Partially inspired by the predictable “Predictions for 2017” type of posts and articles comes my biased take on the key characteristics of the next generation marketing automation platform, which will emerge in 2017.

We will inarguably see most single/cross/multi channel platforms (read ESP’s) implement flow builders. They will call themselves marketing automation platforms.
We will also (still) see the companies behind write posts about the importance of handling abandoned baskets.
We will still see the big players and old legacy systems sit on their shares of the market, and we will also still see and talk about the mergers and acquisitions between CRM, analytics, BI and campaign systems.

We will however, see new platforms rise in the landscape. They are not necessarily “one platform does it all”, but they will certainly be built on a recipe based on the following:

Customers are first class citizens of the platform

Customer data is unified and accessible anywhere in the platform

Data is the very foundation of the platform. It's a CDP - a Customer Data Platform - providing the marketer with a unified customer database. This data is available to a marketer everywhere in the platform - whether it’s for segmentation, decision making, content building, evaluation or exploration.

The data model for customers is schemaless. It is not limited to be contained in a 2-dimensional model (fitting in an excel sheet). Ideally it breaks down and unifies the data silos and provides a full 360 degrees view of a customer, which includes, but is not limited to, CRM data, purchases, pages and products visited, social media profile information, meta data, analytics data and campaign history.

It’s an event orchestration engine

Design the customer journey using customer data and events to trigger actions.

Marketing automation is about qualifying leads by moving them down the sales funnel in their customer journey. The platform lets marketers design flows which triggers actions based on decisions, conditions and events. Events and actions are not bound to belong to the platform. Events could happen in external systems and be sent to the orchestration engine. Actions triggered in the engine could be called in external systems as well, which altogether allows for creating a cross platform and cross channel experience.

Built for marketers

The platform empowers marketers

What does this even mean? It has mostly to do with user experience and the practical implementation of the previous 2 requirements.

A next generation platform needs not only look good - it also needs to provide a superior user experience.

The user interface should appeal to and also be understandable by marketers who would just as well happen to be in the market for an entry-level system.

The primary challenge is to make data and especially segmentation “easy” for the marketer - who should not care about SQL/noSQL, hadoop clusters, vertices and edges, map reduce and other technical terms. The marketer should be provided with an intuitive and appealing user interface, which responds with lightning speed and inspires its users to be adventurous enabling them to grow and feel comfortable with it, while they get things done.

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