Salesforce Releases ‘Trends in Retail and Consumer Goods Marketing’ Report

Marketing professionals in retail and consumer goods are harvesting tons of data to monitor consumer habits, but that data often remains unorganized and unused.

That was the conclusion of a report compiled by CRM software provider Salesforce, which unveiled its “Trends in Retail and Consumer Goods Marketing” study during the Shoptalk trade show in Las Vegas on March 5.

The report by the San Francisco venture was compiled by surveying approximately 900 retail-and-consumer-goods marketing professionals from around the globe. The survey showed that there is a growing responsibility of marketers to lead planning for the customer experience. By working across departments and using new tools that optimize data, marketers can create actionable results to strengthen relationships with customers.

“According to our research, only 25 percent of retail-and-consumer-goods marketers leverage AI [artificial intelligence] in some form or fashion today,” Salesforce Vice President of Industry Strategy for Retail Rob Garf said. “I think it’s important to step back and think about why that is. The answer is that the data is an absolute mess.”

While companies are investing in digital resources to monitor consumer habits, the data that is gathered often remains unorganized.

“The data, particularly around consumers and products, is sitting in various systems across the enterprise,” Garf said. “The fuel to AI is data, and if you don’t have your data house in order AI will break down. There is a major push for more-mature data management.”

This need for more efficient methods of organizing data is leading to more focus on unification through data-management platforms, or DMPs. Over the next two years, DMP use is expected to grow 63 percent as marketers in retail and consumer goods plan to use these tools for more efficient marketing analytics and advertising-performance measurement (76 percent), content personalization (64 percent), media buying and optimization (63 percent), identity resolution and management (60 percent), and creative testing and optimization (56 percent).

The importance of harnessing the power of consumer data is increasing, but marketers remain focused on balancing research with customer trust as 80 percent of the report’s respondents prioritize privacy and personalization.

Another primary concern lies within marketers’ ability to efficiently connect with consumers as many respondents emphasize the importance of real-time customer engagement while also revealing this as the No. 1 challenge.

“I constantly hear the idea of making the data actionable,” Garf explained. “It’s one thing to get some interesting insights and another to actually make that actionable by putting it in the hands of the marketer, sales associate and merchandiser.”

Despite Salesforce’s findings that only 25 percent of marketers in the retail-and-consumer-goods segment use AI, the report shows that number will increase by 45 percent within the next two years. As companies become more data organized, it will allow them to find greater value in new technologies and to use this knowledge across all departments.

“The training for the home-office personnel and the next generation of workforce is being able to understand data and know how to act on it,” Garf said. “The other important aspect is 90 percent of sales in retail is still happening in the physical store. Artificial intelligence [should] empower the associate as part of the check-in process, which should be about interaction, engagement and service.”