The Old Reliable: Salesforce Study Shows Email Still Ranks High In Marketing Use

Email marketing has seen an 11% increase in usage from 2018 to 2020, and now is employed by 82% of brands, according to The State Of Marketing, Sixth Edition, a study by Salesforce. 

But email has fallen to third place among digital channels. Social publishing/advertising has seen 32% growth in that two-year period, with a usage rate of 83% -- and now ranks second, behind websites.

Mobile apps and customer communities have also seen higher growth than email. But email still beats them on usage.

To get these results, Salesforce surveyed almost 7,000 senior marketers worldwide. The study was conducted prior to the full impact of COVID-19, but it argues that “standards of customer engagement are shifting yet again, and marketers are on the forefront of innovation.” 

Of the companies polled, 71% rate themselves as moderate performers, while 15% rate as high performers and 14% rate as underperformers, based on satisfaction with their marketing performance.  



Their top marketing challenges are:

  • Engaging customers in real-time
  • Innovating
  • Creating cohesive customer journeys across channels
  • Unifying customer data sources
  • Sharing a unified view of customer data across business units

Innovating and unifying customer data sources are new to the top five in 2020. And over the next year, these companies plan to increase their use of:

  • Artificial intelligence — 47%
  • Social marketing tools (listening, publishing) — 45%
  • Marketing analytics/measurement tools — 43% 
  • Video marketing tools — 42% 
  • Customer data platform — 38%
  • Marketing automation/account based marketing platform — 38%

Note: The high performers are way more likely to be increasing their usage in these areas.

Despite its slippage in the usage ranking, email continues to provide clear business value in upselling and customer retention, followed by brand building and lead generation, the study shows.

Customer acquisition is last -- which is no surprise given the imperative to use permission-based email lists.

In addition, email service providers come in second in popularity among data management solutions. The ranking is as follows:

  1. Customer relationship management (CRM) platform
  2. Email service provider (ESP)
  3. Advertising platforms 
  4. Data management platform (DMP)
  5. Customer data platform (CDP)
  6. Marketing automation platform 
  7. Content management platform
  8. Management solution 

On the privacy front, 81% agree that they’re “more mindful of balancing personalization with customer comfort" than two years ago -- up from 51% in 2018.

In addition, 57% say they “go beyond regulations industry standards to protect and respect customer privacy.” That is also up, from 44% in 2018. 

But only 28% say they are completely satisfied with their "ability to balance personalization with customer comfort levels,” and that’s down from 30% in 2018. 

In general, B2C brands are spending 23% of their marketing budgets on technology, 6% on advertising, 17% on people, 16% on research,18% on content and 6% on other areas.

On the B2B side, 16% is now spent on account-based marketing (ABM), 18% on advertising, 16% on technology, 14% on people, 14% on research, 14% on content and 6% on other.

Of the marketing executives surveyed, 79% say they lead customer experience initiatives across their organization, up from 45% in 2018. But 88% of the high performers say they lead these efforts 

Marketers rate their team skills as advanced in:

      • Communication — 60%
      • Creativity — 58% 
      • Data analytics — 57%
      • Collaboration — 56%
      • Digital proficiency — 55% 
      • Agility/adoptability — 53%
      • Data science — 49% 

Overall, 53% now describe their cross-channel marketing as dynamic, up from 31% in 2018. In addition, 32% say is duplicated and 15% that it is siloed, the latter down from 29%.

On the downside, only 48% track customer lifetime value, although that has risen from 43% in 2018.


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