It’s pretty easy to get lost when trying to understand digital marketing. Its rapid rise and constant state of evolution means that it has produced a fragmented and confusing landscape of terminology, providers and technologies. But it’s an important landscape to understand. After all US$116-billion is expected to be spent on online advertising campaigns alone this year.
That’s big money, and if you’re going in the wrong direction, you’ll fail to be competitive, but you’ll also probably end up either losing out on money or spending unnecessarily. That’s why something like Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map could prove incredibly useful.
The map, which has a layout familiar to anyone who’s ever used a major public transit system, shows the relationships among business functions, application services and solution providers. It’s therefore likely to be a pretty valuable aid in creating a digital marketing solutions strategy, improving operations or planning initiatives.
According to Gartner:
A transit map is a proven tool for communicating complex information in an intuitive way. In this way, the map provides a metaphor for digital marketing. Neighborhoods represent functional regions that can be thought of as centers of excellence within an organization. Tracks connect these regions and can be thought of as application services that share common objectives and information. Stations represent interaction points that can be thought of as vendor and production categories that provide platform and point solutions. Intersections represent transfer points where solutions may serve more than one business area.
The overall layout of the transit map is structured as follows:
- To the south are the “business districts” that connect with other parts of the organization: IT, sales and service, general marketing, business intelligence and general advertising, which is often outsourced to agencies.
- The stop in the center, labeled “digital marketing hub,” is the central station where all of the functions converge.
- In the northwest are services aimed at awareness and traffic: advertising and search.
- In the northeast are services concerned with engagement quality: creative and user experience.
- Due north are services concerned with engagement quality: creative and user experience.
- Mobile and emerging technology loops indicate that they touch all other categories. The broken line representing emerging technology indicates areas under construction.
“We created the landscape for digital marketing in the form of a transit map to show complex relationships among a large number of technologies and operational areas,” said Jake Sorofman, research director at Gartner. “Organizations should use the map to identify the connection among business functions, applications tracks and providers. Map elements can be used to find additional research or structure questions about strategy and best practices as well as providers, products and selection criteria. It is also a useful device for mediating discussions between marketing and IT.”
Neighborhoods: The labels in light gray indicate operational areas. The neighborhoods are necessarily broad in outline, but they give a general sense of where to look for solutions. For example, if someone manages ad operations, they don’t have to limit themselves to ad tech when they look for technology support. Emerging tech, mobile and analytics can also play a role. When beginning a project, take an inventory of the capabilities that already exist in that area. Organizations should review the transit map to find all possible technologies that could help, as well as overlaps where two functions can be fulfilled with one technology or perhaps where an existing technology can be adopted for another function.
Tracks: The colored lines represent broad application domains. All the lines intersect at a main station, labeled “digital marketing hub.” Two lines, emerging technology (yellow) and mobile (light blue), are circular to indicate that they touch all other categories. The dotted line for emerging technologies indicates that this category is “unfinished,” with technologies maturing and moving onto other lines and new technologies appearing continually.
Stations: Each line has a number of stations that represent technology types. The smaller circles are types of product (for example, gamification tools) where multiple providers to evaluate can be found. The larger shapes represent types of technology providers (for example, mobile marketing) that may offer different kinds of services and technology to fulfill related functions. The black circles near the bottom of the map represent connections to technologies and functions outside of marketing (such as business intelligence). The circles (sometimes joined by black lines) that appear where two or more lines intersect indicate products and vendors that span the adjacent categories. For instance, mobile search spans both the purple search line and the light blue mobile line. With these “transfer stations,” two or more functions can be performed with one technology.