketers have a unique opportunity to turn trusted customer relationships into business value. Marketers increasingly track metrics like customer satisfaction, digital engagement, and lifetime customer value to gain a holistic picture of what's working and what isn't across the customer journey. B2B marketers have a particularly strong role in business growth through account-based marketing (ABM). Ninety-two percent of B2B marketers have an ABM program.* 

Every two weeks, Salesforce Research is surveying the general population to discover how consumers and the workforce are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to explore Tableau data across demographics and geographies. Below are some key takeaways from respondents from around the globe. Here are some of the key findings: 

  • Social media is the most interesting and most noticed channel across all demographics
  • TV ads are the second-most noticed channel -- quite interesting given how investment in TV ad spend has fallen in recent years as media consumption patterns changed
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Consumers channel preferences for engaging with brands 

  • How-to-digital guides are of particular interest for consumers, allowing brands to showcase more thought leadership as individuals navigate confusing times.
  • Personalized offers are generally favored over product-specific and brand-wide discounts, but not universally
  • Millennials are the most interested in personalized offers.
  • Gen Z is the least interested in personalized offers -- potentially because they came of age during an era of heightened attention to personal data.
  • Brands face a conundrum in that consumers want a greater variety of brand content, but less volume of brand content -- this bodes well for the importance of hyper-personalization.
  • Despite their appetite for discounts, most consumers believe brands should forego customer discounts if it means they can retain staff.
  • Consumers are generally eager for brands to move forward with holiday promotions -- signaling an appetite for some semblance of traditional and normalcy

Social media is the preferred brand engagement channel

Social media is the clear winner of consumer attention, with 65% of consumers indicating interest. Video content and virtual experiences are also top preferences. Video content like thought leadership webinars is gaining popularity during the pandemic.   Sixty percent of consumers are interested in instructional digital content from brands, such as a PDF or web page that provides tips and guidance on matters they care about. 

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Preferred brand communication type.

Fifty-four percent of consumers say they notice brand content on social media always or frequently -- a higher figure than any other channel.

Email marketing is also particularly visible -- 53% of consumers say they notice it always or frequently. 

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Frequency at which brand communication types are notices.

Fifty-three percent of consumers say they notice TV ads always or frequently. The most noticed content channels vary significantly across countries. Social media claims the top spot in four of the six markets surveyed. TV ads are the most noticed channel in Australia and the UK. In the US, the top three communication channels with brands are social media, email, and TV ads. 

Digital video channels such as YouTube and Prime Video get more attention from consumers in Brazil and the UK than elsewhere, and display ads perform particularly well in Brazil and France.

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Most noticed brand communication type by country.

Fifty-nine percent of consumers believe the cadence of messages should be decreased, while 58% say the variety of those messages should be increased. Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe messages should focus on products rather than brand messages.

Values create value  

A strong majority of consumers agree that our current environment warrants anything but business-as-usual. Seventy-six percent of consumers say brands should adapt their messages and promotions to changing circumstances, versus just 24% who believe brands should revert to previous practices. Speed to value is how brands gain relevance. And relevance is the only path to brand awareness and business growth. The pandemic has added two additional filters to relevance as it pertains to how consumers are spending their discretionary income. In addition to relevance, consumers are applying 'safety' and 'accessibility' as criteria for spending. Given the economic crisis, with millions of job losses in the past five months, discretionary spending is reduced and additional filters mean that brands have to be flexible and communicate tangible value to their audiences. Speed to value, personalization, and intelligence are all key currencies in the post-pandemic digital economy. 

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Consumer sentiment and core values that matter with brands they do business with.

Protecting jobs is important for all consumers. Business can be the greatest platform for change, given the right core values and guiding principles. Successful brands know that values create value. Consumers expect brands to adopt a holistic approach for all stakeholders -- employees, customers, partners, and communities. Despite their focus on discounts and offers, the majority of consumers are willing to forego deals if it means their fellow citizens retain their jobs. Fifty-eight percent of consumers say brands should reduce customer discounts to retain staff.

To learn more about the Salesforce research, you can visit here to explore data across demographics and geographies.