Category Deep Dive: Marketing Automation
Great automated customer engagement strategies can be challenging for brands. Think about the times you’ve received a push notification or email gone wrong. Was the content not tailored to you at all? Did you receive the message way later than you expected to receive it? Were messages sent to you multiple times?
It’s all happened to us—and when it happens, it can have a big impact on the brand at fault. Some customers may opt out of that notification channel so that they don’t get that kind of messaging in the future. Others might even uninstall the app or never purchase from that company again. In either scenario, ineffective customer communication can have severe business implications.
Consumers today expect a seamless experience with your brand across devices and channels. In addition, they’re becoming more critical of the quality of content that brands send them. And we’re beginning to see these customer behaviors and preferences reflected in the tech landscape—just look at the way Apple has given consumers more control around their push notifications and Notification Center.
This shift makes it more important than ever for brands to approach customer engagement thoughtfully from the start. At the end of the day, we’re all human. In order to build meaningful human relationships, brands need to understand their users so they can personalize experiences in ways that speak to each individual.
By integrating marketing automation as one of the first tools in your martech stack, brands can more effectively personalize customer experiences at scale. Marketing automation platforms, also known as customer engagement platforms, help brands orchestrate, test and automate engagement with their customers through owned channels such as in-app messaging, push notifications, email marketing, and SMS.
Building an Integrated Technology Stack for Customer Engagement
Marketing technology stacks come in different shapes and sizes. Start-ups may get by with internally-built systems for push and email services. However, as companies grow, it becomes more difficult to effectively scale and automate campaigns without involving significant analyst and engineering resources.
In recent years, we’ve seen a shift in how brands are thinking about data agility. Previously, brands found it challenging to consolidate 1st and 3rd party data. It required countless hours of engineering resources and Excel analysis to build and optimize marketing campaigns. These manual processes also made it difficult for brands to action and iterate on cross-channel data in real-time. As technologies become more specialized, brands are now building integrated marketing technology stacks with connectivity and data agility in mind.
Today, marketing automation platforms such as Braze empower marketers to be more nimble and efficient in orchestrating their customer engagement strategies. Brands are able to filter large datasets or enrich their data from third-party integrations such as AppsFlyer or Mixpanel to build targetable audiences. By analyzing the results of cross-channel messaging tests by audience segment, brands can build smarter, more relevant messaging flows. For example, audience filtering can be linked to rules that trigger real-time messages after customers complete specific events in your mobile or web experiences. Taking this a step further, Braze’s Connected Content feature allows you to build 1:1 personalized content with your customers at scale via API triggers.
Rather than working in silos, cross-channel messaging can now be orchestrated within a single interface such as Braze’s Canvas, allowing you to automate synchronized messaging for email, push, in-app messages, and in-app content feeds across web and mobile. Partner integrations can also extend messaging to other channels such as paid advertising, SMS and direct mail.
As the above graphic illustrates, these use cases become even more powerful when your marketing automation platform is integrated for holistic data collection and ingestion across your tech stack. For example, many brands find it useful to employ a CDP such as mParticle or Segment to consolidate, centralize and standardize customer data across first- and third-party systems, enabling real-time data flows between tech stack tools. This enriches the data available for marketing automation and in turn, allows marketing automation data to be shared with product analytics and attribution platforms — allowing brands to quickly synchronize audiences, messaging and learnings across paid and owned campaigns.
Likewise, as most marketing automation platforms lack a universal link solution, the previous chapter in this guide emphasized the importance of deploying deep links from an attribution provider such as AppsFlyer across all marketing channels. In addition to using deep links to automatically route users to the optimal web or app page, attribution data can be used to customize the triggers that are applied to cross-channel marketing automation campaigns.
Building Brilliant Customer Engagement Experiences
An integrated marketing technology stack can unlock endless opportunities for brands to build meaningful experiences with their consumers. Let’s look at some best practices for building great customer experiences.
Personalize onboarding flows to make a lasting impression
The first few days of acquiring a new customer are crucial. If customers don’t see value out of your brand early on, they will most likely churn. Brands should ultimately make customers:
- Feel welcome in their app or web environment.
- It can be as easy as sending a warm welcome email or thanking them for signing up.
- One way of getting to know your customers is asking them what channels they’re interested in receiving messages on. Push notification opt-in prompts via in-app messaging have been widely used across web and mobile devices as a means to ask for permission and highlight the value of the content the customer will receive if they enable push.
- If you are sending attribution data from AppsFlyer into Braze, you can also tailor the onboarding experience and content based on the source from which the customer was acquired. Using consistent messaging and imagery from the very first impression can do a lot to make your brand experience familiar, comfortable, and compelling. For example, if customers installed after viewing a Google ad with a promo code, you could target these customers with a triggered in-app message when they log their first session or send those customers emails that highlight the same promo.
- Be able to use your app or website to see real value, right from the start.
- Ensure that you build educational strategies upfront to get new users engaged with your app or website. Create easy milestones for customers to hit in order to gain familiarity with your product or service. If you have an eCommerce app, for instance, you could highlight how easy it is to discover products, purchase and get rewards from purchasing again in the future.
Each new customer journey is unique. For more best practices, check out the Braze guide to building a personalized cross-channel onboarding experience.
Continue to build rich customer experiences post-onboarding
Getting new customers through onboarding is just the first step. Building a long-lasting relationship can be challenging, as it takes time and consistent engagement to really stick.
- Ensure you continue to stay top-of-mind by responding to your customers’ needs and behaviors.
- There might be moments within your user experiences where customers have taken an action that’s close to hitting a milestone or driving a conversion. Give them a little push! By triggering a responsive message, your customers will receive timely and relevant content that highlights the value of taking that last step. Maybe forgot about the item they put in their cart. If they’re playing a game, maybe they had to stop playing but need a nudge to get back into the app to complete the level. Whatever the motivation is, event-based triggering is a great way to continue that conversation with your customers.
- Ensure that each message is relevant and timely.
- Many brands are guilty of an overreliance on blast messages. The result? Increasing numbers of unsubscribes, push opt-outs, and even uninstalls. Don’t fall into this trap. Although there are some instances where audience-wide communications are necessary, including GDPR-related communications or Terms of Service updates, in most situations it’s better to use your customer data to make each message count. Tailor the content of each message based on specific sections of your app or website that each customer has interacted with. For example, if a user of your gaming app exits the app after completing level 9, then send a quick push reminding them how close they are to completing level 10.
- Furthermore, APIs can be used to unlock powerful segmentation and trigger options for in-the-moment personalization. From product recommendations to personalized messaging based on real-time weather forecasts, dynamic content can have truly powerful results.
- Effectively communicate across multiple channels.
- Each customer has different preferences about how they want to receive messages. Therefore, it’s important to give your customers the option to select what types of messages to receive (and how to receive them) through your notification preference center. By offering customers a choice, they will be less likely to opt out of a channel entirely.
- Cross-channel cohesion is imperative for successful engagement, as each messaging channel has a different purpose. Push is great for short, direct content like alerts or reminders, whereas email is beneficial for providing more context like getting started tips. Regardless of the device or channel, deep links should always be used to ensure a seamless conversion experience with attribution data baked in. From there, a cyclical flow of data will allow you to understand how your customers respond to each channel and personalize their journeys accordingly.
Customer engagement is at the center of today’s integrated technology stacks. Improvements to data agility have given brands the ability to identify and understand each of their users across first- and third-party data sources in real time. As a result, brands can tailor experiences to each individual customer to have personalized conversations across multiple channels. The importance of this cannot be understated, as effective cross-channel messaging strategies have the potential to boost customer engagement by 844%. Humanizing the digital experience will lead brands to increased customer loyalty and ultimately improved business outcomes.