It seems people are in love with marketing automation (MA). Last week, we covered a report that had some surprising -- and not-so surprising -- numbers, depending on who you asked.

Another report, this one by Frost & Sullivan -- claims the marketing automation industry will hit $1.9 billion by 2020. And a new study from Mintigo shows that 11.8 percent of technology companies have already adopted marketing automation platforms as compared to 4.9 percent overall.

Which report should you believe? Time will tell. Check out the comment chain here for a sampling of opinions. And to bring more perspective to the industry, we catch up with Hiral Jasani, digital media industry analyst from Frost & Sullivan.

Hello, 2020

customer experience, Five Questions With Marketing Automation $2 Billion Report Analyst

But first -- a look into what Frost & Sullivan is saying about marketing automation. It reported this week in its Global Marketing Automation Software Market research that the market earned revenue of $550.7 million in 2013.

By 2020? It will reach $1.9 billion. According to Frost & Sullivan, almost half of the 2013 market was dominated by three competitors: Marketo, Eloqua and Silverpop, with more than 80 percent of the activity concentrated in the US.  

"Future growth will be fueled by the demand for marketing agility, actionable customer intelligence and ability to measure revenues on marketing campaign performance," according to the report.

So what does Frost & Sullivan have to say?

CMSWire: Why would you say this report is unique versus others on MA in the industry?

Jasani: The Frost & Sullivan analysis on the marketing automation market identifies the latest trends in the market and forecasts the growth potential of MA in SMBs and enterprises through 2020. What makes the research unique is a comprehensive analysis of all the major verticals that have seen the adoption of MA.

The discussion includes a detailed analysis of healthcare and life sciences, financial services, high tech/software, business services, retail and manufacturing sectors, among others. While high tech and business services (mainly consisting of marketing agencies) are the early adopters, financial services and retail are not too far behind. These four verticals make up three quarters of the market revenue in 2013.

customer experience, Five Questions With Marketing Automation $2 Billion Report Analyst

CMSWire: Some say too many MA platforms out there are complex and a turnoff for marketers. Do you see that?

Learning Opportunities

Jasani: Indeed. We conducted end-user interviews, and it verified the fact that marketers find it challenging to cope with the steep learning curve of MA platforms. They are overwhelmed with the speed of conversations online. This is a near-term constraint that is discussed in detail in the growth restraints section of the analysis.

CMSWire: Will organizations have to consider an MA platform to keep pace today?

Jasani: Marketing and sales organizations across all industry sectors will need to look at MA platforms if they want a competitive advantage. MA platforms have proven use cases and their benefits are real. Data-driven decision-making and revenue management are the top trends compelling marketers to accelerate their digital marketing effectiveness. It’s all about measuring the ROI on marketing campaigns to determine the next best action. It’s a sink-or-swim situation for organizations.”

CMSWire: What are the best MA vendors doing?

The best MA vendors are the ones offering a platform with a simple user interface that does not need the IT department’s intervention. Marketers have to see the benefits immediately so that the learning curve does not deter them from using MA. Additionally, their pricing models are flexible enough for both SMBs as well as enterprises. Along with that, powerful analytics capabilities to measure campaign effectiveness and agile dashboard and reporting capabilities on smartphones and tablets are a must.

We see tremendous growth potential in the mid-market. Frost & Sullivan recommends MA vendors have a well-rounded vertical strategy to establish industry specific use cases.

CMSWire: What are some MA vendors missing in their platform?

Jasani: Technology is converging. Customers want all their content in one place. Most emerging vendors don’t have the ability to integrate with third party applications. Integrations with applications such as digital asset management or enterprise resource planning solutions can facilitate a smooth flow of information and enrich the content libraries for marketers.