Traffic on Interstate 10 in Houston approaching Katy, Texas.
There is no single-lane traffic in digital marketing analytics. PHOTO: Ken Lund

New players that have emerged in Gartner's world of digital marketing analytics platforms are embracing people-based marketing and they're building a true omnichannel view of people. Martin Kihn, research vice president who specializes in data-driven marketing for the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, shared those thoughts in an interview with CMSWire. Kihn authored the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Analytics (fee required) published earlier this month and had a lot to share.

'First-Party Data Revolution'

Who are these new vendors and why do they matter to marketers striving for useful digital marketing analytics? In Gartner's third report — AT Internet, ClickFox, FICO, Optimove, SAP and Thunderhead — made the cut this year and are a part of what Kihn calls "the first-party data revolution."  "Marketers have discovered that their customers and prospects are giving them a lot of good signals, and they really need to listen," Kihn told CMSWire. "What that means is they’re thinking about people-based marketing and building a true omnichannel view of people, across the website, email, apps, social channels and even offline."

New vendors like ClickFox and Optimove, Kihn said, deal with marketers’ own data — not paid media — and collect it across all possible channels. "The days of aggregate reporting for single channels like websites are over," Kihn said.

Adobe, Google, SAS Still Lead

Who resides at the top? Gartner still likes Adobe, Google and SAS for leaders in this space. The same three vendors made the leaderboard in the prior two reports. Below you can see how Gartner views the vendor market (Note: Only those with at least $5 million in global revenue in 2016 were included in this quadrant).

Screenshot of the vendors in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Analytics.

Adobe took the lead in terms of vision this year over Google. What led to that change? Gartner, according to Kihn, focuses this Magic Quadrant on the enterprise marketer. It does not assess broad solutions like Business Intelligence (BI) tools. "Do these guys get what marketing analysts need?" Kihn said when asked about the sweetspot focus area. "SAS," he continued, "has more features than Adobe or Google. It does just about everything, but it serves the whole organization." 

Google’s latest moves with Data Studio and BigQuery, Kihn added, suggest it’s also thinking about foundational needs. "On the other hand Adobe’s innovations around anomaly detection and contribution analysis are exactly what marketers want their analytics to do better," the analyst added. "We don’t knock Google. They’re close competitors. It keeps the space interesting."

Cusotmer Journeys, AI

It's challenging to crack the Google party because of its free offerings. Google's free products, including its Data Studio visualization tool, and an "impressive R&D lab," challenges Adobe, Kihn wrote in his report. It also challenges the other digital marketing vendors, who need to "pick a niche" to be viable, Kihn told CMSWire.

Where are these niche vendors going? Customer journey analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) see a lot of innovation and a fair amount of venture capital interest, according to Kihn. "Journey analytics started in customer service but has expanded into exploring the omnichannel paths taken by prospects and customers," he added. "The goal is to fix things that are broken and do better personalization. AI is early days but will be disruptive."

Kihn cited Tinyclues, a French company started by a math professor David Bessis. Tinyclues was included in Gartner's “Vendors to Watch,” those who didn't make the Magic Quadrant cut but landed on Gartner's radar nonetheless. "It applies AI to your customer file to find people likely to buy products you haven’t even launched yet," Kihn said. "We expect a lot of innovation here."

AI Not High on Marketers' Consideration

Before marketers dive into the AI hype pool, Kihn notes that less than 5 percent of the actual users Gartner surveyed said AI was a consideration for them when picking a tool. "That doesn’t mean they’re not exploring AI in their business," Kihn said. "But if they are, I think it’s a home-grown effort using open resources like TensorFlow and Python libraries. AI is not a mainstream product yet."

Industry reports that suggest AI is just marketing hype back Gartner's numbers but there are AI marketing believers. AI can certainly help with predictive analytics and has the potential to lift marketers to the next level beyond traditional marketing analytics like reporting what happened with a campaign. "As soon as your competitor starts responding more rapidly, personalizing offers on the fly, making better product recommendations — whatever — you’ve got to keep up," Kihn said. "There’s also a lot more data available all the time because of the digitization of marketing and improvements in processing and storage. And the tools themselves are getting better so that makes people want to use them more."

Facebook Enters Analytics Mix

Marketers are also finding success with platforms that may lack support for key marketing requirements but offer features often requested by marketers. One such example is Facebook, which Kihn added to his "Vendors to Watch" list. 

Although Kihn does not see the social media giant ever deciding marketing analytics is a "hot business for them," Facebook is definitely on marketers' radars. Part of that is the "free" thing. Facebook invests a lot in foundational research. Therefore, it possesses quite a bit of in-house technology. "Some of this it can give away to help developers and more technical marketers and also to build goodwill," Kihn said. "They started offering a free tool for app analytics and expanded it, but it’s still a free product."

Eulerian Technologies, Splunk and Tinyclues are the other Gartner vendors to watch.

Stop Blurring CX, Marketing Lines

As for the approach to actually analyzing digital marketing, Kihn said marketers often have trouble distinguishing customer experience analytics (sentiment, call center complaints) from marketing (website, email and mobile app channel activity). "It comes down to an organizational mandate for marketing to focus on acquisition and revenue while CX focuses on reducing churn," Kihn said. "Data collection and KPIs and even internal teams are often different. But the best marketers are starting to realize these different worlds are actually part of the same customer journey."