What Is Marketing Automation? A Complete Guide
By Amelia Woolard
What Is Marketing Automation? A Complete Guide
Table of Contents
If you dream of achieving better business results with less effort, allow us to introduce you to marketing automation.
Because it streamlines and optimizes digital marketing efforts, marketing automation helps businesses increase revenue and elevate the customer experience. Just ask the 77% of marketing automation users who report an increase in conversions thanks to these tools.
However, implementing marketing automation can be confusing and overwhelming, especially for anyone who isn’t already familiar with the concept.
This guide will demystify marketing automation for you. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of marketing automation, from the basics of what it is and how it works to best practices for implementing a successful strategy.
Marketing Automation: A Definition
What is automated marketing? Automated marketing refers to the use of marketing software or other tools to automate repetitive tasks, streamline workflows, and manage campaigns across multiple channels, including email, social media, digital ads, and websites.
With marketing automation, e-commerce brands increase efficiency and enjoy a host of other benefits, including better customer engagement and revenue growth.
What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?
Automated marketing provides businesses with several advantages that help them gain a deeper understanding of their customers. With automated marketing in place, e-commerce businesses are more efficient, improve lead management, boost customer engagement, and more:
Free up Time and Lower Costs
Automated marketing reduces costs and increases efficiency by automating repetitive tasks. This gives marketers more time to focus on high-level tasks, like creating strategies and improving the customer experience. This increased efficiency also leads to cost savings, as automated marketing reduces labor costs and reduces the likelihood of human error.
Personalize the Customer Experience
Marketing automation places your brand in the right place at the right time, so you can personalize the customer experience like never before. Target customers with personalized messages after they make a purchase, browse specific products, or abandon a shopping cart. Stay consistent with customization and you’ll increase customer engagement and loyalty over time.
Monitor Target Audiences
Automated audience monitoring segments customers by demographics, behavior, interests, and brand interactions. Assign lead scores to promising prospects so you can target them more effectively. Identify trends in data points and use this intel to make informed decisions about which touchpoints to deploy and when.
Improve Marketing ROI
Increased conversions go hand-in-hand with a marketing automation process. This is because automated marketing makes it easier for e-commerce businesses to send targeted content to customers at various stages of the buyer’s journey. When customers receive marketing messages that they like and respond to, they view your brand as trustworthy and credible, and are more likely to shop with you.
How Does Automated Marketing Work?
While marketing automation may seem like magic, there are logical processes behind the scenes that make it work.
It begins with workflows. Workflows are a series of automated steps that a contact goes through based on their behavior, preferences, and demographics. Workflows are triggered by the actions your customer takes, like a form submission or website visit.
Messages are the pieces of content you send along to your customer via SMS, push notifications, emails, and social media posts. To be successful, your message should always include personalization and a call-to-action that’s relevant to that subscriber’s unique position along the buyer’s journey.
If you’ve ever received a welcome email after signing up for a newsletter, you’ve seen workflows and messaging in action. The automatic response is a type of workflow. The email you received with that 10% discount code is the marketing message.
Marketing Automation Tools and Platforms
Marketing automation is powerful and can sometimes intimidate marketers who are unsure of where to start with marketing automation tools. Fortunately, there are many platforms available to help marketing teams automate tasks, analyze data, and deliver a personalized omnichannel experience.
Here are a few popular marketing automation solutions known to help e-commerce brands elevate their customer experience and drive growth:
- Email marketing. In the digital marketing world, email still reigns supreme. An email marketing automation tool can build your send list for you, segment your customers based on demographics and preferences, and enhance deliverability metrics so your emails stay out of the spam folder.
- SMS, MMS, and WhatsApp messaging. 74% of consumers have a positive impression of brands that send them text messages. With this type of marketing automation software, you can contact customers with the right message at the right time.
- Mobile app marketing. Custom notifications, unique messaging, and more are at your fingertips with mobile app marketing. Recommend relevant products your customers are likely to buy and solicit helpful feedback right in the app. Gather data about how your shoppers respond and use it to zero in on marketing messages that’ll convert.
- Web personalization. Your website is ground zero for your e-commerce business. Ensure that your web experience is top-notch with a platform that helps you deliver real-time product recommendations, choose a banner most likely to convert, and more. You can also gather zero-party data to refine your automation over time.
Bloomreach Marketing Automation Platform
Instead of setting up and trying to connect different pieces of marketing automation software, you can use a tool like Bloomreach Engagement to bring the best digital marketing automation tools under one hood. Bloomreach Engagement makes it easy to personalize messaging across multiple channels, track customer behavior, and analyze data to inform marketing strategies. Engagement is also scalable and user-friendly, making it a clear choice for businesses of all sizes.
Marketing Automation Process and Best Practices
By now, it’s clear that marketing automation is a game-changing way to drive revenue by automating email sends and text messaging, while also uncovering data-rich insights that sharpen your efforts over time.
But, what does a successful marketing automation process look like, and which best practices should you follow to make the biggest impact on your goals?
In this section, we'll outline the marketing automation process and share a few tips that will take your automated marketing efforts to the next level.
What Is the Marketing Automation Process?
Marketing automation stacks include a combination of software platforms and processes that, when used together, streamline and automate repetitive marketing tasks. The typical marketing automation process will involve:
- Collecting data about your prospects and current customers. Data is often gleaned from a variety of sources, like website sessions, form fills, and email campaigns.
- Segmenting audiences after data collection so that similar customers are grouped alongside others. By grouping customers by their identifying factors, you can distribute marketing messages that are most likely to resonate and convert.
- Creating campaigns across multiple channels that present a personalized offer, based on segmentation-sourced data.
- Automating delivery schedules, social media posts, and other campaigns based on preestablished triggers, so your marketing team can focus on more important tasks.
- Analyzing the results of your automated efforts and tweaking the approach as necessary.
Know Your Audience
Automating your marketing may feel impersonal, but if you want to be successful at it, you have to make sure that every automated touchpoint is designed with your audience’s needs in mind. Knowing your audience allows you to segment them properly, so that they receive only the most relevant messages possible and, in turn, convert at higher rates.
Work With the Customer Journey in Mind
You’ll also want to know the unique journey your customer is taking with your brand. What buttons are they clicking? Which channels do they use to interact with your brand? What questions or concerns do they have about your product? When you have that information, you can strategize how to give them exactly what they’re looking for at every turn in the customer lifecycle.
Plan Your Automated Flow
You can’t measure what you can’t map out. So, when implementing automated marketing, be sure to clearly strategize how your process will handle lead generation and provide all the right touchpoints to nudge your customer toward a desired action. Remember, it’s okay to tweak your approach later on.
Don’t Neglect Email Deliverability
You put a lot of insightful content in your emails, so the last thing you want is to have your messages end up in the spam folder. To avoid this, consider email deliverability alongside marketing automation. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid sending messages that lack personalization.
- Honor communications preferences. Don’t send more emails than your customer has agreed to receive.
- Provide an opt-out button. While it stings to lose a subscriber, uninterested contacts weigh down your metrics and may mark your email as spam.
Pro tip: Email inbox placement is even more important than email deliverability, and is something that top brands will focus on. See how some of Bloomreach’s customers have seen success as part of the 99% Inbox Placement Club.
How To Create a Marketing Automation Strategy
Creating a successful marketing automation strategy involves a series of critical steps.
First, define the objectives of the marketing automation strategy. Decide as a team what your top priorities are. This could be increasing customer interactions, earning more qualified leads, or boosting revenue by a certain percentage.
Once your goals are clearly defined, create buyer personas. Buyer personas bring your audience to life and help you better understand their needs, challenges, and interests, so you can position your marketing automation strategy accordingly.
Now, it’s time to create your workflows and campaigns. This is where you’ll rely upon marketing automation platforms to establish the various messages and triggers that carry your customer through the workflow and, ultimately, drive them to a desired action.
Once your campaigns are deployed, it’s time to start analyzing your results, optimizing along the way as you see fit. For example, you might notice that a certain WhatsApp message isn’t drawing any clicks, so you rephrase it to see how it performs for the duration of the campaign. This small tweak could be the deciding factor between the success or failure of your campaign.
Marketing Automation Examples
Unsure what a marketing automation process looks like in the wild? Reading through a few marketing automation examples can be helpful in understanding how real businesses like yours are using automation to make more money and operate more efficiently.
Let’s meet a few Bloomreach clients who have found success in an effective marketing automation strategy.
Whisker Boosts Conversion Rates
Whisker, a leader in connected pet care, recognized that its email messaging lacked consistency and could yield better conversion rates. The problem was that until the company implemented Bloomreach Engagement, its customer data was siloed and difficult to translate into effective email messaging.
Whisker saw a significant improvement in its email-generated sales by automating its email messages and tracking the type of messaging that compelled its users to take action. A/B and multivariate testing further enhanced this process, helping Whisker increase conversion rates by 107%. This success has prompted Whisker to replicate the process across other marketing channels, making it an excellent example of the power of marketing automation.
Vivamix Automates Back-in-Stock Messaging
Like many e-commerce companies, Vivamix, a Polish distributor and servicer of KitchenAid products, struggled to keep up with customer inquiries about product availability. Rather than losing customers due to unavailable products, Vivamix aimed to enhance customer service by automating the process of notifying customers when a product came back in stock.
Using Bloomreach Engagement, Vivamix successfully automated its product availability notifications. Now, customers can sign up for back-in-stock notifications, and the system will automatically alert customers when new inventory is in stock. Thanks to marketing automation, Vivamix achieved a 65% open rate and a 40% click-through rate on back-in-stock emails. This process has led to increased customer trust and loyalty, as shoppers can now rely on Vivamix to provide timely and accurate availability notifications.
Benefit Cosmetics Launches Category-Defining Blushes
Benefit Cosmetics, the number one prestige blush brand in the United Kingdom, aimed to introduce a new line of blushes while upholding its exceptional level of customer service. Bloomreach Engagement brought Benefit’s launch to life with an omnichannel campaign that leveraged email marketing, lead generation, and weblayers.
With special attention given to prelaunch, launch, and post-launch stages of the campaign, Benefit was able to capture audiences at multiple points along the customer journey. As a result, Benefit’s countdown-to-launch emails enjoyed a remarkable 10.10% click-through rate, and the entire campaign yielded 40% more revenue than similar ones sent in recent months.
Bloomreach Engagement Equips You With Powerful Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is a transformative tool for your digital marketing efforts. But to market effectively across all your channels, you’ll need an all-in-one marketing automation solution like Bloomreach Engagement. Make marketing automation work for your brand by seamlessly connecting your customer insights with every channel your customers are using — this way, you can personalize the experience no matter where they are.
Want to get even more ideas for your own marketing efforts? Check out our guide on top-performing D2C use cases and campaigns to see how else you can use marketing automation to boost revenue and conversions.
Marketing Automation FAQs
Marketing automation is an extensive practice, so it’s understandable — expected, even! — if you have some questions about the tool. Let’s dive into a few frequently asked questions about automated marketing:
What is the main purpose of marketing automation?
The main purpose of digital marketing automation is to help businesses deliver more personalized and effective marketing campaigns, nurture leads, and drive revenue growth. When you automate marketing tasks and workflows, you increase efficiency and can more effectively deploy campaigns across multiple channels, including your website, email, and social media.
What is a marketing automation platform?
A marketing automation platform is software that automates and streamlines a business’s marketing activities. The typical platform has a variety of capabilities that automate nearly every facet of digital marketing, including email marketing, lead management, personalization, and workflows.
Why does marketing automation fail?
Marketing automation is a game-changer for e-commerce businesses. However, it’s not a fail-proof tactic. To get the most out of your automation platform, avoid these common mistakes:
- Your content lacks a human voice. You may be using artificial intelligence to automate your work, but your touchpoints shouldn’t sound like they’re coming from a robot. Use human language in every marketing message.
- You’re not expanding your reach beyond email. Automation makes routine marketing easy and effective, so why not use it across multiple channels?
- You aren’t prioritizing your content. You need great content to power automated marketing. Tighten up your content marketing strategy and get in the habit of using fresh content in your marketing processes.
Do I need marketing automation?
Marketing automation can save a lot of time and drive serious results. Sure, you can run an e-commerce business without digital marketing automation; however, if you’re determined to succeed in the competitive e-commerce industry, automated marketing is crucial.
Luckily, you don’t have to create an entire automated ecosystem on your own. Turn to Bloomreach Engagement to grow revenue faster with automation.
Is marketing automation part of CRM?
No, marketing automation is not part of customer relationship management (CRM). Each platform serves a different purpose.
The main goal of marketing automation is to attract and nurture leads, encouraging revenue growth along the way. For that reason, automated marketing is considered a top-of-funnel practice better suited for marketing over sales teams.
CRM platforms are used for bottom-of-funnel relationship building. Sales teams rely on CRM to manage customer interactions. CRM platforms organize sales leads and current customers, keep business-relevant data in one place, and provide insights into purchasing patterns that can boost sales strategies.
That being said, these platforms work together nicely for those who want to maximize top-of-funnel efforts (via marketing automation) and then effectively nurture customers after their business is won (via CRM).