Marketing Automation is the process of using technology to nurture prospects and customers (including website visitors) by delivering real-time, automated responses triggered by actions contacts complete during user journeys.
- Trigger: A contact abandons their shopping cart
- Automation: An automated email is sent to remind the contact they’re cart is abandoned. The email may even offer a discount for completing the purchase
- Trigger: Contact completes purchase
- Automation: An automated ‘thank you’ email is sent
Consumers experience marketing automation daily. From shopping cart abandonment emails to website content personalised for them. Although these experiences may seem normal, they require planning to be effective.
Planning a marketing automation campaign
Marketers need to determine how contacts should interact with their brand during email communication or by visiting the website.
Contacts can only be nurtured if the right content is delivered at the right time through the right channel. Contacts should be presented with the “next best action”. To do this, marketing automation campaigns require planning.
- Have a content strategy in place: This is the planning, creation, and management of content for all channels (web, email, social, landing pages, infographics, etc.)
- Great UX/design: A good user experience and an immersive design increases the likelihood of achieving digital goals
- Establish desired user journeys and conversion points: Map user journeys to determine trigger points to increase the likelihood of maximum conversion
- Create achievable scenarios: Devise scenarios that can be transferred into a robust marketing automation campaign
Sitecore Marketing Automation
Although there are many third-party marketing automation systems like Marketo, Pardot, and HubSpot that seamlessly integrate with a variety of CMSs, Sitecore Marketing Automation is an in-built application that is just as powerful.
Sitecore Marketing Automation is one of many Sitecore features available from Sitecore 8.0 onwards. It has all the tools required to implement and monitor campaigns:
- Enrolls contacts in automation campaigns
- Evaluates contacts' behaviour based on defined rules
- Executes automated actions based on triggers and rules
Automated content is driven by actions your contacts complete during a website visit and/or through email communications.
Rules and conditions are used to determine 'automated responses'. These could be based on contact attributes, location, triggered campaigns and goals, browsing behaviour, etc.
In Sitecore, marketers can add up to 5 elements to automation campaigns:
The Start and End elements bookend campaigns. For instance, Start indicates the beginning of the campaign i.e. the place contacts are enrolled into, and End, is where some contacts are placed when the campaign ends.
Marketing actions allow marketers to make several changes to a contact based on their journey. These can include:
- Changing profile values
- Increasing engagement value
- Sending an email
- Adding a contact to a list
- Unsubscribing from a list
- Updating consent settings
- Validating email address
Changing profile values
Profile values assigned to Profile Keys can be changed when this element is reached.
The Change behaviour profile value option adjusts contacts’ profile key values.
For example, if a contact performs a transactional task on the website such as making a purchase, the element is triggered, and the profile value would change.
This is especially useful as it allows marketers to re-categorise/re-profile contacts based on actions.
For example, a contact with a ‘Researcher’ profile value of 10 visits the website. This contact has been given permission to make a purchase and continues the journey to conversion. When reaching the element in the automation plan their profile value would change from ‘Researcher’: 10 to ‘Buyer’: 10.
Increasing engagement value
Sitecore Engagement Value Points (EVP) are a metric used to measure engagement as visitors browse a website. EVPs can be assigned to goals.
Marketers can adjust the total engagement value of contacts that reach this element.
Sending an email
When contacts reach this element, an email message is sent via the Sitecore Email Experience Manager.
Emails can be configured to deliver personalised thank you messages, reminders, offers, etc.
Adding a contact to a list
Contacts reaching this element are added to a list. If a contact has subscribed to receive information, clicking Subscribe would add them to a specified list in the Sitecore List Manager. This can be used to manage subsequent email communications.
Unsubscribing from a list
A contact would reach this element when for instance Unsubscribe is clicked. This action removes them from a specified list in the Sitecore List Manager.
Updating consent settings
The introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives consumers more control over their data and how it’s managed by companies.
Digital communications must display information allowing options to explicitly grant/deny consent to receive communications.
Update consent settings allow marketers to configure campaigns to contain the Update consent settings element.
For example, when a contact completes an online form and doesn’t wish to consent to receiving marketing information, they are tagged accordingly in Sitecore’s Experience Profile. The two consent settings are:
- Do not market: The contact is removed from all lists in Sitecore, resulting in the contact never receiving marketing messages again
- Consent revoked: The contact is never contacted again in any form/channel
Validating email address
When a contact clicks on an email validation link in an email, they are moved to this element of the marketing automation campaign.
The Listeners element evaluates 5 criteria based on rules can conditions:
- Campaign activity triggered
- Custom listener
- Goal triggered
- Outcome registered
- Visit listener
Contacts are evaluated before moving them through a two-pronged Yes or No path. The path taken depends on how contacts meet specified conditions within a specified time frame.
- A contact clicks through an email with a discount offer
- The contact abandons their shopping cart; therefore, the conversion goal has not been triggered
- The contact is placed in the Send email action along No path
- After a specified period (1 day), an automated email is sent to the contact reminding them to complete their purchase.
- Upon purchase, the goal is triggered
- The contact is moved to the Add contact to a list and Send email elements along the Yes path
- An automated ‘thank you’ email is sent
Campaign activity triggered
This element evaluates whether a contact has triggered on or more campaigns. Contacts meeting this criterion are moved along the Yes path.
Marketers enter the name of the Listener, assign the campaign and specify how long contacts are evaluated when they reach this element.
The Custom listener evaluates contacts in this element based on the conditions specified in the rule configured in Sitecore’s out-of-the-box Rule Set Editor.
This feature offers a diverse set of conditions, ranging from device detection, location, profiles, channels, etc.
When a goal is triggered the assigned EVP is allocated to a contact’s journey. The Goal triggered listener evaluates whether a contact has triggered a goal within a specified time. If the goal has been triggered the contact is moved to another element along the Yes path.
Outcomes are like goals. The difference is they are more aligned to business-significant results like making a purchase.
The Outcome registered listener evaluates whether a contact has registered an Outcome within a specified time frame. If so, they are moved to another element along the Yes path.
This Visit listener element evaluates whether a contact in the automation plan has visited the website within a specified time frame.
This is especially useful for email marketing campaigns, as marketers would know whether a recipient has visited the website before. If they have, they are moved to another element along the Yes path.
Decision point elements direct contacts to other elements in the campaign based on the conditions specified in the rule. They can only be added after a listener.
More than one Decision point can be evaluated so that contacts are filtered along appropriate paths and to relevant elements.
For example, a contact moves into the Goal triggered listener element of the campaign. They are then evaluated by a Decision point and filtered through appropriate paths into relevant elements based on age, location, previous visit, etc.
Marketers can add additional elements to campaigns. These include:
- Move to another campaign
- Remove from campaign
- Return to start
The Delay element delays a contact's movement through the campaign.
For example, if a user wants to run a multivariate test with personalised content over a specified period, the Delay element is added. This keeps the contact in an element over the duration of the test or until they perform an action.
Move to another campaign
The Move to another campaign element enrols contacts from one campaign to another.
- A contact has completed all the elements of an automation campaign
- Because the contact has given consent to be marketed to, they are enroled to a new campaign
Remove from campaign
The Remove from campaign element removes contacts from a campaign
Return to start
The Return to start element returns contacts to the Start. So that contacts aren’t evaluated as starting the campaign again, they are moved to the element beneath Start.
An example of this scenario is for a repeating seasonal campaign.
Applying actions to a campaign
The Action dropdown enables marketers to easily apply actions to automation campaigns. As well as being able to View, Activate, Deactivate, Delete, Copy, Undo, Save as template, and Redo, marketers can also:
- Remove all contacts: Contacts in the campaign can be removed
- Enrol contacts from list: Lists from the List Manager can be enroled into a campaign
Templates enable marketers to quickly create campaigns based on a predefined automation workflow.
Templates are grouped into marketing themes (categories) based on business/marketing objectives. The 6 default marketing themes are:
- Account development
- Service campaigns
- Win back
The easiest way to create a template is to use an existing ‘tried and tested’ campaign and to save it as a template.
- From the Marketing Automation interface select the desired campaign
- Click Save as template from the Actions drop-down menu
- Populate relevant fields
- Save and Activate
Sitecore marketing automation analytics
Marketers can view the analytics of a campaign by selecting the Report View option. This view displays both the current and total contacts in campaign elements.
By clicking on specific elements, marketers can also access the Campaign overview. This displays more detailed information about current and total contacts in the chosen element.
Current contacts display:
- The number of contacts currently in the campaign.
- The number of contacts currently in the selected element of the campaign
Total contacts display:
- The total number of contacts enrolled in the campaign
- The total number of contacts in the selected element in the campaign
Marketers can view or export a list of contacts enrolled in a campaign or are being evaluated by the selected element, by selecting View contacts.
Creating a Sitecore marketing automation campaign
Sitecore’s drag and drop toolbox makes it easy to create marketing automation campaigns:
- Navigate to the Sitecore Launchpad
- Select Marketing Automation
- Click Create from the dashboard to open a draft automation campaign (only the Start and End elements are displayed)
- Start building the campaign by dragging-and-dropping elements onto the canvas. Green circles on the paths indicate where marketers can drop an element
- Click the element to specify its details
- Click Apply to apply the changes to an element
- Save and Activate
Complete the following:
- Campaign name and description
- Start date
- End date
Editing a marketing automation campaign in Sitecore
Marketers can edit active and inactive campaigns. When editing active campaigns, it’s essential to bear in mind the risk associated with it.
For instance, changing an active campaign while contacts are being processed may affect the intended outcome and result in inaccurate reporting. This, however, can be overcome by copying an existing campaign and applying the changes to the new one by:
- Navigating to the campaign
- Opening it by clicking its name
- Making relevant changes to the specific elements
- Saving and Activating
At Codehouse we can help you get started with Sitecore Marketing Automation. We’ve also helped our customers integrate their websites with leading third-party systems like Marketo, Pardot and HubSpot, as well as CRM systems like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
Contact us to discuss your next project.