Spending on smartphones, meanwhile, continues to climb at a rapid clip, as companies like Macy's and Target have poured money into improving their mobile apps. And as bricks-and-mortar retail traffic continues to fall, some retailers are now trying to find ways to use their apps to lure shoppers back to stores, where sales are typically more profitable. Walmart, as one example, has added store maps to its app ahead of the holidays, letting customers pinpoint exactly where an item is and plot out their trips before they arrive.
However, the term “marketing automation” has become a buzz-word, where marketers seek out marketing automation software under the impression that all of the digital marketing tools necessary for growth, including those needed to generate new leads, roll up under the hood of marketing automation. This misconception leaves many marketers with sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but no solution to generating new leads to nurture in the first place.

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Walmart's U.S.-owned e-commerce growth accelerated to 43 percent in the third quarter, while Target posted a record 49 percent year-over-year surge, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Given the robust gains, analysts at the brokerage wrote to clients Thursday that investors should buy either stock as shoppers log on to do last-minute shopping.
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. 
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.
Marketing automation is a very active segment of the CRM software market. Not only are new vendors entering the market, but existing market leaders are constantly innovating and delivering new product updates. Today, the majority of solutions can be split into business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) solutions. The two groupings are very different and so are their functional needs.

Walmart's U.S.-owned e-commerce growth accelerated to 43 percent in the third quarter, while Target posted a record 49 percent year-over-year surge, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Given the robust gains, analysts at the brokerage wrote to clients Thursday that investors should buy either stock as shoppers log on to do last-minute shopping.


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Infusionsoft is the only drag-and-drop tool we tested, which is a nifty feature for marketers who may wish to work on touchscreens or don't have time to deal with lengthy drop-down menus. It also provides unique tag removal that automatically pulls contacts from campaigns if they perform a certain action. For example, if contacts don't open three emails in a row, then you can set the tool to remove all such contacts from the workflow. This way, you're not sending messages into a vacuum. The tool also gives you the most useful real-time alert dashboard of any that we tested in this class. It lets you see every contact interaction with anyone in your database. So, if you sent an email to someone a week ago but they just opened it this second, then you'll see their name pop up at the top of your dashboard. From this tab, you can send a follow-up email or adjust the contact's standing within the specific workflow.
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.

HubSpot heavily relies on list building to help you manage your workflows. The tool lets you shrink (or grow) your lists in the same way you would narrow down products on Amazon or eBay, a feature which is incredibly straightforward and fast. When you add a URL to a contact record, HubSpot will automatically pull in demographic information, such as the contact's company location and number of employees. You can email a contact directly from the Contact Record, and you can make a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) call if you have turned on this paid feature of HubSpot Sales. This integration lets you log and save call information within each contact record so there is a transparent history of which marketers and sales professionals interacted with contacts. You can also schedule interactions with contacts. You won't find these features on the other platforms we reviewed.
Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to automate and simplify client communication by managing complex omni-channel marketing strategies from a single tool. Marketing Automation assist greatly in areas like Lead Generation, Segmentation, Lead nurturing and lead scoring, Relationship marketing, Cross-sell and upsell, Retention, Marketing ROI measurement. 																

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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.
Thanksgiving also saw $1 billion in online sales coming from mobile devices, Adobe says. Salesforce.com tracking found 54% of all digital orders on Thanksgiving were made from a mobile device, up from 47% a year ago. In addition, 68% of all digital traffic came from mobile devices, says Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce.

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.


A while back, we were looking for a marketing automation tool ourselves. We researched, we talked to analysts, and we had deep dives with company reps. Since then, we’ve become very involved in the industry thanks to the complementary nature of analytics and marketing automation. We’ve even formed partnerships with several companies. Now finally, we present our top picks for marketing automation tools (in no particular order).
Omnisend - Email Marketing & Automation for Ecommerce provides the omnichannel approach for sales-driven marketers that have outgrown the generic email marketing platforms. Join more than 40,000 merchants that have trusted their e-commerce marketing automation to Omnisend. Our platform provides a complete solution for connecting your ecommerce business with potential and existing customers across multiple customer journey touchpoints. Try a more personalized omnichannel touch with your customers by email, SMS, Facebook messenger or automatically synchronizing audiences for Google, Facebook and Instagram platforms for better customers’ experience and higher conversions. Omnisend works with all e-commerce platforms including Shopify, Bigcommerce, Magento, WooCommerce and others. Drive sales at scale Email marketing automation is all about sending anticipated, contextualized and relevant messages at the right time. Capitalize on pre-built automation templates that you need to set up only once. Then sit and watch your sales growing on autopilot with Welcome emails, Cart Abandonemnt, Order updates, Customer Re-activation and Order Follow-up. Design state-of-the-art newsletters in minutes Skip the tedious and time-consuming newsletter setup process. Our drag-and-drop Content Editor is intuitive and gives you all the tools you need to enjoy great results at the speed of light. Improve your performance with beautiful email templates, the one-click Product Picker, the interactive CTR boosters and unique Discount Coupons. Choose how to grow your email list Choose how to turn your visitors into subscribers with a wide variety of signup forms. Omnisend’s forms are mobile-friendly and fully customizable. Grow your list with non-intrusive Signup boxes, welcome and exit intent Popups, the fun Wheel of Fortune, and customizable landing pages. Ready to convert your visitors into repeat customers? Try out Omnisend’s ecommerce marketing automation—every new user starts with a 14-day, obligation-free trial. After 14 days, you choose whether to keep using one of our paid plans - Standard or Pro - or continue with our Free plan, which includes 15,000 emails per month (up to 2,000 emails per day). Majority of our customers value Omnisend as a great alternative for their ecommerce businesses compared to Mailchimp, Klaviyo, Active Campaign and others. Omnisend gives you stellar support and helpful advice anytime you need it. We’re available 24/7 for all.
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.
From there, marketing automation does all the work: streamling segmentation and targeting processes to determine the right audiences, quickly and at scale. Tailoring messaging to each customer automatically based on their profile. Creating relevant and personalized messaging across email, mobile, social, web experiences, and beyond with a few simple clicks. Delivering personalized experiences for your customers, whether you have 100 or 100 million, efficiently and effectively.

As efficient as automation is, it can't be the only marketing strategy. The worst thing a business can do is automate all of its marketing. “By over-automating your marketing, you end up managing a customer journey instead of optimizing it. Each business is different, but good marketing automation happens when a business is thoughtful about the personal relationships with its customers,” he said.
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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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.
Instead of relying on outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and aggressively pushing audiences into become leads, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting users through quality content that pulls people toward your company and product naturally. By closely aligning your content and marketing materials with your customers’ interest, your brand is in a position to attract, delight, and engage customers over time.
Marketo is a marketing automation platform that includes account-based marketing, email, mobile, social, digital ads, web, and marketing analytics, allowing business owners to drive engagement through multiple channels from one platform. Its goal is to help small businesses build long-lasting relationships with customers and create end-to-end engagement. Its cloud-based infrastructure can handle hundreds of millions of activities each day, meaning it can scale with its customers.

“As in past years, we expected that Cyber Monday deals would entice early shoppers kicking off one of the largest online shopping weeks of the year,” the analysts at MasterCard said. “Our initial early numbers are showing that overall online retail sales this morning are in line with the season expectations and will likely set new records for this individual day.”
ActiveDEMAND is a flexible marketing platform for digital marketing agencies and marketers. ActiveDEMAND packages range from the full-featured call tracking application for the small business marketer to the powerful Marketing Agency Portal designed for digital marketing agencies with multi-client management needs. Engage and track prospects using the integrated, comprehensive call tracking module, do more with built-in email templates, landing pages and social media. Convert leads and prospects into customers using automated marketing to manage nurture campaigns, auto-replies and more. Retain customers and grow your repeat businesses with powerful newsletters, special promotions and more.
Among the biggest retail winners, Amazon today said it was the biggest shopping day in its history. Although it didn’t provide sales figures, it said the ‘Turkey 5’ broke records as customers in the U.S. purchased millions more products over the five day period vs. the same period last year, with more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined.
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.
Marketing Automation is a subset of customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management (CXM) that focuses on the definition, segmentation, scheduling and tracking of marketing campaigns. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient and makes new processes possible. Marketing Automation can be defined as a process where technology is used to automate several repetitive tasks that are undertaken on a regular basis in a marketing campaign. A tool that allows an individual to design, execute and automate a time-bound marketing workflow can be called a Marketing Automation platform.[citation needed]
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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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As every small business owner knows, wearing a lot of hats is how you keep your company in the black. The problem, of course, is that any business owner only has 24 hours in a day. Cramming business development, customer service, marketing, production, financials, and everything else on one to-do list is a recipe for disaster (and a complete lack of sleep).
According to Hendrix, there are two types of "bad" marketing automation: People who use a marketing automation platform ineffectively, and platforms that label themselves as “marketing automation” even when that’s not the case. “True marketing automation allows you to track each touchpoint that a person has with your brand, take that in and adapt your messaging accordingly. It should enable you to not only automate processes, but anticipate your buyers' needs and accelerate their buying journey. Marketers need a solid marketing automation strategy, rather than just automating the same tasks they’ve been doing all along," Hendrix said.
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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