Embracing automation of ecommerce processes is no longer a matter of choice – it is the way forward for businesses looking to accomplish sustained growth.
The business world today runs on ecommerce and companies which streamline and optimize the various ecommerce-related processes in their operations are the ones most likely to experience success.
This is where marketing automation software comes into the picture. It provides an effective way of managing the numerous repetitive (and often resource-draining) marketing tasks which companies use to reach customers, showcase their products and services, and generate sales.
In this post, we will give you a rundown of points to bear in mind as you go about selecting the right marketing automation tools for your business. First, let’s take a quick look at the basic features these tools provide and some of their benefits.
What Do Marketing Automation Tools Offer?
Regardless of the wide range of providers, you have to choose from and all their add-ons and extra features, all marketing automation software for ecommerce have the following basic characteristics in common.
Workflow Organisation – This is the crux of what marketing automation is all about. Workflows include how your company engages with customers and responds to their behavior.
Efficient workflows will take you from identifying leads, sparking customer interest and guiding the customer throughout each stage of the marketing and sales funnel – all the way to making a purchase and coming back for more.
Report Generation – Reports help you to see what is working and what isn’t. They are what you will need to have in hand when making plans on whether to stay on course with a campaign or revise your approach and shift focus.
Reports generation also makes it easier for marketing managers to identify trends in customer behavior and present relatable performance figures to executives, departments and team members.
Database Management – Before a marketing automation tool can create workflows or report on a campaign’s progress, it must have customer data to act on. All providers will offer ways to capture that data, then prioritize and organize it into actionable lists.
Benefits of Using Marketing Automation Software
It is important to note that the benefits a company reaps from using marketing automation tools will vary depending on several factors. These include the size of the business and the market segment they operate in, for example, B2B or B2C.
There are universal advantages, however, which every company can look forward to gaining. These include:
Reduced Costs – Marketing automation software optimizes workflow creation and report generation, along with various other time-consuming, traditionally manual, activities. By dealing with them in a fraction of the time, it reduces a company’s labour costs and leaves its marketing team more focused on campaign ideation.
Flexibility – There is no need to feel locked into the features of a particular campaign once it has been set into motion. With automation, you can easily revise the campaign; tweak different portions of it; and scale it up or down in order to better achieve the desired results.
Improved Oversight – Marketing automation software makes it easier to keep track of the stages of campaign development, as well as the progress of a campaign once it is set in motion. This leads to improved efficiency in detecting and resolving lags or bottlenecks wherever they pop up.
Reliability – By automating their marketing processes, businesses can virtually eliminate human error which, in the past, was notorious for slowing or completely derailing even the most carefully thought out marketing campaigns.
Customized (Non-Repetitive) Content – This includes segmentation and personalization of campaigns, giving each customer the feeling that you are focused on their individual needs.
Choosing Marketing Automation Software
1. Workflow Management
Workflows are built using if/then propositions which both evaluate and anticipate a customer’s behaviour and generate pre-determined emails for continued engagement with that customer. Most marketing automation tools will include user-friendly templates and drag-and-drop options for building your workflows.
Providers tend to offer the ability to build unlimited and intricate sequences, making it possible to engage with a customer on a long-term basis and on a progressively more personal level. The nature of your business with determine whether those features are attractive to you.
Apart from deciding which sequences are used, workflow management also includes controlling which contacts are added to a workflow’s list and how those contacts are moved from one list to the next.
2. Integration with Other Automation Tools
No facet of a company can operate effectively in isolation – that makes integration a key aspect of success. So, while automating each of your operations makes them individually more efficient, automating how they interact with each other will make them more productive as a whole.
This is why you will often hear emphasis being placed on how well and how easily marketing automation software integrates with customer relationship management (CRM) tools used by a company’s sales team.
Be aware that not all integrations are pre-existing or native between a particular marketing automation and CRM tool. You will have to find out from the provider which integrations their plans already include, which can be customized for you and which will require further technical support.
3. Social Media Capability
Social media is a vital aspect of ecommerce marketing. Your customers spend a great deal of time on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Twitter. It is therefore crucial for your marketing automation software to, at the very least, let you check on the social media campaigns you are running.
As a preferred feature, the software should provide ways to analyse data on customers’ social media activity so you can better tailor how you reach out to them and thus grow your following on these channels.
Ideally, it should let you run and monitor campaigns simultaneously on the different platforms. This ranges from allowing you to schedule and send your posts to reporting on who is clicking on, sharing or commenting on them, no matter the platform they are on.
Some tools have advanced features which will also let you manage social promotions; monitor competitor performance on social media; and keep you up-to-date with your responses to threads which are relevant to your business.
4. List Building
Form creation tools are an important aspect of list building. The software you choose should give you some variety and flexibility as to the type of forms you use as this will affect the type of contact data you gather.
The type of data will, in turn, determine how specific lists are populated based on contact characteristics. This is important as it allows you to take a more personalized approach when you engage with contacts on a given list.
Among marketing automation providers, there are those which stress list building far more than others who might take the stance of prioritizing workflow features over list building. Regardless, list building and workflow management work in tandem and you should determine where your company’s focus and needs lie before you begin narrowing your vendor choices.
5. Available Plans and Price
Providers will typically have several plans, ranging from “Free” with just the basics to “Enterprise” which includes all the bells and whistles, such as enhanced security and a dedicated representative to ensure your success using the platform.
The size of your customer base (both existing and potential customers) and how aggressively you intend to market to them, also come into consideration here. For instance, some plans are priced based on your number of contacts while others bill you based on the number of emails sent per month.
Some plans will charge extra for onboarding and training while others include it in their “Free” package. Furthermore, some marketing automation software providers make it possible to access price quotes based on your specific requirements instead of being bound by the features of a particular plan.
6. Customer Support
This is a crucial feature even if you have a very savvy in-house tech team. The more customer support options a provider offers, the less frustration you are to experience in the event that you need to reach out to them.
Look for chat, email, direct phone numbers and long hours (preferably 24/7) dedicated to customer support. How readily you can contact the provider for troubleshooting assistance is especially important if your business:
- Engages in either multichannel or omnichannel marketing
- Has a massive number of contacts to manage
- Will be pursuing multiple marketing campaigns at the same time
- Is using marketing automation as a dedicated growth strategy
The two bonus tips we would like to share relate to making your final decision on which marketing automation provider to use.
1. Shortlist and Compare Quotes
Using information such as what you have gleaned from this article, you should be able to come up with a shortlist of viable candidates to fulfil your company’s marketing automation needs.
You can start contacting those prospects to see what their best offers are, in terms of price and features, if you decide to come on board their platform.
Find out about discounts; fee-waivers for particular features based on the size of your plan; charges for customizing to your needs; etc.
Armed with this information, you can now shorten the list even more to just a select few (perhaps just two or three) with whom you wish to move forward.
2. Run a Real-World Test
The only way you will really be sure that a marketing automation tool is worth the long-term investment of your company’s time, money and effort is to apply it to a real-world campaign. By testing each prospect on your shortened shortlist, you can pinpoint and compare their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
For example, how well a tool meshes with your company’s operations and how intuitive it is for your employees to use will become very evident during the test. You will also have a better idea of which product is truly value for money, even if it is more expensive, in the short-term, than one offered by a competitor.
Marketing automation is not a one-size-fits-all affair. There are several points each company must consider in order to settle on the one which best aligns with its marketing needs. Taking the time to weigh your options against all the tips we have provided here means the actual winner at the end of your search will be your company.