With 11 years of researching the state of the industry in this report, we have been able to track the development of this side of marketing technology and its adoption as it has come to the forefront of a marketer’s arsenal. So we found it very interesting that, when asked for the most significant attributes of an email service provider (ESP), most marketers chose marketing automation for the first time in the study’s history.

With an increase of 6% points (up from 61% in 2016 to 66% in 2017), this capability overtook user-friendly interface (which decreased to 60%), cross-channel (32%) and low cost (27%).

email census

While we anticipated automation to become the top choice sooner rather than later, the discrepancy between that and cost shows just how much value marketers place on it. With an increased appetite for delivering relevant messages at scale and improving customer experience, automation has driven a move away from batch and blast email and put the customer at the centre of communications. 

Over the years, we’ve also tracked the rising level of success of using automated campaigns, which has been slow but steady. This shows marketers are increasingly willing to experiment with automation. They have understood that ‘getting it right’ involves planning and optimisation, but that it can also deliver results far above those of manual campaigns because timing is such a significant part in the impact of a message. 

How to approach automation in the right way

The above being said, there is plenty of space for growth in marketing automation adoption and success rate. In 2017, only 8% of marketers considered their automation efforts ‘very successful’ and 33% were ‘not successful’. To bridge that gap, marketers must adopt a first-person marketer mindset to digital marketing. This means automation is only one part – albeit an important one – of their strategy.

For first-person marketers to thrive, they must think about how automation integrates with their capability and strategy around personalisation, integration and optimisation to really put the customer at the centre of communications and deliver a contextual, individualised experience at scale. 

Are your systems integrated to bring the necessary first- and third-party data required to power the personalised campaigns you build? Figure 1, above, shows an oversight in the importance of this.

100% integration is an ideal for many, but bring it back to reality by making sure at the least the basic integrations are in place. And use the concept of incremental innovation to deliver more effective communications now, and in the future.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Ask yourself: are you using personalisation in the true sense when you build ad-hoc and automated campaigns? Do you have a testing and optimisation plan in place to regularly review, tweak and test marketing output?

First-person marketers juggle all the above in order to give their marketing automation programs a chance to make a real business impact. It’s not just about eliminating mundane manual tasks. As for the benefits of using marketing automation, you’ve probably heard them many times so, instead, I wanted to share some examples of the companies that are part of the 8% elite who are ‘very successful’ at using it.

Setting the scene for high email engagement

A recent study by Return Path revealed 75% of top 100 retailers have a welcome program. But rather than just ticking a box, etailer PetsPyjamas wanted to make a difference to their marketing communications from the first impression. Unhappy with its existing welcome email, it expanded the campaign to a series of four.

The program starts by offering an incentive to purchase, followed by introducing or reminding customers of PetPoints depending on whether they had already signed up to the loyalty scheme. After a holiday offering promotion, the final email is based on whether additional purchases were made during the length of the program.

pets pyjamas email

PetsPyjamas’ welcome strategy sets a standard of personalised communications, encourages additional purchases and fuels customer profile data for future campaigns all in one program. Compared to the original welcome email, this program delivered increased engagement across email metrics including a tenfold increase in revenue.   

Giving marketers their time back

How much time can actually be saved using automation? It depends on the complexity of the process you’re trying to automate. Future Publishing reclaimed a day and a half per week automating their magazine renewal process. That is almost a third of working hours!

And it was no mean feat either, as the renewal process involved a myriad of data points from the right message to the subscription type, discount, currency and more. In total, there were 192 variants of renewal campaigns in the program which Future expanded to 24 titles. 

This might seem daunting to achieve, but the right technology partner will have the experience you need to make such a project a success. 

future sfx email

Improving the user experience for resource-strapped charities

When you have a small team, many marketers think there is only so much you can do. However, this example from NSPCC will show you that determination and focus can make a big difference.

Keeping personalisation and the donor journey front of mind, NSPCC analysed where marketing automation could make the most difference. The team decided to implement it for transactional emails, content automation in their regular newsletters, an automated participation journey for fundraisers to make sure they have the resources and support they need, and abandoned donation campaigns. 

By thinking out of the box and using technology that is generally more prevalent in the retail industry, NSPCC made a big impact on the funds raised. The abandoned donation campaign recovered an average donation of £38 and email engagement increased because key messages were relevant and delivered at the right time.  

nspcc failed transaction email

Of course, if you’re not at this level of automation implementation, you shouldn’t feel discouraged. No company implemented 100 triggers overnight.

As well as having the goal of turning every marketer into a first-person marketer, I am also a big fan of incremental innovation. This involves taking the time to plan, set a direction and improve your marketing efforts one step at a time and at a steady pace. So, what’s the one change you’re going to make today?