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BW Businessworld

Marketing Automation Can Revolutionise E-tailers

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This future of a personalised virtual sales representative is being brought to life by marketing automation, says Rajesh Jain

Imagine being able to personalise the shopping experience for every customer – one that collates the digital footprints left by the customer, touches the customer through her preferred channel, is able to take her through a journey for products that she is undecided on and nudge her towards purchase, and is able to anticipate what she will want to buy next. Imagine being able to do this for millions of customers – simultaneously and continuously. Imagine being able to create 100 per cent customers – each customer monetised to the fullest extent possible.

This is the promise of marketing automation.

Writing is his new book “The Attacker’s Advantage”, Ram Charan wrote: “With companies able to collect and control information on the entire experience of a customer, the math house now can focus on each customer as an individual. In a manner of speaking, we are evolving back to the artisan model, where a market “segment” comprises one individual.”

This future of a personalised virtual sales representative is being brought to life by marketing automation.

Marketing automation is being made possible by the marriage of marketing and technology. It is perhaps the single most important trend for brands and businesses in their outreach and engagement to present and future customers. This is being driven by three factors: customers have become digital, customers leaving digital footprints for marketers to sift through, and the rapidly plummeting cost of data storage and analytics in the past few years. Taken together, this is creating an inflexion point in how brands and customers interact.

Brands and e-tailers can now look at not just prices and unique features, but also at the end-to-end customer experience. By combining cross-channel automation and data-driven personalisation, it now becomes possible to craft unique individual customer journeys.

Brands and customers will have a new parallel track – think of it as a hotline – opened between them. So far, there has been a transactional track – businesses provide products and services, and customers pay for these with their money or time. Now, smart marketers will open up a new track – that of a two-way information exchange and interaction. In this, content marketing along with marketing automation will play a key role.

It is a world where business knowledge meets data science, where intuition meets analytics, and where ad tech combines with marketing tech. It is a world in which the goal is to maximise 100% customers – building monopolies on customer spend. By starting the journey of knowing, predicting and engaging, brands can get to the future first.

At the heart of marketing automation lies the unified customer view. It pulls together all the customer transactions and interactions – using every touch point with the customer to collect data. Based on this unified view, content can then be pushed to customers – automatically and personalised to their interests. E-tailers can lead customers down a content journey, and track their actions, feeding them back into the unified view. Cross-channel automation and data-driven personalisation are the twin building blocks for content marketing. Think of this as the persuasion phase – interesting and relevant content delivered at the right time helps maximise the probability of the next spend of the customer being with the brand.

To enable all of this, analytics and algorithms will play a critical path. Customer data is the foundation for this. Transaction data, profile or demographic data and behavioural data all needs to be combined together to search for patterns and answer the question “what next.” Data will increasingly become the bedrock of cultivating the 1:1 relationship and crafting an individualised experience.

With marketing automation, e-tailers can focus on improving the effectiveness of their engagement with the customers using tools that simplify many marketing activities that are generally timeconsuming. Two early opportunities come in the form of retargeting and cart abandonment. Over time, this can be expanded to personalised recommendations.

This is the new world of marketing automation that is now being built – combining delivery engines, automation platforms, and B2C CRM. By using the emergence of marketing automation as a disruptive innovation, e-tailers have a unique opportunity to reshape the competitive landscape and build 100% customers.

The author is founder and managing director of netCORE