"The impressive sales acceleration reported by both Walmart and Target in the most recent quarter implies both company's expanding omni-channel initiatives are resonating with shoppers," Bank of America analyst Robert Ohmes wrote. "This growth has outpaced that of other brick and mortar retailers as well as online players like Amazon, and has been supported by the rapid expansion of buy-online, pick-up in store options at both retailers."
B2C companies, however, probably have the most to gain from marketing automation technologies, as they can reach larger segments of their customers with personalized messages than they could afford to without it. In the past, B2C brands may have sent the same email to all of their customers in regular intervals, which, at best, got a marginal return and, at worst, turned off otherwise loyal customers with off-topic communications.
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Marketing automation is the process of using software to complete repetitive marketing tasks designed to nurture sales leads, personalize marketing messages and content and in the process, save marketers’ time and effort. By automating many of these tasks, users can more effectively send the right message, to the right user at the right time, according to Chris Davis, director of education at ActiveCampaign, which provides marketing automation software. “Marketing automation is all about understanding your audience so you can adapt the way you communicate to them based on their unique buying journey,” said Karra Hendrix, product marketing manager at Act-On, a provider of marketing automation software. 

The latest version of IBM Campaign brings many innovations to the sophisticated marketing team enabling you to work smarter and faster, and to keep your customers more engaged and loyal than ever. Marketers use IBM Campaign to maximize revenue and responses via personalized and optimized campaigns and offers. Increase results with powerful segmentation against the largest data sources and provide the right offers to the right contacts at the right time in the right channel. Boost ROI by optimizing contact communications and marketing spend. Choose to deploy fully to the cloud or on premise. Improve engagement and ROI: Easily integrate with the rest of your marketing ecosystem to seamlessly execute personalized, offline and digital campaigns to take your customers on targeted journeys. Work smarter and faster: With AI-powered Watson Assistant available with IBM Campaign, work smarter and drive to insights more quickly than ever. Save time, make better decisions and drive customer engagement. Optimize ownership for your enterprise: Choose the deployment and ownership approach that works best for your organization. Deploy on premise or via subscription and fully to the cloud — managed and hosted.
Iterable is the growth marketing platform that enables brands to create, execute and optimize campaigns to power world-class customer engagement across email, push, SMS, in-app and more with unparalleled data flexibility. An integrated, cross-channel solution—built for marketers, trusted by engineers, designed with intelligence. Lifecycle Marketing Made Simple Engage your customers at each touchpoint of their buying journey—from sign-up to check-out and beyond. Drive user activation, nurture, and reactivation with relevant cross-channel messaging. Warmer Welcomes Activate consumer attention and interest with stand-out content that makes an impactful first impression. Get new customers acquainted with your products and services with personalized welcome, trial and onboarding campaigns. Next-Gen Nurture Captivate customers to build rapport for the long term and strengthen their relationship with your brand. Stay top-of-mind with targeted sales, promotions, announcements and product updates across all the channels that matter most to your audience. Robust Re-Engagement Keep customers coming back for more by reactivating their interest to drive retention and loyalty. Deploy cart abandonment campaigns to complete more checkouts, then trigger post-purchase or renewal sequences when the time is right.
Adobe estimates that the “three golden hours of retail”, between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern, brought in $1.7 billion, “roughly $300 million more compared to an average full day in the year.” The idea here is that shoppers catch final Cyber Monday deals right before bed or after work on the west coast. Subsequent conversion rates peak above 7.3 percent for the season (almost 2.5 times higher compared to the rest of the year).

B2B marketing organizations tend to rely on enterprise marketing automation systems that enable them to generate interest in the product or service by nurturing a relationship with the business customer, according to SelectHub. Smaller businesses that market mainly to consumers focus on marketing automation systems that help them engage the customer with the brand and the product rather than nurturing relationships.

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HubSpot is all about inbound marketing, and it offers a free CRM that helps businesses organize and track customers — as HubSpot says, its CRM “automates the tasks salespeople hate.” The platform tracks interactions automatically, and it compiles data about deals on a single dashboard so the entire journey is visible. Beyond its CRM, the brand offers blogging, landing pages, email, lead management, analytics, web, social media, SEO, ads, and integration with Salesforce.
B2C systems tend to manage vast databases of customer data—often millions of records. These systems have sophisticated tools for analyzing and segmenting customers into different categories of buyers. Markets can then execute specific campaigns, or “treatments” for each segment. Campaigns are typically designed to elicit a direct response, such as returning to a website to make a purchase. Alternatively, campaigns may feed a target prospect list into a call center systems for telesales outreach. 
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The latest version of IBM Campaign brings many innovations to the sophisticated marketing team enabling you to work smarter and faster, and to keep your customers more engaged and loyal than ever. Marketers use IBM Campaign to maximize revenue and responses via personalized and optimized campaigns and offers. Increase results with powerful segmentation against the largest data sources and provide the right offers to the right contacts at the right time in the right channel. Boost ROI by optimizing contact communications and marketing spend. Choose to deploy fully to the cloud or on premise. Improve engagement and ROI: Easily integrate with the rest of your marketing ecosystem to seamlessly execute personalized, offline and digital campaigns to take your customers on targeted journeys. Work smarter and faster: With AI-powered Watson Assistant available with IBM Campaign, work smarter and drive to insights more quickly than ever. Save time, make better decisions and drive customer engagement. Optimize ownership for your enterprise: Choose the deployment and ownership approach that works best for your organization. Deploy on premise or via subscription and fully to the cloud — managed and hosted.
It’s ineffective given the effort required to see meaningful results. When done correctly, effective marketing automation takes time, effort, and resources to implement and maintain for revenue growth. Even if your database is currently filled with top-notch, quality leads, how effective will your marketing automation be when you’ve either converted all those leads into customers, or when your database begins decaying at the rate of 23% / year (via unsubscribes, job turnover and a variety of other factors.) Even when they’ve invested the time and effort to master the art of “Amazon-like” marketing automation, without enough leads to work towards purchase many marketers end up unhappy with the ROI of their marketing automation investment.
The best way to overcome the limitation of time is by automating some of your processes — and marketing is one area ripe for automation. The key for small businesses is finding a tool that can automate many components of marketing at once, and these seven platforms take different approaches to automating marketing processes to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier.

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Established in 2008, Act-On is a comprehensive marketing automation tool designed to offer a complete suite of applications, including email marketing, website visitor tracking, lead management, social media management, reporting and analytics, as well as integrations with webinar and event planning. With Act-On's email marketing, businesses can segment their customers into a variety of categories, allowing marketers to focus on a particular target market within that email group. The software offers core website tracking feature, which gives complete visibility into the types of customers that are visiting their site as well as their activities and the time spent on different contents while they are on the website. Act-On offers tools to build and optimize campaigns, generate leads, score and prioritize prospects, among others. The solution is capable of integrating with almost any leading CRM available in the market. Act-On is ideal for small marketing teams needing a marketing automation tool with minimal IT involvement. Platform features include: • Best-in-class email engine • One-click integration to leading web conferencing and CRM solutions • Tools for website visitor tracking • Lead scoring and lead nurturing • Automated programs; trigger & drip campaigns • Social media listening, prospecting & publishing • Design tools for web forms, landing pages and emails • Inbound tools for advanced SEO, Google AdWord tracking, and blog integration • Act-On Anywhere - a business productivity tool • Account- and contact-based marketing capabilities
Thanks Marcus for the comparisons, but I am somewhat confused by this post. It says 2018 in title, but yet comments are from 2014-17. I’m assuming it was originally written earlier and you’ve updated. I’d be curious what edits were made; how your opinions may have changed; who are the new top contenders for 2018. With all the growth in the marketing automation space in past 3 years, it couldn’t be simply updating the title. Also curious if a company is already tied to Salesforce for CRM does that necessarily lift Marketing Cloud as the premier choice?
Marketing automation plugs into a company's CRM system, which, typically, has its own native marketing automation cloud service (such as Salesforce Pardot and Oracle Eloqua). Eloqua will work with other CRM platforms that compete with Oracle's, and Marketo, an independent marketing automation platform, will work with Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft and other CRM systems. HubSpot also is a popular marketing automation platform that has its own CRM backbone.
If you’re producing effective inbound marketing content, you’re generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your successful efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Below are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business.
Software as a Service (SaaS). In the MA market, SaaS is less of a trend than it is the dominant model for deploying software. Buyers will find that the majority of solutions—with the exception of some high-end B2C solutions—are delivered through the online marketing software model where the system is hosted by the software vendor and accessed over the Internet by user. A benefit of Web-based email marketing software is increased accessibility. They can be accessed on multiple devices and from any operating system, whether you're a Mac or PC. Interested in learning more about email marketing software? Check out our catalogue and buyers' guide specific to this category here.
We were really impressed by the ExactTarget demo at Dreamforce (the company was recently acquired by salesforce.com). One thing that stood out to us about ExactTarget is the system’s ability to target communications over multiple channels. Most marketing automation tools focus on email, but ExactTarget goes beyond that and lets you target mobile app notifications, or even messages to the dashboard of a customer’s car (if, for example, you were a car manufacturer).
A sale isn’t the end of a brand-to-consumer relationship. It’s the beginning. And it’s probably the customer acquisition channel that you’re ignoring. Delight is what helps marketers navigate the art of upselling. Marketing automation, social media, and emotion-driven calls to action are crucial to this stage of marketing. This idea holds true for consumer and B2B marketers alike.
First of all, you get unlimited user accounts with custom user permissions. You can also send an unlimited number of emails and you get your own custom mail server domain as part of the package. Another interesting feature is ActiveCampaign’s automated social data gathering, which collects social details from all of your contacts and allows you to use this for list segmentation – so you can contact all LinkedIn users under 30 in your area, for example.
Userfox works primarily with tech companies, so if you’re in the industry, you’ll be in good company. Like Customer.io, userfox has a lightweight interface and is designed to trigger emails based on events (rather than just pageviews), so if that’s important to you, userfox is a great choice. You might also consider userfox if you’re already using AdRoll, as the acquisition likely means a tight integration between the two products in the future.
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We envision a future where online retailers truly understand their customers, resulting in the growth of their businesses’ profitably. Exponea Experience Cloud is our way of bringing this vision to life. Exponea’s very essence is an intelligent union of customer data management and analytics, while cracking the true Single Customer View. Through this, we have enabled marketers to understand their customers and immediately turn such insights into actionable campaigns, all within a single integrated solution. Built on top of cutting edge technology, Exponea empowers marketers to deliver truly personalized, in the moment experiences to their customers at scale through deeply embedded AI-powered capabilities, removing obstacles and leveraging intent to purchase both on your online store or outside of it. True to our vision, we work closely with our clients and mentor them all along the short path to success. We enable the fast transfer of know-how which often results in a change of mindset and is a catalyst for a rapid, profitable growth of emerging e-commerce leaders around the world.
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Workarea Commerce Platform says—across more than 700 e-commerce websites that use its e-commerce platform service—mobile’s share of revenue of consumers shopping via mobile was up 6% year over year on Thanksgiving Day. In addition, mobile’s share of traffic dominated again this Thanksgiving day driving 61% of total traffic, up 5% from our data last year, according to Bill Tarbell, vice president of marketing at Workarea. He also notes that sales from consumers shopping on desktops fell to 49% of total revenue, a drop of nearly 5% compared with Thanksgiving 2017.


Adobe leverages Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, to identify retail insights from trillions of data points that flow through Adobe Analytics and Magento Commerce Cloud, part of Adobe Experience Cloud. Adobe Analytics analyzes one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 55 million SKUs and 80 of the largest 100 U.S. web retailers* – more than any other technology company.
With ActiveCampaign, you’ll be able to create powerful automated marketing and sales processes. These intelligent processes “listen” and “learn” about the needs and interests of individual contacts. Then you can send more relevant, personalized messages at the moment they’ll have the most impact. You’ll have more customers, happier customers, and more loyal customers. MARKETING AUTOMATION: Our automation workflow builder is praised by G2Crowd users as the perfect balance of power and ease-of-use. With our drag-and-drop builder, you can easily create sophisticated follow up sequences that treat your contacts differently on the basis of who they are and what they’re interested in. This “intelligence-driven” follow up has proven to be more effective, and will keep your customer engagement high because you’re sending the most relevant, personalized messaging possible. SALES AUTOMATION: With an intuitive sales automation CRM tightly integrated with your marketing automation, you’ll be able to seamlessly transition leads back and forth between your marketing and sales processes without losing any data or missing a beat. Having your sales CRM and marketing automation under the same roof means that your sales process can benefit from the same automation features marketers use to send perfectly-timed messages. EMAIL MARKETING: We’ve been perfecting our email marketing solution since 2003. Today it is one of the most mature and fully-developed email marketing services on the market. Our professionally designed templates are fully mobile responsive and we offer time-saving tools like content blocks you can save and reuse across campaigns, message variables that allow you to update content once across all your campaigns, and conditional content, which allows you to change the content of an email based on who a contact is and what they’ve done. CROSS-CHANNEL MESSAGING FOR THE ENTIRE CUSTOMER LIFECYCLE: With ActiveCampaign, you’ll be able to deliver the perfect message at the perfect time because you’ll collect more insight about the customer at each stage of the buying process. With Attribution, you’ll know the source of a visitor and what marketing and advertising they’ve interacted with. With Goals, you’ll be able to define important events and then pivot in response to conversions. With Site Messaging, SMS, and email marketing, you’ll be able to reach your contacts exactly where they are — whether they’re out and about on their mobile, browsing your website, or going through their inbox. We offer a free, no-credit-card-needed, 14-day trial so you can experience ActiveCampaign first hand.

Marketo is great for companies who are going to make use of the tool’s many features that go beyond basic marketing automation. It’s not the most expensive tool, but it’s certainly not the cheapest either. If you’re not going to use the advanced functionality of the system, you can get similar results with one of the less expensive tools. However, if you want to start with the basics and move into the more advanced functionality in the near future, it could be a good idea to start with a tool like Marketo so that you don’t have to switch over all your data and campaigns down the line. We also like that Marketo has a very large and active knowledge base, which is a great resource for new users.


Adobe estimates that the “three golden hours of retail”, between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern, brought in $1.7 billion, “roughly $300 million more compared to an average full day in the year.” The idea here is that shoppers catch final Cyber Monday deals right before bed or after work on the west coast. Subsequent conversion rates peak above 7.3 percent for the season (almost 2.5 times higher compared to the rest of the year).
1. Pricing – While SendinBlue is one of the most affordable email marketing tools currently available, you’ll need to be on their $49/month plan or above to access unlimited automation workflows. While not a major issue, this tends to rule out SendinBlue for me when recommending a marketing automation tool to a small business that’s new to automation. After all, ActiveCampaign starts at $9!
We currently have three Editors' Choice picks for marketing automation solutions here at PCMag. One of them, Campaigner, impressed us with its intuitive UI and its wealth of online resources. Another Editors' Choice, the aforementioned Pardot, excelled due to its built-in search and social marketing functionality. Lastly, the aforementioned HubSpot had an impressive set of prebuilt workflows that also got our top nod. While all of these are fantastic solutions, they are all quite different, and it's definitely worth taking the time to research the best solution for your needs. This, of course, also applies even to the other products that did not get an Editors' Choice designation.
In fact, because of the variation in buyer journeys across the B2B landscape, these platforms must be tailored to meet the needs of unique prospects — not to mention the distinct use cases of marketing and sales teams. B2B marketing automation platforms may have similar foundational components, but their implementation varies across different industries and brands.
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First of all, you get unlimited user accounts with custom user permissions. You can also send an unlimited number of emails and you get your own custom mail server domain as part of the package. Another interesting feature is ActiveCampaign’s automated social data gathering, which collects social details from all of your contacts and allows you to use this for list segmentation – so you can contact all LinkedIn users under 30 in your area, for example.
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We currently have three Editors' Choice picks for marketing automation solutions here at PCMag. One of them, Campaigner, impressed us with its intuitive UI and its wealth of online resources. Another Editors' Choice, the aforementioned Pardot, excelled due to its built-in search and social marketing functionality. Lastly, the aforementioned HubSpot had an impressive set of prebuilt workflows that also got our top nod. While all of these are fantastic solutions, they are all quite different, and it's definitely worth taking the time to research the best solution for your needs. This, of course, also applies even to the other products that did not get an Editors' Choice designation.


Oracle Eloqua, part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, provides best-in-class lead management, campaign management, and sales tools that help marketers deliver the most connected and personalized experiences from first impression to customer advocacy. Eloqua's marketer-friendly platform enables organizations of any size to execute advanced marketing strategies, at scale, using the industry's richest dataset and adaptive technologies. Some of the top reasons customers choose Oracle Eloqua include: * Most Comprehensive Platform Built for B2B Marketers * Industry’s Richest Dataset * Marketer-friendly UI * Powerful Lead Management & Acceleration * Adaptive Campaign Management & Nurturing * Sophisticated Targeting & Segmentation * Broad 3rd Party Data Enrichment * Market-leading Extensibility & Integrations * Enterprise Scale Performance & Security
You can think of Eloqua as the Ferrari of marketing automation. It’s fully loaded, provides an exceptional level of service, and comes with a matching price tag. One of Eloqua’s key differentiators is the amount of time they spend teaching and helping their customers get the most out of the product. Like Marketo, Eloqua also has a great marketplace with plenty of integrations with third party services.
Userfox is another new player in the marketing automation space, and they were actually just acquired by AdRoll. We’re hoping the combined power of the AdRoll and userfox teams means exciting things for the future of their product. And we know the userfox team has some amazing talent, because one of their co-founders previously worked with us here at Woopra.
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