Ditgital Marketing Initiatives Slow to Take Hold, Gartner Reports

Even though the shift to digital marketing accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, less than one-fifth (16 percent) of companies fully implemented their digital marketing initiatives, Noah Elkin co-chief of research for the Gartner marketing and communications practice, told attendees at the virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo  yesterday.

"We're still in the early days of the change process," Elkin said, adding that the chief marketing officer is the digital marketing leader in a growing number of organizations.

More companies likely would have been further along the path to fully implementing digital marketing initiatives had they not faced unexpected challenges, including the pandemic, economic, and other challenges, according to Elkin. 

"Cross-functional collaboration is the key to overcoming those challenges," Elkin said. 

Digital marketing leaders must be able to handle many more responsibilities than just a few years ago, including budgeting, hiring, establishing key metrics, establishing a single customer view, and others, Elkin said. 

Eighty-five percent of digital marketing leaders hold a title of vice president or higher, while 75 percent have responsibilities that extend to the entire organization, according to Gartner research. With these types of responsibilities, digital marketing leader are key in helping companies reach their strategic goals. 

Achieving strategic objectives requires digital marketing leaders to foster a collaborative cross-functional network, Elkin said.

To achieve strategic business goals, Elkin recommended that digital marketers do the following:

  • Craft a vision for digital marketing's impact on company growth goals;
  • Define a clearly scoped set of responsibilities;
  • Design a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that includes both external and internal execution components;
  • Nurture relationships with key cross-functional stakeholders and leaders in the organization; and
  • Manage disruption through a nexus of people, processes, and technology.

But digital transformation is not the only disruption for which companies--and marketing leaders in particular--must prepare.

Unified commerce, for one, will take omnichannel to the next level in the next few years, Sandy Shen, senior director with the Gartner digital team, said in a later session. Unified commerce delivers better CX because it provides a continuous and consistent experience throughout the customer journey. 

Despite the CX advantages, though, next year half of large organizations will have failed to unify engagement channels, resulting in a disjointed and siloed CX that negatively impacts growth, according to Shen. 

Part of the challenge is poor data integration, but that is improving, said Shen, who expects data integration to double by the end of next year. To get the best return from data integration expenditures, Shen recommended that companies prioritize investments based on customer journeys.

Subscriptions can offer recurring revenue that product sales don't, but a large percentage of subscribers don't renew because they don't find value, so marketers and companies need to increase the value of those subscriptions for better customer retention, Shen said.

Another trend Shen expects to gain steam is a move to enterprise marketplaces, offering both first-party and third-party products, providing shared revenue for all sellers. "By 2023, 30 percent of enterprise marketplaces will transition into a majority third-party-seller model for better profitability," Shen said.

There will be more providers of the architecture behind the commerce of the future, with more providers providing smaller elements rather than just a few monolithic providers, which will benefit the participants, according to Shen. 

"By 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80 percent in the speed of new feature implementation," Shen said.

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