Assessing the State of Digital Marketing

Salesforce-Top-Digital-Marketing-Success-Rates-Jan2015Salesforce Marketing Cloud has released its “2015 State of Marketing” report [download page], a wide-ranging study that looks at the top digital priorities, obstacles and channels, drawn from a survey of more than 5,000 marketers from around the world. This article presents some of the top highlights from the report, which takes a special look at email, social and mobile.

Top Success Metrics

In looking at the top metrics for success this year, the report notes that “marketers are shifting attention from traditional metrics like conversion rates and return on investment to metrics that better reflect customer satisfaction.” While that’s an understandable response to the increasingly customer-centric nature of digital marketing, it’s interesting to see that ROI isn’t a top-2 metric, given all the attention paid last year to proving marketing’s worth.

In any case, the results of the survey indicate that revenue growth (32%) is the top success metric for this year, followed by customer satisfaction (30%). ROI, customer retention rates and customer acquisition occupy the next tier, each cited by 23% of respondents.

Biggest Obstacles

The most pressing business challenges this year are to some extent a reflection of the metrics for success. New business development ranks as this year’s biggest challenge, cited by 27% of respondents, echoing the focus on revenue growth. Quality of leads and remaining up to date with current marketing technology and trends were also each cited by 27% of respondents, but are ranked second and third, respectively, according to the study.

Customer acquisition (26%) follows closely behind, slightly ahead of quantifying marketing’s return on investment and integration of marketing tools and systems (each at 25%).

The biggest challenges thus relate to revenue growth and ROI, with marketing technology-related concerns also figuring prominently. With spending on marketing technology on the rise, questions of integration figure to continue to play an enhanced role.

Somewhat surprisingly, data-related challenges (“using existing data to drive more relevant messages and experiences” and “understanding what data to analyze”) fall further down the list of concerns.

Digital Channel Effectiveness

The report measures effectiveness ratings among users of 26 different digital marketing channels and strategies, with the results demonstrating a notable lack of range in the ratings. For example, email marketing, social media advertising and social media listening emerged as the most effective (each rated “very effective/effective” by 68% of their users), but the least effective channels, blogging and native advertising, were still rated as being very effective or effective by 58% of their users. In other words, each channel was rated as being effective by between roughly 6 in 10 and two-thirds of users.

There was greater disparity in adoption rates. The corporate website is the most-used digital marketing channel, an expected result that becomes more surprising when considering that only 56% reported using it. In fact, the corporate website was the only channel with majority stated adoption. It was followed by social media marketing, social media engagement and SEO/SEM, each used by just 44% of respondents. These are much lower adoption rates than seen in other digital marketing studies, and likely owe to the respondent sample.

Meanwhile, the 5 least-used channels are offer management (21%), lead nurturing and scoring (20%), mobile push notifications (19%), location-based mobile tracking (18%) and podcasting (15%).

Social and Mobile

Overall, some 84% of respondents (80% in the US) plan to increase or maintain their spending on digital marketing activities this year.

As also found in a recent StrongView survey on budget trends, social and mobile are among the channels slated for the broadest increases in budgets, per the Salesforce study. Indeed, 7 in 10 respondents plan to increase their social media advertising and social media marketing budgets, with two-thirds expecting to up their spending on social media engagement (67%), location-based mobile tracking (67%), mobile applications (66%), and mobile push notifications (65%).

Web personalization (65%) is also getting a lot of budget attention, as are marketing automation (63%) and content marketing (62%). While slightly more than 6 in 10 plan an increase in video advertising spend, video’s prominence is more muted than in the StrongView survey.

Focusing on mobile and social, the report notes that their influence on respondents’ business is far more as a critical enabler of products and services than as a primary revenue generator.

Some other highlights relating to mobile and social follow:

  • Loyalty campaigns are the most popular (37% using) and highly rated (86% reporting effective) mobile campaigns, although each mobile campaign type was in the 83-86% range in reported effectiveness;
  • Mobile website or app traffic is the top mobile success metric (43%), followed by conversion rate (39%) and lead generation (37%);
  • Roughly two-thirds have integrated mobile marketing into their overall strategy, up from about half last year;
  • Facebook is, unsurprisingly, the most widely used social channel, by 80% of respondents, followed by Twitter (70%) and LinkedIn (62%);
  • Podcasts (30%) and Instagram (29%) are the social channels with the largest share of respondents either piloting or planning their use in the next 12 months;
  • Among users of the various social channels, Pinterest is rated least effective (57% reporting it effective) while Tagged (86%), Video (81%) and KakaoTalk (81%) are rated the most effective; and
  • Social media traffic (42%), audience engagement (40%) and audience growth rate (35%) are the most popular social success metrics.

Technology and the Customer Journey

In examining the use of various marketing technologies, the report offers another reason why mobile is slated for big increases: mobile applications are considered the most important technology for creating a cohesive customer journey, with 57% rating them absolutely critical or very important. Not only that, but of the 10 technologies identified, mobile applications are rated the most effective, with half of their users deeming them very effective or effective at creating a cohesive customer journey.

Mobile apps are followed in the customer journey rankings by marketing analytics (54% rating absolutely critical/very important and 46% seeing them as effective) and CRM tools (54% and 45%, respectively).


As with mobile and social, email is also considered to be a critical enabler of products and services rather than a primary revenue source. Compared to last year, though, its influence is shifting from an indirect to direct revenue source. Indeed, when asked why email is core to their business, just 20% of respondents cited it as “indirectly” impacting their business performance (down from 42% last year), while an equal 20% said that their primary revenue source is “directly” linked to email operations (up from 16% last year).

Some 53% of respondents report that email products significant (21%) or some (32%) ROI, and another 38% note that it either will eventually product ROI (20%) or indirectly produces ROI (18%). Email continues to outperform mobile marketing in ROI projections, as far fewer (31%) of respondents say that mobile already products significant (9%) or some (22%) ROI. To be fair, a sizable 33% of respondents feel that mobile will eventually produce ROI and another 26% say it indirectly does. In other words, mobile is far from being at email’s maturity level, but respondents see it getting there in due course.

A similar story emerges for social: only 29% see it as already producing significant (9%) or some (20%) ROI. Unlike mobile, though, respondents are more likely to see social as indirectly producing ROI (30%) as eventually producing it (27%).

It’s worth noting that as with email, fewer respondents see social and mobile this year as “indirectly” impacting their business performances, with more seeing them as “critical enablers” or products and services.

Returning to email, the study shows that there is a wide range in usage of various tactics, with newsletters (63%) and promotional content (54%) the most commonly-used and browse retargeting (24%) and abandoned cart (24%) used by the fewest. There’s less variety in the effectiveness ratings, which range from a low of 64% (win-back and opt-in) to a high of 76% (mobile opt-in). Re-engagement stands as the email marketing campaign area that will see the biggest increase in use, with 33% either piloting its use or planning to use it in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile email content and design is reported to be the most critical email feature (79% rating it critical or very important and 66% deeming it very effective or effective), with campaign management (74% and 58%, respectively) and contact management (74% and 57%, respectively) the next-most critical.

Not surprisingly, there was a significant decrease in the share of respondents who said that only a minority of their emails are read on mobile devices, and a concurrent increase in the share of respondents who often or always use mobile responsive design in their emails.

Finally, click-through rate is the top email marketing success metric, used by 47% of respondents, ahead of conversion rate (43%) and click-to-open rate (38%).

Dive into the report – accessible here [download page] – for more on the importance of mobile integration as well as highlights from various respondent segments (such as B2B vs. B2C, and by country).

About the Data: The 2015 State of Marketing survey was conducted online from October 28, 2014, to November 25, 2014. The survey was sent to full-time marketers in Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s locations around the world. A total of 5,053 marketers completed the survey, representing an 82% participation rate from those who started it.

Some 64% of respondents are from North America (59% US; 5% Canada), with the EMEA region the next most-highly represented.

B2C companies represented 56% share of respondents, with the remainder identifying as B2B. Roughly 1 in 10 respondents were from enterprise-size companies, with half from mid-sized (201-2,500 employees) companies and the remaining 39% from small companies.

The technology and manufacturing industry was the most highly-represented (15%), followed by the insurance industry (9%) and advertising and marketing agencies (9%).