As of December 2013, 58 percent of all top performing companies were using marketing automation according to a Forrester report. That number has only increased since then. Why? Because automation’s benefits are impossible to ignore in the current marketing landscape.
Sophisticated, plugged-in customers require marketers to look at them as more than a catch-all audience. Regardless of what they’re buying, they want brands to provide truly unique journeys for them. And if you don’t deliver, then you’ll be tuned out, cast aside with the rest of the generic content they’re bombarded with.
Only automation can make this personalized ideal a reality. The future of marketing lies in understanding customers as individuals -- not audiences -- and using that knowledge to deliver one-on-one relationships at scale.
As we move past adoption into the tipping point, automation -- at varying implementations -- will soon be a standard tool for every marketer.
What happens then? Here are just a few thoughts on the future of the category, as well as its likely impact on the way marketers and businesses interact with their customers.
Everything is a Touch Point
With automation becoming an industry norm, every marketer will be executing relevance at scale, albeit at different degrees. It’s within these degrees of separation that savvy marketers will find opportunities to carve out ultra-relevance and superior personalization. This is only made possible, however, by having better, more sophisticated data on your customers.
The number of customer touch points from which to gather this data is exploding. Social media is old hat, of course, but never-ending Internet connectivity through wearable hardware and software -- previously cool concepts but hollow realities -- is now a real marketing opportunity.
Wearable device connections will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018. With the increase in use, wearable data will spike from two petabytes generated monthly to 61. (While most manufacturers currently own the data, they could “open it up” for marketing value -- meanwhile, brands like Nike have already entered the wearable space and own the data themselves, a trend we’ll only see more adopt as wearable moves into the mainstream.)
Furthermore, technology as a whole is revolutionizing the way that brands and consumers interact with one another even at an in-store level. Thanks to innovations such as as iBeacon technology, brands can engage with consumers within proximity of their billboards, kiosks or stores. Everything becomes a touch point, driving further sales and creating a better consumer experience through the gathering of more sophisticated behavioral data.
All of this is data that marketers can use to usher in a new type of uber-individualization. And while incorporating it into automation programs is still early days, it’s only a matter of time.
From Personalization to Prediction
As automation becomes more common, being able to personalize content and score leads in real time simply won’t be enough. Instead we’ll see a shift in focus, from present to future, with marketers predicting interactions and the path to conversion for each customer.
Seventy-one percent of marketers want this now, according to eMarketer. Marketers want to be able to use predictive analytics to figure out who would be their best customer going forward, and how to target that customer. But how close is the automation space to delivering on that promise?
David Cummings has said that many of today’s automation platforms use static models to evaluate leads, customers, behavior, etc. It’s not that the platforms are behind the ball, rather, the technology is still advancing. But we’re seeing leaders in marketing software really innovate in this area.
As automation adoption continues upward, the software will continue to evolve to integrate smarter algorithms with even stronger learning capabilities. It’s this evolution that will pave the way to granular predictions about customer behavior so that marketers can future-proof engagement and better determine who a brand’s best customers are.
Mobile Will Dominate
If everything is now a touch point, then everything is a channel. So marketers are challenged to tailor messages for different venues and platforms like never before. But let’s be clear -- not every channel is created equal. And today, mobile channels are the most critical.
Ninety-one percent of American adults now own a cell phone. Customers are “always on” -- available to experience marketing messages whenever, wherever they are (assuming the message is worthy of their engagement). That’s why mobile retail will own nearly 30 percent of all sales by 2017. Or why mobile’s marketing impact ratio is $1 (spend) to $20 (sales).
All automation efforts -- whether email, social, website, etc. -- will need to be developed mobile-first. If marketers are trying to figure out where to spend their money in the future, this is the place.