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An Exploration of Email Automation and How It’s Powering Marketing Strategies Everywhere

Woman looking at laptop screen that has the initial step of composing an email on the screen.
Written by publishing team


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Email automation is a strategy supported by marketing technology software. It enables marketers and brands to send automated emails based on triggers, audience segmentation, pre-defined roles, and prospect attributes.

The global email marketing industry is valued at $7.5 billion and is expected to reach $17.9 billion by 2027. Intuit, a global public technology platform that makes TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint, and Credit Karma, has acquired email automation provider Mailchimp for 12 billion dollars this month. Mailchimp also serves as a marketing and customer engagement platform.

Email automation often serves as a capability within marketing automation platforms. In fact, more than a few major cloud marketing platforms have acquired marketing automation platforms in the past 10 years, including Salesforce-Pardot, Oracle-Eloqua, and Adobe-Marketo.

How does email automation work within marketing automation?

Some use “email automation” interchangeably with “marketing automation”. Using marketing automation, marketers build recipes that lead to actions for specific audiences based on customer segments and prospects, according to Kobi Gamlil, head of user marketing at Wix. Email automation involves email triggers or campaigns that are automatically sent to preset roles. Ultimately, he added, this means that marketers send automated emails based on the actions of customers or potential customers.

Marketers create the email content, and the software system sends the actual email. Marketing automation software allows marketers to build in predetermined times for sending out these emails and integrate a variety of sending rules. Marketing automation has become synonymous with sending automated emails.

According to Gamliel, email is one of the channels that are powered by marketing automation tools. He cited the example of a business owner who runs their own e-commerce business and creates a prescription from different actions that lead to certain triggers. This increases engagement with their brand and ultimately increases conversions.

“The merchant can decide that the operator is an abandoned cart or a drop in prices and pre-determine that each time these two activities occur,” he said. “An action is triggered whether it is sending an email, sending an SMS or launching a popup. All of these run within the marketing automation tools.”

Many are integrating email automation with marketing automation tools and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Email responses align with the customer’s perspective and problem, according to Jonathan D’Souza, Vice President, Social Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud Product at Emplifi. “It also helps with reporting, tracking ROI, and identifying trends in your customers’ emails,” D’Souza added.

Related Article: What is Marketing Automation and How Does It Help Marketers?

Email Automation Examples

Marketers design many different email automation recipes for different types of business sectors. Gamliel cited the following examples of email automation that companies are incorporating into their marketing strategies:

  • Electronic trade:
    • Thank you for your registration
    • Abandoned cart messages
    • Price drop alerts
    • Back to stock notifications
    • Order suppression (order completed, order ready, order delivered, order arrived, product review)
  • Restaurants: Thank you for registering and reviewing your order/trial
  • Beauty: Thank you for signing up, tell us more about your needs before the first phone call, and class/session reminders

“Providers can find many ways to use email automation for many thank you emails, rate the experience, and share their experience to get a coupon, referrals from friends, and more,” Gamliel added.

D’Sousa noted that for his company, email automation triggers personalized email responses to customer inquiries. He noted that “there are different levels of email automation a brand can achieve. Initially, email automation might be the automated responses customers receive when they initiate conversations with a brand.”

He cited an example: “We received your email. We will get back to you.” Email automation allows marketers to send automated personal messages, discount codes, or confirm customer enrollment into a loyalty program.

Related article: Adobe Integrates Adobe Experience Manager with Marketo Engage

Types of email automation

Gamliel said that every company needs to understand the type of customer journey and experience they want to offer their customers, and then design and customize email automation based on that journey.

“I don’t think we need to group our marketing tools into different genres,” he added. “I think it is important to look at our entire marketing as a customer journey and offer tools based on users intent and different types of marketing tactics. I will use the breakdown of the AARRR hacking model to break down the type of marketing required to implement to customers during their journey: acquisition, activation, retention, referrals, revenue.”

D’Sousa said his company’s capabilities can break down email automation into types: for example, receiving incoming email, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to identify issues, and coding them in a customer’s CRM, using rules and a goodwill calculator to craft a response. The following actions: send this response directly to the consumer, for a fully automated process, or send this response to a quality assurance agent.

Differences between email automation and email marketing

Is email automation part of your email marketing strategy? According to Gamliel, email marketing is not part of email automation. In marketing, there are different types of tactics: search engine optimization, paid advertising, social media, email marketing and marketing automation, which are separate.

“Email marketing is campaign-based emails sent to large groups of subscribers rather than email automation that is triggered and sent to a specific user or group of users who fall under certain criteria,” Gamlil said. “I would also emphasize that both general procedures require different types of professional experts. Being an email marketer does not necessarily mean that you are an expert in marketing automation or email automation.”

Related article: A look at the biggest data challenges for marketing in the 1920s, part two

Email Automation Challenges

Privacy and regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CCPA) pose specific challenges to the future of email automation. For example, upcoming Apple iOS15 changes and difficulties using cookies in website activities for each rule change will limit Google’s ability to understand user behavior and then provide a personalized email automation experience based on specific activities, according to Gamliel.

“If marketers are not able to see what email actions customers or potential customers have taken on an email — open, click, interact — it will be difficult to optimize the journey and automate the email,” he added.

Email Automation Benefits

What are some of the benefits of email automation as they relate to your marketing strategy?

Small and medium businesses need to take advantage of automated workflows from a management and growth perspective which will make their business more efficient. “When there are great tools today that integrate seamlessly with a website or online assets that can automate email,” Gamliel said. “It is a must for business owners to incorporate into their marketing strategy. It is a tool that I believe must be implemented in every business today in order to engage with customers and grow.”

Email Automation Vendor Examples

Some email automation vendors include:

  • Work on
  • SDL
  • Oracle- Eloqua
  • Salesforce-Pardot
  • Adobe Marketo
  • ActiveCampaign
  • HubSpot
  • Marketing Automation SAS
  • SAP Marketing Automation
  • Mailchimp
  • Sentosu

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