I was born in 87 and part of the generation Y. As a kid, I was able to witness the rapid changes and huge boom in technology and the Internet. It was the time of the dotcom bubble where everything seemed possible. At the age of 15, I was so happy to test MSN live chat to be in live conversation with my friends. 15 years later, automated chatbot have taken over and are increasingly engaging in human like conversations, allowing businesses to leverage them at scale. When it comes to technology automation, self driving car, VR and robots are finally becoming real, a dream that comes true for most of the kids of my generation. On the advertising side of the story, it seems marketing automation is still lagging behind as if instant voice search results or fully customized brand experience were still a dream.
Myths & Facts
Marketing automation refers to the use of technology to execute, manage and automate marketing tasks and processes in order to improve efficiency and revenue. Automation is about scalability, something every business is looking for.
Automation in digital advertising already exists but only to a certain extend. Social tools like Hootsuite help us to understand noise and complexity created by social media to help you engage with your audience. In mailing advertising, tools like Mailchimp enable you to customize emails and create set of rules to automatically interact with your prospect and clients.
Beyond these examples, it seems automation has not yet (fully) happened to marketing industry. Some automation possibilities already exists, with programmatic advertising leading the way, powered by tech giants (Google or Facebook not to quote them all the time). But we still have a hard time imagining an AI or fully machine-learning lead digital marketing world, as if we were only building the first stage of the rocket.
So the question is why has the rocket not taken off yet? It is a complex question which is fueled by certain myths. On the other side, some realities are here to remind us that there is still a long way to go.
‘Branding is about building emotional connection whereas automation is about cold, inhuman machines.’
We are not living in a black and white world where creativity is totally disconnected from automation. It is true that programmatic advertising and machine learning are creating disruption in the way marketers approach their job. Also, nonlinear media consumption can give headache to marketeers - attention span on facebook video is less than 2 seconds. But at the end, the challenge remains the same: Building stories and creating impact and technology can certainly help in boosting creative possibilities. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will empower creative thinking forward with technology and data to help in executing it.
‘Automation is all about spamming’
When first introducing the word automation to clients in the field of marketing, you often get reaction like ‘what, all my banners will be created by a faceless robot that will randomly choose the message to adress to my clients? Robots cannot understand my clients and will serve messages in the wrong environment.’ We need to acknowledge, we live in a digital world where technology is prominent where bots and algorithms will take a more important place. Mistakes will always happen but that is also the consequence of badly prepared campaign or lack of digital skills. Blaming technology or a certain tool is easy whereas focus should be understanding the opportunity or the source of the problem first.
That being said, reality checks are needed and we have to face them and recognize them in order to move forward.
‘Doing it all wrong’
Let’s be honest, bad practices have not helped. Some of our peers in the field of automation have run campaigns in such a bad way that it has only but created bad buzz and made advertisers more reluctant to take the leap forward. Examples are just numerous: similar ads being shown over and over again with no capping, generic automated interactions across social platforms or emails starting with sentences like “Hello dear $25987$,”.
‘New legal policies lead to more uncertainty’
Legal authorities have also played a role limiting the collection of data and its usage. Privacy related issues are taken a larger place in the public debate. Usage of ad blocker is peaking as a consequence of previously highlighted bad practices. The EU commission has enforced a new directive called GDPR (will come into force in May 2018) that in essence aims to unify and improve data protection for its citizens, but in practise has far reaching implications on current data management in the industry. “The right to be forgotten” and the mandatory option to opt-out to any data tracking means that companies will not only have to carefully follow up the data they collect on their customers but also ensure they are aware of how this data will be used. Therefore, it is very important for companies to frame the way data will be used. For example, less people will want their data to be used for personalised remarketing but be more entitled to see their data used to to improve their experience.
Marketing automation is complex and it takes a long time to set it up correctly. It requires processes, preparation and even more important an agile organisation. Implementing automation in silo will lead to failure. For instance, when developing new retention strategies, businesses should onboard sales team to help building the most adapted customer journey strategy. Analysing data insights and managing advanced technologies requires advanced skills, so goes for recruitment and staff. You will need the right people in order to fuel the engine of the machine. Furthermore, marketing automation requires methodology - from defining business goals to building customer segments/personas and matching them with the right content.
Agile businesses are already integrating advanced automated strategies. They understand that the challenge is not lying in the technology but its capacity to execute. Tools do not drive businesses but people do. And adaptability will be key. Indeed, with thousands of digital marketing platforms and open API s available, the future of marketing automation will certainly not be the in-house single marketing automation system. The next stage of the rocket will be propelled by a myriad of open technologies that will each answer part of the equation, all powered by mega computing capacity that can be scaled and personalized to each business need. Achieving interconnectivity between these tools will be the role of each business. So are you ready to take your organisation to the next level?