How can you address the demands of connected customers who expect personalized and consistent experiences across every channel? According to the fourth annual Salesforce State of Marketing report, creating customer journeys augmented by artificial intelligence (AI) is a good option. They suggest marketers should use AI, More MarTech to reach customers.

The 2017 report is based on a survey of 3,500 marketers worldwide.

What Makes Top Marketers Tick

What Makes Top Marketers Tick

Salesforce State of Marketing Takeaways

The report offers marketers four key takeaways:

  • Embrace AI. The marketers surveyed expect their AI use will grow more than 50 percent over the next two years. They further expect AI will help them deliver more targeted campaigns, enhanced personalization, and higher ROI. “Fifty-seven percent of marketers using AI say it’s absolutely or very essential in helping their company create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint.”
  • There are still too many silos. Marketers have to break down silos between sales, service, and marketing. They also need to bring customer data together to optimize the potential of customer journeys. “While 73 percent of marketers with a CRM system use it for a shared customer view between their service and sales teams, more than a quarter don’t — creating a rift in how those teams view their customer data, and ultimately hindering their ability to drive a cohesive customer journey across departments.”
  • Brace for change. The organization of marketing departments is changing. So are the ways marketers are collaborating with others, such as sales and customer service. “Within the past 18 months, 61 percent of marketers say they’ve become more focused on evolving from a traditional marketing structure to roles aligned with a customer journey strategy.”
  • Expect more MarTech. Over the next two years, marketers expect to see unprecedented growth in their marketing technology usage. Leading teams lean more heavily on an array of marketing technology. “Top top teams are 14x more likely to be heavy tech adopters. Even though top teams are using more technologies, they’re making a greater effort to ensure the end messages they’re sending customers are more coordinated between channels.”

Customers Expect 1-to-1 Marketing

The report emphasizes a reality marketers can no longer ignore. Specifically, customers increasingly expect consistent, personalized experiences across every channel — and their loyalty is on the line.

  • 52 percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them
  • 65 percent of business buyers say the same about vendor relationships

But marketers have historically found personalization a double-edged sword. Is the use of technologies like predictive modeling, data mining and passive Wi-Fi tracking the new normal or cross the line from clever to creepy?

The Salesforce report has encouraging news. “Consumers are more willing to trade data for better experiences,” it notes. Citing data from another Salesforce report released in October, it points out that 58 percent of millennials, 52 percent of Gen X consumers and 57 percent overall will share personal data in exchange for product recommendations that meet their needs.

As John Mancini, chief evangelist at the AIIM global community of information professionals recently wrote:

“Every day we make fundamental compromises related to our privacy in exchange for the always on, available anywhere access and convenience of the online world.”

AI Will Transform Marketing

AI has evolved from its roots in tactics like product recommendations and predictive lead scoring. Now it is the leading technology where marketers expect the most growth over the next two years, the report concludes.

Marketers expect AI to substantially impact their abilities to improve efficiency, gain more insights from their data, and advance one-to-one personalization. Fifty-seven percent of marketers expect AI will substantially impact automated social interactions using chatbots and interfaces. Another 58 percent expect the same impact on marketing via Internet-of-Things products.

But challenges remain. Top marketing teams cited privacy and data concerns around initiating AI. Salesforce defines “top” as those who are “extremely satisfied” with the impact of their company’s marketing investment.

Underperforming marketing teams complained about a lack of a defined AI strategy and too few in-house skills to support implementation. Salesforce defines underperforming as those who are minimally satisfied with their company’s current marketing efforts.