In recent years, marketing automation has started to gain a negative reputation. Consumers are fed up with being spammed; and as a result, they are deleting, unsubscribing and disengaging. However, just because marketing automation includes “automation” in its name, it doesn’t mean that every communication powered by marketing automation technology is broadly blast to all consumers. Considering that marketing automation is used by 59 percent of B2B Fortune 500 companies, it’s evident that the organisations using the technology are doing something right to effectively engage with customers. The key, however, lies in not relying on the technology itself. For successful marketing efforts, the right blend of automation and personalisation are required.

We know that customers are increasingly dynamic; they interact with brands on a variety of devices and channels, leaving contextual clues behind at each touch point. This data can tell brands a lot about each customer – from where they are located, to their past shopping history and preferences. When coupled with these insights, marketing automation loses its impersonal touch. Automation technology is needed for efficiency and speed, but contextual data allows each engagement to be personalised for each customer. For example, if a brand wants to get the word out about its sale of the season, each message should be personalised based on how much that consumer has shopped there, if they typically shop online or in-store and more.

As part of this personalised approach, marketers should also keep in mind a consumer’s age and generation. Generally, baby boomers and millennials have varying preferences when it comes to shopping and engaging with a brand. Specifically, research from SDL shows that while 70 percent of those aged 55+ prefer in-store browsing as their top resource for shopping research, this is only the case for 57 percent of those aged 18-29. While it’s important to treat each customer as an individual, there are overarching preferences for each generation that should be kept in mind as a guide.

Finally, even with all of these contextual clues being used to personalise customer engagements, it will fall on deaf ears unless the brand is speaking the language of the customer. According to an SDL study, 32 percent of millennial consumers in English-speaking countries prefer a language other than English and 46 percent of millennials are more likely to purchase if information is in their preferred language. While it might seem obvious to keep language in mind, this is not always a priority for brands. Considering that many U.S. consumers don’t speak English, it’s important to look past location and consider language and culture. Otherwise, marketers risk their messages being lost in translation.

Ultimately, marketing automation on its own will produce those unwanted, non-personalised marketing messages. This approach is just not successful in today’s consumer-driven world. Marketing automation isn’t dead, but the traditional marketing funnel is. Smart organisations looking to prioritise customer experience are flipping the traditional marketing funnel on its head – starting with the customer, not the campaign.


By Paige O’Neill, CMO of SDL

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