UAE State of Marketing in 2021: 81% Report New or Reprioritized Metrics

  • “Marketers are driving a cohesive customer journey, and enhancing ROI and attribution,” says Robbie Kearns

Salesforce has released the seventh edition of its influential State of Marketing report , showing that 81% of UAE-based marketers say they have changed or reprioritized metrics due to the pandemic, higher than the global average of 76%.

The report and its companion Tableau dashboards, based on a survey of over 8,200 marketers across 37 countries, including the UAE, offer a snapshot of how strategic priorities and challenges, marketing tactics, and technology are transforming against a backdrop of economic and social change.

“As UAE and Middle East customer expectations have changed during the pandemic, marketers have taken on increased importance in guiding digital transformation in their organizations,” said Robbie Kearns, Senior Regional Vice President – Africa, Middle East, and the Mediterranean, Salesforce. “With 81% of UAE-based marketers changing or reprioritizing metrics due to the pandemic, higher than the global average, their work is driving a cohesive customer journey across channels and devices, and enhancing marketing return on investment and attribution.”

Here are a few sample insights:

Amid turbulence, marketers are optimistic about the future

For the vast majority of marketers, the events of 2020 and 2021 have changed nearly every facet of work. From the (overwhelmingly digital) channels they use to engage customers to their internal workflows, there’s not much that looks like its pre-pandemic self.

Yet despite the discomfort that change may bring, marketers remain an optimistic bunch when it comes to the future of their jobs and their business impact. Case in point: 86% of UAE marketers feel that their work provides greater value than it did a year ago, and 72% foresee revenue growth at their company over the coming 12 to 18 months.

Marketers are embracing more (and more sophisticated) metrics

Forced to cater to an even more digital-first base of customers and prospects whose priorities and challenges transformed at breakneck speed, marketers over the past year experimented with the strategies, tactics, and methods with which they engage. As such, the profession became more KPI-oriented as marketers sought to understand what works in a radically changed world — and what doesn’t.

In the UAE, 81% of marketers state they have changed or reprioritized metrics due to the pandemic. The most important marketing metrics being tracked in the UAE are customer satisfaction metrics, marketing/sales funnel, and content engagement.

The value of video as a marketing channel, among others, has surged

A separate, related study of global respondents recently estimated that 60% of customer interactions would take place online in 2021, up from an estimated 42% in 2019. This rapid acceleration of the shift to digital engagement has prompted marketers to reevaluate which channels warrant increased — or decreased — investment.

Unsurprisingly, as customers and prospects spent time under various phases of lockdown with their devices, digital marketing channels have seen even greater appreciation than before. Video — be it through YouTube, Twitch, or a recorded webinar — saw a particularly large boost in value. With 81% of global consumers and business buyers expecting to spend more time online after the pandemic than they did before, there’s little reason not to expect this trend to continue.

Even what could arguably be the most analog marketing channel of all — events and sponsorships — is expected to make a permanent digital shift. UAE marketers expect 39% of their events to be virtual in 2022, with an additional 31% a hybrid of virtual and in person.

As the value of cookies declines, marketers are reprioritizing data sources

As customers’ digital expectations skyrocket, reaching the right target, at the right time, on the right channel is becoming more and more challenging. Marketers are turning to various data sources and associated technologies to inform or even automate their processes. In fact, UAE marketers use an average of 15 customer data sources, up from 10 in 2020 and set to grow to 20 in 2022.

As technology providers and governments put increased restrictions — or even outright bans — on the cookies that digital marketers have relied upon, the relative value of those data sources is evolving. Known digital identities, second-party data, and inferred interests/preferences saw the biggest jumps in popularity since 2020, whereas offline identities and anonymized digital identities saw the biggest declines.

Marketers are embracing a work-from-anywhere mentality

Among the many changes businesses experienced during 2020 and 2021, perhaps none is as consequential as the shift to working from anywhere — be it an office, home, or elsewhere. In the UAE, 83% of marketers say their companies are adopting new policies around remote work, with hybrid scenarios generally favored as the expected post-pandemic scenario.

This shift, viewed as a boon for employee wellbeing and productivity, is not without its challenges. For example, in the UAE, 75% of marketers say it’s harder to collaborate now than it was prior to the pandemic. To meet this challenge, 84% of UAE marketers say their organizations have adopted new collaboration technologies during this period.


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