Inside Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2016

Key takeaways distill how to lead customer experience, multichannel, and data measurement efforts in an era of increased accountability.

Today’s marketing leader operates in a complex environment of multiple data sources, increasing revenue responsibility, and innovative technologies. Steering the marketing organization through the digital hype requires a clear vision of both the opportunities and the land mines. For three days, over 800 marketing leaders attended the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference 2016 to learn from Gartner’s team of experts and connect with their peers on where to focus their attention.

In the opening keynote, Yvonne Genovese, group vice president, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, shared that 73% of marketers either own or share P&L accountability for delivering business value, putting new pressures on their ability to leverage data and innovation for growth. “Marketers sit at the epicenter of growth between the organization and the customer,” she noted.

Marketers sit at the epicenter of growth between the organization and the customer.

During her session on the Four Traits of the Digital Commerce Marketer, Jennifer Polk, research director, noted that this accountability makes “every marketer a digital commerce marketer.” She outlined the new marketing mindset as containing four components: Customer-centric, data-driven, collaborative, and business-oriented.

Read more: The Four Traits of the Digital Commerce Marketer

Gartner Data & Analytics Summit

Objective insights, strategic advice and practical tools to help data and analytics leaders achieve their most critical priorities

Learn More

Embrace the gig economy

With an added pressure to deliver business results, marketers must build new organizations that include flexible talent and a range of skills from inside and outside the organization. Chris Ross, research director, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, emphasized the need to nurture in-house talent to foster skills in multichannel marketing, technology, and business IQ along with leadership and collaboration.

Beyond developing in-house talent, marketing leaders should embrace the gig economy by carefully choosing partners with a breadth of offerings who are responsive to change.

Marketer must choose from a range of talent resources in the gig economy.

Read more: How to Build Your Marketing Organization

Marry advertising and multichannel marketing

Yet building a strong marketing organization shouldn’t hinder the customer experience. “Customers don’t want separate experiences that mirror marketing’s silos,” said Andrew Frank and Adam Sarner, research directors, in their session on the need to unite multichannel marketing and programmatic advertising.

According to a Gartner Strategic Planning Assumption, by 2018, over 40% of marketers from global organizations will have insourced programmatic advertising capabilities, up from about 10% today. Marrying advertising’s third-party data with multichannel’s first-party data provides a rich behavioral/ demographic mosaic of audience needs and opportunities. And when marketers combine the dynamic creative possibilities of advertising with the personalization of multichannel marketing they better serve their audiences.

Andrew Frank discusses the need to marry multichannel and programmatic activities.

Read more: It’s Time to Unite Advertising With Multichannel Marketing

All roads lead to data

The discussion of data fueled many of the sessions. Ewan McIntyre, research director, emphasized the need to replace yesterday’s gut feeling with data-driven marketing cultures where data-driven skills and experience are an explicit part of job descriptions. In addition to “hard” data skills, analysts need to have the “softer,” and more nuanced ability to bridge data and business conversations through effective communication. A data-driven culture is where “Every business conversation is a data conversation and vice versa” he said.

Read more: Cultivate a Data-Driven Culture

A data-driven culture is where every business conversation is a data conversation and vice versa.

Data also plays a foundational role in new forms of marketing and advertising. It is part of the holy trinity of programmatic media that includes tag management, data management and multi-touch attribution, noted Mr. Frank in his session on How to Win at Programmatic Media. He noted marketers must find select media and channel partners with which to share data, where trustworthiness plays an essential role.

Read more: How to Win at Programmatic Media

During the “Tales from the Trenches” session, panelists from SunTrust Bank, Trinity Health, McGraw-Hill Education and Lamar Advertising discussed data quality as an important theme and flagged it as a potentially enormous barrier to building a data-driven culture. Panelists noted that talking about data quality is “not really a sexy subject, but it’s important.” Christi Eubanks, research director at Gartner for Marketing Leaders, remarked that “everybody has a story about data quality.”

 Gartner digital marketing analysts Ewan McIntyre and Christi Eubanks interview a panel of digital marketing leaders.
Gartner digital marketing analysts Ewan McIntyre and Christi Eubanks interview a panel of digital marketing leaders.

Read more: Four Companies Reveal Their Data Measurement Lessons

Virtual reality or not?

Beyond the data conversations, marketers wondered where to target their innovation efforts. In his session on how marketers should prepare for virtual reality (VR), Augie Ray, research director, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, said that it’s fine for marketers to decide a new technology isn’t right for their brand, but they still need to evaluate it.

He broke adoption of VR into four phases and noted that we are leaving Phase 1 of Launch and Pitches and rapidly entering Phase 2 with heavy buzz and fear of missing out (FOMO). In Phase 3, there will be “crowds and noise” as brands rush in with new development. Once Hollywood enters, however, a brand program will pale in comparison to a Hollywood VR production. By Phase 4, some marketers will experience regret. Others will be happy with their results and we’ll see more applications for business situations such as training, recruiting, and meetings.

Know your customers and their journeys

In the end, marketing revolves around the customer. In his session on Mastering Segmentation and Personas in a Digital World, Martin Kihn, research vice president, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, discussed how to approach customer segmentation by dividing customer groups according to their needs and values or by using machine learning to find structures and patterns within groups of customers to “cluster” them based on similarities.

In a hyper-competitive marketplace, it’s no longer enough to drive traffic to a purchase decision.

Once you’ve segmented your prospects, it’s time to understand the customer journey and target content and messaging to specific stages. In his session on how marketing aligns customer experience efforts to deliver loyalty and advocacy, Augie Ray said that in a hyper-competitive marketplace, it’s no longer enough to drive traffic to a purchase decision. Success and customer experience maturity encompass the entire journey, well into advocacy where ratings and recommendations influence the next generation of purchasers and where loyal customers step in to advocate and even defend a brand.


Get Smarter

Follow #Gartner

Attend a Gartner event

Explore Gartner Conferences

Key Factors To Improve Employee Experience to Boost CX

Leading IT and application leaders know the key factors to...

Learn More


Get actionable advice in 60 minutes from the world's most respected experts. Keep pace with the latest issues that impact business.

Start Watching