Automation tools are essential for digital engagement with customers. But once you've automated everything you can, what's left for the marketer?
When most people think about automation, they imagine advances in manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, retail, and foodservice tasks. These sectors are all undergoing major changes, but marketing is experiencing its own shifts thanks to automation. In fact, the software that enables marketing automation is expected to become a $32.6 billion market by 2024.
It’s impossible to predict when these innovations and changes will come — let alone what they’ll look like — but smart marketers will watch automation tech investments closely and plan accordingly. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the statistics, expert predictions, trends, and theoretical foundations that lay the groundwork for marketing’s future.
More from PostFunnel on automation:
Nuts & Bolts: How To Use Marketing Automation in 2019
Fast and Slow Data: Why It’s So Important to Combine Them
How Automation Opportunities Are Shaping the Hospitality Industry
AI will generate marketing leads for you
Here’s one change we’re already seeing unfold: where marketing departments once spent lots of time compiling leads for list-building, a fully automated marketing department can design campaigns and let them run to established specifications. Under this model, customers will generally opt into your lead generation process themselves. The biggest gains will likely revolve around communication. Automated lead generation will funnel customers directly to relevant sales team members without requiring a detailed introduction.
Automation will manage the buyer’s journey
Marketing automation will track customers through each point of the purchasing journey, even initiating first contact. Chatbots, for example, already serve as a point of contact that lets customers obtain brand information on their own. These services, when fully optimized, could funnel the most promising contacts in real time to marketing and sales teams, who would immediately act on the opportunity.
Beyond first contact, marketing automation will collate and track every piece of information about a customer in real time. This might allow a marketer to see when and how often a customer researched your brand before making a purchase. Tracking a customer’s journey in this way will allow marketing teams to understand which advertising efforts worked on which market segment, and how each interaction enhanced sales or accounts.
Machine learning will handle rote content generation
Rote generation of emails, press releases, and even blog posts could become a thing of the past. Well-trained AI algorithms will soon take base inputs of content types and custom parameters and use them to generate complete content pieces. While humans will likely continue to produce all core creative work, AI-enhanced marketing campaigns will use a database of materials to automatically create content variations and implement A/B testing. If that seems farfetched, it’s important to remember that 81% of survey respondents indicated that their teams were already using automation to generate email marketing content.
Today’s “black box” solutions will be replaced by understandable AI
For marketers to most effectively leverage helpful technology, it must be understandable and repeatable on a human scale. Unfortunately, current machine learning and AI technologies are based on “black box” designs that mask how particular insights and decisions were made. For the next generation of AI solutions, designers are trying to understand and analyze machine learning decision making.
“One of the trickiest parts of marketing is audience segmentation — approaching people with the right message,” says Michael Capps, CEO of Diveplane, a company working on understandable AI. “Modern ML (machine learning) techniques can provide ‘clustering’ where you might break your audience behaviors down into five categories. That will tell you that the purchasing habits, or marketing-sensitivity, of Eastern European millennials, is similar to elderly Americans in the Midwest — but it won’t tell you why. Cutting edge techniques provide the human-understandable explanations for those clusters, so you know that you can address those demographics with the same campaigns.”
Retention marketing and analysis will prevent customers from lapsing
We already make use of automated retention marketing tools today, but the marketers of the future will likely do more with less. Systems that can identify when a customer might churn — or what their return period is — are becoming commonplace, and allow marketers to target customers with relevant promotions and content based on past behavior. This might include discounts, rewards, or advertisements catered to prior activity while accounting for projected and current lifetime value.
Automation will generate its own technological advances
One reason it’s difficult to make predictions about automation is that automation itself can prompt its own innovations. Not long ago, marketers were enthralled with the concept of abandoned shopping cart emails and the opportunities they presented. Today, we are seeing retail establishments track customer actions in-store, creating opportunities to map purchased products to future marketing efforts.
These advances are only possible thanks to the long chain of marketing innovations implemented before them. Perhaps new technology will prompt us to update this entire list with some unexpected yet fantastic opportunity. Only time will tell.