Why automation is the automatic future
Everyone is talking about marketing automation being the next big thing. While as per definition, marketing automation reduces repetitive tasks associated with the marketing process, with the evolution of technology it has come to play a role far more sophisticated than just that.
There are a few things facilitating the sudden rise in the buzz around marketing automation, which as a technology has existed for well over a decade: the absolute need for marketing to prove its effectiveness and efficiency given the crunch in budgets; the palpable proof of measurability and accountability online marketing has displayed; and the rise of the big data which has got every B2B player in this space scrambling for a bigger share of the data pie.
Will automation turn marketing into a non-emotional function? Therein lies the challenge for marketers - to keep the human element intact, in what many think is the "robotisation" of marketing. It will be unfortunate if marketers lose sight of this and see merely numbers and patterns in place of human behaviour.
Bearing this in mind, marketers will still have to embrace automation. In a study in January, Gartner said it expected to see more consolidation in the marketing resource management/automation space over the next two years. It said large players that could enter this market included Adobe, EMC, HP, Microsoft and Xerox.
Sure enough, in March this year, we saw Adobe revamp its digital marketing suite, putting predictive analytics and forward-looking decision-making elements at the core of the product. Brad Rencher, senior vice-president and general manager of the digital marketing business of Adobe, said in the early days of digital marketing, analytics emerged to tell us what happened and, as analytics got better, why it happened. Then solutions emerged to make it easier to act on data and optimise results.
But now, Rencher says, the sheer amount of available data presents a challenge to quickly extract insights and act while those insights are still valuable.
(Although as a consumer, I cringe thinking that I just gave away all my particulars at a recent "lucky draw" at Changi Airport while on my way to Phuket for Marketing's Luxury Marketing Summit. But as I feel pawned by the rather smart brands out there, I'm waiting to see what they do with the details I provided.)
The issues of data mining and enhanced analytics also resonated among marketers at the summit where many speakers said gaps in digital presence, analytics and existing customer databases, antiquated methods of research and a lack of skilled talent, were some of the organisational impediments brands faced while maximising efficiency and effectiveness of marketing campaigns - an objective marketing automation clearly helps in achieving.
It is thus no surprise marketers want to know more and breakthrough this seemingly complex landscape of implementing marketing automation programmes, wherein they have mostly met with frustration in the past.
Meanwhile, we will continue to see the rise of the all-encompassing dashboards, as they become more pervasive, sophisticated yet simple.
Let's keep this conversation going. I would love to hear what you think about automation, through emails, phone, LinkedIn (look for Marketing Mag), Twitter (@MarketingEds) or Facebook (Marketing Magazine).
Editor, Marketing Magazine Singapore