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.
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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.
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. 																

Once you have visitors on your website, the next step is to convert them. At the very least, you should start collecting their email addresses. Once you start building an organic email list, you can start reaching out to your customers and prospects so that you can re-engage them through your content: ebooks, whitepapers, and tip sheets. Here are the most important components of conversion optimization:
Good marketing automation takes into account the evolving needs of your leads, and the behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. not just email. Using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social clicks, viewing a pricing page or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a lead’s challenges and how to guide them down the funnel. The most effective marketing automation not only collects data from multiple channels, but uses those various channels to send their marketing messages as well. That means the success of your campaign relies less on the email, and fully utilizes the various channels that influence a buyer’s decision.
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Pretty much everything that Hubspot offers can be found elsewhere at a much lower cost. And yes, while it is true that Hubspot does offer a free version of their software, this doesn’t include any of their marketing automation features. If you’re looking to use Hubspot for marketing automation, you’ll need to cough up at least $800/month (paid annually), plus an additional $3,000 in onboarding fees. In other words, if your marketing automation budget is below $12,600/year, you may want to move on to our next suggestion.
When there’s no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation. Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won’t have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel. Too many marketers without inbound lead generation strategies spend their time figuring out how to take the tiny fraction of the market they already have in their database as leads and squeeze more out of them. While they’re doing that, their competition is figuring out how to get more out of the 99.99% of the market that’s still out there. Do you have all the existing leads needed to hit your revenue goals in your database already? Are you getting your fair share of the available market?
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.

We founded Blueshift to address problems we encountered first-hand as marketing & machine learning leaders. Our team previously founded Groupon Goods (Mertado), and were early team at WalmartLabs (Kosmix). As marketers ourselves, we noticed that it’s becoming increasingly harder communicate with customers on a 1:1 basis in the era of the perpetually connected customer. Using patented technology, Blueshift’s AI enables consumer marketers at leading consumer brands to launch 1:1 engagement on every channel. ● Visual campaigns & Journeys: Build multi-touch campaigns with a simple visual interface; include advanced testing, content recommendations & filters with just a few clicks. ● Behavioral Segmentation at scale: Segments that update dynamically based on a real-time stream of customer interactions ● Predictive Segmentation: Machine learning based scores for user affinities and propensities ● Product & content recommendations: Build multiple recommendation schemes for merchandising products, categories and content ● Full-funnel measurement with attribution: go beyond opens & clicks, and track custom conversion goals with customizable attribution. ● Cross-channel orchestration: Orchestrate cross-channel campaigns between email, mobile app notifications, SMS, website, Facebook retargeting and more. ● Testing & Optimization: Leverage advanced testing capabilities, including a-b tests, as well as measurement against holdout groups. ● Best-in-class deliverability: Scalable deliverability infrastructure and services.


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Marketing automation software is typically priced one of two ways: by the number of contacts in your database or by the number of emails you send each month. For example, the the Growth Pardot plan costs $1,250 per month for email marketing, prospect tracking, lead nurturing and scoring, reporting, forms and landing pages, and standard Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM). This plan can be upgraded to two higher tiers, each of which offers additional features, plug-ins, and add-ons. However, all three Pardot plans give you capacity for 10,000 contacts.
Delivra is an email marketing software platform that has helped organizations execute effective marketing campaigns for more than 15 years. Known for its industry expertise and unrivaled customer service, Delivra helps businesses engage in meaningful conversations with customers that produce tangible results. Delivra empowers organizations to achieve business goals through a suite of professional services, including strategic campaign consulting, email design, content strategy and more. Delivra has implemented dynamic marketing solutions for more than 1000 companies representing varying industries. Delivra makes it easy to build and send impactful email marketing campaigns, offering an easy-to-use drag and drop editor to customize content. The software’s marketing automation capabilities also allow users to strategically plot out an entire email series, determining which mailings are sent based on a variety of subscriber actions, inactions or time. For companies with an e-commerce component, Delivra’s Commerce Package enables email marketing tactics specific to customer re-engagement, cart recovery, automation, and customer retention. Online merchants get all the powerful features of the Delivra platform in addition to custom integrations designed for e-commerce. Delivra works with a wide variety of CRM’s, e-commerce platforms, and web analytics tools so all marketing data is available in one place. The software either plugs right into the technology a company is already using, or Delivra builds out a custom integration to ensure that it does.
Marketing automation and customer relationship management systems are two different platforms. But they undeniably work together. CRMs manage customer data. Although you can have a CRM without marketing automation, marketing automation cannot exist without a CRM, according to Davis. The CRM serves as the central database for marketing automation. It’s where all the information is stored for each contact along their customer journey, he added. “It also allows multiple people, across multiple departments within your organization to remain synced up with the current state of the contact to ensure consistency in communicating,” Davis said.
Established Enterprise software providers at the big end of town including IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe and Teradata started building their own platforms. But to accelerate their evolution they started acquiring technology start-ups that added features and market share.  Salesforce bought Exact Target, IBM purchased SilverPop and Oracle bought Eloqua.
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Your customer list is getting too big to manage manually. Are you lucky enough to have thousands of contacts on your email list? That’s great! But how are you handling all those emails? You need marketing automation software to make sure each contact goes through the right stages of your marketing funnel to nurture them into a good lead for your sales team.
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Use of two-dimensional barcodes. Two-dimensional (2D) bar codes are seen more and more often on print ads, bill boards, bus stop benches and even as tattoos. Customers can use smart phones as code readers to get information about a product or service immediately on their mobile browser. Current solutions can use 2D bar codes with third-party solutions, but new versions will have built in support.
Marketing departments, consultants and part-time marketing employees benefit by specifying criteria and outcomes for tasks and processes which are then interpreted, stored and executed by software, which increases efficiency and reduces human error. Originally focused on email marketing automation, marketing automation refers to a broad range of automation and analytic tools for marketing[2] especially inbound marketing. Marketing Automation platforms are used as a hosted or web-based solution, and no software installation is required by a customer.
Despite its technical glitches, Walmart’s in-store traffic, however, was “steady all night long,” ringing up “hundreds of thousands of transactions,” while many shoppers took advantage of its new app features, such as the Black Friday store maps and Check Out With Me, says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S., in a blog post.
Klaviyo is a modern marketing platform that lets ecommerce brands build an unlimited number of high-value customer relationships. Unlike other software, Klaviyo does not force you to trade off between ease of use and powerful functionality—and that means merchants can take advantage of the most impactful email and Facebook strategies without slowing down. That’s why over 10,000 innovative ecommerce brands like Brooklinen, Bonobos, and Outdoor Voices power their marketing with Klaviyo.
3. Sending limits – My biggest pet peeve with SendinBlue is the limits they impose on how many emails you can send. Unlike most marketing automation tools that limit the number of contacts you have, SendinBlue limits the number of emails you can send. While it appears to be a monthly limit, it’s actually a daily limit (the monthly limit is divided by 30). This has caused us several issues when going over our quota has meant emails end up being put on hold until the next day.
The consequence is that marketers begin buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating inbound leads. While it seems like a quick fix, it's not a long-term solution, nor does it create the fertile ground for a healthier, longer relationship with your future customers. In our plant analogy, it's sort of like using artificial chemicals or enhancers to make your plant grow faster. Sure, it seems like a good, quick fix--but it doesn't set you up for future, long-term success.  

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Marketing automation: HubSpot says that marketing automation is crucial to the ‘closing’ stage of marketing. We disagree. We think that marketing automation is more than just email and it spans the entire marketing lifecycle. It is, however, crucial to your company’s ability to close deals. You need to move customers through your sales conversion funnel – this process will be continuous and require some degree of nurturing, guiding, and even hand-holding. Marketing automation can help your company take the lead in guiding prospects through the sales conversion funnel.
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A greater percentage of online browsers are completing their purchases, with conversion rates for mobile and desktop shopping rising. Consumers shopping online with a mobile device from Nov. 1-22 completed a purchase 2.0% of the time, up 7.6% year over year. Desktop shoppers converted 4.3% of the time, up 2.6% year over year. Consumers shopping with tablet computers converted at a 4.3% rate, up 5.4% year over year.

Sailthru helps modern marketers at leading retail and media companies build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. Sailthru personalizes individual customer experiences across digital communication channels—in email, on a brand’s website and in their mobile applications. Sailthru-powered 1:1 relationships with consumers help drive higher revenue, improve customer lifetime value and reduce churn.
Now, with a little more than a month to go before the end of 2018, retailers will try to keep the momentum going, both online and in stores. Though many companies are expecting strong fourth quarters, there's some concern the sales growth won't be sustainable into 2019, especially if the U.S. economy's strength starts to fade or consumers lose confidence.
Buy online pick up in stores continues to be a popular option for shoppers this holiday season, with "click-and-collect" orders up 73 percent from Thursday to Friday, Adobe said. Target, Kohl's and Walmart are just a few companies that have been touting that option this year, hoping that when customers arrive to pick up their items, they'll buy more.
Large Versus Small Retailers: Large retailers ($1 billion or more in annual e-commerce revenue) saw 6 percent higher conversion rates on smartphones, a sign that investments in improving the mobile shopping experience are paying off. Smaller retailers, offering more specialized products, were better at getting shoppers to close sales via desktops with 7 percent higher conversions.
The multichannel view offered by ActiveCampaign gets glimpses of a small business’s website while looking at users’ email and mobile devices. Its campaign builder helps entrepreneurs design marketing collateral, and the platform consolidates customer data so these insights can impact the email, SMS, and CRM options ActiveCampaign offers. This data also allows business owners to create segments.
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