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Can European marketers close the martech gap?

By Mike Froggatt | Senior director analyst

May 30, 2023 | 7 min read

European marketers consistently lag behind their US counterparts when it comes to martech adoption – possibly due to evolving privacy regulations and a focus on different metrics. Luckily, there are a few tactics that will help them bridge the gap, writes Gartner's Mike Froggatt.

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When it comes to martech, marketers face similar challenges no matter where they’re based. But despite higher investment levels in marketing technology, the latest Marketing Technology survey from Gartner found that European marketers reported lower adoption than their North American counterparts, at 38% versus 45% respectively. While the adoption of martech increased last year, critical implementation gaps remain.

European marketing leaders have made purposeful efforts to close the gap with their US counterparts. Gartner data from 2022 found that CMOs in Europe reported that they increased their share of spending on marketing technology by 2% from the prior year to 27.7%. This is 5.5 percentage points higher than their counterparts in the US. So, why hasn’t martech adoption in Europe caught up with the US?

Challenge 1: stricter, more complex privacy regulations

Part of the reason for the adoption gap is that European marketers are subject to far stricter regulations regarding the collection, use and storage of personal data. The introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 marked a shift in the rules of digital advertising, forcing organizations to adopt privacy-first technologies in order to maintain compliance and avoid regulatory fines.

The data privacy landscape in Europe is fragmented and complex: there are Europe-wide regulatory bodies like the European Data Protection Board, but also independent national regulators like the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which maintain distinct jurisdictions.

Stringent data privacy regulations may have hindered Europe’s martech adoption, but they have also paved the path for Europe to lead the pack in identity resolution (IDR) solutions. 69% of European marketing leaders reported adopting IDR solutions, peaking at 73% in the UK. Compare this with just 61% IDR adoption in the US and the impact of data privacy on marketing technology decisions is clear.

Challenge 2: difficulty supporting sales, profit and cost-effectiveness

European marketing leaders report their top capability gap as supporting greater sales, profit and cost-effectiveness. This means European marketers face greater issues when collaborating with other functions – particularly sales – to boost martech utilization.

The Gartner Marketing Technology Survey also found that standalone technologies with overlapping and unused features are among the biggest impediments to further utilization, highlighting a lack of communication across functions. European marketing leaders should focus on more collaboration with IT and sales leaders to map product champions to the technologies that teams can put to better use.

In response to this challenge, over half (60%) of European marketers say they are favoring an integrated suite approach, a shift from 12 months prior when just 42% chose this option. Integrated suites enable marketing leaders to map to their existing capabilities to better align marketing technology that integrates core functions like greater sales, profit and efficiency straight out of the box.

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Challenge 3: confusion about what success looks like

European marketing leaders aren’t quite sure how they should measure success. Despite acknowledging critical gaps in their utilization, 80% of European marketing leaders say their martech stack is completely effective at meeting their business goals. However, this dissonance is likely due to European marketers’ choice of metrics.

Marketers in Europe rank user adoption of technology over time as their top metric, followed by top-line revenue or profit and lead quality. In comparison, marketers in the US ranked efficiency as their top metric, followed by top-line revenue or profit and the ROI of individual technologies.

European marketers should reassess the metrics by which they measure the success of their martech programs, in order to truly understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

How can European marketers close the gap?

While European marketers face unique challenges, there are steps they can take to improve their martech adoption. Broader collaboration, more focused martech plans and adaptability to the evolving regulatory landscape are critical elements to success for European marketers.

As far as collaboration is concerned, marketers need to work with other C-suite leaders to identify critical gaps in marketing technology capabilities. Prepare to either take advantage of included features within the business’ existing stack or streamline investments by eliminating technology that no longer serves the goals of the business.

It’s also crucial to build a martech roadmap. Create a plan to increase the utilization of marketing technology across the organization relative to critical business gaps and Europe’s specific regulations.

Finally, it’s the responsibility of marketers to respond to changing regulations. Watch for changes to GDPR, the Digital Markets Act and other local privacy regulations, and invest appropriately in technologies such as IDR and consent and preference management platforms, to maintain advertising effectiveness and a consent-driven database of actionable customer data.

Mike Froggatt is senior director, analyst in Gartner's marketing practice.

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