10 Digital Marketing Automation Trends for Businesses in 2021

From the days when marketers had to code email templates from scratch to now, when chatbots can hold meaningful, goal-oriented conversations with humans, marketing has come a long way. Before we dive into the meat of this article, here are some of the top digital marketing automation trends to watch in 2021.

  • Account Based marketing features merge with marketing automation.
  • Chatbots now initiate and hold smarter conversations.
  • Use of predictive CLV to optimize ad spends.

Right now, customers want super-relevant, targeted content and experiences. If you’re not providing this, your competitor likely does. If you’re a marketer looking to scale your results with digital marketing automation, this article will show you how the b2b marketing automation landscape is changing in 2021. 

Top 10 B2B digital marketing automation trends 2021

Lead scoring based on perceived intent or buyer stage.

A report from Demand Gen showed that 92% of B2B marketers who achieve successful lead generation prioritize quality of leads over lead quantity. In 2021, generating higher quality leads is uber important. This is why lead scoring has reemerged as a standard practice among marketers who want the best ROI from their lead gen efforts. However, lead scoring isn’t just business as usual. We’ll see more development in predictive lead scoring models that are based on perceived intent or buyer stage, to improve lead quality. What are examples of marketing automation using predictive lead scoring models? 

Merodio’s lead scoring matrix uses two models: the PAIN score (measures the intensity of the problem the client is facing) and the FIT score (measures the resemblance of a particular customer to your ideal buyer persona). 

Silverpop’s model uses a kind of temperature scale – from lowest (dead leads) to highest (sales qualified leads).


However, there is a major problem: understanding the customer’s exact journey. In a study from DigitalMarketingCommunity.com, 55% of marketers cite customer experience mapping as the most challenging marketing automation tactic. Other difficult tactics identified included the use of artificial intelligence and predictive modeling (48%) and dynamic/personalized content (44%).

Yet, according to an article on DemandGenreport, “the prospect of improving lead scoring models by implementing new types of buyer data is promising, as 68% of marketers that use intent and behavior data to score leads that align with their ICPs have seen higher conversion rates”.

Marketing automation software + Built-in ABM capability

Facts show that ABM outperforms other marketing investments, proving the value of targeted messages and personalization. However, the problem is that using marketing automation software and separate ABM software isn’t just expensive, it could be inefficient. Hence we’ll probably see marketing automation software with advanced ABM functionality.   

As Forrester Tech Tide TM; Extended CRM technologies released in Q1 2021 states, “MAPs (marketing automation platforms) have evolved rapidly to accommodate ABM practices after several years of rapid evolution. In all industries, contextual and personalized digital strategy is an increasingly important customer engagement strategy, as Forrester noted. Technology has evolved from supporting obsolete practices like fill-the-funnel campaigns and drip marketing.

Finding a balance between privacy and data collection.

GDPR and other privacy regulations are forcing marketers to re-examine how much data they collect and what they do with the data. While state regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act are not common across the board, we may see more jurisdictions adopt data laws, including industry verticals. According to Gartner, by 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have their personal information covered by modern privacy regulations. That’s up from just 10% today.

As Penny Gillespie, VP Analyst at Gartner, says:

“Organizations are missing their best chances to create great customer experiences due to needlessly risk-averse privacy ideas that limit the use of personal data. The key is to bring value to customers and keep data use in context.” 

The challenge is, how do you collect the right amount of data and justify its use in a way that customers trust? That is, how do you use data ethically and meticulously, innovating without the risk of compromising customer information? It’s an important question companies must answer at this time. And therefore some companies use a data governance framework. 

The Data Governance Institute defines this kind of framework as “a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.”

The issue of privacy is likely to continue to be a big concern for marketers and policymakers. In the future, more laws could limit the amount of data that companies can collect. “There is no doubt that, in the short run, data collection and privacy regulations will result in less data being available to companies; however, in the long run, they will benefit from a higher quality of data”, says Paige Bartley, senior analyst at 451 research.

Attribution still a big deal

Measuring ROI in automation is not always straightforward. According to a 2014 Pepper study, response metrics like CTR, open rates, and unsubscribe rates were among the most widely used metrics for determining marketing automation returns. However, they won’t indicate how much each marketing initiative contributed to your bottom line or how much revenue each lead brought in. Customers are exposed to a brand an average of 36 times before making a purchase. Which of your marketing campaigns or channels would seal the deal? 

In addition to omni-channel marketing, correct attribution would include offline sources. Currently, first touch and last touch attribution models are common with digital marketing automation tools.

Based on a study by Adwin Gerritsen from Inferens.nl, most of the major automation software isn’t currently capable of using advanced attribution methods.

However, we’ll likely see a proliferation of third party tools like Neustar, which can work alongside your digital marketing automation tools, offering more options for marketing attribution.

Increased adoption of digital marketing automation

In 2020, the market for marketing automation software was valued at USD 3.60 billion, and it is projected to reach USD 11.46 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 17.76% through the forecast period (2021-2027).

According to EmailMonday, 51% of companies have already adopted Marketing Automation. Over 58% of companies are planning to adopt it. EmailMonday’s research also showed that spending on Marketing Automation tools will grow rapidly, reaching $25.1 billion annually by 2023.

Marketers all around the world from Europe to India, now recognize marketing automation as a crucial tool for improving their bottom lines. According to Social Media’s Today 2019 State of Marketing Automation Survey report, 75% of all companies already use at least one kind of marketing automation tool.

As 5G networks expand, demand for data integration services and SaaS cloud services expand, the adoption of marketing automation by companies will increase.

AI-assisted digital marketing automation software

60 percent of marketers stated in a SmartInsights and CommuniGator survey that improved user experiences and communications relevance are the most important benefits of marketing automation in B2B.

With AI, marketers will get more efficient at translating data into actions. For example, one use case for data-driven content marketing is when automation software uses data from previous social media posts to determine the best time to promote content for maximum engagement. 

The collaboration of AI and digital marketing automation will improve customer experience while speeding up marketing processes as we see being done with companies like Netflix. AI and machine learning will create super-targeted experiences for customers, leading to greater brand loyalty.

The amount of data it can generate without your interference can be overwhelming – to the point that you can even disable comments on Facebook ads or drop live chat interactions and still have data you can use for precise marketing campaigns.

Smarter chatbots

Due to dramatic advancements in machine learning, chatbots will become smarter. People want faster response times but better responses too. 54% of respondents in a study conducted by VoC (Voice of customer) platform, Usabilia, said they preferred engaging with a brand via a bot, as long as the chatbots are intelligent enough to hold up meaningful conversations with multiple users.

From Oracle’s survey of 800 top decision-makers around the world, over 80% are already using, or are planning to start using chatbots for their business by 2021. WhatsApp’s plan to integrate its API with chatbots will make this a primary method of interacting with customers. However, one-way chats are old-school. Currently, chatbots are able to keep up dialogues, ask and answer questions that lead to purchases or decisions. 

Mobile ad spend keep growing

As of 2018, mobile ad spending surpassed desktop for the first time and is expected to rise by 8.5% YoY in 2021. In the next year, we can expect to see more mobile-based ads and campaigns.

Google’s focus on mobile optimization could also signal the fact that it expects mobile ad spends to outpace desktop. This is why Google’s mobile-first index requires web developers to optimize their websites for mobile.

Businesses that spend on mobile ads are sure to see good returns since people make buying decisions via their mobile phones. 63% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps offer them relevant recommendations on products they may be interested in. A multi-screen approach will help marketers reach their customers across multiple touch-points where they’re active.

Growth of social video ads

2020 witnessed a 20% increase in the social media budget of brands, which will increase even further in 2021. Premium social video ads continue to offer better ROI than other ad formats. Verizon Media surveyed 300 senior marketing professionals in 2020. They found that 96% of advertisers invest in one video ad per year and more than three-quarters said they plan to increase their premium video ads budget. Two thirds of the senior marketing professionals surveyed say video ads will continue to offer better ROI than other ad formats, with in-stream and branded content delivering the most successful results. 

Predictive CLV to optimize ad spends

A customer-centric approach to marketing is more important than ever. Advanced segmentation offers brands a way to identify users with a high, medium, or low CLV, allowing them to create highly personalized marketing campaigns at an affordable marketing cost. 

Instead of generic spending, you want to reduce spend on one-time shoppers while creating personalized campaigns to reach your most valuable customers. Predictive CLV helps companies predict a customer’s value from the onset. According to Bain & Company’s report, a 5% increase in customer retention can positively affect profitability by over 75%.

Why do you need automation in digital marketing?

From understanding your customer’s behavior to tailoring products customized to their specific needs, digital marketing automation will help you achieve efficiency in your marketing. Oleg Donets, a real estate marketing expert and founder of real estate investing platform, Housecashin, says, “the real estate market, as well as many other analog industries, are ripe for automation, as the Coronavirus necessitated a change to better and faster processes – in short creating convenience for clients”. 

Personalization is probably the most important use case for automation. Almost all email marketers personalize messages in some way to improve campaign performance. 

Looking at the numbers from User.com case studies show that most companies that implement marketing automation generate a return on their investment in under three months. Want to achieve efficiency in your marketing? See how User.com can help.