Content Marketing Manager
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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. It will be even better if you can reach our customers by using one platform via different digital channels like SMS or Push notifications. You can integrate with many of sms marketing software tools.
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, 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 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
Why Use Marketing Automation Software?
The most compelling reason why you should use marketing automation software is, obviously, to automate your marketing efforts. Using marketing automation platforms, you can minimize your involvement in tedious tasks and focus on more important and non-automatable parts of running a business. With such software, you can often just set it, forget it, and wait for reports to inform your business decisions. Using them doesn’t just reduce the cost of labor but also improves efficiency and limits the probability of human error.
In addition, some of the most powerful marketing automation software allows you to use a single platform to manage a unified marketing campaign involving a variety of channels. They cover everything you need through the entire marketing process, including converting visitors into subscribers, managing databases, reporting data for analysis, and segmenting audiences for more personalized communications. Also, they typically have easy-to-use content editors that eliminate the need for programming and graphic design work.
These marketing automation platforms are available to make your marketing campaigns more effective and less expensive. Such software are able to address the needs of each of your customers, no matter where they are on the buyer’s journey, and with very little intervention from you. At a certain point, that practically leads to automated sales.
What is the Best Marketing Automation Software?
In order to gain all the benefits of using marketing automation platforms, it’s critical to choose the software that works best for your business.
To help you make that decision, below are the top 5 marketing automation software chosen based on not only their popularity among digital marketers but specifically because of their features, ease of use, and value for money.
Omnisend was developed specifically for ecommerce businesses. That’s apparent because it works seamlessly with all the most popular ecommerce platforms. That includes Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce.
Additionally, it has automated workflows that cover the unique challenges faced by all ecommerce marketers. Among the most important ones are how to reduce cart abandonment rates, how to update buyers at each stage of the post-purchase process, and how to encourage buyer reviews.
One more critical aspect that sets Omnisend apart is that it has everything you need to run a solid omnichannel campaign. Not only can you run your automated workflows on both email and SMS, but also through push notifications, Facebook Messenger, Facebook Custom Audiences, and Google Customer Match.
Besides ecommerce-specific features and omnichannel capabilities, Omnisend stands out because of how easily you can segment and target audiences.
You can segment your customers using several ecommerce-related criteria, including total customer value and previous purchases. That helps you craft more personalized messages that lead to better sales and more effective customer retention.
Omnisend allows you to use its platform through a free plan. But, some of its most exciting features are only accessible on paid plans, which start at $13 per month. Its most popular plan costs $80 per month (paid annually), which gives you full access to all features, allows for up to 15,000 emails per month, and includes $80 in free monthly SMS credits.
ActiveCampaign is an excellent option for CRM-centric marketing. One thing that makes it unique is its Contact and Lead Scoring features.
Essentially, it evaluates every customer’s interaction with your business and then assigns a score that you can use to identify your hottest leads as well as your least engaged customers. That score can be used in several ways, including setting up automated workflows specifically for customers that are most likely to make a purchase.
Another aspect where ActiveCampaign excels is machine learning. It uses every possible data point to improve the performance of your campaigns and also presents analyses that will help you make more informed business decisions.
Apart from providing scores that will advise your team on which leads to nurture, ActiveCampaign has predictive capabilities that automatically sends emails based on when the recipient is most likely to read it. It does so using historical data and gets more accurate over time.
One of its newer predictive features also allows you to write different versions of content. The app then makes data-backed predictions on which version best suits each customer.
ActiveCampaign works seamlessly with Salesforce and a variety of ecommerce apps like Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce. Though limited, it also has multichannel capabilities using on-site messaging, email, SMS, and Facebook audiences.
A basic version is available for $9 per month. However, a full-featured version starts at $129/month (paid yearly) and increases depending on how many subscribers you have.
ConvertKit was developed specifically with bloggers and content creators in mind. It has forms that are not just customizable but also easy to embed. It also has an email designer that helps you craft emails that convert. Although useful, keep in mind that the email designer is pretty basic. That’s because ConvertKit equates simpler emails to better performance.
Nevertheless, emails developed on ConvertKit can be sent through one-off campaigns or integrated into automated workflows. Compared to some of the best marketing software, ConvertKit’s automation features are rather limited.
While larger ecommerce platforms might find it lacking, it is sufficient for most content-based businesses. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to use, making it a suitable option for novice digital marketers.
ConvertKit’s most basic features are available through a free plan, which allows you to manage up to 500 subscribers. For full features and a larger subscriber base, its available plans start at $29 per month.
Autopilot has all the features you’d expect from a marketing automation platform with advanced email marketing and lead management capabilities. But, where it truly sets itself apart is in its visual interface for mapping out your entire customer journey.
Although it has useful templates for you to customize, the predictive platform and drag-and-drop system makes it easy to build your customer journey and map out your triggers from scratch.
Additionally, Autopilot allows you to run multichannel campaigns. It supports not only email and SMS but also in-app messaging, Facebook Retargeting, and Google Ads Retargeting. Something that highlights its multichannel capabilities is its unique Postcard Marketing feature.
This allows you to include direct mail in your workflows. All you’d need to do is design the postcard on the Autopilot platform and map it out in your customer journey. Once triggered, Autopilot will send a physical version of the postcard by mail.
The pricing scheme of Autopilot is based on the size of your subscriber list. At $49 per month, you can send an unlimited number of emails to a maximum of 2,000 contacts. Optional add-ons like Salesforce integration and expert setup and training are available for additional fees.
Rejoiner is a platform that’s specifically tailored for ecommerce and SaaS companies. It excels in many things, including its visual workflow builder that’s remarkably intuitive and has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface.
Plus, it helps build rich media emails that accommodate dynamic content, which is especially useful for cross-selling and upselling existing customers. Although it’s mainly an email marketing tool, it has retargeting capabilities over Google and Facebook.
Although Rejoinder is a formidable marketing tool in its own right, its competitive advantage lies in their menu of a la carte services that allow you to avail of a managed marketing package that’s customized for your business.
The optional services include strategy development, email design and execution, copywriting, and campaign management. This management option allows you to delegate critical parts of your marketing efforts to experts in this field.
Understandably, that advantage comes at a cost. Although you can use the Rejoiner platform through basic packages that start at $95 per month, that doesn’t give you access to the managed services they’re best known for. Full packages typically go between $4,000 and $6,000 per month.
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.
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This article originally appeared in the Omnisend blog and has been published here with permission.