Marketing automation has been the pinnacle of customer engagement ever since Amazon managed to really get it right.  The purpose of automation is to provide personalization without human intervention. This is useful and important at the very top of the funnel when it comes to directing customers on the right path. However, actually selecting and purchasing the products is another story.

It’s the Automation Apocalypse

Customers today love buying online because of the speed and access to price as well as product comparisons.  Because of the success that large ecommerce websites have had with this, the natural next step has been to automate even more.  From email marketing to social media interaction to product showcasing – everything can be done with an automated process.  Of course, this this represents progress in online commerce, but too much of even a good thing can become harmful.

Now ‘marketing automation’ has become tiresome jargon like ‘disrupt’ and ‘innovative’ that, when used on a resume, makes hiring managers roll their eyes and scoff.  All the complex apps and software are congesting the space with marketers simply going through the motions to fall in sync with an accelerating robotisation of sales.  Piece of advice: stop.

The Competitive Advantage That Can Never be Replicated

Would you feel comfortable using an automated doctor-app that could deduce your condition based on symptoms?  No, you want a real med-school officiated doctor who knows their trade.  That isn’t because you’re old-fashioned or unable to grow with technology.  It is because you know that your body is unique and is likely to display symptoms or react to medicines uniquely.  Therefore, it is important for you to have a real person who can adapt to your specific problem.

Salespeople are also problem solvers (of the less life-altering variety).  Customers go shopping to buy an item that can solve their problem.  This could be something as trivial as needing a new set of pencils for school or as important as finding a wheelchair for an elderly family member.  Salespeople are able to consider the problem within the context of the buyer’s life and help them locate the best possible solution, all while establishing a human connection.  This is a service that marketing automation — regardless of its speed — can never replicate.

Developing Customer Loyalty

As cool as artificial intelligence is, until I can have my own JARVIS, it can’t really take the place of real conversation.  I imagine most people (read: consumers) would agree, especially after dealing with those automated voices on the phone that can’t understand your perfectly enunciated English.

Making that first sale is obviously important, but keeping the customer and securing future orders is also integral to a company’s growth.  Customer retention generally happens when the buyer is able to develop trust and a personal-liking for a brand.  No matter how witty you are with the written word or how much faster you can make the process, connecting on that level is simply much easier with a real person rather than an automatic process.

You may say, “Well, it worked for Amazon!”

That’s a fair point, but most of the items bought on Amazon are relatively cheap and lack the complexity of products like insurance policies or cars.  Trying to understand insurance on your own is like walking up a steep hill.  Wouldn’t it be nicer to ride a helicopter up instead, with a smiley pilot who is very willing to help?

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