Automation is one of today’s buzzwords and it’s no wonder why. By 2020 “no less than 85% of the interactions between consumers and companies will occur without any human intervention thanks to marketing automation.”1 Thus, given that it has the potential to revolutionize businesses, human-human interactions, and change many of the ways in which the world works, its implementation across functions is already causing waves.
In fact, for businesses, automation can change the core of their own functioning. By creating a transformative journey that allows businesses to be agile and fast on the front-end and stable and reliable at the back, it can revolutionize processes, systems, and even cultures. By changing the way of thinking, where business outcomes are tailored around better customer experience and operational efficiencies using data-driven modern technologies, businesses can more easily and seamlessly execute digital transformation strategies, demonstrate modern technology prowess, and leverage ecosystem connects.
Many and varied benefits
For most in the field, the main benefits of automation include:
- Increasing accuracy by removing human error
- Reducing human effort and costs
- Providing a consistent and quality service
- Increasing efficiency
- Improving customer experience
- Transforming behavioral analytics from AI engines into valuable insights
- Reducing the cost of retaining customers and gaining new ones
This is by no means an exhaustive list and for marketers there are more specific parts to be examined and used within automation. However, these solutions provide a snapshot of the diversity and power of automation, which, along with other technologies, like big data and analytics, predictive intelligence, AI and machine learning, are reshaping business landscapes in many various and significant ways.
The use of automation overlaps with many of these other technologies, specifically big data and analytics. In fact, for marketers, “Analyzing big data provides insight [and] you can really improve your customer database and predict future behavior. Marketing automation only really becomes attractive when you can draw leads from the data and qualify them. After all, the real goal is to keep your leads warm with ever better targeted, automatically activated marketing until they are ready to buy.”2
Data needs to be organized
Thus, in order to store, source, and leverage the available data of customers from multiple streams, businesses need to be able to “merge all their marketing data sources into a centralized data warehouse that delivers actionable insights and customizes marketing content for each buyer’s persona.”3 Here, there are services which can help both in terms of streamlining data as well as organizing it through optimized data warehousing.
On a larger scale, the development of AI and surrounding technologies has further potential to reimagine many factors within the marketing space. There are many ways in which marketers can leverage AI’s potential to gain the competitive edge. As mentioned, “In a world where more marketing data is being generated than ever before, AI-powered tools are perhaps the best way to cut through the noise and efficiently extract insights from all the data being produced.”4 These insights can prove invaluable and can be the difference between winning and losing customers, retaining existing ones, as well as finding new ones. In fact, AI-driven tools can “give marketers the ability to create marketing campaigns that use AI-driven predictive analytics to optimize media spend, customer interactions, and more. Leveraging these types of tools [can] give marketing teams the ability to surface more cross-sell and upsell opportunities with customers, and help more effectively interact with prospects.”5
Additionally, deeper insights into customer behavior through marketing automation leveraging AI/predictive intelligence are also part of the trend within marketing automation. By doing this, businesses will strive to assess and aim to please customers across channels, platforms, and touch points.
Further, though the data may be apparent and visible, the key remains to be able turn it into actionable insights. This is what is needed to create real customer value. Thus, this needs to be undertaken by businesses “to empower marketing’s ability to translate data into decisions, meaningful interactions, and positively impact business outcomes.”6
It is clear that businesses and marketing budgets are witnessing a greater shift towards automation. “According to Emailmonday, between 2017 and 2018, most B2B companies—58 percent of them—wanted to start using marketing automation to grow their businesses.”7
Businesses now see the great potential within marketing automation and are less averse to spending and allocating budgets towards this. With cut-throat competition, discerning customers, and fickle loyalty, businesses must innovate to stay the course. In fact “marketing automation has grown from once being an “option” to now becoming a staple of every business [and its use] is also growing at an annual rate of 8.55%. By 2019, this will become a $5.5 billion-dollar industry thanks to its many uses.”8
A strategic approach is the order of the day
It is evident that marketing automation is the future. However, its implementation requires a strategic approach rather than one which is ad-hoc, disjointed, and fragmented. Businesses need to decide the ‘where’, ‘what’, and ‘when’ to automate rather than jumping straight to the ‘how’. In many cases, visualizations and automation work flows can be beneficial to understand customer lifecycle, journeys, and behavior patterns. In fact, “mapping out automations [can] act as a forcing function to help account for all customers’ potential purchase paths, and tailor marketing efforts to match behavioral patterns.”9
In an ever-evolving sector, more and more new players are entering the martech space. Marketers are fighting for every inch, every eyeball, and are looking at customers even more closely to understand and personalize their messages. Leveraging these new tools is crucial in today’s environment as wafer-thin margins permeate across the board. However, what’s more important is understanding their effectiveness as more features and functions are only useful if they are delivering their intended or desired results. By working on ensuring real customer value, businesses can selectively take the automation plunge and come up as winners – without drowning in a sea of even more products and tools.