SAN DIEGO — Marketers today must master time and space – or at least become proficient in data and analytics, lead innovation and know how to separate bright, shiny (overhyped) technologies from ones that drive real business value. 

That's the mandate Gartner revealed at its three day digital marketing conference here this week, where analysts are making it clear that marketers have to be equally versed in understanding customers and driving business decisions for the whole organization.

“Marketers are sitting at the epicenter of growth between the organization and the customer,” said Yvonne Genovese, group vice president of Gartner for Marketing Leaders. Marketers "have the 360-degree view of the customer that no one else has.”

Marketers: Lead & Innovate

During a morning keynote yesterday, Analyst Kirsten Knipp echoed sentiments raised at Marketo's Marketing Nation conference last week; specifically, that marketing is increasingly tied to broad business strategies and corporate evolution. Marketing has not only earned a top spot on the CEO's agenda, but has morphed to a greater strategic priority.

In fact, Knipp said, 41 percent of CMOs expect marketers to lead innovation at their organizations. But they must also evolve their roles of connecting with customers, in ways that are unique, actionable and measurable, Gartner Research VP Mike McGuire said.

In the past, it was enough for marketers to lather, rinse and repeat. But that approach to marketing campaigns no longer works, McGuire said. “We’re no longer operating in these fixed points in time. We need data, analytics,” he continued.

McGuire said four forces are shaping digital marketing:

  1. Convergence: The convergence of channels and experiences is forcing marketers to push information out at the request of customers at a specific time.
  2. Event-triggered marketing: These triggers range from a customer's first visit to a site to a sensor triggering location data when a customer enters a physical space. 
  3. Greater accountability: Although marketing budgets grew 10 percent from 2014 to 2015, this increase comes with new mandates to measure and analyze for more effective marketing.
  4. Single view of customer: Marketers are tasked to get as complete a picture as possible of customers to maximize product engagement.

McGuire cautioned that these forces are broad, ever changing and, in most cases, too big for a single vendor to adequately address.

Technologies to Watch

With all those forces in mind, McGuire told marketers to assess  technologies with a critical eye. “Be jaded,” but not too jaded, he said, noting that it was important to develop evaluation methods to distinguish shiny objects from technologies and techniques that drive real value.

Gartner hype cycleThe hype cycle, a five-phase sequence that starts with a technology trigger, continues with a peak of inflated expectations, deteriorates into the trough of disillusionment, eventually enters the slope of enlightenment and concludes with the plateau of productivity, can be a useful way to view these technologies, he continued.

Right now, Gartner sees five significant trends that marketers need to understand, evaluate and act on:

  1. Mobile marketing analytics: McGuire said mobile is the connector to customers through things such as push notifications — and warned "you can’t wait five to 10 years to invest in this. You need to start investing now to understand how it’s going to work within your organization. Start with your KPIs. Find the analytics.”
  2. Digital commerce marketing: Buying and selling using web and mobile networks is a short-term priority for business-to-consumer marketing, "but we will see assimilation as the market technologies evolve," McGuire said.
  3. Customer journey analytics: This is a long-term play that requires evaluation now. In the hype cycle, it will reach the plateau in more than 10 years, McGuire said. “You need to be able to track all [the channels]. [Customers] expect us to know quite a bit about them.”
  4. Real-time marketing: May sound like a buzzword, but this is a long-term play that needs to be on marketing roadmaps now. Start investing in the processes, technologies and people who find the best time to react with customers, McGuire said.
  5. Neurobusiness: Think artificial intelligence, augmented reality and what Google Glass tried to accomplish. This will also reach the plateau in more than 10 years, but Gartner calls it a transformational capability. McGuire says this area is still “bright shiny objects” right now, but we will see the technology, beliefs and reactions mature.

Data and Digital Marketing Hubs

Martin Kihn, research vice president of Gartner for Marketing Leaders, stressed the era of “going from the gut is finally over," noting that the amount of data available to marketers roughly doubles every year. Gartner predicts more than two-thirds of marketers will base their marketing decisions on data and advanced analytics within a year.

Some marketers are already approaching data through digital marketing hubs, a trend McGuire said is accelerating. Digital marketing hubs, or software from multiple digital marketing domains with integrated access to applications and workflows, like Adobe or Oracle’s marketing clouds probably come to mind. Now players like IBM, Sitecore and Marketo have also made a name for themselves with this evolving technology.

McGuire called  the technology a short-term priority for large complex marketing operations. He told marketers to evaluate what capabilities they have now and what they will need in three to five years.