Merchants Guide to eCommerce Marketing Automation: What You Need to Know
by Ron Dod
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Many business owners are under tons of pressure, constantly feeling overwhelmed with the immensity of the work before them. In fact, a 2017 survey revealed that72 percent of small business owners feel overwhelmed. Meanwhile, 60 percent of business owners stated that they would “like to have more time over less work.”
As significant as these numbers are, unfortunately, they are not surprising in the least bit. The fact is that running a company is a ton of work. From devising marketing campaigns to fielding customer service inquiries, generating sales, optimizing on-site efforts and more, eCommerce owners have their work cut out for them.
However, doing everything one’s self isn’t sustainable, practical or even useful in the long-term. Sooner or later, something has to give.
This is particularly true when it comes to marketing efforts. Since there are so many facets to marketing, and those initiatives tend to increase the number of leads and customers that merchants must manage, it is necessary to find an alternative means of governance and engagement.
Marketing automation refers to various forms of software and platforms that enable a brand to increase its efficiency through streamlining day-to-day marketing tasks and workflows.
eCommerce marketing automation takes things like email nurturing, lead management or evensocial media retargeting campaigns and puts them on autopilot so that retailers can invest their energy into other activities.
Where online retail is concerned, the most common form of eCommerce marketing automation is email marketing campaigns. However, there are other forms that retailers can employ, as will be covered later.
In reality, there are dozens of benefits that eCommerce marketing automation provides to retailers. However, the most prevalent and distinct advantages include:
Given that much of the point of marketing automation software is to handle time-consuming, repetitive tasks such as creating workflows, initiating email sequences, generating reports and the like, eCommerce marketing automation naturally frees retailers and their employees to focus their efforts on tasks that require more of a human touch.
Enhanced Engagement Levels
Thanks to the power of automation, retailers can reach far more customers than they would be capable of doing manually. As a result of this enhanced capacity for outreach, merchants are capable of engaging far more consumers.
Through eCommercemarketing automation tools, sellers can send out personalized messages to thousands of customers with the same amount of effort that it would take to reach a single person manually.
Minimized Potential of Human Error
Tasks that tend to be tedious and repetitive are often the most susceptible to human error. Because people often get into a mindless state of recital with such activities, this easily results in mistakes being made.
However, through automation, that factor is minimized, thereby helping to ensure that marketing efforts are completed correctly and efficiently.
More Optimization Opportunities
Because eCommerce marketing automation tools enable sellers to scale their operations significantly, and because they often possess robust analytics tools, merchants are better able to analyze the potency of their campaigns and optimize them for superior outcomes.
With that said, let’s go ahead and explore some of the different types of eCommerce marketing automation tools that retailers might opt to leverage.
Different Types of Platforms
As mentioned earlier, there are various types of eCommerce marketing automation platforms that retailers can integrate into their marketing efforts. Some of the most common types include:
“A business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them.”
While there is quite a bit of debate as to whether email marketing is considered an inbound or outbound marketing strategy, we feel that email is an inbound strategy. After all, it fits this definition to a tee.
Therefore, one of the most popular types of solutions is email automation. With email marketing automation services likeOmnisend and others, sellers can developemail marketing campaigns that engage new users, reel those who abandoned their carts back onto the site, inform customers of new offers and educate customers on anything else sellers want them to know.
Given that both email and content marketing are essential strategies for eCommerce success, retailers might consider employing several kinds of inbound automation services.
Lead Generation Automation
If lead generation is a significant priority for a retailer, as it is with many B2B eCommerce brands, then lead generation automation software is an invaluable tool to possess.
These sorts of platforms can help retailers to automate the cycle of acquiring and qualifying leads who are more likely to purchase.
Merchants who are interested in this sort of solution might opt to utilize a tool likeGrowbots, which will automatically select the best prospects for a business from its 200 million contacts. From there, merchants can get in touch with decision-makers and automatically follow-up with them.
In the world of eCommerce, pricing products correctly is highly influential on sales. Getting undercut by the competition means fewer conversions.
However, through the use of pricing automation software such asPrisync orRepricerExpress, retailers can continually offer the highest possible average price, thereby maintaining sales while not engaging in a race to the bottom.
As far as eCommerce sellers are concerned, pricing automation is a massively important tool, particularly for those who offer the same or similar products as many other merchants. Therefore, this type of eCommerce marketing automation service is one of themust-have tools for competing on Amazon.
Advertising automation software is one of the more prevalent tools utilized in the eCommerce industry. While there are dedicated platforms that help retailers to optimize their ad efforts,Google Smart Shopping campaigns are also a form of advertising automation.
However, as far as standalone platforms are concerned, services like AdRoll can be employed to create personalized, automated advertising campaigns across popular destinations like Facebook, Twitter and the like.
With that understanding, let’s go ahead and explore the process of selecting the right eCommerce marketing automation platform for a business.
When getting ready to shop around for an automation platform to help eCommerce brands scale their operations, there are several steps that sellers should take. Those steps include:
Determine the Needs of the Business
Prior to diving into the search, retailers should take the time to consider their needs as they relate to eCommerce marketing automation. This includes:
Marketing channels: Identify the channels which a brand leverages to reach its customers. This includes social media channels, email and advertising portals such as Google. Naturally, a business will want to be able to automate as much of its marketing efforts as it can.
Integrations: Compile a list of sales and marketing platforms that the business plans to continue using. Ideally, the eCommerce marketing automation platform should be capable of integrating with these services.
Begin the Search
With an idea of what the company requires, retailers can go into research mode, seeking out platforms that suit their needs. Outside of using Google as a research tool, merchants can also leverage the following resources:
A Seller’s Network: Talk to other merchants who might be running a similar business to see what automation services they leverage. Find out why they chose a particular platform, how their experience has been thus far and if there is a way to see their tools in action.
Reference the Tech Stack: Given that eCommerce marketing automation software must play nice with a seller’s other tools, start researching platforms that integrate with the systems currently in use.
Software Review Sites: There are a variety of software review websites that help retailers to gain an understanding of people’s sentiments about a platform. Some popular ones includeCapterra,G2 andPCMag.
Test the Tool
From here, merchants should have a shortlist of eCommerce marketing automation options compiled. The next step is to check them out and get a trial. Most automation services allow users to access a 14-day free trial, book a demo or something of the like where sellers can get their hands on the software and see if they like what it offers.
During this process, have a checklist of features and requirements at the ready and ensure that the platform meets most, if not all, of these demands.
Picking the Right Platform
With the options narrowed down to a small handful, it’s time for merchants to dig a little deeper to establish which eCommerce marketing automation solutions are right for them and their business.
At this point, some of the critical questions that retailers should ask include:
What Is the Setup Process?
When interested in potentially integrating an automation service into the business’s stack, sellers should have the provider walk them through the process of getting up and running. This will allow merchants to determine what they must do on their end to get the system set up.
Obviously, some services will be easier to get going than others, so this will need to be approached on a case-by-case basis.
How Long Does Implementation Take?
In addition to going over the setup process in general, it is essential to establish a general timeframe for how long this will take. Doing this will enable retailers to block off the appropriate amount of time to get things integrated.
Moreover, it is essential to determine if implementing the tool will require marketing downtime. If so, this needs to be planned at a time when there won’t be any critical campaign running.
How Will the Platform Handle [Retailer-Specific Scenario]?
It is vital to ask sales reps these kinds of questions to really dig into what the system is capable of providing. Therefore, retailers should attempt to craft a theoretical marketing campaign scenario and ask the representative how the platform might handle that situation.
For instance, if merchants plan on running an international marketing campaign that demands a variety ofeCommerce landing pages, email sequences, follow-up interactions related to sales and the like, find out how the automation solution would be capable of implementing complex, multifaceted campaign demands.
Any Potential Feature Rollouts?
When choosing an eCommerce marketing automation platform, sellers want the system to be capable of scaling alongside their business. Therefore, it is wise to ask about potential feature upgrades or inclusions that might be coming down the pipeline.
Finding this out upfront will also enable retailers to establish if a platform is aligned with any marketing endeavors that the company might have in store for the future.
What Kind of Customer Support Is Offered?
The fact is that some businesses require more support than others. This is largely dependent on the complexity of their marketing operations and processes.
If a brand just runs a few email sequences a month, then they probably won’t need much support other than email communication and a knowledge base at their disposal.
However, for companies that manage hundreds of thousands of leads, conduct complexmulti-channel marketing campaigns and support growing marketing and sales teams, customer support options like a dedicated account manager are likely to be more important.
Taking the steps and asking the questions outlined above will allow retailers to make a highly informed decision on which eCommerce marketing automation solutions are right for their business.
However, there is one critical aspect that has not yet been discussed, and that is what kind of dent this will put in a merchant’s bank account.
How Much Does eCommerce Marketing Automation Cost?
This is the million-dollar question. Pun intended.
However, when taking all of the things outlined above into consideration, the answer is: It depends.
Much like the level of customer support needed, a retailer’s budget for eCommerce marketing automation software will depend on the number of leads in their database, the features required, the size of the company’s marketing team and so forth.
In reality, if small businesses are looking to get started with some basic automated email marketing campaigns, then they can get started with options like Omnisend for $15 a month, or even use the platform for free.
However, as the business grows, then the figure could expand to hundreds of dollars per month or more. Moreover, if retailers want to get into the really sophisticated marketing automation systems that provide a wealth of in-depth features and insights (such as those offered by Marketo, Pardot and similar services), then merchants could be looking at thousands of dollars per month.
It all depends on what the business needs.
The bottom line here is that getting into eCommerce marketing automation is an investment. No matter if we are talking about the money required to procure a platform, the time it takes to get set up or the hours upon hours necessary to master the system, retailers will be sunk into a solution to a considerable degree.
This is precisely why doing one’s research upfront is so critical.
That said, marketing automation platforms that provideeCommerce email marketing services, enhanced lead generation efforts, advanced advertising systems and the like are beyond valuable for helping a brand to gain and retain new and old customers alike.
However, if all this feels a bit overwhelming, Visiture can help point the way.
Our retention marketing team can help your business pinpoint some first-in-class eCommerce marketing automation options and get you set up with email, social media and other types of campaigns that will make the investment worth the while.
Reach out to us today, and we can help you use marketing automation to scale your business successfully.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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