Marketing automation that prioritizes personalization is a non-negotiable
Imagine you order a pair of hiking boots from your favorite outdoor apparel store.
A few hours later, you get an email in your inbox: “Leave something behind?” The email includes a photo of the hiking boots you just purchased.
Worst-case scenario, you’re confused and worried that something’s amiss with your order. Now you have to call customer service to investigate.
Best-case scenario, you understand your favorite outdoor apparel store set up the triggers or filters in their marketing automations incorrectly. Now you’re annoyed, and you’re less likely to open emails from them in the future.
Lindsey Murray, VP of performance marketing at leading digital customer experience company Blue Acorn iCi, sees this kind of thing all the time, even from “big brands that you would think have their stuff together.”
It’s a perfect example of how, done wrong, marketing automation has the potential to alienate customers—and lose you business.
Imagine if, instead of receiving an erroneous abandoned cart email, you got a follow-up message featuring product recommendations related to the hiking boots you just bought—a quick-drying towel for your next camping trip, or winter-proof socks, or an extra pair of laces. Or maybe you get a plain-text email thanking you for your last few orders and offering you free shipping on your next one in recognition of your loyalty.
That’s marketing automation done right. It allows your business to use hyper-targeted, behavior-triggered messages to reach the right people, grow your lists across marketing channels like email and SMS, and drive more repeat sales at higher cart values.
What is marketing automation? A simple explanation
At its most basic level, marketing automation refers to technology that manages, schedules, and executes marketing processes and campaigns, automatically, by applying if/then logic to prospect and customer behavior.
Technology like Klaviyo, the platform that powers smarter digital relationships, leverages your audience’s historical and real-time data from multiple integrated sources to streamline workflows and maximize your team’s efficiency. It also helps you use customer segmentation to understand what’s meaningful to your target audiences—and, in turn, empowers you to surface more relevant content for them, precisely when they’re most likely to act on it.
Chris Gordon, head of client success at leading ecommerce and marketing agency Noticed, puts it simply: “Marketing automation, to me, is speaking to the right customer, at the right time, with the right content.”
4 benefits of marketing automation
Let’s take a look at 4 of the biggest problems marketing automation can solve for your brand:
1. Consumers expect marketing that feels 1:1, and automation delivers that
According to McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect personalization from the brands they interact with—and even more (76%) get frustrated when they don’t get it.
That means in order to build credibility with consumers, your marketing can’t just be the smartest or the sexiest or the most engaging. With so many marketing messages out there that check all those boxes, what your marketing efforts should aim to be, above any other adjective, is relevant—a word whose meaning may change drastically from individual to individual.
Enter: marketing automation.
Because automated emails and texts are based on unique, behavioral customer data, “it’s great from a customer perspective—the experience is inherently tailored specifically to every customer,” explains Sean Donahue, director of email marketing at nationally recognized digital marketing agency Power Digital.
The explicit goal of marketing automation, Gordon says, “is to make the marketing experience more personalized. You want to make it feel as much as possible like a customer picked up a product in your store and a sales associate came over to talk to them about it.”
It works, too: McKinsey also reports that companies that excel at personalization in marketing generate 40% more revenue from related activities than average players.
“It’s the new gold standard to have personalization,” Donahue says. “If you’re not sending messages on a 1:1 level, you’re doing it wrong.”
2. Marketing automation enables personalization at scale
Of course, for most marketers, that advice is preaching to the choir.
Still, while 78% of ecommerce executives believe personalization at scale is a must-have in marketing, 41% say they are unable to execute all the personalized marketing tactics they deem important, according to a recent survey from Klaviyo and research firm BWG Strategy.
Marketing automation is one way to close the gap.
The magic of marketing automation is that even though your marketing automation solution, if it’s doing its job, is carrying the bulk of the lift, the end customer experiences your 1:many content as relevant and interesting—and like it’s been specially crafted just for them.
Importantly, marketing that’s automated and personalized at scale achieves that 1:1, “I’m a priority” feeling—without costing you the effort of maintaining a personal relationship with each and every customer.
As Murray points out, “especially for brands with a large client base, you would need an incredibly large marketing team to be able to provide the level of customization and personalization at the same number of touchpoints if it wasn’t automated.”
3. Marketing automation allows your people to do more with less
On that note, Donahue says marketing automation is a way for marketers to create “meaningful personalized experiences” without needing to have “hands on keyboard all day long, building emails and getting them out.”
Instead, “we can initially build it, set it, and forget it,” he explains. “We can find these core different areas in the customer journey, set up the automations so they’re sending at all different times around the clock, and then make it so that we don’t need to be manually punching all this in on a constant basis.”
Of course, following the initial set-up, Power Digital continues to track automations and perform A/B testing to “determine areas of opportunity and optimization,” Donahue adds. “It’s an iterative process that we continue to update through the lifetime of the automation.”
But compared to manual marketing efforts, “marketing automation for us is just efficiency,” says Heather Browne, director of performance marketing at Blue Acorn iCi. “Especially when we’re working with these larger brands with large portfolios and large subscriber lists, we want to make sure we hit those touchpoints with as little human error involved as possible.”
And because it frees up your marketing department from investing time and effort into time-consuming, repetitive tasks, marketing automation also contributes to employee productivity and retention.
“It really allows you to have a lean team,” Murray points out. “You get to actually spend your time digging into data and working on campaigns that require more human input and creativity.”
4. Marketing automation benefits your bottom line
The numbers here speak for themselves:
- For every dollar spent, marketing automation returns $5.44 over the first 3 years with a payback period in under 6 months, according to Nucleus Research.
- Marketing automation results in a 451% increase in qualified leads, according to a study by the Annuitas Group.
- More than 75% of businesses increase conversions after implementing marketing automation, according to a study by Aioma and the Institute of Marketing Management.
- Compared to one-off email marketing campaigns, email marketing automations achieve, on average, over 1.3x higher open rates, over 4x higher click rates, and nearly 21x higher conversion rates and revenue per recipient, according to the latest Klaviyo benchmark data.
“We know these are proven tactics,” Murray says. “It’s ongoing revenue. You put in the effort up front, and then outside of some updates here and there, it really works on its own.”
Want to go beyond marketing automation basics? We cover everything you need to know about building and executing a smart, effective marketing automation strategy in this series. Check out:
- How to set up a strong marketing automation strategy
- Marketing automation examples that go beyond the basics
- Marketing automation KPIs for measuring and optimizing your marketing efforts
Marketing automation FAQs
How does marketing automation work?
At its most basic level, marketing automation works by managing, scheduling, and executing marketing processes and campaigns, automatically, by applying if/then logic to prospect and customer behavior.
Why is marketing automation important?
Marketing automation is important because it enables brands to deliver the kind of personalization at scale that improves customer relationships and drives revenue. It also makes marketing teams more efficient and benefits your marketing ROI.
How to use marketing automation?
You can use marketing automation to achieve a variety of business goals:
- Acquiring new customers via inbound marketing
- Improving lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead management in general
- Increasing up- and cross-sells
- Enhancing customer loyalty and satisfaction
- Building trust with new customers
- Recapturing revenue from casual web browsers
- Keeping the post-purchase relationship alive
- Driving long-term retention and customer lifetime value (CLTV)