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How Marketing Automation Leads to Personalized Customer Experiences

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Marketing Director, Americas , Emarsys

The “marketing automation” landscape continues to grow in terms of popularity, vendor options, and global users.

B2C marketing automation usage continues to steadily rise. Roughly 400,000 of your peers use automation tools, and by 2020, that number will reach half a million. Source

Mar-tech has evolved in every aspect from system capacities and capabilities to channel-specific features.

The automation space is metaphorical crockpot, equal parts (increasingly complicated) software, (increased customer) data, and blueprints, campaign coordination tools, and the like.

Complex as the systems and software may be, marketing automation affords us, as marketers, the ability to create personalized experiences that were previously unimaginable — or at least which we used to be incapable of creating for massive audiences at scale.

And with the inflated expectations among your customers, the time is now to begin to leverage marketing automation software in the right ways that allow us to create real value.

But the (first) question to ask isn’t what marketing automation platform you should use, or what features can drive the most ROI. It isn’t how much storage or data or processing the platform can produce.

The question is this: “how can I use marketing automation tools in the best way to create the most utility for each individual customer based on who they are and what they like?”

Using Marketing Automation for Utility

As Jay Baer recently explained at Revolution Las Vegas, “We have access to extraordinary technology that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. It’s about what you choose to do with that technology. Technology’s just a means to an end, it’s not the end. You’re in charge, not the technology.”

Consider this point: the most intelligent technology and the data coursing through it is virtually worthless without human-driven and impactful strategies guiding its outputs. It is now and will always be the strategy that drives the end goal of personalized customer experiences. Technology enables utility if used right, while utility spurs personalized marketing — and personalized communications breed brand loyalty.

Marketing automation technology is the only way to reach each customer across your database at the time, place, and with the content they need. It automates activities like:

  • Offering a personalized incentive after a certain number of completed online purchases
  • Prompting mobile app users with in-app notifications after they click a particular button/link at a specific point
  • Sending an automated email confirmation with tourist information and suggestions related to the destination after a purchase of flight tickets
  • Sending an email reminder of items left in an online shopping cart after a contact interrupts or does not complete a purchase
  • Selection of website overlays (pop-ups) or other widgets where content can be tailored in an online store

With you as the master pulling the strings, marketing automation is most commonly activated by certain, predefined “events” that trigger a certain kind of communication.

Of course, byproducts of using marketing automation tools includes the ability to track clicks and link engagement, to monitor performance and interactions across channels, and, generally, to send the customer messaging that appeals most to them.

While the birthplace of marketing automation is rooted in email, most personalization platforms and tools of today span the gamut of channels.

Today’s customers desire and expect more personalized, content-driven experiences from the brands they interact with most often. Marketing automation has become the remedy that most businesses are leveraging to take on that monumental task.

But does it actually work?

Automation for Marketing Efficiency and ROI

Automation platforms do more than produce personalized marketing for customers —  they allow marketing teams to focus on more high-level initiatives as the automation software takes care of the day-to-day tasks and execution-based activities.

“When the software and technology does more of the day-to-day optimization and testing [of marketing], it doesn’t take the jobs from us, it sets us free,” Baer said in his presentation. “Because when the robots do the tactics, the strategy is king, and the strategic thinker is the one who’s going to stand out… it’s about the wizard, not the wand.”

Effectively, automation is the path to increased efficiency and the key to productivity.

It also produces intelligent outputs that are designed to optimize and maximize engagement. Marketing automation has been proven to help boost sales productivity by 14.5 percent and reduce marketing overhead by 12.2 percent. For a company of any size, those numbers pack a knockout punch.

Marketing automation combines technology and data to better engage and communicate with customers. The technology becomes the conduit for your team to control all aspects of the campaign from a strategic standpoint, and does so across multiple platforms and channels — from one central location.

Marketing Automation Means More Channels

Blasting the same message across all audiences and all channels doesn’t suffice, at least for marketing organizations that are “in it to win it” for the long haul.

But leveraging all channels? That’s an idea most marketers are getting behind.

While email is still the most powerful tool in most e-commerce teams’ arsenal, marketing automation enables “personalized communications and content to be automatically delivered to customers not only in the right time but also in their preferred format and through preferred channels” (Source).

The concept of a website, for example, being able to automatically populate content based on what consumers have done in the past was once thought impossible.

Now, with the use of marketing automation programs, online stores can track visitors, the part of the site they visit most, items browsed, items in shopping cart, and purchases. Then, when that visitor returns, more relevant recommendations can be served up based on prior behavior. The value here is clear — a study from Temple University found that when customers were offered recommendations based on past purchase behavior, 98% experienced positive feelings.

But it doesn’t have to stop with website recommendations. The ability to tailor content spans across email, website, mobile apps, SMS, and social media.

Automation programs use visitor behavior to trigger the next best (or most logical) step in the customer cycle. Depending on preferences, that step could be an email, a social media ad, or a push notification via an app — ensuring one, cohesive, consistent campaign for a much more connected experience.

This is how (the only way how) to plan and schedule communications across audiences while simultaneously maintaining a high level of personalization.

Why Continuous Testing Improve Results

Another aspect of modern marketing automation systems — especially those driven by artificial intelligence — that improves the degree to which personalization can be achieved is testing and continuous self-learning.

By testing different messaging among different audience groups, marketing automation programs can zero in on precisely what resonates best with which audience profiles.

Automation programs can also utilize multi-branch testing to determine the correct messaging for a customer and engage with them through win-back programs, multi-step campaigns, and retargeting. By testing and refining, automation systems can help to ensure customers are seeing what they want based on their preferences.

Otherwise, we’re just relegated to a shotgun approach where our programs and messages are largely hit-or-miss and are subject to disregard.

Final Thoughts

The sophistication of these kinds of machines and solutions that enable automation at scale continues to skyrocket — it’s truly mind-blowing.

But if it’s personalization and the ability to truly tailor content to individuals that you desire, it’s the only way forward.

Marketing automation platforms are more than the sum of the code, algorithms, and back-end nuts and bolts that make them work — they’re a weapon that all digital marketing teams of the present and future are turning to in order to breathe life into their e-commerce strategy.

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