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Gartner Says More Than 60 Per Cent of Fortune 1000 Companies With a Website Will Connect to or Host a Form of Online Community by 2010

Analysts to Discuss Corporate Use of Social Networking at Gartner Symposium / ITxpo 2008, 3-7 November, Cannes, France

(PresseBox) (Egham, UK, ) To do business with the growing "Generation Virtual" population, companies will need to provide, or connect to, social applications to attract and engage customers, gathering information about their future wants and needs to lead them toward products and services, according to Gartner, Inc. By 2010, more than 60 per cent of Fortune 1,000 companies with a website will connect to or host some form of online community that can be utilised for customer relationship purposes.

"A key benefit of establishing a community is the amount of information an organisation can gain about its customer base, which can be used for short-and long-term customer relationships," said Adam Sarner, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Data can be collected and used for product development, customer feedback, loyalty management, customer segmentation, campaign targeting, and individual or group customer satisfaction management. This wealth of data can be used for marketing, in particular, as well as an entire customer-focused organisation."

However, establishing an online community isn't without challenges. Gartner predicts that by 2010, more than 50 per cent of companies that have established an online community will fail to establish mutual purpose, ultimately eroding customer and company values. To combat this, marketing organisations will need new skills to meet the needs of Generation Virtual.

"Companies will be challenged with what applications to use, who ultimately "owns" an application or interaction and the management of socialisation itself, from measuring success and mitigating negative interactions to sourcing and cultural restraints," said Mr Sarner.

Unlike previous generations, Generation Virtual (also known as Generation V) is not defined by age - or gender, social demographic or geography - but is based on demonstrated achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights. The definition of Generation V derives from the recognition that these common behaviours, attitudes and interests are starting to blend together in an online environment.

When doing business with Generation V, marketers will need to attract online personas by creating multiple, engaging online destinations and provide tools for Generation V individuals to socialise and express their different personas. By creating these destinations, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of Generation V. Marketers should provide, or connect to, online destinations from selling-focused sites and community forums to brand-aware, persistent, 3-D virtual worlds to get customers to their sites and promote socialisation in the community. From there, marketers can lead prospects to products and services while gathering relevant information about their future wants and needs.

"To dive deeply into what different personas want, what and who they are influenced by, and for help on predicting future behaviour, marketers will need to rely heavily on the social sciences for insight into the evolving needs of their customer base," said Mr Sarner. "They also will need proficiency in game design to create highly engaging, highly relevant environments to promote customer interaction. The Chief Marketing Officer should plan to attract these skill sets today, because, in less than ten years, they will comprise much of what the marketing organisation will look like."

Gartner analysts will provide more detailed analysis on the impact that social networking is having on CRM during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008, taking place on 3-7 November in Cannes, France. Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the IT industry's largest and most strategic conference, providing business leaders with a look at the future of IT. More than 3,000 senior business and IT strategists will gather for the insights, tools and solutions they need to ensure their IT initiatives are key contributors to and drivers of their company's success. Gartner's annual Symposium/ITxpo events are key components of attendees' annual planning efforts. They rely on Gartner Symposium/ITxpo to gain insight into how their organisations can use IT to address business challenges and improve operational efficiency. Additional information is available at www.gartner.com/eu/symposium

Additional information on social computing and CRM is in the Gartner report "The Business Impact of Social Computing on Marketing and 'Generation Virtual'." The report is on Gartner's website at http://www.gartner.com/....

Gartner UK Ltd

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world's leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors, Gartner is the indispensable partner to 60,000 clients in 10,000 distinct organizations. Through the resources of Gartner Research, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events, Gartner works with every client to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual role. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and has 4,000 associates, including 1,200 research analysts and consultants in 80 countries. For more information, visit www.gartner.com.