According to some estimates, worldwide spending on marketing automation software will hit $32 billion this year, and that number is expected to increase in the years to come as more companies begin embracing marketing automation and the tools become more sophisticated.

Thanks to products from companies like Hubspot, Marketo and Act-On Software, marketers now have the ability to create highly effective digital marketing programs that were unthinkable just a few years ago.

Technological improvements related to machine learning, chatbots and analytics will drive a number of notable developments in the field of marketing automation. Here’s a look at four trends to watch in 2018.

1. Automated Social Media Outreach

A recent MarketingSherpa study found that 58 percent of social media users follow brands on social media. Considering that more than 2 billion people use various social media platforms worldwide, that means marketers can use social media to interact with an enormous number of prospects via social networks.

Social media automation tools like SocialDrift allow marketers to automate various interactions that would otherwise be tedious to complete manually. These interactions can drive social media users to take actions like following your brand or visiting your organization’s website.

To get started, users provide SocialDrift with information about their target audiences, and the company’s system then uses machine learning algorithms to automatically engage with social media users through likes, comments and follows.

2. Integrated Behavior-based Email Workflows

An email workflow uses Boolean logic to communicate with contacts who are already in a marketing database. Based on rules, emails are triggered that are intended to nurture existing contacts to move down the marketing funnel.

Email workflows have been around for some time, but integrated workflows that use other channels (like social ads) in addition to email are a newer phenomenon. Thanks to tools like Ad Espresso and LeadsBridge, it is now possible to trigger retargeting ads only when contacts enter specific workflows.

Best of all, these marketing workflows can be triggered by various customer behaviors, ensuring the messages are highly relevant to a prospect’s stage in the funnel.

3. Predictive Lead Scoring

What attributes are associated with your best customers? Hopefully you have some working understanding of your ICP — or your “ideal customer profile.” Now tools allow organizations to unleash the power of machine learning on lead scoring.

Learning Opportunities

Using probabilistic calculations, software platforms like Infer can reliably determine what leads are more likely to convert to customers.

Predictive lead scoring can help marketers to pinpoint the best-performing channels without having to wait weeks or months for leads to move down the funnel.

4. Personalized Content Recommendations

Digital companies like Amazon and Netflix have demonstrated how powerful personalized content can be when it comes to engaging audiences. Marketing automation technology already allows marketers to offer personalized content to website visitors, and in 2018 that practice will expand as new marketing automation tools make sharing personalized content easier and more effective. For example, Optimizley Personalization and Adobe Target allow marketers to share the right content with the right people across channels and devices.

Marketing teams can now run account-based marketing programs like the one from Marketo with ease. Content marketers can develop content for specific target accounts or types of target accounts, and personalization platforms can display specific pieces of content to website visitors based on IP address.

Create ‘Wow’ Experiences

Marketing technology has come a long way. From simple website analytics and basic email to machine learning and social media automation. Today marketers in all industries have powerful technologies at their fingertips that make it possible to create “wow” experiences for prospects and customers.

The many trends to watch in 2018 include the emergence of technologies that allow marketers to create more personalized experiences for target prospects at scale.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.