Last year, the buzz was all about Big Data. This year, retailers are gung-ho about personalization—with everything from emails to onsite recommendations. Automation is key to delivering on that promise. In fact, some experts predict that the marketing automation industry will grow to $4.8 billion by 2015.

Whether you’re exploring automation for the first time or you’re looking for ways to improve your existing strategies, these fundamental tips will help you stay on top of your “A-game.”

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Let’s face it: Today’s customers have been spoiled by Amazon. And the e-tailing giant isn’t the only big business using personalized recommendations—REI, Redbox, and many other sites have become adept at serving up subtle yet spot-on upsells. The obvious goal is to increase order value by offering upsells (enhanced versions of certain products), cross-sells (accessories or complementary items), and/or replacements for products with limited shelf lives.

In most cases, these sellers are not using manual merchandising to achieve this; rather, they’re leveraging sophisticated automation tools like Adobe Target Recommendations.

To succeed with this strategy, it’s essential to leverage a tool that includes the ability to test the most effective layouts and algorithms for product recommendations. Your tool should also allow you to combine the sophisticated power of automation with marketer controls. For example, you should have the ability to display items within a certain price range or inventory level. A powerful component of automated recommendations is the ability to leverage data about individual behaviors as well as the “wisdom of the crowd.”

Smart Targeting

Automation can be used to target qualified buyers, increasing the chances of prospects making a purchase. According to a statistic from Jupiter Research, conversion rates can soar up to 400 percent higher for targeted campaigns, versus campaigns that don’t use targeting.

With the countless data points that come into play—from geolocation to page views to average order value—it would be virtually impossible to manually assess all of them and make on-the-fly content decisions. A good automated targeting tool makes dynamic predictions based on real-time data, ensuring that the right content is delivered to the right person at the right time.

Email Workflow

The modern-day consumer expects immediate validation after performing an action. Whenever someone interacts with your business—whether it’s by placing an order, downloading an e-book, subscribing to a newsletter, or even abandoning a cart—you should follow up with a timely, targeted message. That’s where automated email workflow comes in, saving you countless hours while strengthening your brand and boosting profits.

Here’s an example of a typical email workflow:

  1. You compile a list of customers who may be interested in your latest industry report, and send a targeted email inviting them to download it.
  2. Whenever recipients click through and download the report, they receive an automated, personalized thank-you message.
  3. A few days later, you send a follow-up email requesting feedback on the report. The email may include a call to action to download an additional resource related to the report, such as a webinar, e-book, conference, or newsletter.
  4. With each download, an email notification is sent to your sales team so they can contact the qualified lead.

This type of email automation can be applied to virtually any type of customer communication, from handling checkout challenges to offering postsale support. Just make sure each message is personalized to the recipient—not only in name, but also in terms of recent purchases and shopping preferences. There’s nothing more underwhelming than a flat, general email that could have been sent to any customer.

As always, testing is key. By leveraging the tools in the Adobe Marketing Cloud, you can easily assess the performance of not only the email headline, but also images and layouts.

A Little Technology, a Lot of Insight

We already know that personalization works, but it’s no longer practical for time-crunched businesses to use manual processes or to personalize at scale. To deliver on demand without sacrificing productivity, you need automation.

A tool like Adobe Target will help you reach more people and serve up timely and relevant content, while eliminating time-consuming manual work. Let the tool do the work for you, while you enjoy more time to focus on growing your business.