THE BLOG
11/29/2016 09:29 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How E-Commerce Companies Can Leverage Marketing Automation

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By Steve Weiss

Major e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, Zappos and Wayfair all use marketing automation to streamline their day-to-day marketing tasks. Without these automation tools, you'd experience a much less personalized and enjoyable shopping experience. Your favorite online shopping destinations would send you completely generic emails, show you ads for products that are out of stock, or market to you in a way that feels like they have no idea who you are or what you like -- even if you'd made several purchases in the past.

As the CEO of a performance marketing agency, I can tell you that if you manage any kind of sizable e-commerce business, using a marketing automation tool to grow your business just makes sense. It allows you to take all of the knowledge and data your company has about your customers and apply it to your marketing efforts automatically.

What Is Marketing Automation? 

Simply put, marketing automation uses software to automate certain actions, like sending targeted email sequences, segmenting lists, showing personalized ads and even posting on social media. Being able to automate static tasks allows employees to focus on more important areas of your business. Keep in mind, however, that a marketing automation tool shouldn't replace your marketing team or agency. There is no software that will magically generate leads or write your emails and social media updates.

Instead, marketing automation helps your marketing team generate more sales by automating simple tasks that would otherwise take up their whole day. For example, if Amazon did everything manually, they would need a much bigger marketing team. With marketing automation, they can handle all of the marketing work required to grow an already large business with much fewer employees.

Leveraging Marketing Automation With Facebook  

In addition to all of the automation features within Facebook's ad platform itself, like Dynamic Product Ads and Website Custom Audiences, there are a number of ways you can directly connect customer acquisition efforts on Facebook to your dedicated marketing automation platform. They include:

  • Sending "Lead Ads" contacts to your marketing automation database: The easiest way to start automating your lead generation strategy is by using Lead Ads. As soon as a prospect opts in to your advertisement, they will automatically be added to your mailing list and sent a sequence of emails. From here, based on the actions they took from the emails (measuring clicks, opens, etc.) they can be put into different segments and placed into new email lists for different types of messaging.

  • Creating "Custom Audiences" using lists from your marketing automation database: Your marketing automation database will have several readily available segments (all customers, customers who have purchased in the last 30 days, people who have visited certain pages, etc.) that are perfect for using in Facebook ad campaigns. For example, if your company sells mattresses and pillows and is starting to sell sheets and linens, and you want to create a targeted Facebook ad campaign for your new pillowcases, all you need to do is go into your database, export a list of everyone who has bought your pillows, and upload it into Facebook as a Custom Audience.

  • Sending targeted follow-up emails when existing leads or customers engage with your Facebook ads: A good behaviorally-triggered follow-up email is one of the most effective tools in a marketer's arsenal. This type of email is used when a person performs certain actions (clicking an ad, visiting a page, adding an item to their cart, etc.) but does not perform a goal action (usually a purchase). If you run a Facebook ad offering 25 percent off of a specific product, you should set up an automatic follow-up email to everyone in your database who visits the page during the promotion but doesn't buy after a specific amount of time. With minimal additional work, you'll see a nice boost in sales.
  • There are dozens of marketing automation tools to choose from, but our top three picks are:

    HubSpot

    HubSpot is a great tool that helps businesses drive traffic, nurture leads and turn as many of them into customers as possible. HubSpot primarily focuses on inbound marketing methods, such as social media, SEO and content creation. My company uses HubSpot and is a HubSpot Partner.

    Pros include ease of use (no technical skills needed), Google Analytics and Salesforce integrations, and a comprehensive suite of marketing tools (including SEO, social media, blogging, email and landing pages) with integrated tracking across channels.

    Cons include requiring third-party plugins for e-commerce integrations and a lack of month-to-month contract options.

    Marketo

    Marketo offers WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) landing page and form creations, and a lead management system. It even ranks your customers by their behavior patterns, allowing you to focus on the one most likely to use your services. We have helped several e-commerce companies integrate Marketo into their marketing programs.

    It offers live customer support and telephone support options, integrations with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, and an extensive community and developer ecosystem.

    That said, because of steep pricing, HubSpot would potentially be a better fit for most small- and medium-sized businesses. The minimum contract is one year, and the landing page and form builder aren't very intuitive.

    Klaviyo

    Klaviyo is built specifically for e-commerce businesses and has a lower entry cost (plans start at $25/month) compared to HubSpot and Marketo. It includes an easy-to-use email designer and e-commerce-focused web tracking and segmentation. But what makes it a great option for marketers looking to get up and running quickly is its "Best Practices" gallery. Instead of creating everything from scratch, you can build from templates of high-impact emails and sequences. While it isn't as powerful as HubSpot or Marketo at scale, Klaviyo has some major pros, including quick integrations with major e-commerce platforms, affordable pricing, and ease-of-use.

    Steve Weiss is an internet entrepreneur, who currently runs MuteSix a team of data-driven customer acquisition fanatics that specialize in driving growth for e-commerce companies on Facebook, Adwords, and native ads.