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If you aren’t currently using marketing automation, you probably will be in the immediate future. After all, marketing technology saves you time and helps you spend your money where it’s needed most, scale your business more effectively, and break down the silos between sales and marketing. Even better, marketing automation tools are becoming increasingly accessible to businesses of all sizes.

But if you really want to get the most out of marketing automation, then you need to know about the following trends that will shape its future.

The Consolidation and Integration of Technology

Whether you prefer to call it cross-channel or omnichannel, successful marketers have implemented multichannel strategies in which email, social media, content, and mobile marketing are tied together. Doing so has been effective in engaging the right users with the brand at the right time via the right channel. Sales increase because you’ve provided your customers with a seamless and consistent experience.

Say you’re in the market for a new car, so you visit a manufacturer’s website. You can’t complete your research just then because you have to attend a meeting, so you leave your email address requesting more info. When you get home and are browsing on your tablet, you receive an email about the vehicle you’re interested in. You like what you see and make an in-person appointment to test-drive the vehicle. You then get a text message confirming your appointment.

That’s a very simple example of an omnichannel experience, but it’s also very effective. In fact, 87 percent of retailers said that having an omnichannel strategy is critical or very important to their success. However, only 8 percent say they have gotten there. The reason? Well, one of the main barriers is technology.

Because of this gap, there’s been an increase in all-in-one technology solutions that can handle marketing across multiple channels. For instance, Adobe recently acquired Marketo. As a result, Adobe can now use Marketo’s technology to engage both B2B and B2C customers throughout the entire customer journey by integrating email, social, and mobile marketing solutions. It can also can automatically generate content audience members actually want to engage with, as well as analytics to see what’s working and what’s not.

You can expect to see more consolidation of marketing tools to help you more easily create and manage a successful multichannel experience, as opposed to relying on a variety of separate marketing solutions.

Predictive Lead Scoring Will Pave the Way

This is a tool that can take into account various consumer factors like demographics, behavioral data, social information, and blog posts regarding your business. It then uses that information to assign your business a score in order to predict whether or not a lead is qualified.

Knowing who your qualified leads are allows you to create and share relevant content to the right people through the right channel. This way, you can engage these leads by routing them to the proper nurture track or sales rep before you even have gathered customer data on them.

The Continued Rise of AI and Chatbots

By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, you’ll be able to track users’ behavior, requirements, and needs. AI can then make smart suggestions about which types of content your audience cares about during various stages of the customer journey. AI can also automate subject lines and emails based on predetermined triggers. For example, when new email subscribers sign up to your newsletter, they’ll receive an automated message welcoming them and telling them what steps to take next.

AI is also being integrated with chatbots to help with your lead generation efforts. This is done by analyzing your customer’s needs and requirements. Going back to our car-buying example, if you’re a returning customer, then chatbots could offer discounts on vehicle maintenance or provide instant answers to your questions instead of you having to contact the dealer.

Consumers Demand Personalized Content

Instead of marketing to everyone, marketing automation allows you to connect with your ideal customer. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through personalized content.

Tools like Adobe Target and Optimizely collect and analyze data from social listening, consumer behavior, and previous purchases to generate personalized content. So if a customer just purchased a Prius sedan, then you would want to send them content on how to maintain that specific vehicle.

There Still Needs to Be a Human Touch

While there’s no stopping marketing automation technology, customers still need a personal touch. After all, marketing automation through bots can only handle basic marketing tasks. Machines aren’t known for their emotional intelligence — they’re not able to create an emotional experience or make customers feel like they’re individuals.

I recently received a text from my mechanic reminding me to get my car serviced. I dropped my car off and later received another text notifying me that my vehicle was ready to be picked up. That’s pretty standard. However, I’m a loyal customer of this auto shop because the owner always comes over and has real conversations with me. It makes me feel important, and it’s one of the reasons why so many of his customers keep returning.

Long story short, use technology to help you make better decisions, engage your audience at various steps of their journey, and save time and money. But when possible, personally interact with the members of your audience, whether that’s by sending emails or texts, giving them a call, or even talking face-to-face.

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