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Marketing Tech Evolves Beyond Automation — And Toward Intuition
Increasingly smart platforms are providing tools that make marketing as much about anticipating demand as generating it.
Marketing technology these days is increasingly focused on the future, as marketing moves away from its traditional role of generating demand and more toward a new role of anticipating demand.
Instead of a focus on the “mechanization” of common processes like email management, marketing tech is becoming infused with a kind of “marketing intuition” — predictive scoring, predictive marketing, intent data, personalization and other techniques that focus on what the customer or would-be customer is going to do or want next.
That’s the premise I pitched to three marketing tech executives.
Marketing has changed its orientation toward the future because customers have changed, Salesforce’s director of product marketing for the Marketing Cloud, Meghann York, responded.
“Consumers were traditionally in the dark,” she said, so “marketing was about education.”
But now customers commonly do their research online and preselect their choices. Marketing has thus become “less about ‘let’s educate the customer,’ and more about meeting and anticipating the demand,” she said.
“It’s not just marketing to their demands, but putting [likely options] in front of them.”
Nick Edwards, CEO and co-founder of content notification platform Boomtrain, pointed out that marketing used to be centered around “brand awareness.” Simply getting the brand or product in front of the potential customer and letting them know why they wanted it were key goals.
Now, he noted, “it’s about engagement,” since information about the brand/product is available wherever and whenever the customer is. Getting the potential customer interested and responsive, and then learning from that responsiveness, is the trick.
A Third Wave
Marketing, he said, has “moved from this world of manual process to marketing automation to a third wave of marketing tech being predictive.”
“Marketers no longer have to rely on rules of their own intuition,” he said, like they did back in the days of “Mad Men.” Now, they can rely on the “intuition” of software tools looking at patterns in the massive user engagement data.
Atri Chatterjee, chief marketing officer of marketing automation platform Act-On, referred me to Forrester Research’s description of two general needs for marketing technology — engagement and insight.
Executing campaigns across channels, he noted, is engagement.
Insight can be viewed as two main types. Analytical, behavior-based scoring might use A/B testing to figure out what approach is best, like which content the site visitor should see right now on the page.
Predictive insight, such as predictive scoring, sifts for patterns across mounds of user data to determine what should work down the line, like the sequence of emails and discount offers that would appeal to you.
Act-On works with a predictive engine like Infer’s to accomplish the latter kind of insight, he said, while it can natively perform the former.
A marketing platform like Salesforce’s is increasingly adding predictive powers, like its recent addition of Predictive Journeys.
The growth of prediction, Salesforce’s York indicated, is rooted in the growing ability of software to make marketing decisions.
In the past, marketers have had to decide the “important moments,” she pointed out, like what to do when a shopping cart is abandoned or what to offer after the first purchase.
“A lot of decisions were still being made by marketers, with data that’s looking back,” she said.
Just as self-researching customers are moving themselves farther along their decision tree as they approach a purchase, so marketers have to move their decision tree farther and farther out to keep up.
The predictive component comes in, she said, as the automation becomes smart enough to sift the data and make the decisions — what to offer the site visitor next, what email to send after the first email, which discount or product bundling will be most appealing as a followup to this purchase.
Marketers’ biggest challenge, she noted, has been sifting through the data to see the patterns and then making the call.
“It’s nearly impossible” for humans, she said.
Which is why predictive marketing is a fuller realization of marketing automation. It’s automating not only the mechanics of marketing, and not only the analysis of the data, but the decision-making, as well.
Predictive marketing like Salesforce’s new Predictive Journeys, she said, “is ‘smarter automation.’” Tracking, campaigns, engagement, analysis and now decision-making come under the control of intelligent platforms.
As the customer journey gets dotted-lined out into future predictions, you don’t need predictive powers to see this evolving into what York describes as “completely automated journeys.”