Today’s marketer has more channels and opportunities available to communicate with prospects and customers than ever before. You have a chance to develop a richer understanding of individual consumers, but having access to data is only one step in developing a successful customer relationship. 

To effectively engage with customers, use your customer data to help deliver the right message at the right time to the right person. With customers ready to switch vendors for almost any reason, investing in tools to help deliver more meaningful interactions is integral to a successful commerce marketing strategy.  

Marketing automation helps businesses create meaningful interactions at pivotal moments through optimising customer data to deliver a more personal engagement. According to a recent report, there are now 11 times more companies with marketing automation strategies today than there were in 2011. Once considered a luxury, marketing automation tools are now a vital tool for the competitive, relevant commerce marketer. But automation must be approached strategically to ensure it’s both seamless and effective. I’ve put together a few key tips to help you stay on top of your game.

1. Don’t do everything – define your areas of focus

Whether you want to generate new leads, nurture a prospect browsing your website, or re-engage a customer who made a purchase six months ago, a marketing automation tool can enable meaningful communications throughout the customer lifecycle. For that reason, it’s tempting to tackle everything at once. But this is unlikely to generate significant ROI. The best way to ensure success is to focus on your most critical goal first – where the greatest value can be gained from automation.

How do you pick which programmes? Think of the different projects you’re considering and rate them along three different axes:

  • Performance: Which are your under-performing programs? What can automation improve?
  • Effort: How much time are you spending on each program? Will automation save any?
  • Scale: Are you reaching as many prospects/customers as you want? Can you reach more? 

You may pick one metric to prioritise or score on all three, but select the programme that gives you the biggest bang for your buck and focus your energy there first. Get the basics down, then scale or add complexity. Finally, expand to other programmes and/or parts of the lifecycle. 

2. Feel confident in the data

Just as having the right automation technology is important so is having the right customer data. Without both, you’ll spin your wheels on your campaigns. Never have we had so much available customer data: purchase history, shopping behaviour, product preferences and more – all of which should be leveraged to create hyper-personalised communications. Set your data goals, gather and consolidate your customer data, keep it clean and have confidence when using it. The last step? Test, test and test again. With so much to choose from, give yourself real-time test data for that final piece of the strategy.

3. Segment, segment, segment 

It’s strange how often segmentation is used to make investment decisions but ignored when it comes time to market those investments. Good segmentation helps ensure relevant communications are sent to customers. And marketing automation can facilitate easy and deep segmentation (at least, it should). Don’t waste the narrow window you have for a first impression – customers are fickle and will quickly take their business elsewhere. 

The deeper the segmentation, the better your campaign performance will be, especially with email campaigns. And how do you get to deeper segmentation? As I said above, get more data, clean it and trust it. Use purchase history, along with shopping behaviour and personal information to determine when to make offers, which products to pitch and what incentives to include.

The more data you have, the better the offer. For example, if you know somebody only buys green shirts, then trigger an offer whenever a new style of shirt is available in green. If a recurring purchase is made every three months, send a reminder with an incentive 70 or 80 days after the last purchase. 

Marketing transformation lives in technology

As technology advances continue, marketing will continue to transform from manual “one size fits all” campaigns to automated, yet highly-segmented personalised programs. And customer expectations for personal communications will shift to not only prefer personalised messages, but demand them. 

The marketing automation platform is now a critical part of a commerce marketer’s toolkit, but you must do more than simply install it. Monitor performance, evaluate metrics and reconsider your programs. When a strategy becomes dated, the effectiveness fades quickly. Effectively using marketing automation means getting the right tools in place and evolving with the customer to deliver a personalised and relevant experience at every stage of the purchase journey.