by John J. Wall
The major trend is that 1st generation tools have matured, for example, you have many choices for email service providers, and they all do a fine job of sending email. What will set the 2nd generation tools apart is their ability not to simply execute but to take advantage of the abundance of data to make you more effective as a marketer, e.g. not just give you email templates, but to tell you that specific templates will perform better for you.
This space is still the wild west, there is no "one size fits all", you need to prioritize the features and integrations most important to you and go from there.
These solutions have become so affordable that any business large enough to have any kind of automated communications should be looking at marketing automation.