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5 Ways Marketing Automation is Evolving

Digital media has undergone a drastic evolution. This has not only changed the way media is consumed but also impacted the buying behavior.

Media and marketing are inextricably linked. With the extensive number of media platforms available to consumers and marketers and the wide reach of those digital platforms – marketers are now looking at the scale and volume of marketing operations that offer personalized customer experiences. Today, marketing automation can power campaigns, help identify leads, influence a buyer’s decision and so much more. The marketing automation landscape has seen a huge evolution. Let’s take a tour.

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The global marketing automation software market is anticipated to grow up to a CAGR of 9.26% by 2022. The market has generated a revenue of $3.86 Billion in 2016 and is anticipated to reach up to $7.63 Billion by 2025. If you only consider the number of vendors in the martech space, it has gone from about 150 in 2011 to over 5000 in 2017.

Marketing automation categories (Campaign Management, Email Marketing, Mobile categories like Apps, Inbound Marketing, Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring, Reporting and Analytics, Social Media Marketing) make up a significant subset of marketing technology. All of these areas of marketing have been impacted by predictive analytics, machine learning and AI, and higher personalization of content, the new holy grail of all marketing.

Here are 5 areas in which marketing automation is evolving as we head into 2020.
 

1. The nature of marketing automation is evolving

If you look at the nature of marketing automation, however, the evolution is even more compelling. Consider it from the point of view of managing prospect engagement through the buying cycle.

From a one-size-fits-all digital strategy, marketing automation evolved to a more trigger or rule-based personalization system (if prospect downloads eBook then the system sends out this email; if prospect visits website the system starts retargeting and so on) to its present-day form, which is aspiring to align with each individual customer journey.

Today, marketing automation is going beyond addressing the buying journey to strategically encompassing the entire customer experience. David Raab, Founder of the CDP Institute describes this avatar of marketing automation as Journey Orientation Engines (JOEs). More recently, these JOEs are ably supported by data unification platforms such as CDPs, which give marketers a single unified view of the customer – valuable data that can then be applied to marketing automation tools to execute and deliver highly personalized tactics.

The irony is that as customers use technology in all walks of life- especially in buying – increases, their expectation from brands for nonintrusive, authentic and personalized brand experiences is also increasing. They expect brands to know them and to deliver that knowledge via personalized messages and interactions at the right time. [Gartner Research has predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships without talking to a human.] Remember, even though machines are executing more and more of the engagement, the experience still has to feel authentic and human.

Marketing automation solutions need to come closest to what a real salesperson – given unlimited time, intelligence and resources – would have done.
 

2. The scope of marketing automation is evolving

The scope of marketing automation to has evolved far beyond just lead generation, to lead nurturing and even conversion/ last mile closure. Solutions are now able to address far more than permission-based marketing – its inbound, outbound and everywhere else (social/ POS/ events (virtual and real) marketing – often referred to as Omni-channel Marketing. In terms of measurement, its scope has widened from just measuring responses to full-feature analytics, predictive analytics, and even AI.  With the advancements in attribution models, the ability of marketers to track and measure outcomes from their marketing automation investments is ever improving.

3. The structure of Marketing Automation Platforms is evolving

Finally, let’s look at how the structure of marketing automation solutions is evolving. From stand-alone tools and point solutions, marketers can choose from suites (one single-brand vendor provides several marketing automation functionalities), platforms (one vendor provides a ‘platform or stage for a bunch of brand vendors to come together, integrate and work as one) and even clouds (several different apps either by one or multiple vendors that marketers can pick and choose – like choosing (and changing) your own toppings) that offer a wide range of integrated solutions to address all possible components of the marketing spectrum. Even for point solutions, integration is now almost a hygiene feature: it’s got to integrate with both- the data management systems (CRM, CDP, DMP) as well as the other marketing technology and automation tools in the stack or platform.

4. Marketing automation integrations are evolving

While there will be takers for all models of marketing automation deployment – from point solutions to suites, platforms, and clouds, deeper integration of the marketing automation stack seems inevitable. All vendors have to build a seamless integration with every other tech tool (not just marketing) that may impact customers, to empower real and actionable intel.

Additionally, connecting the dots across data and analytics is another area of evolution: the current generation of MA is still missing the last-mile closure. We have all experienced retargeting long after we have stopped looking for (or purchased) the product, missed opportunities (disconnect/ discord between the online information gathering experience and the point-of-purchase moment of truth), and post-purchase dissonance – the killer of customer lifetime value. Marketing Automation needs to build the full spectrum of lifetime engagement functionalities – including the recurring ‘last mile’ of a buying experience. The strategic focus of marketing automation needs to shift from the campaign or component approach to the customer journey in totality to deliver on the seamless customer experience promise.The savvier areas of the evolution, of course, include ramping up functionalities to meet the ABM opportunity, increasingly sophisticated AI, predictive analytics, techniques and innovative content delivery mechanisms.
 

5. Finally, Marketers need to evolve too

Along with the automation, marketers – as users of the technology- to need to evolve. Vendors need to step up and build in user adoption, skilling, and continuous learning into the products they offer. This will come in the form of increasingly user-friendly interfaces, built-in assistants and bots to aid the marketer to use the technology optimally, and self-assessment tools that are naturally enmeshed in the day to day operations for ongoing skill refreshment, user communities etc.

This is critical also because the software itself is ‘upgraded’ frequently – indeed this is a selling point for SaaS vendors. The data points – and therefore analytics generated is only going to increase exponentially. Marketers can’t keep playing catch-up with technology – the technology has to evolve to build learning into the day to day user experience. And that can become a deal maker for marketers evaluating vendors.

The more things change, though, the more they remain the same. As marketing automation aims to do more and more, it looks set to stay. It’s morphing into the indispensable strategic arsenal of every marketer but it will need to retain its (and the marketers) focus on customer experience and user experience. Marketing automation is and will remain about using increasing amounts of technology easily, to deliver an increasingly authentic and personalized engagement to the prospect or customer, at scale.

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