STAMFORD: More advertisers will put the web at the heart of their communications and customer relationship management programmes this year, Gartner, the research firm, has predicted.

The company forecast that marketing budgets will remain flat at around 90% of US companies in 2010, despite the fact an improvement is expected in the overall economic climate.

Gartner also suggested that, by the end of 2011, more than 90% of campaigns run by corporations in the Fortune 1000 will feature an online element, up from 50% in 2009.

Targeted and brand advertising will both see an uptick in interest, a development that will also apply to "contextual, community and transactional marketing".

Brands could also save between 10% and 20% on their web-based communications by more effectively using "precise attribution metrics", which should also reduce the number of "failed campaigns".

"Being online gives marketers greater access to response attribution metrics to help determine what is working and what isn't working in a campaign," said Adam Sarner, research director at Gartner.

More broadly, the Stamford-based consultancy argued that return on investment will continue to be a priority for executives this year.

Attracting and retaining new customers will be among the other primary objectives over this period, with social media becoming more prominent in this area.

One consequence of this trend will be that 80% of the market growth in "social applications" – from blogs to online communities – will focus on external stakeholders rather than internal initiatives.

According to Gartner, Facebook will be the biggest single social networking property in all but 25 countries in 2010, and the search firm is likely to be at the forefront of these CRM efforts.

The social network retains 400 million members worldwide, and this figure should rise to 600 million by the end of this year.

However, as it is does not lead its category in Brazil, Russia, India, China or Japan, marketers will also have to take a bespoke approach in these countries.

Ed Thompson, an analyst at Gartner, said "for most organisations, the single most logical way to differentiate the business is through great customer experiences, rather than having the lowest cost or most innovative products and services."

"However, gaining a clear understanding on which specific customer-centric initiatives will prove decisive and merit investment will require coordination across departments."

Data sourced from Gartner; additional content by Warc staff