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4 Ways Marketing Automation Technology Will Continue to Evolve in 2018

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Most marketers are acquainted with the blessings of marketing automation technology. Simple automation solutions have allowed humans to outsource the most tedious aspects of their jobs to their computer counterparts. Chatbots have reduced the human capital required to offer online chat support, while programmatic ad buying saves marketers from time-consuming tasks related to purchasing online ad space.

But these real-world applications only represent the beginning of what automation will offer the marketing world. New uses of automation technology are already reshaping familiar marketing channels while creating new opportunities to leverage data and engage consumers.

Don’t grab your tinfoil hat just yet: This isn’t a forecast of a robot takeover that will seize your jobs and put you out of work. Automation tools only promise to help you do your job better and get better results from your campaigns, while freeing up human capital to work on other projects that the machines can’t handle. The ROI opportunities created by automation are why it ranks among the top marketing trends of 2018. Here are four such innovations expected to hit the mainstream this year.

1. Semantic SEO

The query typed into Google’s search box is not always the question the user is trying to answer. Semantic SEO is a strategic effort to think ahead when users conduct searches online, moving past the query’s literal meaning in order to understand the deeper questions they’re seeking to answer.

When a user is trying to Google information about certain physical symptoms, they may actually be searching for information about a specific condition without knowing what it’s called. Semantic SEO uses artificial intelligence to connect the dots between what they’re asking and what they’re seeking out online, helping them find relevant content faster.

Think of semantic SEO as a turbocharged approach to traditional search engine optimization that adds automated AI analysis to supplement traditional keyword strategy. There is still a human role in using this SEO research to create better content and target users accordingly, but semantic SEO makes use of high-powered computation that streamlines the search experience and makes it more valuable for everyone involved.

Google search

2. Integrated Email Workflows

Email workflows are nothing new, and they’re already managed by basic triggers based on a set of rules established by marketers. As CMSWire says, these workflows lean on binary Boolean logic to automate triggers and subsequent email actions, but the capabilities of automation have been limited until recently.

Fortunately, integrated email workflows are now able to incorporate triggers from channels outside of email campaigns, using behavioral triggers from social media, display ads, and other content to automate new email content and marketing strategies. The result is more intuitive email workflows that are more responsive to a user’s online activity, and are better able to deliver relevant messaging at specific stages in the user funnel.

The integrated aspect of these workflows is managed through automation tools that watch for triggers and launch emails accordingly, ideally improving engagement with email content and boosting conversion rates.

3. VR

Virtual reality represents a universe (literally) of largely untapped marketing opportunities, but the technology remains so nascent that marketers haven’t fully explored the possibilities of this new channel. What we do know: VR offers incredible value both in gathering user data and driving marketing experiences. One obvious application of automation is the use of VR experiences or behaviors to triggers marketing content.

Engagement with touchpoints within a VR experience might trigger a certain type of branded content, whether it’s a static ad or an exclusive brand-driven experience within the context of a larger VR experience. The possibilities will grow so numerous that marketers will be unable to manually launch and manage content within VR experiences. Automation will be the engine behind most VR-bound marketing content. As VR becomes more popular as a consumer good, brands will make a more concerted effort to create VR content and messaging that earns engagement from VR users.

Woman with VR headset

Image attribution: nan palmero

4. Contextual Marketing

As MarketingProfs points out, context has asserted itself as having a much bigger hand in growth than advertising strategies. By nature, advertising is designed to interrupt an experience and grab a consumer’s attention in spite of the surrounding noise. Contextual marketing doesn’t play this game: It uses that context as an asset, creating messaging that becomes a part of the experience. Your user behaviors, the types of content you consume, the experiences you seek out: All of these play a part in crafting marketing content specifically for you.

This personalization is only possible through automated solutions. Additionally, it requires considerable computing power to gather insights from behavioral data to deliver personalized marketing content in a timely manner. This is why contextual marketing is one of the biggest marketing trends of 2018: It combines the next-level insights of artificial intelligence to personalize content within the context of a user’s known activity. Behavior, platforms, geography, and demographics all come together to shape the types of marketing content you will receive, with the hope of this content offering enough relevance and organic interest that you’re compelled to engage, instead of being shouted at in hopes of getting your attention.

This approach to marketing isn’t limited to B2C brands: Upwork notes that contextual marketing plays a critical role in the success of account-based marketing strategies. Human marketers will be needed to create contextual marketing content that can be deployed in different scenarios, but AI automation solutions will be used to pick the opportunities where this content can be delivered for maximum effect.

Marketing automation technology is expanding its capabilities to service more aspects of enterprise marketing strategy while improving the value of these solutions. Many marketing departments are strapped for resources and desperate to add new workers to their staff. Automation offers a cost-effective alternative by reducing employee stress and improving productivity for the entire department.

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Featured image attribution: Kaboompics

Jonathan Crowl specializes in digital marketing and content creation for both B2B and B2C brands, with an emphasis on startups and technology. His past and current clients include B2B brands IBM, LinkedIn, Mad Mobile, Oktopost, BrightSpot, and Waze, as well as B2C brands Porsche, Epson, and PayPal. He lives in Minneapolis.

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