Report: Customer engagement is more difficult in the Covid era

Salesforce's State of Marketing report finds optimism amid challenges of meeting customer expectations and masses of data

Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) marketers remain optimistic following 18 months’ adaption to evolving consumer habits prompted by Covid and investment in digital efforts to cater to those habits and marketing goals.

Nevertheless, more than three-quarters of digital marketers are finding customer expectations harder to meet than a year ago, according to the latest State of Marketing Report from customer relationship management (CRM) platform, Salesforce

The report surveyed 380 marketers from across A/NZ within a larger global survey of 8227 marketing leaders from 37 countries. It found the priority is effective customer engagement and marketers need to accelerate their digital transformation work to keep pace with customer expectations.

A key finding is that as customers go digital, marketing is going with them. Salesforce's report found 88 per cent of marketers believe digital capabilities determine whether they meet customer expectations. Just over 90 per cent agree the pandemic changed their digital engagement strategy and 90 per cent also changed their marketing channel mix. Channels that increased the most by value since last year are video (93 per cent) and audio (90 per cent). 

The consensus is customer engagement must also be data-driven. Marketers are more inclined to use known digital identity sources such as email addresses and less inclined to use third-party sources such as cookies. But making the most of the ever-growing data is challenging and marketers don’t see it getting any easier - they expect a 20 per cent increase in sources of data in the coming year. 

The report found marketers believe they must transform to keep the business competitive. Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of those surveyed agree that customer experience is the key differentiator, and 88 per cent say they are reshaping their digital strategies according to customer preferences and expectations.

Read more: customer engagement

Ways of working 

Metrics continue to evolve in response to increasingly strategic and valuable marketing efforts. Traditional metrics such as revenue and the sales and marketing funnel will still be measured, but customer satisfaction now ranks as the most important KPI. Performance indicators are also changing, and three-quarters of CMO respondents are aligning their KPIs with those of the CEO. 

Despite the disruptions since Covid landed, marketers are optimistic about their organisations’ futures. Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) expect revenue growth over the next 12 to 18 months. Just over 80 per cent see their role in driving this growth as growing because they believe their work provides more value now than it did a year ago. 

Working from home has seen a decentralised workforce re-evaluate ways of working with each other. The pandemic has permanently shifted the way 80 per cent of marketers communicate and collaborate while almost as many organisations (78 per cent ) are changing their policies on remote work.

Salesforce regional VP of data, personalisation and marketing automation, Kevin Doyle, says that in little more than the past year, A/NZ marketers have dealt with changes that would normally happen in a decade.  

“Marketers told us that data has been their map through COVID, real-time personalisation their North Star - all leading them towards more meaningful digital customer engagement.”

The A/NZ level insights were collected from a double-blind survey conducted from 4 May 4 through 3 June 2021. 

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