Though foot traffic at some malls and stores was down over the holiday weekend, more and more shoppers have been turning to the internet to hunt for deals, and overall holiday sales are still expected to be up in 2018. Consumer confidence remains high, while unemployment is low in the U.S., giving many people the ability to spend more this year than last.
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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?
Gap Inc.’s  (No. 20) online reserve system has been disabled or limited today in some locations, likely due to the higher store traffic, making it harder to keep track of accurate inventory levels. On normal business days, consumers shopping online can find an item in their preferred size and see if it is available in a store near them to reserve and pick up.
But online shopping wasn’t free of technical issues. When Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, went down on Prime Day, it cost the e-commerce giant an Internet Retailer-estimated $72.6 million. Walmart Inc., No. 3 in the Top 1000, faced similar troubles when its Black Friday deals went live on Walmart.com at 10 p.m. EST on Nov. 22. Shoppers complained about slow-loading pages and then reported error messages on DownDetector.com. “Due to extremely high demand for our Black Friday deals last night, our site experienced some delays shortly after our event began online. Many customers were still able to check out smoothly, and we were able to quickly fix the issue,” a spokesman for Walmart says.

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Free shipping will be a big driver for purchases as well. 81% of orders on Thanksgiving had free shipping associated with them, Garf says. With Amazon setting a high bar with free two-day shipping, it’s in retailers’ best interests to offer similar benefits. Target is offering two-day free shipping from Nov. 1 through Dec. 22 on hundreds of thousands of items with no minimum purchase, while Amazon is allowing shoppers without a Prime membership to get free shipping, even without reaching the $25 minimum purchase threshold.

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.

Similar to standard email marketing software vendors, marketing automation software vendors have created workflow templates that help guide you through the automation process. This way, you don't have to build new sequences from scratch. These templates usually start with a basic interaction, such as a "Welcome" or a "Thank you for making a purchase" message. Once a contact receives the initial email, he or she is guided through a sequence based on his or her actions. For example, if John receives a welcome message and he clicks a link to an offer, then that action automatically pulls him onto a distinct email marketing journey. Conversely, if Sally deletes her welcome message, then she may automatically be pulled off the workflow to conserve your email output.
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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).
Use marketing automation to trigger messaging automatically based on a central hub of your customer data. That’s because your customer should see the same brand identity from all of your teams. With marketing automation, your business can better bring together marketing, sales, and customer service to create one seamless customer experience across your brand. 
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.
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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.
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