The case for automation: How AI can free up marketers’ time to think big and get personal

Traditional marketing is changing as automation becomes more powerful. Kat Warboys explains ways that marketers can get creative using automation, unlocking personalised customer experiences with email and SMS. 

Many businesses already use at least one common form of automation, not just for the sake of efficiency but also to provide a more personalised experience for their customers. 

According to HubSpot’s recent State of Marketing Report, marketing is using automation the most, with teams using 76 percent more than sales and 139 percent more than finance. Beyond lead generation, nurturing and scoring, arguably the most important marketing objective of automation and AI is personalisation. This reigned true last year, with 77 percent of marketers recording that they saw higher email engagement as a result of hyper-personalised messages.

Just ten years ago, the primary way for businesses to communicate externally was via email. Marketers could send one-off emails manually, but if you wanted to automate those responses – generating a better, more personalised message – you needed an engineer to pull it off. 

Traditional marketing automation often refers to triggering emails based on time delays or actions like email opens and email clicks. Today it has become so much more than that. Beyond email and SMS data, using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social media, viewing a pricing page or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a potential customer’s challenges.

Data is the key to unlocking the ultimate customer experience

Your customer experience is only as good as the data that powers it. Dirty data can sully your customer’s entire experience. The ultimate solution is to ensure that your marketing automation software is synced up with your CRM, empowering your team with a single unified view of your customer, no gaps, no missed insights. When used in the right way, automation should help your business send the right information to the right person, via the right channel, at the right time. 

A key example of using automation is with emails. Automating your emails might sound like the exact opposite thing to do in the quest to woo your customers, but rest assured – it’s not. Automated email workflows help businesses execute personalised, contextual email campaigns. In many cases, this may involve specific messaging delivered to groups of contacts that match specified criteria or user behaviour as recorded by your CRM. Many automated emails are also nurture emails which in turn create trust and connection. If you do it right, you’ll create relationships rather than transactions. 

You should also think about how to build stronger relationships with your existing customer base. Email automation can not only help you convert leads into customers, but it can also help you delight your existing customers and encourage activity like greater product adoption, upselling or cross-selling, evangelism and additional purchases. 

Setting the standard for customer engagement 

A good example of how to use automation to increase customer engagement is wine retailer, Vinomofo. During peak lockdown, the company prioritised outreach to customers who hadn’t purchased from the businesses for up to 12 months, building engagement workflows that ranged from simple, to very complex.

These specific workflows centred around customer engagement, allowing the Vinomofo team to create a more personalised and contextualised experience. This was not only more efficient in streamlining processes for the team but also helped keep existing customers engaged without feeling constantly bombarded by emails, increasing the conversion rate of their email campaigns by 6 percent. Streamlining these processes provides a 360-degree customer view that helps to inform content, creative, customer journeys and workflows in more of a loop, and enables the business to meet customers where they are. 

Vinomofo also saw an uptick in engagement by using the ‘last category purchased’ to trigger an email 30 days after the customer’s last purchase to promote the latest and greatest deals within their preferred wine category. 

Leverage the power of the omnichannel

It’s no surprise that 75 percent of sales decision-makers in Australia report that customer expectations are higher now than ever before. Businesses are learning to be receptive to their customers’ preferences and tailor their experience accordingly. Customers want hyper-personalised information, delivered via the channels that they prefer, which in some cases, is in the palm of their hands. 

Over the past 12 months, Vinomofo used an SMS integration to win back customers. In order to create a more personalised experience, the company adopted exclusive birthday offers, promotional offers specific to the customers preferred tastes and customer onboarding processes to make sure they were delighting the customer at every touchpoint. Using SMS, the brand created automated workflows that segment their customer base by their last purchase dates and then sent and tracked the activity and engagement. 

Adding text messaging to their marketing toolkit achieved greater cut-through and re-engagement with customers they hadn’t been able to reach for a long time. This resulted in a 21 percent increase in conversation rate with an incredibly low unsubscription rate of 0.05 percent.

With automation becoming more powerful, it is having a noticeable impact on existing and more traditional methods of marketing. As the world of online marketing changes with the demise of third-party cookies, email marketing and SMS are proving to be reliable channels that provide high ROI and save marketing and sales teams time in streamlining operational processes. 

Automation and tools like workflows are accessible for any business – small or scaling. These tools are simplistic in nature and easy to deploy, allowing better business growth while also ensuring customers don’t get lost in the silos of your company. 

Kat Warboys is the marketing director, APAC, at HubSpot.

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash.