The research found that standards of customer engagement are shifting and marketers in South Africa are prioritising innovation in a 'radically altered landscape'.

In addition to new regulations, marketers in South Africa expect that an expanded online population and wearables will bring transformational impacts by 2030. Marketers are anticipating that the online addressable market will increase as people get connected more than ever before.

For its report, Salesforce indicates that it collected data from nearly 7 000 international marketing leaders spanning six continents, just as the COVID-19 crisis emerged.

"The COVID-19 crisis is forcing marketers in South Africa to rethink every aspect of their business — from strategic priorities and challenges to the technological and team skills they will need — as they navigate getting back to work during a global crisis, and then continuing to transform the customer experience to be best positioned for success in the years ahead," says Robin Fisher, regional VP for Salesforce emerging markets.

"The insights in 2020's State of Marketing report are a helpful guide for marketers as they journey to recover and transform their business," adds Fisher.

The trends revealed in the report were collected from marketing leaders from B2B, B2C and B2B2C companies across 30 countries, including 200 respondents from South Africa.

The report indicated the following:

Marketing transformation takes on a new urgency
The expectations and behaviors of consumers, businesses and society at large are shifting with 'unprecedented speed and magnitude'. Marketers are at the forefront, with 76% in South Africa leading customer experience initiatives across their companies.

This involves a combination of both technological and organisational innovation. In South Africa, innovating is a top priority for marketing leaders, while balancing personalisation with customer comfort levels is a top challenge.

Customer data sets the stage for empathetic marketing
As customers navigate a series of 'new normals', personalised and empathetic engagement has 'never been more important'. Delivering messages and offers that resonate with an individual's unique needs and expectations requires deep insights.

Marketers are shifting how they source and manage customer data and ramping up use of technologies like AI that help them make the most of it. In South Africa, marketers are expected to go from four data sources in 2019 to six projected data sources in 2021.

Ninety-one percent report the use of AI with personalising experiences in individual channels being a top use case.

Marketers Double Down on Business Value
As businesses shift from crisis triage to recovery and adaptation, marketers have a unique opportunity to turn trusted customer relationships into business value.

Marketers increasingly track metrics like customer satisfaction, digital engagement and lifetime customer value to gain a holistic picture of what's working and what isn't across the customer journey.

B2B marketers have a 'particularly strong role in business growth' through account-based marketing (ABM). In South Africa, 60% of marketers track customer lifetime value (LTV) to measure success.

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