The Evolution of Marketing Automation

I see the connections between omnichannel marketing strategies that trigger emails and display campaigns and site personalization tailored to me based on my previous behaviors. I understand how looking at a refrigerator on a major retailer’s website provides enough data to target me through marketing automation platforms via emails and Facebook campaigns, personalized to the model and prices that I viewed. I have witnessed the progression from one-sized fits all digital communication to the personalized experiences we have today.

I also realize how far we still have to go to reach the promise of true marketing automation -- the optimization of customer management.

What consumers want from marketing is simple: provide the right information at the right time through the right channel. Automation today touches on this, but stops short at tying all of the pieces of customer data together. Three weeks after buying the refrigerator in-store, I was still receiving messages about the model I looked at. While the platform had correctly understood that I was in the market, it failed to capture the end result -- I bought the refrigerator, my customer relationship status changed. My customer data was provided, but the platform was not set up to act on it.

Gartner Research has predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships without talking to a human. In order for this to happen effectively, marketing automation must evolve from its current state to address the following three themes:

  • Deeper Marketing Stack Integration
  • Marketer Empowerment
  • Customer Management Optimization

Integration Gives the 360 View 

Marketing automation will evolve by integrating fully into the marketing stack. The future digital experience will merge data and delivery into one system. Centralized automation systems will provide touch points for web content management, digital asset management and customer relationship management platforms into vehicles and channels that reach across web, email, search, ad exchanges, TV ads, in-store, customer support and beyond. Online and offline data will be merged with an end purpose: to centralize customer data points into one actionable, 360 degree viewpoint for business operations. This will allow businesses to automate communication from a central vantage point. This platform will capture all the data needed to optimize the customer experience, including the data points identifying both that I looked at and purchased the refrigerator.

Training Helps Focus on the Customer Relationship

In 2014, marketers are experiencing fast changes in tactics and strategies with little training. According to Adobe’s Digital Distress Study, just 48 percent of digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing. The deeper integration of automation into the marketing stack will outpace the majority of marketers’ ability to practice optimizing customer management.

Formalized training will enable marketers to take their understanding of customer management and digital experiences and translate it into the evolving automation systems. Most will need to shift from the operational focus that automation has required of them to increase their focus on the overall customer experience. It is important to take the task of implementing the technology (from tags to campaign setup to data pulls) out of the hands of the marketer and replace it with the practice of managing the customer relationship. By doing this, the marketer will be able to take the next steps in the customer relationship -- identifying and acting upon personalized data to provide the best customer experience.

Enable Action with the Right Toolset

According to a Domo’s 2013 Data-Driven Marketing report, 66 percent of marketers are overwhelmed by the data available for them to analyze today, with just 25 percent checking marketing automation data daily. The “internet of everything” will only make the volume of data available more daunting, despite the coming ability to centralize data and automation into one interface. Having access and the ability to process the data doesn’t mean that marketers will be able to make strategic, timely decisions about how and when to act within the relationship.

Marketers will require customer management optimization technology that helps them identify, manage and act on comprehensive customer profiles across the stack. They will need to combine clear vision with direction through toolsets that analyze and recommend how to optimize customer experiences based on past behaviors, predictive outcomes and prescriptive tactics. Ideally, marketers will provide context about the rationale behind what they want to accomplish and the automation system will provide clarity of action, timing, audience and tactical execution. These new toolsets will make marketers smarter by suggesting actions to take and alerting busy marketers to new, predictable and measured opportunities.

A Missed Opportunity  

While the retailer I purchased the refrigerator from wanted to influence my purchase by messaging me close to awareness, they missed my consideration and purchase hot buttons. My customer experience could have been further automated to include urgency messaging for free delivery after I began shopping, rather than price/model messaging. Cost was relative, timing was essential, and many consumers respond favorably to messaging around complimentary services.

We all have unique influences in our customer relationship behaviors, but still have patterns that tools should be able to identify when data is centralized.

The availability of customer data is growing and marketing automation is evolving from a platform supporting a marketing channel to a core element in how marketers can approach customer management. This shift is being fueled by the ability to automate marketing practices through data. The promise of marketing automation will pay off when marketers are empowered to surround consumers with relevant experiences across channels and vehicles with guided vision and minimal execution headaches. Future marketing automation stacks will provide the intersection of that platform with a marketer’s ability to set a meaningful purpose and an automated optimization practice around their customer experiences.

Title image by Janne Moren (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license