Why Marketing Automation Fails: 9 Mistakes You Can Avoid

Every marketer worth their salt knows behavioural triggered emails and other marketing automations are good for business.

Sending messages that are triggered by customers’ behaviour helps to generate more sales and nurture relationships. And the fact they’re automated makes it easier to juggle the demands of managing an effective email programme.

So, if you’re using marketing automations you’re onto a winner, right? Well, not when they don’t quite go to plan. In this blog post, we take a look at nine common reasons why marketing automation fails and what you can do to avoid them.

1) Gifting fail

If a customer buys an item once don’t assume it’s something they personally like. Someone might buy gardening books for their Mum but it doesn’t mean they want to receive emails about flowers or pruning.

If a purchase is a one off or out of character for the customer then don’t base all your future communications around it. Use customer insight software to compare it to customer trends and don’t make assumptions about personal interests during popular gift buying periods such as the run-up to Christmas.

Gift shopping online

2) ‘What’s going on?’ fail

Make sure you include all the important customer service email automations in your customer journey. Don’t leave customers wondering why money re-appeared in their account if you’ve given them a refund, or when they’ll receive their delivery if they just placed an order.

Customer service responses for refunds, deliveries, and out-of-stock items are some of the most important email automations to get right if you don’t want to confuse and frustrate the customer.

3)    First name fail

There’s nothing quite as painful as making it obvious to your customer that they’ve just received an impersonal message, especially when you’ve done everything you can to make it seem personal.

The classic ‘Dear {first-name}’ appearing in a customer email is a mistake many marketers have made. If you want to avoid mistakes in personalisation then make sure you send a test to a list of recipients in your office to check the name appears as it should before sending it to your customers.

This way you can avoid alienating your customers by making them feel like they are just one of many anonymous online shoppers who your brand hasn’t taken the time to get to know.

First name fail alienates customers

4) Robotic fail

Some retailers mistakenly think they can cut customer service costs by hiding their contact details and forcing people to speak to chatbots.

But everyone knows when they’re speaking to a robot. Besides the stilted dialogue, nothing quite says ‘we don’t care’ like refusing to give you the option of talking to a real human.

Make sure your marketing automations don’t act as a barrier between you and the customer or that it’s obvious that you’re using automated responses to handle customer queries.

5) But I’ve only just bought fail

Timing is everything, especially when you’re sending offers by email. If a customer has only just shopped then consider taking them out of any offer emails and send them something more relevant to their purchase instead.

Ask them to rate and review their buy or send them recommendations based on their purchase—just don’t send them an offer until they’re likely to buy again.

This email from Nordstrom is a good example of how to get post-purchase emails right.
Nordstrom review purchase email

6) Junked fail

Just because an email send is automated doesn’t mean you never have to pay attention to it again.

Regularly test and check that they’re being received and delivered into the inbox. Don’t ask your customers to search around in their junk folder to find them.

7) Birthday fail

If you’re going to go to the effort of remembering someone’s birthday then get it right—don’t send your automation on the wrong day.

Make sure the data you’re basing the email send on is correct and ensure you send it on the actual day. Don’t think you can get away with sending it in the same month—it just makes your brand look lazy and loses the impact you were trying to make in the first place.

Get the date of birthday emails right

8) Calm down and back-off fail

Just because automations are easy to send doesn’t mean you should go overboard and send too many.

Always make sure your emails are relevant to the recipient and if they’re not then don’t send them. And if a customer doesn’t open or click through after a few then change your tactic.

Sending too many irrelevant emails can put customers off and reduce your open rates when they become disengaged with what you’re saying.

9) Multi-channel fail

Don’t send your customers a lapsed customer email automation asking why they’ve not shopped for a while if there’s a chance they could have shopped offline.

Gather all your customer’s activity together in a single-customer view so you can trigger accurate, multi-channel automations that reflect all of the customer’s online and offline activity.

Muti-channel fail


Remember that for the best results the right eCommerce technology needs to be used alongside human judgement.

It is important to test, check, and oversee the smooth running of your marketing automations. If you don’t you could end up having to send apology emails to make up for embarrassing mistakes.

Discover how you could improve your marketing automations and grow your online revenue with our eCommerce solution.