Automation and AI marketing solutions have become more important and more extensively used in recent years, with leaner marketing teams across all industries, any tool companies can use to improve customer engagement and increase productivity is a welcome addition.

According to Salesforce, 67% of marketers rely on automation to accomplish their day to day campaigns and 82% of those surveyed agreed that they saw a positive ROI from their automated marketing activities.

There are many different types of automation which can take your under-resourced marketing department and transform it into a ‘lean-mean-marketing machine!’ We have explored four automation tools below.

Email Automation and Behaviour Based Workflows

One of the most commonly used automation tools is personalised trigger emails. When you integrate your email marketing and CRM systems, you have the opportunity to can measure the response to your email communications and set up workflows which send a pre-programmed response based upon behaviours.

For example, a clothing brand could set up a workflow which will email any customer who has not purchased from their website in the last 3 months a voucher code for 15% off specific product categories or across the board. Workflows can be as simple or as complex as you wish, for example, you could add an additional layer to the workflow above and add another layer.

how can automation improve your workflow

This layer would email anyone who had received the first email offer of 15% and not responded/ purchased within 4 weeks. An email would then be sent to them with a new offer of 25% off their next order. Anyone who had used the original 15% discount would not receive the new offer.

This type of behaviour trigger response can have a positive effect on your bottom line with customers typically responding within three emails, open rates are around 58.5% and CTRs an impressive 127.7% higher than normal business emails.

With companies like Mailchimp and Drift leading the way, it has never been easier for SMEs to drive their email marketing via automation.

Chatbots

AI provides the opportunity to answer simple queries via chatbots - this is the online equivalent of interactive voice response (IVR) which has been heavily used by call centres in previous years. By 2020 it is predicted that 85% of customer interactions will be handled by AI, (Gartner), and according to a report by Grand View Research, the global chatbox market is expected to grow by 1.2bn USD by 2025, growing at a rate of 24.3%.

A Chatbot simulates human conversation online by understanding what the customer is trying to ask and connecting this to what it actually means. For example, if a customer is asking “what are your opening hours?” or “When are you open?” the chatbot needs to understand that they are both asking the same question and respond accordingly.

Chatbots allow your business to respond to potential customers in real time. According to the Harvard Business review, 23% o businesses fail to respond to leads - you definitely don’t want to be one of them.

There are so many different options, it doesn’t always need to be email, depending on the data you have acquired, you could reach out via WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, text, email or phone call. You don’t always need to respond with all of the information, you can send a standard response such as, “Thank you for reaching out, one of our customer care representatives will be in touch shortly” to keep the conversation flowing until your team can pick up the new lead.

Another option is to set up a trigger notification to your sales team when the desired action, (such as downloading a whitepaper or filling out an enquiry form,) has been completed. This allows your sales team to automatically receive updates on new leads so they can focus on their current prospects rather than wasting precious time manually reviewing inbound leads.

automation social media automation

Automating your social media activity

Scheduling tools like Sprout Social, Hootsuite and Falcon Social have been around for a number of years and have no doubt saved time and money pre-scheduling content for all hours of the day, outwith office hours and across all channels.

There are now new tools like Social Drift which allow you to automate Instagram engagement such as liking posts, commenting and following influencers based on parameters you set. This is a great way to automate growing your organic following and an excellent addition to your existing scheduling and analysis tools.

With over 813M users worldwide Instagram is the 6th most popular social media platform and the most rapidly growing. Instagram usage has more than doubled within the last 3 years from 400M in 2015 to 813M (and still growing) in 2018; there is a 26% male, 38% female gender split of personal accounts, with the remaining 36% of accounts businesses. Most importantly 80% of users follow businesses on Instagram. Instagram advertising was introduced to the UK almost 3 years ago (September 2015) and has grown rapidly - over ⅓ of all Instagram users have used the platform to purchase a product online, this makes Instagram users 70% (that's 226.6M users), more likely to purchase from you than non-Instagram users. Instagram currently presents a great opportunity to reach millennials online for a relatively low cost.

So why is this important, as we mentioned earlier marketing departments have shrunk in recent years with companies cost cutting and hiring marketers with more dynamic roles. Gone are the days where SMEs can hire a specialist for every discipline, more often than not nowadays hybrid-marketeers (specialist and strategist combined) make up the majority of the marketing department, so it can be difficult to cultivate your social following without someone to take sole responsibility for it.

Algorithms

Although predictive algorithms have been around for a while, they are still used today by some of the most profitable companies in the world to great effect. Both Amazon and Netflix use this type of algorithm. It has been estimated that a whopping 35% of all Amazon transactions and 75% of what is watch on Netflix is algorithm driven.

Predictive algorithms try to read your mind and analyse your past behaviour and that of other users who looked at, watched or purchased the item you are considering. The reason this type of algorithm is so successful is due to the volume of customer data available. Although predictive algorithms are not perfect, by analysing your past behaviour and that of similar users they take the guesswork out of recommendations and allow for a more personalised approach rather than making assumptions based on industry-wide trends.

Predictive algorithms are useful to both the business and the customer there are always going to concerns about how much a business actually knows about you - the customer. The recent updates to GDPR have gone a long way to improve things for the customer.

Previously you needed to be a large organisation with a massive budget to develop your own algorithm, however, times are changing… For those of you who are envious of Amazon’s success, they have recently released part of their predictive algorithm as an open source project allowing others to build on their existing work - very exciting times.

Personalisation of Automated Campaigns

Further personalising automated campaigns will progress to a stage where you can have a fully tailored conversation with your customers without having to manually pull and manipulate data. This does not mean that once set up the marketing team can sit back with a cup of tea and put its feet up. Any automated activity should be reviewed and updated frequently to ensure that it has the highest impact.

To achieve personalisation you need access to customer data and behaviours, how much you have access to depends on your compliance with the new GDPR regulations. Companies must provide customers with a privacy policy in clear, accessible, transparent language which details the information held on them, how long it will be held, the right to be forgotten and how to request a copy of their personal data.

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Failure to comply risks hefty fines and there are two tiers of fines which can be applied to companies who are found to be in breach of the regulations:

  1. Up to €10 million, or 2% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.
  2. Up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.

The last thing you want is to be found in breach of GDPR. We have written a handy guide to GDPR compliance for websites which can be found here.

Mobile Friendly Automation

Marketing automation has roots as a web-based platform and has become more mobile friendly in recent years. Millennials typically engage with businesses and make purchases on mobile more than any other medium. It is paramount that businesses are able to interact and understand behaviours from a mobile device.

Apps can acquire more data than traditional web-based automation as they log more detailed information such as location. This allows marketers to tailor campaigns to ensure the highest ROI. It has never been easier to build and launch an App, SMEs are now able to join the party, this is an area which will definitely expand in 2018.

Using Automation to a greater effect within your organisation

According to Modern Marketing Today, only 14% of marketers describe their use of marketing automation tools as good or higher. Statistics like this go to show that there is an opportunity to stay ahead of the competition by fully utilising your automation toolbox.

Whether this is a training issue or your team being under-resourced, it is clear that more can be done to use automation to its full potential within most organisations. Is yours one of them?