Digital Dialogues: 3 automation lessons all marketers should learn

Koen Vanderhoydonck / October 2019

This article is a summary of Episode 2 of the Dutch-language podcast, Digital Dialogues, made in partnership with Adformatie. Koen Vanderhoydonck, Automation Specialist at Google, discusses the role of automation in unleashing data’s full potential.

You’re hungry and fancy a pizza, so you grab your phone and search for “pizza place”. One of the first places that pops up isn’t the best margherita in Napoli, but a pizzeria just 10 minutes away. This is a slice of automation at its finest. In choosing to share their location data, users allow search engines to surface the most relevant results in less than a second.

It’s a clear, everyday example of how algorithms can improve the customer experience. As a marketing automation specialist, I help advertisers get the most out of their investment with Google, at scale, by managing their media channels as efficiently as possible. Rather than just collecting data; it’s a case of driving tangible, actionable results with what’s already available. So where is the best place to start? And how do you know which automation tools will best serve your objectives? Here are three lessons that I believe will stand marketers in good stead.

1. Start small

Whether you’re a young, tech-driven start-up or a multinational retailer, the first rule of automation is to start small and be goal-oriented. As Transformation Director at digital agency DDB Unlimited, Guido Perotti supports businesses like McDonalds and KLM in their journey towards digital maturity. “Whether it’s reducing customer churn, improving drop-off behaviour, or optimising customer value through cross- and upselling programmes, knowing why you’re using marketing technology comes before the which. Too often, businesses start automating without really knowing what they want to achieve.

Another common hurdle is a lack of data alignment. For good results, it’s crucial that the data put into your automated solutions fully connects to your business objectives. Retailers often feed gross revenue data into bid engines, for example, whereas focusing on net sales data (gross revenue minus cancellations and returns) would provide them with much more valuable results. It’s just a small piece of the puzzle, but learning how to get it right from the start will pay off over time.

2. Automation is only as good as the data powering it

The quality of your data is make-or-break, which is why Quinten Selhorst, co-founder of e-scooter sharing start-up Felyx, swears by his data scientists. “Our customers use an app to locate, ride, and pay for our scooters, so we learn important insights about them not just at registration, but also as they use our services,” explains Selhorst. “All very useful data, but it needs to be processed appropriately before we can put it to use.”

“Our data scientists are responsible for designing the data warehouse behind our marketing technology. And that’s where I believe the power of automation lies — backed up by strong data, automated AI applications such as predictive churn models can help you predict customer behaviour, and act on it before it’s too late.”

3. Automation is a tool, not an end in itself

The customer journey should be front and centre of a company’s digital marketing strategy. “Companies often decide on a digital marketing strategy before they have even started thinking about the customer or their journey,” says Perotti. “When starting your journey with automation, it can be tempting to sign up for a one-size-fits-all package of tools, but that rarely works in the long-term. You think you have a sports car, but in the end you find yourself in an oil tanker that doesn’t drive flexibly.”

Moving towards automated solutions always starts with establishing the added value. Will it allow you to improve the customer journey or spend your time more efficiently? If it does, will it be worth it?

In a world of ever-increasing customer expectations, how can companies use automation to better meet their demands? Perotti explains: “Automation speeds up the collection and organisation of data, and streamlines the way in which it’s used to make individually customised contact with the customer. Automation puts the customer before anything else.”

So keep your customers and your objectives in focus — with your values in sight, automation can help you cut through the noise and speed up your processes.

Digital Dialogues is a six-part Dutch-language podcast series from Adformatie and Google about digital marketing maturity. The podcast explores how companies can become truly progessive with their marketing, and features insights and discussions with industry specialists. Listen to the full series on Spotify, Google Podcasts or iTunes.

Digital Dialogues: How to adopt a data-driven approach in 6 steps