Adam Sarner

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Adam Sarner
Vice President
15 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Adam Sarner is responsible for global coverage of CRM, with a focus on marketing strategy and technology. This includes multichannel campaign management, lead management, marketing analytics, segmentation, loyalty marketing, digital marketing, and social. ... Read Full Bio

The Customer Experience

by Adam Sarner  |  July 18, 2014  |  5 Comments

In marketing, brand management has often focused on the customer experience. Brands set expectations of a particular customer experience. The brand is an expression of a product or company’s reputation built up over time.  Today, brands increasingly are used as part of marketing engagement to create a high-level expectation or promise of a particular quality of customer experience.

What is changing is the focus on the detail. Brand management traditionally seeks out high-level brand promises rather than specific “service-level” agreements for individual interactions. However, the detailed interactions and customer touches are where the brand promise is to be realized. New forms of customer experience management seek to live up to smaller promises and expectations for specific interaction types that roll up to meet the brand’s overall promise.

Marketing is in a unique position for the customer experience. Understanding the customer relationship, the company’s value to customers, the customers’ value to the company, the importance of learning and reacting to customer interactions, meeting customer expectations for business goals like customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, advocacy and ultimately revenue, are all under marketing’s purview.

This, of course, is an enormous responsibility. Creating an environment for a positive customer experience means that processes must be accessible, dependable, thorough, timely, adaptable, flexible and personalized. A tall order.  A big issue is that marketing doesn’t completely own the customer experience. It is certainly shared and orchestrated with the customer themselves. Another big issue is marketing doesn’t have control of the end-to-end experience.  Marketers must work across departments, outside of marketing, and outside the company itself (partners, suppliers, etc.). They must do this in both the digital and physical world.  Marketers must overcome silos to help plan, design, and facilitate start to finish positive experiences and get to a place where they are living up to the high-level expectation brand promises that they are making.

This week, Gartner for Marketing Leaders discusses specific digital marketing techniques that allow marketers to match real-time interactions and how marketing organizations are reorienting themselves to deliver great customer experiences.  Clients only.


Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013     Tags:

Mobile Marketing: Today’s Demand and Tomorrow’s Opportunity

by Adam Sarner  |  June 6, 2014  |  2 Comments

Today, Mobile Marketing is an enormous opportunity for marketers to influence purchasing decisions by bridging digital information with their physical environment. Half of mobile users are already using their phones around a retail store visit: For example, finding a store location, browsing a website, searching for a product, seeing if it’s in stock, looking up reviews and comparing prices. They are doing this today, en route and in real-time, giving marketing great influence in guiding customers’ purchases.

In multiple industries, mobile marketing is helping design and shape the customer buying process by seeding promotions, campaigns, cross selling and upselling, engaging in social interactions and providing a wealth of customer applications making it easier for the customer to do business with them.  Consider the airline app that preps you with notifications about your trip, offers seat upgrade changes or tracks where you parked your car when you get back, or the My Disney Experience app that tracks wait times on rides and manages Disney dinner reservations on site.  Mobile apps like Uber are creating new business models and sources of revenue that likely would not exist without the mobile environment. Mobile usage certainly indicates that this highly contextualized, real-time, data infused channel is not only a highly adopted one but quickly turning into the preferred conduit for company/customer interactions. I’m not buying into “mobile first” for all occasions but more times than not, mobile is at least second, third or fourth… It’s part of the interaction.

Tomorrow’s opportunity is only an acceleration of engagement between digital marketers and customers working along the customer journey.  Mobile marketing will certainly provide a customer hub for the internet of things, tiny networks of physical objects communicating and interacting with each other, leading customers toward a purchase decision and shaping positive customer experiences.  Mobile marketing will take augmented reality techniques from gimmicky and gee-whiz trials to mission critical, moment of truth decision help that could not be gotten through other approaches.  All this will happen and sooner than you think.  Marketers need to not only continue work on today’s basics (strategy, analytics, measurement and not annoying people with useless popups on a small screen) but to start planning for tomorrow’s even larger mobile marketing opportunities.

This upcoming week, Gartner for Marketing Leaders examines the mobile marketing evolution (clients only), from basic techniques to emerging ones like augmented reality.


Category: digital marketing Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013 Uncategorized     Tags: ,

Six Factors Shape The Multichannel Campaign Management Market In 2014

by Adam Sarner  |  May 6, 2014  |  2 Comments

The market for multichannel campaign management continues to evolve and grow. Gartner expects spending on MCCM software alone to reach almost $914 million in 2014, at a growth rate of 24% as marketers face new requirements, products and functions, and as vendors consolidate. Six contributing factors continue to drive this market.

1. Multidimensional multichannel campaign segmentation: These techniques enable the grouping of audiences based on different attributes along multiple dimensions. Traditional attributes have focused on products and who would be likely buyers. Newer groupings focus on potential profitability and the customer life cycle. New and old data play an important role in defining the target audience and understanding the channel where you should focus the campaign. Traditional transactional data, third-party data and anonymous customer/consumer data all contribute to targeting the right audience with the right offer at the right time in the right channel. Many marketers still do not use value-based segmentation (profitability analysis) or needs-based segmentation (lifestyle or life stage), in-market and affinity indicators such as search data, or social dimensions of influence or interest such as open graph data. These additional data connections for segmentation techniques are required to make decisions for the right campaigns with the right customer in the right combination of channels. Finally, there is an added dimension of and complexity of growing channels. Understanding your audience is one thing, knowing where they will engage at multiple steps in the buying journey is another critical part of multidimensional segmentation.

2. Customer/prospect engagement: Customers have little time or interest in a large volume of uncoordinated messages. To break through this noise, understand where to orchestrate engagement across channels, including the fusion of inbound and outbound marketing. Many marketers believe they need to engage in all channels, and that’s just not the case. It’s not “all social channels” or “all mobile channels.” It’s only the ones that apply. For B2B it could be a social community. For business-to-consumer (B2C) it could be a specific channel like Houzz or Pinterest (depending on who you are, and what your target market is).

3. Consistent campaign and brand experience across channels: You have to provide a consistent brand experience in your campaigns as they cross channels. If not, you risk confusion or even stopping customers and prospects in their buying journey.

4. Shift of control to the buyer: Highly addressable, real-time-aware channels like social and mobile have opportunities to touch every phase of the buying journey, and the buyer has increasing access these channels. It’s becoming easer for the buyer to find you AND your competitors. Your multichannel campaign management applications need to support two-way engagement to help inform their decisions better than every other competitor.

5. Automation of execution and optimization: You need access to multiple data sources and analytics to drive real-time and event-driven marketing. These techniques obviously require fast execution and therefore demand automation. To be successful, automation of your campaigns is critical. Automation includes execution of the campaign. It also includes analysis — real time, event-driven analysis. This analysis will help you optimize the campaign to get maximum reach and impact in the buying journey.

6. Speed: Marketers often don’t have months to set up automation tools. Gartner’s surveys of multichannel campaign management application references consistently choose an ease-of-use as top considerations for vendor choice. Some applications and their deployment can get you up and running in weeks; a few have visualization and ease-of-use as a core competency, so they are becoming more popular with digital marketers hurrying to keep up with their audience.

Read more from our just published note: How to Evaluate Multichannel Campaign Management Applications (Gartner for Marketing Leaders clients only).



Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags:

Getting The Data You Need

by Adam Sarner  |  March 28, 2014  |  3 Comments

Marketers clearly see the growing amount of customer data available to them. However, the big story of this  “big data” is not about getting data for data sake, it’s about getting the data you need to make yourself better, faster and smarter.

Digital Marketers are gathering data, and are getting access to, multiple and increasingly expanding customer data sources.  There is “first party type data” such as: transaction records, call center data, website, hosted social data, sales and service channel data, e-mail and direct mail , mobile , point-of-sale terminals, e-mails  and plenty of connected and disconnected  customer data stores/data warehouses. The list goes on.. a lot.   In addition, there is an increasing level of  “3rd party”  data access providing both structured and unstructured customer data sources (largely digital, real-time or near real time)  such as: display advertising/ad network data, anonymous social profiling data, social monitoring data as well as a myriad of  data supplying marketing service providers, digital agencies and marketing research companies.

So the data is there, it’s big, it’s growing and becoming more accessible to marketing organizations. I’ve never completely understood just what a “360 view of the customer” actually means, but it looks as though we are trying to get closer to it.  However, managing these growing, extremely large, diverse sources of data poses a big challenge: How do you get the data you actually need? There is a scoping issue. Marketers will need to choose a few key marketing processes or decisions to focus on first and then expand as projects are defined and capabilities grow.

While you may be able to source all kinds of data, all the data won’t be actionable or will be even able to have a marketing purpose.  A good first step for scoping a project is to understand the business and data criteria of a marketing process that answers these questions:

  • What goals does the marketer hope to achieve with the data?

  • Which data sources are required, and where are they available?

  • Which behaviors will the analysis of the data bring forward?

  • What form will the analytical output of the data  take, and what role will it play in what marketing processes?

The first week of April, Gartner for marketing leaders will feature research about how Data Is Making Marketers Better, Faster and Smarter (clients only).  We will look at the multiplying sources of data that marketers are using,  what tools and techniques are being used to analyze and combine this data, and  what marketers are doing with data to make informed marketing decisions.



Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013     Tags:

Must Sees In The Social Marketing Ops Neighborhood In 2014

by Adam Sarner  |  January 8, 2014  |  1 Comment


Social marketing goes beyond inviting customers to connect to you, charming them with memes and begging them to share your marketing material.  Success in 2014 involves moment of truth, decision based dialogue between company and customer, providing them with paths for purposeful, decision based connections and commerce.

Although past the of peak of inflated expectations in 2014, 43% of marketers surveyed by Gartner say social marketing is a top activity that contributes to marketing’s success. Social marketing is connecting to every other channel and touchpoint — Web, mobile, paid media and in-store — integration that impacts every element of the marketing portfolio.

The social ops neighborhood boundaries cross into other neighborhoods such as mobility, web ops, design and ad ops, with its outer bounds defined by the emerging digital trends track. Social marketing is still in its infancy stage with new technologies and techniques being tried with both failure and success.

In 2014, the five most important stations in the social ops neighborhood will be:

1.  Social Commerce:  Used to convert a commerce transaction, social commerce uses techniques like product reviews, question-and-answer threads, configuration tools, social offers and incentives. Marketers are finding more ways to utilize communities and platforms to drive and measure purchase behavior that contribute to sales and bottom line business revenue.  For these money making reasons, we will see more emphasis in social commerce in 2014.

2.  Social Networks: These are destinations that offer a platform for interaction between company and customer. Social graphs of influence are established here. Marketers participate in established, but evolving networks, while examining emerging platforms to build connections with new users or strengthen current connections in new ways.  In 2014, we will see both alternate and extensions of social networks in and outside Facebook and Twitter  (See Digital Marketers Should Know About These Five Growing Social/Mobile Apps).

3.  Social Analytics:  Marketers use social analytics to gauge how the brand is perceived through social channels, evaluate the effectiveness of social engagement and programs, and uncover value through social interactions. For 2014, look for social analytics to move from monitoring and reporting to giving marketers more predictive and prescriptive recommendations for use in not only social marketing programs but for marketing overall.

4. Content Marketing: Content marketing references the tools and services used by marketers to create, curate and cultivate brand-related content across multiple channels (see “Adopt the 3 Cs of Content Marketing to Draw Audiences Into Your Orbit” ). High quality content is a major driver for social interaction, serving as the engine of many social marketing programs. In 2014, marketers will be seeking outsourced content services along with developing their in-house skills to scale for the deluge of multi-channel, real-time content they have become responsible for.

5. Social Marketing Management Platforms: These platforms supply the tools, templates, and services that enable the creation, maintenance and commercial presence in online social environments. This includes social applications and promotions for marketers and media companies. In 2014, mature social marketing programs will incorporate these platforms as a necessity, whether as stand-alone tools, or, as part of larger digital marketing hubs.

 For more about Social Ops, see Julie Hopkins and my Guide to the Social Ops Neighborhood on Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map (Clients only)

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Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013 Uncategorized     Tags:

The Emerging Marketing Technology Track

by Adam Sarner  |  October 8, 2013  |  4 Comments

Digital marketing leaders need to innovate faster and are under enormous pressure to source growth — choosing the right technology and implementing the right technique is critical. Smart marketers know they must diversify and see emerging digital marketing technology and approaches as their route to new products, markets and revenue sources.

Effective, lifecycle customer engagement and  the trend toward connecting real-time, decision-support based digital marketing to both online and off customer channels, are rapidly evolving. Yet, current mainstream digital marketing  technology and their processes are still not agile enough to meet customer demand. Enter Emerging Digital Marketing technology on the Digital Transit Map.

emerging tech graphic

Emerging digital marketing technologies cross many neighborhoods of Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map. Here, the emerging tech line forms the map’s outer boundaries; its stations representing technology and disciplines that are truly “on the edge.” The track focuses on innovative technologies and techniques in early stages of maturity. Characteristics include first-generation technologies, pilots, startup providers or initial stages of commercialization. Market penetration for these areas is typically as low as 1% to 5%. For some, adoption will go viral.  Some will also be considered disposable: Approach adoption with a goal to extract value before planned obsolesce or aggregation. While some may reach mass adoption (over 15 million in the U.S.) in the next 8 to 12 months, some will take as long as 10 years, while others will remain niche, disappear, or evolve into something very different.

There is no sure thing here. Don’t look for a comfort zone either. Prepare for risks. However, there are several areas of emerging technology along the Digital Marketing Transit Map neighborhoods we think will be transformational and will open up new opportunities to connect the physical with the digital world. Among them:

  • New connections among channels (e.g. automatic content recognition and natural language questioning)
  • Amplified scale at reduced costs ( e.g. automatic content generation)
  • Digital extensions of physical investments (e.g. geofencing and microsensors and the “Internet of things”

Connecting the Physical and Digital Worlds

Digital is not only changing the way we communicate, interact and experience the world: it’s changing the nature of products and environments. It’s doing this by erasing limits. The customer experience is no longer bound by channels, print, or primetime spots on television; similarly, the physical world is no longer bound by retail shelf-space or manufacturing processes. As everything becomes connected, the physical world begins to inherit the qualities of the internet: infinite extensibility, universal addressability, and low-cost disruption. Every industry has been impacted, not just sectors like retail, publishing, music, home entertainment or banking. Now, insurance, healthcare, real estate, and the public sector will be subject to this disruption.

To achieve true differentiation in the digital world, brands must increasingly incorporate digital features and data collection mechanisms into physical products. For example, through technology and techniques in Nike+, the brand builds, monitors, shares, extends and orchestrates the actual experiences of athleticism beyond the product purchase. Retailers such as Tesco are extending shopping experiences into unfamiliar domains such as subway stations with virtual stores. Disney’s Magic Bands will for the first time, track guest behavior in minute detail and help shape their guest experiences before, during and after their visit. Marketers have access to shape not only brand impressions but connect to lifestyle experiences beyond products or stores.

In my published note, Travel the Emerging Technology Track in Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map, I focus on 10 transformational technologies along the track that have the  greatest potential to help marketers and customers connect the physical and digital world.


Category: digital marketing Uncategorized     Tags:

Why Game Based Marketing Is Relevant For Anyone – Who Markets Anything

by Adam Sarner  |  September 13, 2013  |  Comments Off

Think of any immersive, engaging and addictive game you’ve ever played: D&D, DonkeyKong, Minesweeper, Tetris, Myst, WOW or Bioshock Infinite.  Your favorite sets a clear end goal.  Next it proposes rules of engagement, complete with challenges, consequences and a series of outcomes that sustain your curiosity. Small rewards along the way build upon greater rewards reinforcing a series of accomplishments the game designers have creatively engineered into the game’s DNA.

“Endogenous morphine” is released by your body at each milestone – peaking at a final reward to promote addictive feelings of well-being.

It’s why your son, your daughter, or both, is playing Minecraft right now.

Game design techniques can be used in many ways, motivating people to write a review, save money, find a college, comparison shop, calculate ROI, tweet about a favorite brand, or plan a vacation. The only limit to engaging buyers in everything from awareness marketing to crowdsourced product development is your imagination – whether you sell mortgages, automobiles, fast food, apparel, sports equipment or IT services.

However, Gamification has passed the peak of inflated expectations on our Hype Cycle For Digital Marketing in 2013. It seems that merely slapping badges, leaderboards and big thumbs up on things DO work, but only for so long. Granted we all want our gold star, but actual designed engagement scenarios, storyboarding, understanding “player” behavior, dynamics of cooperative “play”, and actual real gaming type creation that motivates desired behavior takes both skill and work. I think it’s true potential has yet to be realized.

This week, Gartner For Marketing Leaders is publishes a series (clients only) on how Gamification techniques are being applied to the full range of marketing disciplines.

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Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags:

What to do about Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, GroupMe and Pheed

by Adam Sarner  |  September 5, 2013  |  1 Comment

We’ve reviewed five emerging applications — Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, GroupMe and Pheed. The applications were chosen because they are all growing users at a rapid pace, represent real-time engagement capability through highly responsive social-mobile channels, and, with the right use case, represent a big opportunity for digital marketers to reach customers with new types of interactions through new channels yet to be fully explored by the competition.

The note dives into what they are, who their users tend to be, how marketers can use them, what challenges to be aware of and how to get started. Multiple analysts contributed to the research, and for me it was one of the more fun pieces for the year. Emerging technology and techniques still in the learning and discovery stage of adoption offer a glimpse into potential megatrends pushing the market forward.  Gartner For Marketing Leaders clients can read the full research here.

Most important of the findings is to have a direction for a business outcome in mind, matched by an appetite for agility in a fluid environment.  Even the applications themselves are trying to figuring that one out. New technologies are coming at digital marketers all the time and consumers’ preferences for them change. Establishing a direction for a future business outcome, even if not available in the short term, will have a much better chance of choosing the right emerging application(s) and keep the project funded.

For these five, just an initial heading towards a purpose like brand awareness can help marketers start to handicap which ones to potentially use.  For example, will you be blanketing a wide audience for maximum reach or creating a more intimate, exclusive type campaign? This will mean different apps.  Which apps, through social, photos, video or all three, will lead customers to a purchasing decision that you can measure?

Digital marketers should approach these applications as emerging and potentially disposable. None of these these apps are natively mandatory to your organization. Some of these apps may either go stellar over the next few years, while others in the space will essentially disappear in less than eight months. This means that marketers must adopt an innovation/experimentation with purpose approach to them all, including the risk that a measurable business outcome, even with a calculated heading towards one, may never transpire.

Welcome to the digital world.


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Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags:

Social Ops On The Digital Transit Map

by Adam Sarner  |  July 18, 2013  |  Comments Off

“Social” has been on the “peak of inflated expectations” for well over a year now. Social Marketing, we believe is almost at peak as we are seeing a second (perhaps 3rd) wave of interest focused on metrics and business outcome.  Largely, we see that although there are social marketing activities yet to be fully explored, progressive digital marketers have already rolled up their sleeves and are focusing on consistently creating valuable and engaging content, generating qualified leads, and coordinating both in-house skills and external resources that give social marketing proven business results.

While exploring the Social Ops Neighborhood and riding the track on the Digital Marketing Transit Map, consider three stops of high interest for the rest of 2013 and into 2014:

1. Content Marketing: Social marketing depends on having something to say — and saying it in a way that is thoughtful, timely, compelling and authentic. In an effort to become more creative and more responsive as content marketers, many social teams are studying the newsroom habits of publishing organizations and developing best practices based on the principles of media workflow. It requires a focused and funded effort that staffs and organizes resources appropriately. These capabilities and resources are something which many digital marketers still do possess.

2. Social Analytics: Social monitoring, particularly for digital marketing teams, has been in a terrific sweet spot over the past three years. Most organizations unfamiliar or uncomfortable with social media needed to “get their feet wet” and audit the social space just to get an understanding of what was being said about their brand on social networks. Social monitoring filled this initial step very well. Today, there are currently hundreds of social media monitoring offerings available, but needs have changed. Clients are starting to move beyond keyword search and basic sentiment and they are increasing demand for Social Analytics, which builds on social monitoring and includes unstructured text (beyond keywords) analytics, predictive modeling and prescriptive recommendations about what to do with the social data they are gathering.

3. Connection to Marketing Ops: Social marketing needs integration with, well, marketing. The space has just about had it with doing social because it’s social and measuring social KPIs for more social.  Marketing Ops is about the management and operation of marketing platforms and applications, including campaign, lead, loyalty, event, performance and marketing resource management systems and processes. Marketing operations span the gap between digital and traditional marketing channels. Social Marketing must be considered in these plans. Social Marketing at a basic level offers what multichannel marketing seeks to do: giving marketers engaged and targeted interaction particularly when the customer is reaching out themselves.

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Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy     Tags:

Marketing’s M&A and its Digital Marketing Trek

by Adam Sarner  |  July 18, 2013  |  1 Comment

For the last three years, there has been consolidation in all types of marketing application markets such as IBM acquiring Unica, Teradata acquiring Aprimo, SAS acquiring Assetlink, Microsoft acquiring MarketingPilot, Infor acquiring Orbis, Salesforce acquiring Radian6, Buddymedia, and ExactTarget (which included Pardot), Oracle purchasing Eloqua and Adobe buying Neolane (not finalized), just to name a few.  We believe that further M&A activity, particularly focused in digital marketing functionality, such as content management and agencies,  social marketing , mobile marketing, e-mail marketing, digital analytics and ad technology and will continue to accelerate over the next three years.

Who are the buyers? There are at least six competing sources of consolidation:

  1. The software megavendors: IBM, Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, Teradata, SAP, and so forth. For them, the digital marketing opportunity is the next frontier in software and big data, and they’re the most visible and voracious of the bunch.
  2. The internet media giants: Google, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook (which bought Microsoft’s ad server technology), Baidu…for them, providing marketing tools assures their media will always have a marketplace.
  3. The agency holding companies: WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic, Dentsu, along with incumbent marketing firms like Acxiom and Merkle to name but a few…for them, marketing technology is both an opportunity and a threat…
  4. The mainstream media conglomerates: Hearst, Gannett, Tribune, etc….like the agencies, for them marketing technology is both an opportunity and a threat…some of them (like Hearst) are even buying agencies to go along with their marketing tech acquisitions
  5. A few diversified global companies, such as Singtel, SDL, Rakuten, Sony, Nokia and others who see digital marketing as a global investment, and
  6. A small collection of newcomers who are developing the scale and going public to become buyers themselves: Velti, OpenX, RocketFuel, Turn, AppNexus, Rubicon, YuMe, [X+1], etc…these newbies are looking for diversification and a chance to become megavendors themselves.

Adding to this growing interest and future investment in marketing technology comes not only the complex story of cost, viability concerns, potential redundancy, future maintenance, customer support and vendor roadmap vs. your future plans,  is the overall picture of how (and even which) marketing applications should come together.

Assuming the plan is for marketing to create scalable, integrated and orchestrated interactions, relevant offers and customer experiences across all channels and media (armed with multiple levels of analytics and attribution metrics supporting all this), what we  end up with is a multitude of approaches: A combination of platforms, suites and hubs with a continuing flow of new and evolving point solutions.

The implications of these accelerating changes in the market will be both wide reaching and ongoing, affecting the future of marketing organizations overall.  For the the week of July 22,  our Gartner For Marketing Leaders research (clients only) focuses on examples, causes and consequences of marketing’s M&A activity and what it means to your Digital Marketing plans.


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