Marketing Automation Made Easy For Retailers [Actionable Guide]

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Table of Contents

The market for retail automation is growing at a fast pace. In the last 10 years, the retail automation market has grown at 10.9% CAGR. And the latest reports predict that the market size will exceed $18.9 billion by 2023.

These statistics show us why automation is one of the best ways to improve sales and marketing efficiency for your retail business. It allows you to increase the productivity of your sales team and streamline operations across all levels of your business.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the basics of marketing automation and why it has become a critical component of every modern marketer’s tool belt. Next, we’ll discuss the benefits of automation, and see how you could implement it for your retail business with real-time examples. 

What is Retail Marketing Automation?

what is retail marketing automation

Experts all around have given different definitions of marketing automation

According to Hubspot, it’s all about using software to automate your marketing efforts. 

On the flip side, Salesforce affirms that marketing automation assists you in identifying potential customers and automates the process of nurturing those leads to sales-readiness. 

Now that’s all about marketing automation. So, what’s retail marketing automation? 

Well, Ingage puts retail marketing automation as a technique through which retailers could automate their marketing to endorse hyper-personalization and better customer engagement.

In case, if you have the slightest fear that retail marketing automation could replace you, chalk it off, friend. It’s not here to replace, rather empower you to become a better marketer, by allowing you to spend time on other important tasks.

Still in doubt?

Let me show you the amazeballs benefits that marketing automation can help you achieve for your retail business.

Benefits of Retail Marketing Automation

benefits of marketing automation

1. Reduce Customer Churn

Let’s say that Customer X visits your fashion apparel store once in three months and maintains a high basket value. Now, it’s been over four months and the customer hasn’t returned. 

Has he churned? 

To understand what really has happened, you need to perform a churn analysis. And once you’ve figured out that the customer has switched to your competitor, it’s too late to win him back. 

Here’s where marketing automation can have your back with drip campaigns. Let me give you some drip examples that you could execute with marketing automation.

  • Welcome campaign
  • Anniversary and special events campaign
  • Product recommendation campaign
  • Cart abandonment campaign

In fact, research shows that 81% of folks use marketing automation to increase customer retention. So, if you are not among the lot, you are truly leaving money on the table. 

2. Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Generating a lead is just one segment of your customer’s journey. But what really matters is your customer’s lifetime with your brand and you should be in a position to control it.

Unfortunately, despite the investments in lead generation, an average of 68.81% of eCommerce businesses face shopping cart abandonment. If you are one among them, do not worry, for marketing automation can help you with personalized retargeting and cart abandonment engagement campaigns. 

And trust me, retargeting can get you up to 400% engagement rates, thus, making it up for the acquisition cost. 

In addition, you can also increase your customer’s lifetime value through browse and search engagement campaign, upselling, cross-selling, and customer segmentation

The good news is that you needn’t spend weeks together to analyze your customer data to drill down to these campaigns. A marketing automation platform will get all these processes done so that you could execute campaigns in a matter of a few clicks. 

3. Boost Customer Loyalty

Sometimes, even after the first purchase, the probability of future interaction with your brand isn’t set in stone. So, you need to be careful about boosting your customer loyalty with loyalty and referral campaigns. 

Marketing automation will help you target these micro-influencers with relevant content and offers. You could make this journey highly personalized and always gather feedback to improve your relationship. 

And most importantly, you can endorse a seamless experience across multiple touchpoints for your customers with marketing automation. So, all these pieces put together will render your loyal top 10% to spend 3x more per order than the lower 90%.

4. Omnichannel Customer Journey

This modern age calls for modern marketing. If you have both a brick-and-mortar store and an eCommerce store, strive to create an omnichannel journey. 

Let me explain. 

Imagine that your customer Darren is fond of exclusive stationery kits. With marketing automation, you could engage him with newly arriving stationery kits. 

So, when he visits your store, your sales representative would be able to pull out data from the marketing automation platform to present exactly what Darren surfed online. And that my friend, is the power of marketing automation. It empowers you to offer a seamless experience across all channels. 

This way, irrespective of whether your customer is in-store or visiting your online store, his experience would be unified. 

Get the help of a marketing automation platform and do this right, you would see a 91% greater year-over-year customer retention.

Components of Marketing Automation

components of marketing automation

There are various types of marketing automation campaigns that you could run. But the funda lies with the components of marketing automation. Let’s look at them briefly. 

1. Triggers

Your marketing automation journey must always start with triggers. Common triggers that you could use to commence the journeys are:

  • Segmentation
  • Customer Data
  • Sign-ups
  • Special Events
  • Transaction
  • API
  • eCommerce Events

2. Actions

An action is generally what happens once a trigger fires. So, this could involve sending an email or SMS or push. Other actions that can be triggered are calling APIs, generating loyalty points and rewards. 

3. Conditions

If you want to add a constraint to a trigger, then you could enforce a condition. This is generally an attribute filter based on customer or transaction events.

4. Controls

Just like how you have an XBox controller to navigate through your games, controls in an automation tool will help you channel the direction of your journeys. The top three controls that you will find in an automation tool are:

  • Wait for event
  • A/B Testing
  • End

Marketing Automation Implementation

marketing automation implementation

Now that you have a fair idea of what marketing automation is and how it works, let’s see how you could implement marketing automation for your retail business.

1. Choose the Right Martech Stack

Since your marketing automation platform is at the core of your marketing programs, you can’t afford to take it lightly. Following are a couple of parameters you need to consider before investing in an automation platform.  

Technology Deployment

There are five ways in which your marketing automation platform can be deployed - Installed on Mac or Windows or deployed on iPhone/iPad or Android. Another possibility is that the automation tool could be a SaaS product like Ingage, hosted on the cloud and accessed by the web. 

From your end, you need to understand that these deployment methods can take different approaches and timeframes. So, talk it out with your vendor and see if the time they promise for deployment is something you feel is scalable and affordable. 

Systems Integration

The ideal retail marketing automation platform would offer unique features such as customer segmentation, customer journey builder, campaign manager, and so on. In addition, it should also facilitate other useful third-party integrations. It’s crucial to get these connections right, only then you’d be able to leverage the full power of marketing automation. 

Few integrations that you should look out for include CRM integration, lead captures, customer data, ESP & SMS integrations. 

Data Migration

Irrespective of the systems you have presently, you will most likely have to move transaction data, store data, and other customer data onto your marketing automation system. Migration of this colossal volume of data is a critical part of your overall implementation process. So, ensure that your vendor would assist with mapping fields, cleansing stale lists, importing lists and segmenting your data so that they are campaign-ready. 

Quick-Start Packages

Just because you’re investing in a new tool, it doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel. While of course, success with marketing automation is a multi-year journey of trials and tests, it’s vital that your first automation campaign is a success. This way you’d be able to easily adapt to what is working in your retail market and with your customers. 

So, be sure to ask your vendor if they have robust industry-standard pre-built campaigns. In fact, Ingage, an AI-driven omnichannel marketing automation platform has event and product-specific templates to help you make a big impact on your first try. 

Hand-Off Training

Well, let’s say you’ve decided which tool you want to roll your cash in, now, you need to know how to run it right? Here is where you need exclusive onboarding training to help your team understand how the platform has been deployed. During this session, your team would not only know how to use the software but would also garner the specific aspects of how the automation platform has been custom-tailored for your retail business. 

2. Garner Understanding Into Data Flows and Event Triggers

Trust me, even a simple automated sequence can sometimes need a lot of triggers and data points. So before investing, take time to think about the different kinds of data sources and triggers you would have to leverage for your marketing activities. 

Let’s look at a sample case to understand this better.

Assume that you are going to create a cart abandonment engagement email. So, you need to first analyze visitor behaviour on your eCommerce site. Then you need to catch the event when the visitor adds a product to the cart. If he hasn’t checked out within a time limit, then you could launch the personalized cart abandonment email. 

Now, if you would break this entire scenario, you have a data source and then a conversion event. So, the identity of your visitor and the product abandoned is the former, while segmenting the cart abandoner and then sending out the email is the latter. 

This could be a simple example but sometimes, these processes can get far more complicated when you enforce constraints and run contextual customer journeys. 

So, brainstorm with your team and think of all the possible automation journeys you’d want to implement. Then consider what this means in practice from an event trigger and data source perspective. 

3. Empower Your Team to Be Tech Savvy

Although some marketing automation platforms are very easy with drag and drop interfaces, handling APIs is an indispensable process. And to execute that, your team would need developer resources.

If your vendor assists you with all of this during the onboarding process, there’s nothing like it. Otherwise, you might have to rely on tech-aware external marketing support for some specific tasks. 

You could have an external contractor such as a Google Analytics expert. Then, you could also take the support of a Facebook expert to handle Pixel setup and integration. But understand that you do not have to rely on external support for everything. It’s only for a few specific tasks. 

4. Review Customer Personas

Personalization lies at the heart of marketing automation and without customer persona research it’s impossible for you to ace it. So, if you yearn to automate communications then you will do well to automate the personalization of those communications. 

To get this right, you must spend time in defining customer personas. Since automation allows you to scale personalization, you’d be missing out on a ton of opportunities if you do not take advantage of buyer personas. 

So, keep this in mind that at the outset of any client engagement, the primary step is to work through the persona-benefit grid. And why do you typically perform this exercise? Simple, to get detailed insights to the persona that your brand and products serve. 

Here is a simple example of how your buyer persona would look like. 

Buyer Persona
Image Source

Crafting these personas can make all the difference between nurturing a mediocre or outstanding content campaign. This invariably impacts the ongoing campaigns and the planned sequences. 

5. Map Buyer Journeys

Okay, I want you to envision this: what do your customers need to experience to grow from being cold to being warm with your brand? 

You’ve got a picture, right?

Now, that’s what we call the customer journey. And this is bound to vary if you have multiple personas. Here’s where automation again helps you personalize content at scale by helping you position the right content based on your audience’s journey with your brand. 

So, don’t hesitate to spend some time and effort in working through the buyer journey for each of your personas. It is well rewarding. 

6. Be Mindful of Data Cleansing

There's no chance for automation to take the wrong route by itself. Either the flaw is in the set up or with the data. So, ensure to tidy the data before importing data or synchronizing it with your automation tool. 

Let’s understand this better with an example. Now, your sales team might have some records and that has to be synced with the automation platform. Before getting to that phase, you need to first do a data hygiene check. Typically, this will involve updating missing fields or capitalising names, deleting bad records or setting an opportunity stage and more. 

Since your automation platform would work in sync with the data residing in your CRM, it’s important that you do this exercise first. 

Failing to do this can cost your business handsomely. Let me illustrate. 

Mary Jones is your disgruntled and hard-to-impress customer. And presently she is on an ongoing support ticket. Imagine what will happen if she receives an automated email that asks for her review. You could easily foretell the NPS score she’d give your business. 

And if this continues, you would be inadvertently increasing your likelihood of receiving bad reviews. So, what's going wrong? 

You are unable to flag certain customers to get them out of certain automation sequences. 

7. Start With Robust Automation Journeys

Sometimes, with great enthusiasm you might as well become ambitious about the number, size, and the scope of your automation journey. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s my humble advice to start with a solid foundation. Embrace the agile methodology. 

For the initial sprints try launching simple automation workflows. Get them right and get them to drive results for your business. Then, build bigger. 

Let me show you some quick and easy to launch automation campaigns on Ingage. 

Cart Abandonment Automation Journey

Cart Abandonment Automation Journey

New Customer Onboarding Campaign

New Customer Onboarding Campaign

Anniversary Campaigns

Anniversary Campaigns

Retail Marketing Automation Campaign Examples


retail marketing automation examples

1. Welcome Campaigns

One of the most obvious uses of marketing automation is having a welcome campaign. This is indispensable if you want to establish a connection right off the bat. What’s more, you needn’t manually shoot emails or SMS to every signup when you have lots of customers registering.

This is very simple to implement too. You need to define a trigger and an action. Then you could end the journey as illustrated in the image below. 


welcome campaigns

2. Onboarding Campaigns

Have you ever faced a situation wherein you lost your loyalty app users? Well, you’re not alone. Most applications lose about 77% of their daily active users in the initial three days right after installation.

This can primarily happen if your loyalty app is too complicated to navigate. That's why it’s essential to have a simple and clean interface. In addition, having a sound onboarding process can help your customers understand how the app will be useful in helping them increase their loyalty points. And in turn, you would be able to see the desired earn-to-burn ratio and better engagement rates. 


onboarding campaigns

Take a look at the automation journey depicted in the image above. It follows the same pattern as that of the welcome campaign journey but with different parameters. So, you could send a push notification that takes your customer to your onboarding video once they install the loyalty app. 

3. Customer Retention Campaigns

Adobe’s recent research shows that your existing customer is responsible for generating 40% of your eCommerce revenue. Impressive right?

On the flip side, acquiring a new customer can be five times more expensive than getting a conversion from your existing customer. So, if you could increase your customer retention in your eCommerce store by 5% you can increase your profitability from 25% to 95%.

This is mainly because your existing customers are already familiar with your brand and products. Taking this to your advantage, you can launch an automated customer retention campaign by triggering events based on user behavior. You could create tailored campaigns with attractive incentives that will drive their basket value higher than their usual spend. 

Flaberry has done an amazing job with retention automation. 

Flaberry customer retention marketing automation campaign example


If you notice, the customer is addressed by her name. And two referrals that she had mentioned are also put in text. In addition, she is given a unique coupon code starting with the four letters of her name. 

This is a highly contextual personalized email. 

But to create this automation, you would need to first create a campaign. Then based on customer attributes like transaction or last purchase or frequently bought items or recommended products, you could personalize the email or push or SMS. 

4. Re-Engagement Campaigns

As a retailer you would have experienced the challenge of getting your users come back to your brand for more. If you are struggling with retention then marketing automation can surely assist you on this. 

Use this retention calculator to understand if you need to boost your retention rates.

Retention Rate Calculator

Let’s now see how you could automate your re-engagement campaigns. First, you need to segment your customers. For instance, if you look at the example below, I’ve segmented my high value lapsing male customers. Then I’m waiting for the segmented customers to make a transaction within a particular time frame. 

When they do make a transaction, I would end the journey. But on time-out, I would send them a re-engagement mail. See, it’s simple yet efficient. 

re-engagement campaigns

5. Behavioural Campaigns

A retail marketing automation platform like Ingage will help you in collecting massive amounts of data regarding your customers’ online activity across multiple channels. You could then use all these pieces together to analyse your customer’s buying behaviour.

So, how do you take this into practice? 

Let’s look at this with an illustrative case. Imagine that you have an eCommerce website. Customer X adds a product to cart but fails to checkout. In such a case, you could trigger a cart abandonment email, and nudge your customer to complete the purchase. 

behavioural campaigns

Look at the image above. The journey starts with an eCommerce event, in this case, adding a product to cart. Then, we are waiting for an action from the customer’s end - check out. If the customer does not check out, we would send an email reminding him/her to complete the purchase. In case of the event occurrence or upon the opening of the email, we could end the journey. 

And that’s a simple workflow for a behavioral campaign. 

6. Up-Selling and Cross-Selling Campaigns

Up-sell refers to increasing the basket value of your customer from what it generally is. You could endorse this by launching ‘people also bought’ campaigns, so that they would feel the need to own those products as well. 

Secondly, cross-sell refers to pitching complimentary products for sale along with a key product. If you have an eCommerce store, you could show a ‘product recommendation campaign’ and increase the purchases. Believe it or not, cross-selling generates 35% of Amazon’s revenue. 

So, ensure to automate your up-selling and cross-selling campaigns. The only data source you’d need here is your customer’s purchase history. 

Up-Selling and Cross-Selling Campaigns

Here’s an example from Crate&Barrel for your inspiration. 

Up-Selling and Cross-Selling Campaigns -  Crate&Barrel - Example

You see, this mail is sent right after a purchase and it also has other products that the customer might be interested in.

7. A/B Variant Campaigns

Marketing copies are not one-size-fits-all. What attracts one segment of your customer base might not appeal to another. So, A/B testing your campaigns can help you determine which is working and which isn’t. 

On a marketing automation platform, you can run multiple iterations of your campaign message on real customers and optimize the same. 

Let’s see how to do this. 

Start by creating campaign variants. Then define the journey paths as shown below. 

A/B Variant Campaigns

Once the A/B variants go live, you would be able to see which variant is yielding you the target results. Based on the finding, you could optimize your campaigns. 

Marketing Automation Tools

IDC Group rightly says, “Not implementing a marketing automation solution may be the ultimate career limiting move for today’s marketers, if you haven’t gotten started you’re already behind the 8-ball”.

Give me a five if you second with IDC Group. 

Nonetheless, don’t let these axioms drive you towards an impulse decision while investing in a marketing automation tool. 

At this point, you need to understand that your brand might either be needing a wholesome marketing automation suite or a specific use-case based automation tool. I’ll put forth some of the best options out there below, with detailed comparisons. You can then take a call on what fits you best. 

1. Wholesome Marketing Automation Suite for Omnichannel Retailers

ingage marketing automation
webengage marketing automation
omnisend marketing automation
hubspot marketing automation
infobip marketing automation

Comparison between Ingage, WebEngage, Omnisend, Hubspot, and Infobip
Product Features Ingage WebEngage Omnisend HubSpot Infobip
A/B Testing
Customizable CTAs
Dynamic Content
Lead Scoring
Search Marketing
Social Marketing
Analytics/ROI Tracking
Drip Campaigns
Landing Pages/Web Forms
Sales Intelligence
Segmentation
Website Visitor Tracking

Recommended Reading: Best Marketing Automation Software in 2021 (Comparison Guide)

2. Email Automation Tools

sendinblue email automation
sendx email automation
engagebay email automation
sender email automation

Comparison between Sendinblue, SendX, Engagebay, and Sender
Product Features Sendinblue SendX EngageBay Sender
A/B Testing
Auto-Responders
CAN SPAM Compliance
Customer Surveys
Drip Campaigns
Dynamic Content
Event Triggered Email
Image Library
Landing Pages/Web Forms
List Management
Mobile Optimized Emails
Reporting/Analytics
Subscriber Management
Template Management
WYSIWYG Email Editor

3. Social Media Automation Tools

loomly social media automation
hootsuite social media automation
social pilot social media automation
zoho social social media automation

Comparison between Loomly, Hootsuite, SocialPilot, and Zoho Social
Product Features Loomly Hootsuite SocialPilot Zoho Social
Analytics
Automated Publishing
Contact Management
Content Management
Conversion Tracking
Customer Targeting
Keyword Filtering
Multi-Account Management
Post Scheduling

Retail Marketing Automation Demo with Ingage

We saw quite a lot of examples in the previous chapter. Now, watch this demo video to understand how easy it is to create an automation journey with a platform like Ingage

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Marketing Automation Software?

A marketing automation software is an advanced technology platform that helps you attract new customers, optimize marketing efforts, analyze customer behavior and campaign performance.

Why is Marketing Automation Important?

Retail marketing automation is indispensable for your business as it helps you identify the target audience to design relevant content and generate automatic tasks based on customer behavior. The right usage of marketing automation can help you see more store traffic, buyers, and also enhance retention and loyalty. 

How is Marketing Automation Defined?

Marketing automation is defined as the process of using a tech stack to execute redundant marketing tasks designed for nurturing sales leads, personalizing marketing messages, and helping you save time and effort. 

How to Use Marketing Automation?

Find out all the marketing activities that could be automated. Then using your marketing automation platform define the triggers and events to create your automated journey. 

How to Choose Marketing Automation Software?

There are three important factors you need to consider before investing in a marketing automation software. First ensure that you wouldn't have to use disparate tools once you purchase a marketing automation software. Next, see if the automation tool could be integrated with your CRM to leverage data. Also, ask your vendor if the tool has the capability to capture real-time data to help you launch real-time data-based campaigns. Lastly, understand if you have the technical moxie you need to operate the software on your own, without the assistance of external IT professionals. 

Which Marketing Automation Software is the Best?

One answer wouldn’t suffice. The best marketing automation software can only be decided by industry and use-case. From that perspective, Ingage is the best marketing automation software for omnichannel retail businesses. HubSpot is best for SMB businesses aiming for rapid growth. And, Pardot is the optimal choice for B2B enterprises. 

How to Implement Marketing Automation?

Start by choosing the right marketing automation platform for your business. Understand the flow of data to configure triggers and events for journey automations. Train your team to work around the platform seamlessly. Review your customer personas and map their buying journey. Cleanse your data and start by running a simple yet robust automation campaign. 

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