State of Marketing 2020: Innovation is top priority with 186% increase in AI adoption since 2018

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.

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For the sixth edition of our "State of Marketing" report, Salesforce Research surveyed nearly 7,000 marketing leaders worldwide to discover:

  1. Changing definitions of marketing success
  2. Shifts in engagement standards and privacy practices
  3. Evolving marketing skill sets and processes
  4. Unfolding data management strategies and tactics.

The report notes that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, standards of customer engagement are shifting yet again, and marketers are on the forefront of innovation. Here are the three key takeaways of the State of Marketing 2020 report: 

  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 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.* 
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Stephanie Buscemi, CMO Salesforce

"We collected data from nearly 7,000 marketing leaders across the globe for our "State of Marketing" report just as the COVID-19 crisis emerged. The insights in this report demonstrate the importance of key values - 1. relentless focus on the customer experience, 2. unwavering commitment to helpfulness, relevancy, and trustworthiness, and 3. continuous pursuit of innovation - and what top marketers do to live by them. As we look toward — and get to work building — better times ahead, I hope you find this year's "State of Marketing" to be a helpful guide." -- Stephanie Buscemi, Chief Marketing Officer, Salesforce. 

Here is my analysis of 10 important lessons for digital marketers: 

  1. In an hyper connected, knowledge sharing digital economy, customer experience has become more important than ever. Eighty-eight percent of high performers lead customer experience initiatives across their organizations, compared to 68% of under-performers. In this survey, only 15 of respondents self-identified as high-performers. High performers are completely satisfied with their overall marketing performance and the outcomes of their marketing investments 
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    2020 Marketing priorities and challenges

    State of Marketing 2020, Salesforce
  3. Innovation and real-time customer engagement are the top two priorities for marketers. At the same time, engaging with customers in real time and innovating are the top two challenges for marketers. The life and business lesson here is that anything worth doing is usually means doing the hard work. Establishing trust is how companies can improve engagement. This means trust should be the #1 core value of companies. At Salesforce, Trust is our #1 core value. 
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    The science and art of digital marketing

  5. Marketing is both a science and art. As an engineer who became a CMO, I appreciating learning that good marketers but science into art of marketing, and art into the science of marketing. Digital transformation in marketing means levering data to make better informed decisions, and using technology to improve speed, personalization and intelligent stakeholder engagements. Only 60% of marketers rate their communication skills as advanced. 58% rate creativity as an advance skill and 57% for data analysis. All three skills - communication, creativity and data analysis - are need for marketers to be better storytellers. 

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    High performing digital marketing is a team sport. 

  7. Marketing is a team sport and cross-functional collaboration is table stakes. According the report:  Today, customers seek more and new types of information from businesses through more and new types of channels. Marketers have forged new processes and relationships with cross-functional colleagues to take on this challenge. Sixty-nine percent of customers expect connected experiences. 63% of marketers use the same CRM system as sales and service departments.


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    Technology priorities for digital marketers in 2020

  9. AI, social tools, and analytics are top priorities for increased adoption and use - and IT will play a big role in success. Adoption of emerging technologies like machine learning, computer visioning, natural language processing, chatbots, video marketing will requires stronger collaboration with IT. 72% of marketers say they are aligned with their IT organizations, yet IT leaders rank insufficient business unit alignment as a top challenge.
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    Data is what fuels the digital marketing engine

  11. Customer data sets the stage for empathetic marketing. Seventy eight percent of marketers describe their customer engagement as data-driven. Most of customer data that marketers use is from transactional data. More and more marketers must improve their ability to better understand digital identities and the person's engagement journey with a brand, before, during and after a purchase. The median number of data sources used by marketers was 8 in 2019, 10 in 2020 and 12 by 2021. 

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    The top marketing data management solutions - CRM is #1

  13. Marketers continue to be challenged with putting marketing data to work.  The average enterprise has 900 different applications, an average of only 28% of which are integrated. Successful digital transformation means marketers can get to a single source of truth as it pertains to customer and business partner data. The only path to getting to the truth is shared visibility with marketing, sales, service and commerce lines-of-business. This is why a CRM platform that integrates and delivers real-time visibility to the entire business is key to relevancy, speed and personalized engagements. 
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    Adoption of AI in marketing has tripled from 2018 to 2020

  15. A winning digital marketing strategy includes artificial intelligence (AI). According to the report: "Once data is sourced, integrated, and managed, it's time for it to go to work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the rising star in this effort, with a whopping 84% of marketers reporting its use — up from 29% in 2018."  Marketers with AI have an average of seven use cases, up from six in 2018. 70% of high performing marketing organizations have a fully defined AI strategy.  Privacy concerns continue to be closely managed by high performing marketers. 58% of customers are comfortable 28% with their data being used transparently, but only 63% say companies are generally transparent about how their data is used.  Fifty-six percent of high performers are completely satisfied with their ability to balance personalization with customer comfort, versus 4% of under-performers.
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    Marketers are measuring business value of marketing via revenue, sales effectiveness and customer satisfaction KPIs. 

  17. Marketers double down on business value by revenue, sales effectiveness and customer satisfaction and retention.  The definition of marketing success is evolving as customer experience, joins business value as the profession's north star. 72% of high performers can analyze performance in real time, versus 49% of under-performers. 59% of marketers track campaign ROI. 58% of marketers track channel ROI.
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    Measuring marketing success is based on strategy that is focused on customer journeys. 

  19. High-performing marketing organizations measure success using a strategy that is focused on the customer journeys.  Eighty-two percent of high performers say B2B and B2C marketing tactics are converging, versus 67% of under-performers. Customer journey analysis and understanding is no longer specific to consumers versus businesses.  Account-based marketing (ABM) programs are B2B marketers' response to elevated business buyer expectations, and represent a new level of collaboration with sales teams. Eighty-nine percent of B2B marketers have an ABM program.  High-performing B2B marketers dedicate 18% of budgets to ABM, versus 14% for underperformers.
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    The future of marketing and the biggest impact of technology 

  21. Future of marketing is powered by AI CRM. This a bonus key takeaway, looking into the future of marketing.  From a technological standpoint, marketers expect 5G wireless networks to have the greatest impact on their work over the next 10 years.  76% of high performers say they do a great job at innovating marketing technology, tactics, and strategies, versus 47% of under-performers. I believe the top three most important technology for future of marketing will be: 1. AI powered CRM applications, 2. NLP powered voice digital assistants, and 3. visual e-commerce, powered by augmented reality and voice technologies. 

The State of Marketing 2020 report is quite extensive, with use cases, country profiles and much more. This report includes insights from 7,000 senior marketers leading through change. As a former enterprise CMO, I highly encourage your to read this report.