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It's safe to say that 2016 will go down in history as one of the strangest in modern times: Trump, Brexit, Leicester City's winning the Premier League, and the death of so many iconic artists.

Fortunately for marketers, it was a great year for marketing automation (MA).

Some of the highlights of 2016: approximately 55% of B2B companies are now using marketing automation; 91% of the most successful users agree that marketing automation is "very important" to the overall success of their marketing across channels; and the Pardot Engagement Studio and the Eloqua Program Canvas were released, leading to the next generation of MA.

What can we expect to see in 2017? If 2016 was anything to go by, we marketers should be excited about marketing automation in the year ahead...

1. It's the year of the customer, and retention is key

Technology has become the world's biggest business enabler, and it's made it easier for new companies to emerge and established companies to expand. The resulting competition is fierce, but it's great for users and consumers, because the available options are vast.

2017 is going to be a huge year for customer retention as companies fight for attention in an increasingly crowded market. Users and consumers are going to have a lot of choice, and they know it.

Companies will need to improve their customer service and tailor their marketing efforts so that they offer personalized experiences. Mobile phone providers have been doing it for years and they're good at it. Have you ever tried to switch providers? They'll slam-dunk a ridiculous deal right in front of you just to keep you. More and more industries/sectors will be resorting to similar approaches.

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image of Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan is digital director at UK-based MarCloud Consulting, which specializes in Pardot marketing automation implementation and ongoing campaign management.

Twitter: @trryan16

LinkedIn: Tom Ryan