Digital automation has been hailed as the saviour of the marketing industry. Less time spent on the day-to-day tasks and more time spent on the bigger picture. You can now automate everything from your social media posts to your Facebook messenger chat. Emails can be generated to encourage customers to pick up where they left off with their abandoned carts.
While it might seem like a positive shift, we have to wonder what is lost when we take the human touch out of our marketing activities.
There is a time and a place for automation and there is a time and place for personalisation. The key to being a successful marketer in 2018 means knowing when to use each one. Instead of approaching this from the view of a marketer, it’s important to switch sides and think about what your customers want.
In many situations, customers want automation. When the self-service line is open at Tesco, customers are more likely to eschew human interaction. 90% of shoppers aged 18-39 consider self-service checkouts easier to use. They aren’t necessarily faster, but they are undeniably popular.
But what does this have to do with marketing automation?
Our interactions with brands work in a similar way. Consumers expect a response from a brand on social media within one hour. Think about what this would mean for your organisation. For companies large and small, this kind of response time just isn’t possible without a little help from technology.
Customers don’t mind interacting with a chatbot, provided it can answer their questions. But when it comes to the nitty gritty queries, there’s nothing worse than finding yourself trapped in an infinite loop of scripted responses. When queries become more complex, this is when humans need to step in and offer a personal touch.
The benefits of automation
There are some marketing tasks which are ideal for automation. For example, using big data to analyse your customers’ behaviour and identify purchasing patterns. This allows you to tailor your emails to individuals based on data-backed insight.
This might involve sending an email to individuals with abandoned carts with a 10% discount code. Or you might be able to identify complementary products based on recent purchase behaviour. By automating this process, marketers have the opportunity to get much more granular with their emails and their offering. If the outcome is helpful to your audience and not annoying, they aren’t going to mind getting more precise emails.
Automation can also help with creative aspects of marketing – as much as your copywriters and design team with argue otherwise. Landing pages are one area which can be continually tweaked and improved with the help of automated A/B testing. Automating this process allows marketers to take a step back and look at the bigger picture without worrying about the minutiae of button colours or font sizes.
Limitations of automation
Issues with automation nearly always arise when the machines are allowed to run rampant. If you don’t have a system in place for moderating things before they go live, you can guarantee that something will eventually go wrong.
Just ask Oreo how they feel about automated tweets after their 2015 misstep. The Oreo Twitter account was set up to automatically send a reply to all tweets offering a chance to win a pack of limited edition Oreos.
The majority of the tweets were sent to innocent accounts, but one was sent to a twitter account with an immensely offensive handle. This resulted in this outrageous slur being plastered all over the official Oreo twitter account. Obviously, people noticed.
There is also the risk of appearing cold in your customer interactions. The human touch allows people to feel valued and leads to greater brand loyalty. This isn’t to say you have to choose automation or personalisation. Rather, you need to be able to identify when one is more appropriate than the other. Your customers will appreciate automation if it gives a better user experience or speeds up processes, but if they want to feel like their voice is heard, it’s time to step in with the human touch.