Yet when asked to qualify their automation capabilities, fewer than one in five (19%) felt that they were ‘advanced’. Most (65%) indicated that their automation abilities were only ‘basic’.

So what’s holding everyone back? And what can marketers do to take their marketing automation to the next level?

To find out, we recently invited dozens of brand marketers to discuss this and other topics at Digital Cream Singapore. Our Marketing Automation table was hosted by Tanya Bray, Regional Lead, Email & Mobile Marketing, APAC, Uber and supported by subject matter expert Paula Harrison, Head of Strategic Partnerships, APAC, dotmailer.

Through a day’s worth of discussions, participants identified three things marketers need to do to take their automation to the next level.

1) Get data from legacy systems

The first problem which nearly all participants struggled with was getting data out of legacy systems. The reason this is a problem for moving ahead with automation, one attendee suggested, is that marketing automation relies on having full access to customer data. Unfortunately, nearly all of this data ‘lives’ on legacy systems and most of these systems do not support real-time integration.

Our surveys have revealed that marketers elsewhere have run into the same issue. When asked about the biggest barriers marketers face in implementing their automation strategy, nearly half (46%) said ‘integrating data’.

So how can marketers get around this problem? One participant had an interesting solution, absorb the IT department. At his firm, most of the IT spend is on marketing systems and so IT was brought into the communications department. This allowed marketers to have full use of the IT resources and many issues with legacy systems were overcome.

For those organisations who aren’t yet ready for such a drastic step, another suggestion was that marketers should seek top-level support for marketing automation. Those who had management buy-in said it was much easier to break down data silos and move data between legacy systems and their marketing automation engine.

2) Break through the inbox ‘noise’

Inbox overload is an inevitable result of more and more organisations using marketing automation. Yet marketers cannot fall back on that excuse when they experience declining open and click-through rates.

So how did our attendees overcome the problem of inbox ‘noise’? The first suggestion was that marketers need to map out the customer journey and determine what customers are looking for at each touchpoint. Then, the emails that they send will be more relevant and help guide the consumer to the right material on the website.

Another added that marketers should also be concerned with moving customers along the journey. While helping customers should always be a goal, marketing automation should provide a seamless experience in which customers naturally flow from awareness to desire to purchase.

In our survey, being able to execute on this would put marketers in the top 10% of organisations who use automation to manage the customer journey across multiple channels.

3) Prepare for success

Finally, the third thing which participants said that marketers need to do to scale up their marketing automation is to know how they will manage upwards when their automation campaigns provide real value to the business.

The reason this is an issue is that management find out about a successful automation campaign, and then ask marketers to increase the frequency of the emails.

As success is often dependent on a fine balance between engaging and overloading prospects, marketers are hesitant to change their approach and come into conflict with their bosses.

So how can they overcome this problem? One attendee suggested that marketers should prepare for these scenarios by collecting the right data and doing the analytics in advance.

Then, when asked to make changes, marketers should push back by using data which shows that sending more emails does not necessarily increase engagement and may actually reduce conversions.

It’s a tough sell, but another pointed out that successful marketing automation requires utilizing insights like this, so marketers should not hold back on using data to prove their point.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank our table host Tanya Bray, Regional Lead, Email & Mobile Marketing, APAC, Uber and subject matter expert Paula Harrison, Head of Strategic Partnerships, APAC, dotmailer for guiding the discussion and providing real-world examples of how brands are achieving marketing automation excellence.

We’d also like to thank dotmailer, the sponsor of the Marketing Automation – Best Practices & Implementation table, and all of the marketers who attended Digital Cream Singapore 2017 and shared their valuable insights. We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!

Further reading on marketing automation: