Last year, the buzz was all about Big Data. This year, retail­ers are gung-ho about personalization—with every­thing from emails to onsite rec­om­men­da­tions. Automa­tion is key to deliv­er­ing on that promise. In fact, some experts pre­dict that the mar­ket­ing automa­tion indus­try will grow to $4.8 bil­lion by 2015.

Whether you’re explor­ing automa­tion for the first time or you’re look­ing for ways to improve your exist­ing strate­gies, these fun­da­men­tal tips will help you stay on top of your “A-game.”

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Let’s face it: Today’s cus­tomers have been spoiled by Ama­zon. And the e-tailing giant isn’t the only big busi­ness using per­son­al­ized recommendations—REI, Red­box, and many other sites have become adept at serv­ing up sub­tle yet spot-on upsells. The obvi­ous goal is to increase order value by offer­ing upsells (enhanced ver­sions of cer­tain prod­ucts), cross-sells (acces­sories or com­ple­men­tary items), and/or replace­ments for prod­ucts with lim­ited shelf lives.

In most cases, these sell­ers are not using man­ual mer­chan­dis­ing to achieve this; rather, they’re lever­ag­ing sophis­ti­cated automa­tion tools like Adobe Target Recommendations. 

To suc­ceed with this strat­egy, it’s essen­tial to lever­age a tool that includes the abil­ity to test the most effec­tive lay­outs and algo­rithms for prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tions. Your tool should also allow you to com­bine the sophis­ti­cated power of automa­tion with mar­keter con­trols. For exam­ple, you should have the abil­ity to dis­play items within a cer­tain price range or inven­tory level. A pow­er­ful com­po­nent of auto­mated rec­om­men­da­tions is the abil­ity to lever­age data about indi­vid­ual behav­iors as well as the “wis­dom of the crowd.”

Smart Tar­get­ing

Automa­tion can be used to tar­get qual­i­fied buy­ers, increas­ing the chances of prospects mak­ing a pur­chase. Accord­ing to a sta­tis­tic from Jupiter Research, con­ver­sion rates can soar up to 400 per­cent higher for tar­geted cam­paigns, ver­sus cam­paigns that don’t use targeting.

With the count­less data points that come into play—from geolo­ca­tion to page views to aver­age order value—it would be vir­tu­ally impos­si­ble to man­u­ally assess all of them and make on-the-fly con­tent deci­sions. A good auto­mated tar­get­ing tool makes dynamic pre­dic­tions based on real-time data, ensur­ing that the right con­tent is deliv­ered to the right per­son at the right time.

Email Work­flow

The modern-day con­sumer expects imme­di­ate val­i­da­tion after per­form­ing an action. When­ever some­one inter­acts with your business—whether it’s by plac­ing an order, down­load­ing an e-book, sub­scrib­ing to a newslet­ter, or even aban­don­ing a cart—you should fol­low up with a timely, tar­geted mes­sage. That’s where auto­mated email work­flow comes in, sav­ing you count­less hours while strength­en­ing your brand and boost­ing profits.

Here’s an exam­ple of a typ­i­cal email workflow:

  1. You com­pile a list of cus­tomers who may be inter­ested in your lat­est indus­try report, and send a tar­geted email invit­ing them to down­load it.
  2. When­ever recip­i­ents click through and down­load the report, they receive an auto­mated, per­son­al­ized thank-you message.
  3. A few days later, you send a follow-up email request­ing feed­back on the report. The email may include a call to action to down­load an addi­tional resource related to the report, such as a webi­nar, e-book, con­fer­ence, or newsletter.
  4. With each down­load, an email noti­fi­ca­tion is sent to your sales team so they can con­tact the qual­i­fied lead.

This type of email automa­tion can be applied to vir­tu­ally any type of cus­tomer com­mu­ni­ca­tion, from han­dling check­out chal­lenges to offer­ing post­sale sup­port. Just make sure each mes­sage is per­son­al­ized to the recipient—not only in name, but also in terms of recent pur­chases and shop­ping pref­er­ences. There’s noth­ing more under­whelm­ing than a flat, gen­eral email that could have been sent to any customer.

As always, test­ing is key. By lever­ag­ing the tools in the Adobe Marketing Cloud, you can eas­ily assess the per­for­mance of not only the email head­line, but also images and layouts.

A Lit­tle Tech­nol­ogy, a Lot of Insight

We already know that per­son­al­iza­tion works, but it’s no longer prac­ti­cal for time-crunched busi­nesses to use man­ual processes or to per­son­al­ize at scale. To deliver on demand with­out sac­ri­fic­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity, you need automation.

A tool like Adobe Target will help you reach more peo­ple and serve up timely and rel­e­vant con­tent, while elim­i­nat­ing time-consuming man­ual work. Let the tool do the work for you, while you enjoy more time to focus on grow­ing your business.

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