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Marketing automation is not new to the email industry, but the 2017 Email Industry Census has revealed it as THE area of focus for marketers this year.

Automation capabilities are now even more important than cost when choosing an ESP and success rates are slowly creeping up:  67% of company respondents rated their programs ‘very’ or ‘quite successful’.

But while automation is a fantastic tool which can allow you to save time and increase the relevance of your messages, using it just to tick a box or to ‘set it and forget it’ is not a good idea. Automation is one of the key tactics required in the progress of executing First-Person Marketing, alongside personalization, integration and optimization. And it’s by being a First-Person Marketer that you can really reap the benefits of this tool, by mapping automation to the different stages of your customer lifecycle.

I’ve already covered some tips on using automation to welcome customers and subscribers in a previous post, so I’m going to focus on the next stage today: conversion.

The modern consumer is a researcher

Think about the last time you organised your holiday. Or purchased a new TV. Chances are you visited multiple websites over the course of a month or so prior to making the purchase; you read reviews and articles that helped you understand the specs or the packages to help you decide if a particular product or service is for you. And it’s not just with products that have a long sales cycle. Those who know me personally will know that I absolutely love tea and trying new blends of loose leaf teas. But with such a wide variety out there, I spend a fair amount of time researching before buying my next brew, though not quite a month!

As long as your prospective buyers have an intense interest in what you’re offering (because it’s an expensive purchase, or it’s a present, or it’s something they’re passionate about, etc.), they are likely not to buy it on their first visit. This is where automation comes in handy. An abandoned basket or abandoned browse campaign represents an opportunity to give your customer an extra nudge in keeping your brand in the consideration set. We live in such a distracted world that these campaigns are a successful reminder.

According to Salecycle, the abandonment rate in the travel industry is as high as 80.1% and 74.6% for retail, so using an automated program that runs in the background with little effort is a no-brainer. Of course, you needn’t forget the optimization aspect of being a First-Person Marketer so make sure you review and optimize that campaign to keep it relevant and successful. Ryan Phelan offered great advice on that in a recent post.

Abandoned baskets are not just for retail and travel

Sometimes, in order to stand out, you have to borrow a trick or two from a different industry. NSPCC did that with their abandoned donation campaign. Charities rely on donations to support their cause, so every single donor can make a difference. NSPCC wanted to be able to follow-up with people who do not complete the process to remind them of the importance of their donation, and offer an alternative channel via telephone in case the supporter had trouble completing the donation online.

July-NSPCC- charity-sector-abandoned-basket

This campaign achieved a fantastic 48% open-rate and it didn’t just deliver nudges! Using automation, NSPCC recovered an average donation of £38 and made sure the donor experience is as smooth as possible.

The brands of the future will go the extra mile to help their customers

Excellent service has helped brands stand out since time immemorial – that’s certainly not a new concept. It’s how excellent service is delivered that has changed with the emergence of technology. First, call-centers meant customers no longer had to travel to a store or branch to deal with an inquiry or complaint, then email added another level of service and now chat-bots are becoming more prevalent.

But what if instead of waiting for the customer to make contact, brands are proactive and make suggestions? Not necessarily pioneered, but certainly made popular by Amazon, algorithms that suggest complementary or new products to customers can provide the extra nudge to conversion. Or at least keep your brand front of mind and help consumers by taking out the research step. After all, if they were happy with their last purchase from you, why wouldn’t they trust a recommendation?

Case in point: Serious Sport

Sports clothing company Serious Sport used this strategy in a highly personalized product recommendations email which is sent 40 days after the first purchase. It includes three products that are relevant to the team store of the customer, ranked by attributes such as price, seasonality, stock availability and promotions. Serious Sport has been using this automated campaign for almost two years and the average order value generated by it has stayed around the £55 mark.


As the momentum for automation builds, more and more companies will start using it which means marketers need to treat it as a strategy informed tool which is regularly reviewed. Mapping automation programs against the customer lifecycle will push you to think of the context in which your message is relevant first. If you get that right, the rewards of a bit of extra effort up front will soon follow.

We will continue this conversation with the role automation plays in the nurture, loyalty and re-activation stages in upcoming posts. Or if you can’t wait, listen to our webinar ‘How automation can lead the way to First-Person Marketing’ in our webinar archive right now.

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