Gartner Looks Ahead to Digital Marketing in 2016

By Augie Ray | February 11, 2016 | 2 Comments

Digital marketing continues to evolve rapidly, so at the beginning of each year, Gartner’s analysts dedicated to Marketing Leaders produce primer reports. These documents summarize the current state of key marketing topics, such as mobile marketing and customer experience. Each document defines marketers’ top challenges and the areas where Gartner’s Marketing Leaders team will focus our research in the coming year.

While Gartner subscribers can access these reports for details, there are some high-level insights we can share more widely. Here is a brief summary of the primers for 2016:

Mobile Marketing

One of the top challenges marketers face is grounding their mobile marketing strategy in analytics. Gartner surveys of mobile marketers have shown nearly half of those surveyed do not regularly use mobile marketing analytics. The benefit of investing in analytics should be apparent, but our primer shares an example from LiveNation. The live-events ticket company delivered better fan engagement and an overall better purchase flow via the mobile channel, resulting in a 35% increase in mobile revenue in 2014 compared to 2013.

Subscribers can read the Mobile Marketing Primer for 2016. Our public blog also contains a recent post from Christi Eubanks summarizing recent mobile metrics on mobile commerce, mobile search and consumer usage and an article from Adam Sarner entitled, “Getting Your Mobile Marketing Mojo.”

Social Marketing

A Gartner survey in 2015 revealed that marketing leaders recognize social as the single most effective channel during the awareness and advocacy stages of the customer journey. Despite that, many social media marketers are struggling to quantify and validate the benefits they deliver. Gartner is seeing a trend correlating social benefits not just to commerce but to other areas of marketing and the broader organization.

Subscribers can access the Social Marketing Primer for 2016, and others will enjoy Jennifer Polk’s recent post on “Three Ways to Improve Social Marketing Results” or Jay Wilson’s article on the benefits and challenges of employee advocacy in social media.

Digital Commerce

In the past, digital commerce strategies were often managed and executed in isolation from digital marketing, but this is changing. Gartner is tracking rising expectations on the part of CEOs that CMOs will deliver digital commerce success, and this means the pressure is on to bring marketing and commerce together. Today, 73% of marketers own or share a digital commerce profit and loss (P&L) as a way to link marketing expenses to digital commerce revenue and profitability.

Subscribers can learn more in the Digital Commerce Primer for 2016. The Gartner blog is available to the public, and it contains a post by Jennifer Polk that explores the difference between Digital Commerce and Digital Commerce Marketing and a summary by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp of the digital commerce trends and eye-catching technologies at the recent 2016 National Retail Federation conference.

Customer Experience

Eighty-nine percent of marketers tell us they expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, but while expectations are rising around CX, many marketers still struggle to validate the returns. According to one Gartner study, only 11% of companies said they could demonstrate a return on customer experience investments in dollar terms. In 2016, as part of my research, I will be exploring how marketing leaders must balance both short- and longer-term growth objectives to demonstrate progress.

If you are a Gartner client, you can access our Customer Experience Primer for 2016; if not, Jake Sorofman has some helpful thoughts in his blog post, “Seven Habits of Exceptional Customer Experience Leaders.” Or, you may enjoy my recent post on how McDonald’s remarkable turnaround in the past year demonstrates that customer experience can deliver rapid benefits to the bottom line.

Marketing Management

One of Gartner’s most popular topics is Marketing Management, and it is easy to see why—marketing leaders are expected to do more with less across more channels and with more measurability than ever before. Gartner is planning research this year to explore how CMOs are allocating their budgets and the best practices for assembling the right team, balancing in-house staff with agencies and other outsourced marketing providers.

The Marketing Management Primer for 2016 is available for Gartner clients, while others may enjoy Jennifer Polk’s blog post, “Should Marketing Leaders Hire for Skillset or Mindset?” Or, check out Kirsten Newbold-Knipp’s two-minute video from the 2015 Gartner Digital Marketing Conference on the seven habits of successful companies. (On a related note, you may want to know about Gartner’s 2016 Digital Marketing Conference coming this May to San Diego.)

Multichannel Marketing

Many multichannel marketing techniques have not progressed beyond company-led push campaigns, but true multichannel marketing means orchestrating the right combination of responsive channels at the moment of need. The challenge this year for marketers will be to coordinate better a dialog across the most important channels; doing so will require marketers to understand better their audience, to identify and target key moments, and to automate execution for real-time success.

Current clients can read our Multichannel Marketing Primer for 2016, but everyone can access the Gartner blogs for articles such as Adam Sarner’s “Email, Email, Everywhere” or Mike McGuire’s “In the Era of Multichannel Marketing, Leaven the Data with Some Empathy.”


We hope Gartner’s current clients will find the 2016 primers helpful and that everyone will get value from the many open resources accessible online including the Gartner blog for Marketing Leaders, Gartner’s free research and the Gartner for Marketers YouTube channel.  Please follow @GartnerDigital on Twitter for more marketing insights, data, news and commentary.


  1. February 17, 2016 at 7:54 am
    Priya says:

    Very helpful tips for digital marketers this 2016. Now Digital marketing plays a great role for creating the best leaders.

  2. February 24, 2016 at 10:22 am
    Rojer Martin says:

    Aggregating all above marketing tactics properly can help in significant revenue generation for businesses. And if you are also giving right efforts in optimizing your website for search engines & implementing user-centric approach then you are on the right track.

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