Three marketing analytics trends are driving performance in 2021

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Jay Wilder, vice president, product marketing, Marketing Cloud, Salesforce

The rapid shift to digital has impacted customers’ expectations of companies and evolved their behaviors. Personalization, trust and valuable interactions are the cornerstones of customer experience — 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. As businesses accelerate their digital transformations to keep up with the changing landscape, marketers have the opportunity to deepen relationships with their customers and humanize engagements. 

To achieve those goals, marketers are working on data and analytics strategies that allow them to understand customer engagement and deliver maximum impact with every dollar they spend. This year, marketers are looking to protect and expand their business’s market share — whether to recover or continue to grow — and are contending with a budget that requires constant optimization and transparency into investment decisions. In fact, globally, 9 out of 10 marketers have made marketing-led growth one of their core priorities.

Data and analytics guide this strategy for marketers, helping them move at speed and scale to make decisions that maximize marketing-led growth and meet digital-first customers with personalized moments, regardless of the channel. In a recent report from Salesforce, ‘Marketing Intelligence Report: Data and Analytics Trends to Drive Future Growth,’ marketers provided insight into the state of the marketing analytics landscape, the key challenges they face and how they’re making progress toward data-driven transformation.

The marketing analytics landscape is increasingly complex

Digital-first consumers are active across many touchpoints and are constantly exploring new channels and platforms — from TikTok to Clubhouse to WhatsApp, to name a few. Marketers are experimenting with these social channels while also relying on a diverse marketing mix to reach customers, including websites, social, display ads, email, e-commerce and more. On average, marketers are using 21 marketing platforms to reach customers.

With each platform generating copious amounts of data, marketers have the opportunity to gather all the consented information they need to measure performance and understand customer behavior. However, with the range of data including metrics such as brand awareness, customer acquisition, customer lifetime value and return on investment, the sheer volume of cross-channel resources creates challenges for marketers — and 52% of those surveyed in the report describe their analytics infrastructure as average or poor.

Challenges around data and analytics present obstacles to growth

When ranking the most critical barriers to driving growth, challenges around data management and insights topped the list. Integrating data from multiple sources is a time-consuming and tedious process that can be riddled with errors: According to the report, 43% of marketers spend a week or more each month collecting, cleansing and harmonizing data sets, and only 33% are fully confident in the accuracy of their data. With so much time spent manually wrangling all this information, many marketers miss out on the opportunity to generate insights and apply learnings to in-flight campaigns.

As a result, marketers are increasingly turning to AI and automation to efficiently unify and cleanse their data, freeing up employee resources and giving them access to accurate and actionable insights to make data-driven decisions about their marketing investments. This is something 92% of the surveyed marketers cited as an important factor in their marketing success.

The future of data-driven transformation is bright

While the past year has accelerated digital transformation, the emergence of an all-digital landscape was already well underway. Signs point to its continued growth as businesses seek to expand a variety of growth initiatives, including e-commerce, AI-driven experiences and direct-to-consumer approaches. A measurement strategy founded in data will be key to understanding how campaigns and initiatives are performing, what trends are driving engagement and where to shift attention. More than half of marketers surveyed in Salesforce’s research believe that data veracity and accessibility are the most important factors driving successful marketing performance.

The outlook for the next year shows that marketers are focused on making improvements when it comes to optimizing marketing spend, understanding overall performance and engaging their customers. This transformation is well underway — marketers report they are making progress in areas such as garnering support from executive leadership (60%), implementing new technologies like AI (58%) and using marketing analytics platforms (57%) to improve data efficiency and uncover insights at speed.

With continued progress in leveling-up a data-driven culture across organizations, and by focusing on a unified data foundation for analytics, marketers are evolving beyond their traditional domain to embrace their growth mandate and role as the cross-functional glue of customer experiences.

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