Understanding the Marketing Automation Landscape In 2020


From chatbots to big data, the marketing automation landscape looks more diverse and crowded every year. That’s why having a marketing automation strategy is less of a perk and now more of a requirement when it comes to owning a business. Customers come to your business through a multitude of channels.

Tracking individual behaviors and engagement on each of these channels poses an enormous challenge, which is why the majority of companies are turning to marketing automation software to collect, interpret and respond to consumer data in a way that encourages consistent movement through the sales funnel.

To survive in the new, tech-augmented marketing landscape, your business needs automation. But what if you don’t even know where to start? Click the link below to get a free pricing guide for top marketing automation software, and then read on to learn more about the meteoric changes in 2020’s marketing software landscape.

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Table of Contents for This Article

  • What Is Marketing Automation?
  • The State of the Marketing Automation Landscape
  • The Rise of the Chatbots
  • Data Disrupting the Automation Landscape
  • Personalization Is Key in the Marketing Software Landscape
  • Features to Look for in Marketing Automation Software
  • How Businesses Are Leveraging Marketing Automation Software
  • Closing Thoughts on Marketing Automation

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation software streamlines marketing processes by creating automatic workflows based on specific sets of criteria. That criteria can either be user-determined or set up by the software vendor at the time of purchase, but ultimately, it should relate to your business model.

For example, a retail business isn’t going to have much use in marketing an eBook. Some examples of criteria could be:

  • Email open and click-through rates
  • User signups for your website
  • Website clicks
  • Customer intel collected from forms

The automation program translates inputs from the consumer end into tasks and processes that generate appropriate responses. For example, you may set up a flow that sets your website to display products related to an individual’s previous purchases or emails new customers a discount coupon after they place their first order. User behaviors are monitored using unique tracking codes that collect pertinent information over time.

Omni-channel marketing becomes much simpler when you use marketing automation. Instead of having to monitor your email lists, social profiles, content and advertising campaigns separately, you can integrate your marketing automation solution with your CRM platform to analyze and track consumer behavior across all channels. This allows you to build workflows that maximize engagement and increase conversions.

A phone next to a laptop showing Pardot, Salesforce's marketing automation software

Pardot from Salesforce is a popular marketing automation software | Source: Salesforce.com

The State of the Marketing Automation Landscape

The majority of Internet users are now consuming content across channels and across devices on a daily basis. Automation supports this behavior by taking customers out of separate marketing silos and consolidating all of their behaviors into comprehensive profiles.

According to the Dun & Bradstreet 2015 State of Marketing Data report, 95 percent of B2B marketers think automation is good for business. Developers of automation software recognize this level of interest. 2016 saw a move toward simpler workflows, more user-friendly interfaces, easier software integration and faster data interpretation to support timely responses.

Another change in the marketing automation landscape: big dividends. The industry is big, and it’s only going to get bigger. Martechadvisor.com anticipates that revenue generated from marketing automation will reach $7.63 billion by 2022. Visuacapitalist.com says that spending on marketing automation tools will reach 25.1 billion annually by 2023.

The list of software vendors is growing as well. In 2011 there were 150 software vendors in the marketing-tech space (where automation software lives). In 2017, there were 5,000.

The Rise of Chatbots

A chatbot is a sophisticated piece of software that is able to participate in human interactions, mostly over the internet. In the marketing software landscape, chatbots are the latest and greatest in customer interaction. They handle most everything from sales questions to product troubleshooting — all without ever having to deploy representative resources. And though there’s a litany of areas where chatbots aren’t up-to-par, they’re getting smarter and more widespread by the day.

Chatbots are becoming so prolific that Gartner estimates by 2020, 25 percent of all customer service operations will be using virtual assistants and chatbots.

Though they may be the industry’s newest rising star, chatbots still aren’t going to replace humans — at least for a while. Research from marketing juggernaut HubSpot shows that around 57 percent of customers still prefer to get helped by an actual human. Live chat can help bridge that gap.

Live chat is similar to a chatbot, only with live chat, the keyboard on the other end of the screen is operated by a real-life person. It’s kind of a bridge between a chatbot and in-person customer service. HubSpot also says that live chat is almost as popular as a phone call or an email, with 48 percent of customers opting for a live chat over a phone call or an email exchange.

A chatbot would simply fill in for the customer service representative on the other end but would lose out on being able to find personalized solutions for a customers problem. The customer still gets the benefit of not having to engage in a lengthy email exchange or awkward phone call.

Customer service is a vital part of marketing, and as the marketing automation landscape changes, trends such as live chats and chatbots are going to continue to grow and develop along with marketing automation trends.

Data Disrupting the Automation Landscape

Marketing is as old as the Roman Empire, and so is using customer information to shape marketing strategy. But the tactic of advertising fishing gear near the wharves isn’t quite the same as the proliferation of data in the marketing landscape — and there certainly wasn’t any marketing automation software very until recently.

Data feeds marketing automation software and points its fearless machinery towards the right customers at the right time. Without data, automation becomes a lot less automatic.

Let’s say you know when your customers are most likely to check their email based off of some tracking code you added to your last email marketing campaign. You could set up your automation software to deliver another email shortly before your customers open their email. Without the inclusion of data in the marketing software landscape, tasks like this would be impossible.

Personalization Is Key in the Marketing Automation Landscape

People don’t like being treated like faceless numbers in a big, faceless machine. Marketing automation software has gotten sophisticated enough that customers don’t have to be cogs in the machine anymore. We can identify customers by a litany of different criteria, from name, age, and location to area of interest and beyond.

And all of this came just in time, too. Customer expectations have become increasingly focused on their marketing being personalized. According to evergage.com, 59 percent of customers say that personalization directly influences their shopping decision.

By combining personalized marketing content with data-driven decisions, automation software can stop serving a one-size-fits-all marketing campaign, and start serving an individualized, tailored marketing experience that helps convert customers into leads.

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Features to Look for in Marketing Automation Software

A good marketing automation solution covers all the channels you’re currently using to reach out to and track customers along with the tools to analyze incoming data. We’ve got a more detailed article covering some of the best features in-depth. In case you don’t have time, here’s a short list of common marketing automation features that you should consider essential in your software package:

  • Email list management
  • Real-time email generation in response to consumer engagement
  • Social media management
  • Social engagement
  • Lead generation and management
  • Audience segmentation
  • Form management and design
  • Dynamic content generation
  • Landing page generation and tracking
  • Comprehensive analytics and tracking tools
  • Drip marketing campaign development and deployment

Depending on the size of your audience, you may also want to look for software that allows the use of custom URLs to simplify content tracking and uses a lead scoring system to determine lead quality. The ideal software will also employ progressive profiling to build detailed customer profiles over time.

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A panel on HubSpot's marketing automation software showing options.

HubSpot’s marketing automation offering lets you automate dozens of tasks. | Source: Hubspot.com

How Businesses Are Leveraging Automation

Both B2B and B2C businesses are using marketing automation to gather leads and increase conversions by taking advantage of the wealth of marketing opportunities that would be impossible without automated processes.

Personalization is by far the most important element in modern marketing. Personalized content converts 42 percent better than generic and builds brand loyalty by showing customers that your business is sensitive to their needs. Intense targeting to specific audience segments through personalized messages encourages repeat purchases that support continued growth.

Automated content promotion extends your brand even further by ensuring that all the content you create is posted to the proper channels. Utilizing tracking codes, you can take this to the next level with emails targeted at people who view specific types of content, suggesting other content that they may find interesting. Include social sharing links in these emails to enlist your customers in spreading the word.

According to Socialmediaexaminer.com, 97 percent of marketers participate in social media marketing. HubSpot even chimed in with their approval — they found that automating your marketing and including social sharing generates a nearly 100 percent lead-to-close rate.

By allowing the software to do the majority of the work involved in these processes, businesses reduce the resources necessary to run complex marketing campaigns, effectively increasing ROI on each new conversion.

Once you’ve found a marketing automation platform that meets your needs, take the time to learn how to use each feature in the way it can best benefit your company. Build a comprehensive picture of every customer, analyze the data to determine their wants and needs and generate personalized marketing that encourages strong relationships. As your campaigns become more targeted, you’ll build an audience of loyal brand ambassadors who will begin recommending you to others and return to your company to make future purchases.

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Closing Thoughts on Marketing Automation

This isn’t your grandparents game. The marketing automation landscape has changed monumentally in recent years. We’re no longer seeing automation software as a fancy tool that only major players should use. Every sized marketing effort should be using marketing automation software — and it should be keeping up with current trends.

Things like chatbots and the inclusion of big data are going to separate the winners from the losers in the marketing software landscape. We know which side you’d rather be on, so we’ve produced a helpful guide to help you pick the right software for your specific business needs.

What do you think is going to change about the marketing automation landscape in the coming years? Will we see an acceleration of current trends or a stock of new technologies and ways of thinking altogether?

Jason KellerUnderstanding the Marketing Automation Landscape In 2020


Join the conversation
  • David H. Deans - April 14, 2019 reply

    You said, “What do you think is going to change about the marketing automation landscape in the coming years?” — I predict that enabling Content Marketing practitioners to improve their productivity will become the next focal point. Legacy B2B marketing automation has been envisioned from the bygone era of mass-media marketing. It assumes marketers are merely ‘program managers’ that outsource all the real work to agencies or contractors. In contrast, actual Practitioners are the ‘makers’ of the meaningful and substantive go-to-market strategy, and then they personally execute their highly researched action plan. Bottom line, CMOs are raising the bar of expectations for staffing teams of skilled marketers – therefore, those talented individuals will need different (actionable) automation tools to improve their best performance.

    Jason Keller - April 15, 2019 reply

    Speaking as someone who practices content marketing, you hit the nail on the head. As expectations continue to grow, we need to be embracing automation at a much faster pace. On the flipside, we also need to devote additional time to our work, making sure we are putting out insightful and meaningful content. Nothing harms the industry more than content that doesn’t delight and deliver. The challenge will be finding a balance between good content and timely delivery.

    Thanks so much for your insightful comment, David.
    – Jason Keller

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