Is a machine-led approach to marketing right for everyone?

Is a machine-led approach to marketing right for everyone?
Liz Morrell is a freelance business journalist and content creator with more than 20 years writing experience, including 15 in retail and associated sectors. She is a regular contributor to MarketingTech but also covers a number of other industries in her freelance capacity. Contact her via LinkedIn or at


The seemingly simple concept of improving the customer journey is one that’s often enough to strike fear into a marketer’s heart. How do you improve the voyage for a consumer that is often consuming across channels, devices and brands and for whom experience is key?

Getting your messaging and tone right is crucial, but in situations where you are removed from the consumer can be tough. Retailers have long focussed on the importance of improving the consumer journey but in truth they have had to. Get it wrong and they lose customers – simple.

Although the retail industry as a whole leads on the whole customer journey analysis experience for other industry sectors and businesses the challenge of improving the customer journey is newer – with many still only on the customer journey mapping stage. For those that are further along the journey, the question is where next in a world where marketers are drowning in data and possibilities – especially as the scale of the company and therefore the challenge increase.

“The marketer’s challenge is to understand the various points that a customer engages with the business and make the most of each opportunity,” says Lara Albert, vice president of marketing for personalisation software provider Amplero.

But of course with large businesses that’s easier said than done. “There are severe limitations when it comes to managing customer journeys and executing customer journeys. For larger enterprises dealing with millions or tens of millions of customers the challenge becomes the complexity around which decisions have to be made, the rate at which they have to be made and the scale that they have to be made,” says Albert.

This is a shift in how marketing is run – machine learning allows a degree of granularity that is not achievable with a human-led approach

It’s certainly enough to blow any marketers mind. “We still see a lot of marketers having a human led approach so that even if they are doing robust ab testing they are still hypothesising what they should test and effectively guessing what they should test. Others are manually developing targeting rules but putting in automation,” she adds.

The move to machine-led marketing offers the potential for more sophisticated marketers, further along the discovery path of the customer journey experience, to go one step ahead and enable a scale that’s not possible with a human led approach to decision making. “The early adopters are running the course with existing mar tech and understand the limitations and are at the point of wanting to change and adopt new technology,” says Albert.

But what does that mean for the marketer who may be worrying about the role? Albert says here education comes into play. “There is an assumption that the role of the marketer is diminished but the real advantage is that they can shift their focus to marketing strategy and the creative aspects of that rather than having to focus on operational tasks such as running reports,” she says. “For companies that are deploying machine led approaches they aren’t cutting back on their marketing departments, their departments are actually more empowered.”

However, it does require that marketers embrace the technology, says Albert. “This is a shift in how marketing is run,” she says. Of course the results are always an important measure and speak for themselves according to Albert. “Machine learning allows a degree of granularity that’s not achievable with a human led approach. It also allows scale and performance. We have seen a 400% performance lift when it comes to retention marketing with really incredible results.”

But of course the technology won’t suit everyone. “There are a number of early adopters and within certain verticals there are companies that are leading the way,” explains Albert. “If you think about companies that are trying to get to a subscription based model, then something like this becomes really important because you are trying to deepen engagement. It comes down to whether there is a degree of complexity in analysing your business and the challenge of intervening.

“Personalisation isn’t nearly as difficult when you have customers in the hundreds but when you get to the millions and tens of millions then it’s complex. The more challenging and complex that becomes the more of a need businesses will have for this machine led marketing approach,” she adds.

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