As you wade through yesterday’s 300 unopened emails, you may be cursing the day email ever rocked our peaceful, print-based world.

However, if you’re a digital marketer, those messages mean money. According to a study by eConsultancy, email continues to be one of the top two channels for delivering ROI — the other is SEO. With companies attributing 20 percent of their total sales to email, the channel is still going strong, despite what some naysayers believe.

That said, marketers aren’t satisfied with how they’re using automation features, specifically personalization and segmentation — something the report attributes to the fact that many organizations have yet to adopt these features.

For B2C companies, in particular, marketing automation is a bit foreign, according to Tom Klein, Mailchimp’s VP of marketing, so the lack of adoption comes as no surprise.

“When we talk to our customers about their customers, marketing automation doesn’t have a lot of meaning,” he said. “It tends to connote B2B as opposed to B2C. We don’t really have a good word for it.”

Making its way up the automation ranks, the Atlanta-based company has been steadily trying to define – and democratize these enterprise capabilities for today’s marketers.

Evolution: The Only Option

With the slew of marketing automation platforms available today, email service providers have no choice but to evolve. A VentureBeat study earlier this year found that 77 percent of companies use marketing automation platforms in place of an email marketing tool.

To keep up with the competition — and respond to the marketing needs of its B2C customers, especially those in e-commerce — Mailchimp has been introducing new advanced automation features, most notably with its release of Mailchimp Pro in September.

Designed for businesses with email lists of 50,000 or more, Pro includes features such as multivariate testing, comparative reports, delivery insight, priority support, and stop delivery for an extra $199 per month for Mailchimp users.

Then, about a week later, they introduced additional features including workflow queue management, individual email segmentation and the ability to trigger automation emails on subscribers who didn’t open or click on previous emails in a series.

Klein noted that Mailchimp has tried to take these enterprise-level capabilities and make them easier for more businesses to implement.

“We introduced Mailchimp Pro for companies with bigger lists and more sophisticated teams,” said Klein. “We wanted to make it accessible and put it in the hands of everyone.”

Automation: Just Good Marketing

Klein chalks up the evolution of its platform as “good marketing.”

He likens discussions of automation to those people have around digital and marketing.

“These days if you call it digital marketing, that is uncool,” said Klein. “That’s what old school marketers call it. In the software business, all marketing is digital marketing for the most part.”

Learning Opportunities

With automation, he continued, things like delivering personalized, relevant messages when and where people want to receive them is something businesses should be doing, even in the absence of digital.

“We tend to treat it like it’s good marketing — more communication, and contextualized, personalized message when someone needs it or wants it, or might care,” he said. “Even if you couldn’t deliver it digitally, it’s still a really nice thing to do.”

He added that communicating in this way at scale is the challenge.

“The communication basics are still there,” he said. “We’re just using technology to remind them of the thing they left in their cart, for example. But it’s difficult to do if you have thousands and thousands of customers.”

This is exactly the issue that Mailchimp is trying to solve for their customers.

What’s Next?

In addition to developing Mailchimp Pro, adding features in different tiers, Klein is most excited about multivariate testing and providing their customers with creative options.

“Beyond that, e-commerce is a focus of ours,” he said. “We’re already there in a significant way but we’ll be adding more e-commerce functionality and automation.”

Want to know more about where Mailchimp is going? Look no further than Mailchimp Pro, advised Klein.

“Looking at Pro is like looking into a crystal ball.” 

Title image by Ryan McGuire