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As of December 2013, 58 percent of all top performing companies were using marketing automation according to a Forrester report. That number has only increased since then. Why? Because automation’s benefits are impossible to ignore in the current marketing landscape.

Sophisticated, plugged-in customers require marketers to look at them as more than a catch-all audience. Regardless of what they’re buying, they want brands to provide truly unique journeys for them. And if you don’t deliver, then you’ll be tuned out, cast aside with the rest of the generic content they’re bombarded with.

Only automation can make this personalized ideal a reality. The future of marketing lies in understanding customers as individuals -- not audiences -- and using that knowledge to deliver one-on-one relationships at scale. 

As we move past adoption into the tipping point, automation -- at varying implementations -- will soon be a standard tool for every marketer.

What happens then? Here are just a few thoughts on the future of the category, as well as its likely impact on the way marketers and businesses interact with their customers.

Everything is a Touch Point

With automation becoming an industry norm, every marketer will be executing relevance at scale, albeit at different degrees. It’s within these degrees of separation that savvy marketers will find opportunities to carve out ultra-relevance and superior personalization. This is only made possible, however, by having better, more sophisticated data on your customers.

The number of customer touch points from which to gather this data is exploding. Social media is old hat, of course, but never-ending Internet connectivity through wearable hardware and software -- previously cool concepts but hollow realities -- is now a real marketing opportunity.

Wearable device connections will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018. With the increase in use, wearable data will spike from two petabytes generated monthly to 61. (While most manufacturers currently own the data, they could “open it up” for marketing value -- meanwhile, brands like Nike have already entered the wearable space and own the data themselves, a trend we’ll only see more adopt as wearable moves into the mainstream.)