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On the largest scale, companies like Amazon use marketing automation to populate sections like “customers who bought this item also bought…” and to send messages alerting customers when items they have viewed are on sale. On a smaller scale, businesses use automation tools to send customers a follow-up email after they receive a delivery to suggest another purchase or to ask for feedback. When implemented properly, marketing automation will save you time and money while keeping the flow of leads and customers steady.

Email Marketing Automation

Email is probably the best and most successful outlet for marketing automation. Here are just a few ways that ecommerce companies boost sales with automation.

1. Trickle Messaging. This involves carefully timed and segmented messages to upsell, cross-sell, or improve retention. For example, you could send product recommendations based off past purchases, a guide to getting more out of a previous purchase a few weeks after delivery, or benefits of an upgrade several months after delivery.

2. Abandoned Cart Recovery. It’s very common for online shoppers to place items in their carts intending to purchase them, only to then get distracted and abandon the cart. A follow-up email, perhaps with an enticing offer included, can recapture those customers.

3. Wishlist Offers. By allowing shoppers to keep a list of items they would like to buy in the future, you can alert them whenever there are price changes or special offers to help motivate the sale. For example, Steam offers Wishlist Notifications to alert you whenever items on your wishlist are part of their daily or weekly deals.

Social Media Automation

Social media can be one of the most important ways to connect with new leads and to communicate with current and potential customers. On the other hand, keeping up with the demands of several platforms can be too time-consuming to be effective. Automation can take a lot of the pressure off so you can focus on high-quality communication. Here are just a few examples.

1. Scheduled Posts. Promoting products and services, announcing sales and coupons, and sharing interesting links are all examples of posts that can be lined up all at once and then dispersed out over time.

2. Listening. Some automation software will “listen” to your social feeds and social networks in general for mentions of your company name or other important keywords so you can respond quickly when it is necessary.

3. Automatic Sharing. Some software allows users to automatically share content from RSS feeds that are followed. This can be a great way to maintain a steady presence with less direct involvement as long as you check in frequently to make sure shared content is appropriate.

Web Content Automation

Amazon is one of the most recognized users of web content automation, but every business can benefit from it. By changing a website visitor’s experience based on their past activity, you can consistently improve that person’s experience and increase the likelihood of conversion. It can be as simple as a “welcome back” message on the home page instead of “welcome,” or as robust as “Recommended for You” offers on sidebars for visitors who have already downloaded content or purchased products.

Automation Done Right

Marketing automation frees up the marketer’s time to concentrate on monitoring efforts and refining techniques rather than completing simple tasks. It’s a great tool for nurturing leads and waking up dormant customers. The key to automation effectiveness is to use it as a tool to encourage real connections–not as a replacement for them.