Salesforce Research has released its 4th annual “State of Marketing” report [download page], surveying the landscape of the evolving function. While the study covers several different areas, one particular takeaway underscores the rate of change, at least in channel usage: marketing leaders responding to the survey estimated that on average, one-third of their budgets are spent on channels they didn’t know existed 5 years ago. Moreover, they expect that average to reach 40% in just a couple of years’ time.
Which Channels Are Growing Fastest, For Who?
The study tracked adoption – and planned future use – of 10 digital marketing channels, finding that websites (83%), social media marketing (77%) and email marketing (75%) are currently seeing the broadest adoption.
In terms of growth, it’s not too surprising to see that newer channels are seeing the fastest rates, given that they’re emerging from a smaller base.
Looking back over the past 2 years, growth in usage has been fastest for video advertising (176%), SMS/text messaging (142%), mobile apps (135%) and native advertising / sponsored content (113%), each having more than doubled in use.
More traditional channels such as organic (47%) and paid (43%) search have seen slower growth, though it’s notable that email marketing use has almost doubled in the past 2 years.
The report also breaks down the 2-year growth rate by target audience, finding that marketers targeting businesses (both B2B and B2B2C respondents) have seen huge growth in the use of video advertising (+204%), SMS/text messaging (+197%) and mobile app (+161%). This is likely due to B2B companies adopting these channels at a later point than their B2C counterparts and therefore starting from a smaller base of usage.
For the most part, it’s B2B companies that are adopting digital marketing channels at a faster rate than B2C marketers, with the exception of websites and email marketing.
Looking ahead, the research points to strong growth in adoption of each of those channels, as well as customer communities, social advertising and customer communities. If respondents hold true to their plans, then by next year marketers will be as likely to be advertising (92%) as marketing (92%) on social platforms. This trend towards parity of paid and organic social makes sense given declines in organic reach and the growing influence of social ads.
The growing popularity of social media is also reflected in respondents’ budget plans: roughly two-thirds (66%) plan to increase their social media marketing spend over the next 12 months, and an equal proportion plan to do the same for their social ad spend.
Customer Journeys On the Mind
The report’s authors note that marketing has moved from “focusing” on the customer experience to “battling over it,” noting that two-thirds (68%) of marketing leaders surveyed say their company is increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience. That belief has been seen in other research: for example, two-thirds of B2B professionals surveyed by Accenture were of the opinion that new entrants to the industry are using customer experience as their key differentiator.
Due to changing customer expectations, almost two-thirds (64%) likewise report that their company has become more focused on providing a consistent experience across every channel. This report sings the same tune as many before with respect to the key challenge face: once again, leveraging data from different sources is proving to be an obstacle to creating a connected customer experience.
Although marketers are trying hard to coordinate their marketing across a growing number of channels, only around one-quarter are able to evolve their messaging from one to another based on customer actions. Twice as many, instead, say that their campaign messages are identical broadcasts from one channel to the next.
Success in these efforts appears to be at the forefront of marketers’ minds. With a variety of benefits – such as customer loyalty, revenue growth, and customer engagement – in play, three-quarters say that creating a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels is critical to the success of their overall marketing strategy.
Add it all together and the majority (61%) of marketers indicate that they’ve become more focused on evolving from a traditional marketing structure defined by channels and functions to one that emphasizes roles aligned with a customer journey strategy.
About the Data: The report is based on a survey conducted in April 2017 among 3,500 marketing leaders (manager or higher leadership role) in the US, Canada, Brazil, UK/Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia/New Zealand. Some 57% of respondents come from companies with 101-3,500 employees, while 16% come from companies with more than 3,500 employees.