How Forward-Thinking Brands Are Leveraging Automation

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This post is the latest in our “Automating Local” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of April, including topics like artificial intelligence and marketing automation. See the rest of the series here

Brand marketers want to be everywhere, all the time. When customers need support, when questions need to be answered, and when decisions need to be made, brand marketers aim to be present at every point along the path to purchase. But humans are fallible, and where human marketers fall off, technology allowing for automation is picking up the slack.

Global brands—the kind that can afford huge teams of in-house marketers—are increasingly relying on marketing automation tools to manage triggered email campaigns, prioritize leads for sales, and leverage mobile campaigns across their customers’ journeys.

Here is how five top global brands are deploying automation to improve the way they interact with customers.

1. Nestlé Purina
The Nestlé Purina pet care company uses a customer data platform (CDP) from Lytics to build “smart” customer profiles and activate automated marketing campaigns. Nestlé Purina has worked in partnership with local adoption companies, using its CDP to both identify the right types of pets for people and match people up with available dogs and cats in their areas. Once the adoption occurs, Purina shifts its marketing to focus more strongly on information that can help people keep their pets happy and healthy, like nutritional advice and behavioral support. Purina’s strategy turns “pre-customers” into customers by using collected data to match people with their ideal pets. The strategy is also designed to build loyalty and trust, by focusing more on targeted education than on direct sales.

2. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Most people think about voice technology from the customer’s perspective, but the national restaurant chain Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has found a way to tap into the technology to streamline back-end operations as well. Dickey’s is encouraging franchise operators to ask Amazon’s Alexa about real-time sales figures throughout the day. Those sales figures come from a data warehouse platform that Dickey’s developed. The company also created its own customer-reporting tools. Dickey’s chefs are also using voice technology to track rib cooking times in the kitchen. Yet for Dickey’s, voice technology is just one piece of the larger puzzle when it comes to automation and artificial intelligence. The company is using AI to decrease abandoned online orders and find out why customers disengage so that they can be enticed to continue placing their take-out orders online.

3. Subaru
Subaru has turned to Arm Treasure Data to manage its customer data and ultimately create more personalized marketing strategies. Through their CDP, Subaru has been able to collect first-party customer data and merge that data with third-party data. This strategy gives Subaru a more complete view of their customers, which has been used to develop relevant online advertising campaigns and personalized one-to-one marketing. The automaker is also working on developing more ways to get dealerships involved, finding new strategies for sharing integrated data and automatically delivering the best information to the right audiences at the times when they’re most likely to be receptive.

4. McDonald’s
Already a global leader in the quick-service restaurant industry, McDonald’s is making headway in a new arena with its recent push into automation technology. The company recently acquired Dynamic Yield, with plans to use the Tel Aviv-based firm’s decision technology to increase personalization and improve the customer experience. More specifically, McDonald’s plans to use Dynamic Yield’s technology to develop varying outdoor digital drive-thru menus that show different products based on the time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic, and trending menu items. McDonald’s has been testing the technology at selected locations since last year, but it has plans to role the technology out at all U.S. restaurant locations within the next few months.

5. Walmart
Walmart’s journey toward total automation centers on combining the digital and physical shopping experience. The global retailer is testing cashier automation, first, by letting customers scan and pay for their items in-store using the store’s mobile app. They’re now exploring the possibility of giving sales reps the option to help customers pay on smartphone-like devices. Walmart is also looking at how comfortable customers are with automated payments as it fully investigates the future of in-store automation and the opportunities that exist by taking a hybrid approach that reduces the dependence on traditional check-outs without getting rid of cashiers altogether.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.