Email automation tools for the savvy marketer

Discover the email automation features you need and how AI will change them going forward.

Email marketing is ubiquitous in both B2B and B2C marketing today. Despite the development of new channels and the dynamic preferences of customers and prospects, email remains the best tactic for staying in touch with consumers.

But email marketing is not without its challenges. Today’s consumers receive a lot of email across their personal and business email accounts. It comes from businesses trying to build relationships, trying to grow relationships and trying to keep their brand front and center in the minds of the audience.

The proliferation of marketing emails presents three problems in particular for today’s marketers:

  1. It’s getting worse. Generative AI makes it easier for organizations to create a lot of email in a short amount of time. MarTech contributor Kath Pay showcased poor examples of AI-generated cold emails, and by now most of us have examples of our own.
  2. There are new bulk restrictions from major email platforms. Experienced marketers who understand email marketing strategy likely won’t be impacted, but the restrictions apply across the business.
  3. Email is one channel, not the sole channel. Email remains the dominant online messaging channel, but SMS messages and in-app notifications are also available to many marketers, and those channels aren’t as noisy (for now).

Understanding the role of email automation in marketing

Broadly speaking, automation helps us do more with less. As noted above, however, when it comes to email marketing, “more” is not always the best option.

Rather than helping marketers send more email, the role of email automation is to send the right email to the right person.

Email tactics like lead nurturing and personalized offers based on customer data are simply too complicated for marketers to generate and deliver at scale without some form of automation.

When you consider all of the applications for email used by your organization, you understand why a robust email automation platform is a requirement. The email marketing tactics employed by many industries include:

  • Welcome emails.
  • Drip campaigns.
  • Abandoned cart emails.
  • Product recommendations.
  • Reactivation campaigns.

As a marketing team, you need tools to help. And there is nor shortage of tools available on the market. So what do you look for when evaluating email automation platforms?

Features to look for in email automation platforms

Even the most cost-efficient email marketing platforms include automation today. Here are some of the other features that will help you create the type of targeted, relevant messages consumers crave.
As with other martech applications, AI is rapidly changing the landscape for email marketing and automation tools. Where appropriate, we’ve included information on the potential of AI in the features discussed below.

Segmentation and targeting. Look for the ability to segment your audience based on criteria like demographics, behavior and preferences. The continued proliferation of AI and machine learning might make segmentation more complex in the future, which will open the door for predictive analytics functionality as well.

Workflow automation. The automation of repetitive tasks and workflows saves time and reduces errors. This is another area likely to be impacted by AI, which will allow for more intelligent automations and workflows in time.

Personalization and dynamic content. Personalized content improves audience engagement, so the ability to quickly and dynamically change content based on user behavior is essential to successful email marketing programs. Deep personalization, potentially leveraging not only AI, but virtual or augmented reality, could become a trend in the future.

Multichannel integrations. Consumers use various communication channels, which makes integration with multiple platforms (email, SMS, social media) essential for a cohesive marketing strategy. Some messages, like shipment notifications or appointment reminders, are often better received via SMS. User guides and user surveys might work better with in-app messaging.

Compliance and security. In addition to aforementioned bulk email restrictions, data privacy and security remains an evolving area for marketers to navigate, especially in highly regulated industries.

A/B testing. Marketers learn by experimenting with different elements of their campaigns and optimizing based on the results. A/B testing enables this type of data-driven decision making. This is another area expected to evolve to include more complex multivariate testing thanks to AI and machine learning.

There are, of course, a number of factors that go into choosing an email automation platform, including licensing costs, the experience of your team and the number and type of email programs you’re running.

Do your due diligence, ask vendors about their future plans and product roadmaps and make a decision based not only your needs as a marketer, but taking onto account the customer experience for the people on the receiving end of your messages.


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About the author

Mike Pastore


Mike Pastore has spent nearly three decades in B2B marketing, as an editor, writer, and marketer. He first wrote about marketing in 1998 for (later Jupitermedia). He then worked with marketers at some of the best-known brands in B2B tech creating content for marketing campaigns at both Jupitermedia and QuinStreet. Prior to joining Third Door Media as the Editorial Director of the MarTech website, he led demand generation at B2B media company TechnologyAdvice.