Optimising the Customer Lifecycle with Email Automation
Every year eConsultancy asks marketers which channel delivers the best ROI. And year after year email comes out on top.
Despite this, email marketing still sees itself under-resourced and with less budget than other marketing channels.
Econsultancy also revealed that email marketing receives only 10% of digital marketing budget, coming behind advertising, search marketing, content, website and social.
For email marketers looking to expand the scope and success of their programs, automation is an obvious step to take. It promises big results for small teams.
Email automation saves time, improves results, and allows you to reach your customers at the right time with the right message. Sounds great right?
But automation still remains an untapped opportunity for most businesses.
Research by Digital Doughnut found that nearly half of businesses they surveyed have yet to implement marketing automation. Of those who are using marketing automation, 26% have only one email automation programmes running. And 32% have zero!
Businesses around the world are paying for technology that they’re not even using.
We want to change that.
In this guide we break down email automation into clear and actionable advice.
We’ll talk you through what email automation is and explain the benefits. And we’ll even give you examples of how you can put email automation into use yourself.
What is email automation?
Email automation offers marketers the ability to send automatic, real-time messages to a subscriber based on their actions or circumstances.
Automation can be triggered by a website visit, a purchase, engagement with email campaigns, or particular actions a customer has taken.
You might already be familiar with basic email marketing automations without necessarily knowing it.
Welcome emails sent after sign-up and a cart abandonment email triggered when you fail to complete a purchase are examples of email automation in action. Unlike newsletters or one-off email marketing campaigns, the sender doesn’t need to manage each send. They’re simply set up once, left to run and are automatically sent, every time.
What are the benefits of email automation?
The most obvious benefit is efficiency. Marketers don’t need to do a thing once the automation message is designed and set up for the first time. This frees up time and resource to let marketers focus on building an ongoing relationship with the customer, with minimal effort.
Email automation provides a real benefit for the customer too. It gives instant gratification, immediate answers and guides them along their customer journey. And done well, it appears to be a completely natural and helpful one-to-one dialogue with the customer.
And don’t just take our word for it – the numbers stack up too:
- Marketing teams using automation average 30% more contacts in their database (Autopilot)
- Email automation also enjoys 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than one-size-fits-all messages (Email Institute)
- And this interest converts into sales with 21% of all email revenue coming from email automation (DMA)
But in case you need further convincing, here are a few additional reasons why email automation makes sense.
10 benefits of email automation
1. Improve your customer experience
Email automations are tailored, relevant and personalised messages that are sent to individual recipients. And just because they’re automated doesn’t mean they’re impersonal.
Used hand-in-hand with personalisation, behavioural triggered emails allow you to create a highly individualised customer experience.
2. Increases scale and scope of campaigns
At some point email marketers often become victims of their own success. They’re asked to send more messages and continually develop their campaigns which puts a strain on resource.
Email automations help build capacity without extra headcount. And because they’re automated there’s no need for major ongoing management, setup and design work.
3. Improves the relevancy of marketing
There are so many conversations you could have with your customers using email automations and you don’t have to wait until they contact you to start a dialogue.
As automations are generally based on your customer’s actions, your messages always appear relevant to the recipient.
4. Allows for strategic thinking
Email automations can replace the repetitive tasks of setting up and sending the same campaigns manually. This frees up resource, allowing your marketers to focus on other activities that will acquire and retain customers.
5. Improves insight
Email automation software comes with detailed reporting which lets you see the results of every automation. It‘s real-time insight that shows how recipients react, engage and respond to each marketing message. Most importantly, this type of insight lets you instantly identify which campaigns are the most powerful in your toolkit.
6. Increases repeat purchases
It’s easy to include automated product recommendations as part of a post-purchase journey. Cross-sell and upsell automation based on recent purchases can help you drive additional sales from each transaction.
7. Recovers lost revenue
Cart abandonment emails are a great example of email automations that help generate noticeable revenue. They tempt people back to your website by encouraging them to complete their transaction. It’s well worth the effort – our customers typically see a 12% uplift in sales that would otherwise be lost!
8. Increases Customer Lifetime Value
Email automations allow you to automate requests for customer reviews, send offers to high-spending segments and trigger re-engagement campaigns to lapsed subscribers. These tactics all strengthen your relationship with your customers post-purchase and help increase their Customer Lifetime Value.
9. Improves customer service
Email automations can be easily used by your customer service team as well as marketing. Automations can be used to address frequently asked questions or resolve common issues, such as password reset requests. They improve the quality and efficiency of your customer service and reduces support costs.
10. Enables always-on marketing
‘Always-on marketing’ is more than just a buzz phrase. It’s the reality for how marketing needs to work today.
Because email automations can be based on real-time behaviours it makes them far more responsive and reactive than any other campaign. And it’s this timeliness that makes them both relevant and appealing to the recipient. It’s the very reason that email automations receive a far higher open rate than any other type of email campaign.
Email automations and the customer lifecycle
It’s nearly impossible to connect with every customer at each step of their journey – from prospect to customer and on to brand advocate – without email automations.
Without them you’d have to manage thousands of individual conversations and relationships simultaneously.
Some marketing wouldn’t even be possible without automation. Case in example, sending a personal discount to someone on their birthday.
Without automations your marketing team would need to send out an email every single day to everyone who was celebrating their birthday on that date. It would be an extremely time-consuming activity to carry out day in, day out.
With email automation you can appear as if you’re delivering personal emails without investing huge amounts of time on manual tasks.
You can follow the customer lifecycle with relevant and real-time messages that guides each person through their individual customer journeys. And if your customer is headed in the wrong direction, you can send an email automation to bring them back!
And don’t forget to consider what they might do offline as well as online. A good email automation strategy will be as holistic as possible to deliver a great omni-channel customer experience.
Mapping your customer lifecycle
A good starting point for designing an effective marketing automation strategy is to map out your customer lifecycle.
You can Google plenty of customer lifecycle examples, but ultimately your customer lifecycle is going to be unique to your business.
Mapping your customer lifecycle asks you to do two things:
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
- Chart how your customer interacts with you business
It’s important to do these together. Just because a customer has interacted with your business, doesn’t mean you should engage with them.
Your customer’s context should be your north star at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
- What is their goal?
- What is their mindset?
- What emotions are they feeling?
- What actions will they take?
Within each stage they are going to be taking a particular journey. Take for example, a person visiting a travel site for the first time.
A good starting point for designing an effective marketing automation strategy is to map out your customer lifecycle.
Our free customer lifecycle template will help you map out your customers’ goals and behaviours as they interact with your business.
Download our free customer lifecycle template
The visitor isn’t ready to buy now, so trying to push them through to purchase might be detrimental to the chances of securing their business – empathy is key.
Instead you could serve them destination guides to help support their decision-making. Being useful goes a long way.
To help you understand the marketing opportunities available throughout the customer lifecycle, here is a framework that sets out the general stages of engagement:
When a customer first becomes aware of your business they may not have had any interaction with you yet.
They may have arrived on your site via a Google search, word-of-mouth, or via an advertising campaign.
They will be trying to judge if you can meet their needs and whether you seem trustworthy.
They will start to research what you offer, looking for outside opinions of your business and comparing you to your competitors.
The need is pressing. Their decision is made. They’re ready to buy but that doesn’t mean they’re over the line. They may have second thoughts, run into issues, or seek quick answers to final questions.
They’ve made the purchase, but your work isn’t done. With eCommerce return rates as high 30%, how you approach this stage can be make or break to your bottom line.
Now is time to set expectations, reduce buyer’s remorse and nurture the relationship.
Acquiring a new customer is up to seven times more expensive than keeping an existing one. You need to start building a lasting relationship. And while it’s nice to grab another sale from them, think about how you can add value to their experience. What can you offer that is going to keep them loyal and turn them into a brand advocate?
They haven’t bought from you for a while and they’re no longer clicking on your emails. It happens but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost them for good.
Reminding lapsed customers about what you offer, or giving incentives to purchase again can rekindle the relationship.
10 examples of email automation in action
Once you have your customer lifecycle mapped, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to interact.
The starting point is likely to be an action that the customer takes:
- Signing up to your newsletter
- Browsing certain products
- Adding an item to their cart
Or an particular event:
- Their birthday
- When their subscription is about to end
- The end of a sale
It could also be based on a negative action or lack of interaction:
- Abandoning their cart during checkout
- Not opening a marketing email
- Leaving a bad review
Once you understand the actions and events to react to, you can start to plan out what message you want to deliver.
It should be relevant and timely. But above all it should add value to the customer and your business – the best automations have a shared value.
We’ve taken the hard work out of getting started with a few practical examples of email automation in action.
|CUSTOMER ACTION OR EVENT||EMAIL AUTOMATION TRIGGERED||BUSINESS PURPOSE|
|Someone signs up to your mailing list on your website||A welcome series||
|A new subscriber doesn’t buy within a week of signing-up||Introductory discount for a first purchase||
|Someone browses your website but leaves without making a purchase||Browse abandonment email with product recommendations or highlighting low stock levels of browsed products||
|Someone puts an item in their basket but doesn’t check out||Cart abandonment email that gives recipients a quick way back to complete their purchase||
|A customer completes a transaction||Order confirmation with delivery information||
|A customer receives their order||Request for customer review||
|A customer runs out of product or is likely to order again||Replenishment email that offers a quick way to order again||
|A customer is celebrating their birthday
|Birthday email offering a free gift or discount||
|Restocking of a product that was previously out of stock||Back-in-stock alert to any customers who recently browsed the product||
|A customers fails to make a purchase after set period of time||Lapsed customer campaign||
These are just a few starters – there are plenty more opportunities out there. But by adding these, you’ll instantly improve the customer journey and make the path-to-purchase even slicker!
These email automations don’t need to be just one-off messages either. Each email can spark a conversation made up of a series of messages that guides the customer towards your goal.
Learn how Ramsdens increased online revenue by 60% with email automation
Email automation maturity
It can be tempting to go wild with email automations thinking that more equals better. And while the most sophisticated email automation programs are both broad and deep, it’s important to take an iterative approach focusing on incremental improvements.
Simply adding more and more automations may be detrimental to your customer lifecycle.
Our Email Maturity Model is designed to help you to identify appropriate automation strategies based on your level of sophistication .
By identifying which stage of Maturity you are at, you can follow advice to implement appropriate tactics, and look ahead to improve your automation strategy.
The Broadcaster can easily incorporate the basics of automation into their ‘one message fits all’ broadcast approach. These starter automations will make your existing campaigns work harder and make your team more efficient
- Not sure where to get started.
- Lack of resource to set-up or manage automations.
- Inability to measure success of automations.
- Try automatically resending existing campaigns to non-openers with a different subject line or at a different time and monitor the results. The effort will be less than setting-up a new campaign.
- Focus on basic automations that respond to a single action. Set up automated operational emails to start building trust with your customers. These could include a welcome email, purchase confirmation, password reminders or delivery confirmation.
- Offer incentives and rewards on automated emails so you can track your results such as a discount code on a welcome email.
The Segmenter knows that multiple conversations need to be happening at once with different segments. Automation is the perfect tool to manage this, allowing you to send messages that coincide with the purchase journeys of your different customers with minimal effort.
- Technical setup of multiple automated messages can be time and resource hungry.
- Ensuring that multiple automations aren’t being triggered in quick succession causing you to bombard a recipient’s inbox.
- Identifying when your customers’ propensity to purchase is at the highest.
- Building a complete library of automations that form a complete ‘customer lifecycle’.
- Making sure automations can be monitored and that customers can feedback to automated emails.
- Move towards automations that nurture rather than responding with to an email. For example, creating a series of welcome emails that move subscriber through the buying journey.
- Implement cart abandonment emails that can be delivered as soon as a visitors leaves your website without completing a purchase.
- Introduce date-based automations such as birthday and customer anniversary emails.
- Invite the customer to sign-up for automations on your website. Simple forms such as ‘back-in-stock’ or ‘appointment reminders’ give customers control over what receive.
- Use automations to engage customers who aren’t responding to your marketing emails or haven’t made a purchase in a while.
- Use automations to move up into higher value RFM (Recency, Frequency and Monetary) segments. For example ‘You’re only one purchase away from a free gift’ may help trigger another purchase.
The Recommender shapes behaviour rather than simply reacting. They use automations to enhance the entire customer journey and deliver noticeable impact on revenue and retention.
- Shifting reporting from measuring engagement to measuring business KPIs such as revenue, average order values and Customer Lifetime Value.
- Future-proofing your automations – making sure the systems you are using can deal with multiple and complex automations, and the logic required to run them.
- Prioritising automations – determining which messages should override less important automations.
- Testing and optimisation of existing automations to improves results.
- Purchase automations that upsell and cross-sell relevant products based on most recently purchased items.
- Browse abandonment campaigns that target people earlier in the buying journey.
- Focus on great customer service. Use automations to quickly respond to customers if you receive a bad review, or use automations within your company to notify customer services teams when bad reviews are received.
- Replenishment campaigns tied to the lifespan of a product to encourage repeat purchases.
- Multi-stage renewal campaigns that secures repeat business as a subscription renewal date approaches.
The Predictor enjoys having a wealth of online and offline data at their fingertips and the systems in place to execute sophisticated customer lifecycles. Their single customer view allows them to create instant automations that can be sent whenever and wherever their customers interact, creating a seamless real-time customer experience.
- Too many automations can make ongoing management and reporting time-consuming.
- Overly complex journeys can have a detrimental affect on your customer experience and lead to mishaps.
- Making small changes can have a big knock-on effect on your overall customer lifecycle.
- Integrating new data sources and channels into your automation strategy.
- Adopt a multi-channel approach to lifecycle automation including SMS, push notifications and direct mail.
- Continue to monitor customer engagement for issues – more emails doesn’t necessarily mean a better experience.
- Refresh automations regularly. If you have highly engaged repeat purchasers, they’ll soon start to recognise receiving the same automations and you’ll quickly lose their interest.
- Go back to basics. If you’re automations feel overly complicated, refer to your customer journey maps to make sure you’re considering the customer’s context and adding value.
- Bring brand personality and evoke emotions with automations. They don’t need to feel cold and operational just because they’re automated.
As you can see there’s plenty of potential when it comes to email marketing automations. Although planning and designing them might take some time, you’ll reap the rewards both in terms of revenue and customer loyalty.
Your email automation strategy can always be improved too. Once you’ve got your basic email automations set up you can analyse the results and identify where they can be improved.
As rule of thumb, we recommend checking each automation every six months to see whether it’s still relevant and adding value.
And the process of getting started is much easier than you might think. We’ve got the software, knowledge and industry insight to help you get started in a flash without blowing your budget. It all makes growing, nurturing and retaining your customer base a breeze.
Ready to optimise your customer lifecycle with email automation?
Learn how our marketing automation platform will help you drive more revenue and increase loyalty.
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