Brace your executive staff. Your organization could be spending a lot more on marketing automation technology in the next five years, according to Forrester. In its April report, “Marketing Automation Technology Forecast, 2017 to 2023 (Global)” (fee required), Forrester researchers predict marketing automation technology tool spending will reach $25.1 billion annually by 2023, up from $11.4 billion last year. That’s a 14 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years.

Marketing automation is the process of using software to complete repetitive marketing tasks designed to nurture sales leads, personalize marketing messages and content and in the process, save marketers’ time and effort, as we reported in a February CMSWire article on marketing automation. While these tools will remain a focal point in the marketing technology stack for the foreseeable future, we caught up with some experts to discuss trends in the marketing automation space.

Humanity Comes to Marketing Automation

Mike Herrick, senior vice president of product and engineering at Urban Airship, said the biggest trend in marketing automation this year is finding humanity in marketing automation. One of the biggest trends he sees centers around the broad backlash to tech addiction and its effect on humanity. This is especially timely, Herrick said, and all the more relevant given Apple’s updates from WWDC. Apple discussed empowering consumers to dictate how much time they spend on apps and gain greater control of the notifications they receive. This, Herrick said, emphasizes Apple’s on-device machine learning as a key to protecting user privacy and expanding on last year's intelligent tracking controls.

“This year will be the year where marketers are forced to think carefully to ensure they have direct customer connections that are focused more on digital engagement and retention over acquisition to survive in the market,” he said. “If not, they risk their notifications being hidden, or worse, their apps being deleted.”

Related Article: What Is Marketing Automation and How Does it Help Marketers?

Less Emphasis on Automations

Jason VandeBoom, CEO of ActiveCampaign, said it’s likely the industry will see a balanced blend of "automations and humans." Automations create processes and specific paths for contacts to follow, he added. “As people start to see the impact of automations, it's easy to set up more of them to save time,” VandeBoom said. “The problem is, when there are too many automations, they start to control the customer experience instead of optimize it.” This, he aded, could negatively impact your customer’s experience, and as a result decrease engagement and revenue. As a result, VandeBoom said, “You’ll start to see more teams spending more time on optimizing customer experiences by focusing more on the right blend of human touch and automations.” 

Learning Opportunities

Extending Automations Through the Entire Customer Lifecycle

Marketing automations took off over the last several years as the next step in email marketing. While it’s a cost-effective way to engage current and potential customers, there are many other ways automations can impact an organization, VandeBoom noted. “You already see some of this with sales teams, setting up automations and processes to help leads funnel through the process,” he said. “This will start to expand throughout all customer-facing teams within an organization. When you apply automations throughout an organization, you’ll see improved customer experiences and better internal processes, unifying teams and helping businesses reach their goals.”

Related Article: 13 Noteworthy Enterprise Marketing Automation Tools

Artificial Intelligence’s Impact on Targeted Deliveries

AI is undoubtedly the biggest marketing automation trend to watch this year as it will drive several other trends in marketing automation, said Jaime Romero, VP of customer success at MRP. “As marketers continue to embrace AI and machine learning, they'll increasingly be able to create programs that incorporate machine-based decision making and true personalization, rather than relying solely on rules-based automation,” he said. Romero contends that AI-powered personalization will help marketers personalize messages beyond the standard first-name greeting in marketing messages. AI-powered personalization, he added, will use "streaming dynamic data inputs about accounts and their research to meet audiences where they are in the buyer journey and deliver messages that appeal to them at the right time.” AI will allow for this targeted delivery to be dynamic to the extent that each account’s specific behavior will drive their specific nurture program, Romero said

“Additionally, AI will lead to better segmentation, particularly in email marketing,” Romero said. “With AI, marketers can build infinite audience segments and embed machine-driven segmentation into their marketing automation technology stacks.”

Brace for Consolidation

One trend to keep an eye out for before 2018 comes to a close is increased consolidation in the space, said Romero. “Increasingly,” he added, “companies will demand tools that can solve multiple marketing and sales needs, and the companies that will fare best are those with holistic offerings that consider the big picture of marketing and sales needs. Companies are also building out and growing their marketing clouds.”