A trend can be loosely defined as “a general direction in which something is changing.” While this description hints at definitive transformation, the term carries an implication of transience, as in “trending” or “trendy.”

To refer to marketing automation (MA) in this manner is inaccurate. Automation software has yet to catch fire and become a mainstay of the marketing industry, but this technology represents much more than the latest trend.

Marketing automation brings digital marketers together around centralized campaigns and customer data. It also offers marketers a way to better organize and distribute the deluge of content they’re producing. Essentially, marketing automation is here to stay. Here are a few reasons.

#1 The Growing Complexity of Digital

Social media marketing, search engine optimization, pay per click, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, email marketing — the list of digital specialists that compose a marketing team grows each year. Each specialist has their own set of key performance indicators to meet, and different data they need to leverage.

For example, the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report indicates that 70 percent of marketers will be creating more content in 2015 than 2014, and they’ll be targeting an average of four respective audiences using an average of 13 tactics.

This escalation of content and marketing can be overwhelming. In the United Kingdom a reported 72 percent of marketing managers felt their job has become more complex in the last year, and two out of three think their teams could be more unified.

Better technology is the most logical response to combating increased complexity, and this is exactly where marketing automation fits in. Because these programs touch a wide range of marketing channels, they aggregate data that benefits multiple stakeholders and specialists. By centralizing this data as well as the functions of many best-of-breed applications, MA systems can unify team members around a common platform.

#2 Marketing Requires Data…and ROI

As marketers become more specialized, they also become more analytical. With each new software platform and performance metric, marketing incorporates more science along with creativity.

Basically, marketing now runs on data, and enterprise automation platforms can act as a database for many of the prime sources marketers leverage in their day to day work.

Beyond just data, MA software also aids marketers in tying their work to financial results. The CMI 2015 study revealed only 21 percent of B2B marketers say they are successful at tracking the ROI of their campaigns. Auspiciously, 73 percent of B2B marketers in a 2014 Regalix survey said that measurable results were a major benefit of using marketing automation.

#3 Consumers Don’t Talk to Sales

In our present information age, salespeople are no longer the guiding light for purchasing decisions. Consumers value a self-service model where they cull reviews and other educational material to form their own opinions about the market, all before approaching sales reps.

This is especially prevalent in the world of business purchases, where CEB estimates that 57 percent of decision making by the buyer is made before they ever contact sales.

To develop relationships with the modern consumer, sales has to partner with marketing to develop educational materials that researchers access earlier in their buying journey. This not only requires excellent content; it demands proper promotion. Again, automation software can function in many aspects of the marketing realm, including social media and search marketing, making it crucial for reaching a large customer base.

#4 Marketing and Sales Need to Play Nice

“Becoming more agile’ has become a business platitude, but beneath the cliche lies an important lesson. Agile is often attributed to development life-cyles or a project management methodology, but it can also simply mean being coordinated and adaptable.

This is particularly important when considering the connection of sales and marketing. Consumers expect every interaction they have with an organization to be relevant, so any breakdown between the online behavior managed by marketing and the more personal conversations handled by sales can spell disaster for customer loyalty.

The numbers don’t lie. According to MarketingProfs, organizations that effectively aligned their sales and marketing teams yielded a 36 percent higher customer retention rate and 38 percent higher sales win rate.

The best marketing automation software will help coordinate the two departments by recording and transferring meaningful customer data. MA software usually features native integration with popular CRMs like Salesforce, which makes switching data from the marketing department to the sales department almost instantaneous.

The result is more context for the sales team and better service for the customer.

#5 Automation Isn’t Just for Enterprise

A series of high profile acquisitions by IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe have pushed the price of enterprise marketing automation platforms out of reach for many SMBs. However, as the market has matured and programs have become more user-friendly, a slew of systems have begun targeting smaller businesses.

Though marketing automation’s isn’t yet a must-have, this software is finding its way into the toolkit of many successful companies. And in the near future, MA could be more than a tool; it could be the central hub for all things marketing. Either way, it’s not a topic that’s en vogue, but rather a technology that’s refining digital marketing as a whole.