Vendor Profile: Act-On Updates for Brand Insiders

Marketers are not just getting used to the idea of automating tasks to focus on more creative and analytical projects, but they are also welcoming it.

Sixty-seven percent of marketing leaders, for example, currently use marketing automation according to 2017 Salesforce data while 21 percent plan to use marketing automation technology over the next two years. Wherever an organization is in its adoption of the technology, professionals should identify the providers, understand what criteria should be used in vendor selection, and know what tasks can be freed up and optimized with marketing automation.

Marketers are likely already well aware of the established names in the marketing automation space including Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot, Oracle, Adobe and Act-On. Website Magazine asked digital marketers for their views of these well-known companies and emerging ones as part of our five-part series (see sidebar).

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From must-have features to changing vendors, we ask your marketing peers everything about marketing automation at .

To begin this spotlight on automation, we caught up with Adam Mertz, senior director of product marketing at Act-On Software, to learn more about recent updates to the platform and how their views of where the space is headed will impact marketers' everyday initiatives.

Deal Size Up, Churn Down

Founded in 2008, Act-On has spent the last year pitching its "adaptive journey" concept. The marketing automation system uses machine learning and predictive intelligence to take the data points around each customer interaction and enable organizations to deliver more personalized experiences to targeted audiences. Use cases of this might include when to send a message (predictions of when open rates and click-throughs will be at their highest based on a recipient's past behaviors and actions) or what channel to deliver the message on (e.g., email, Web, mobile or social) based on the individual's previous interactions with the brand.

In addition to the adaptive journey vision the company revealed back in March, Act-On-from a business standpoint-started focusing on increasingly larger companies for its own acquisition strategy versus Act-On's first several years when it worked with SMBs. Mertz says this change is a result of the platform itself continuing to expand. With that, the average deal size has gone up tremendously while at the same time, Act-On's customer churn is said to have decreased.

New Feature Trio
Alongside Act-On's evolution, marketing rules have changed too. While the industry talks about the need for personalizing an individual's offline and online experiences based on all the data they have collected from a person-either themselves or through a third party-the conversation needs to simultaneously address the impending general data protection regulation (GDPR).

+ Read, "GDPR: The Pandora's Box is Open for Enterprise Websites" at

Act-On may prove savvy in its 2018 predictions and 2017 year-end product release timing as both account for this data tug-o-war. Act-On, for instance, predicts individualization will become the new personalization and GDPR will have the biggest fundamental impact on marketing in a decade. Mertz helped us break down each based on new features to the Act-On platform:

+ Adaptive Forms give marketers the flexibility to create individualized surveys and forms for each buyer, with progressive profiling, responsive design and adaptive fields.

In other words, if marketing teams have collected information in the past on a person, the information is already there to populate as a person goes to download a whitepaper, schedule an appointment or take some other action. An even more sophisticated use-case is its rules-based form engine can hide or expose different questions based on a person's behavior. The likelihood of a person converting becomes greater when a marketer is trying to obtain pieces of information specific to the person. That is the critical element in personalization, according to Mertz, in that people are willing to complete forms if it leads to a more personal experience.

+ Transactional Sending helps ensure operational emails that need to have as close to 100 percent deliverability as possible (e.g., shareholder reports, financial statements, system updates, purchase confirmations) make it to every customer's inbox.

Act-On customers can now send emails that do not rely on opt-in or opt-out preferences if they are purely operational (versus those that are marketing or advertising related). For example, someone may have opted out of receiving coupons via email when they made an online purchase. With Transactional Sending, retailers can still send a purchase confirmation with near-perfect delivery. This email would need to be at the very least 80 percent operational (and that is pushing it said Mertz) with the other 20 percent perhaps including a footer with contact info. According to software company Gainsight, any email sent to a large number of customers is non-operational. Therefore, transactional sending can individualize an experience since mass sending is against the rules.

+ Local Sending supports the new data residency protocols in GDPR, ensuring that all customer data is stored and transferred from Act-On's Amazon Web Services-powered servers in Ireland.

This update speaks to how, as Mertz said, GDPR and individualization/personalization go hand in hand. Marketers want to get more personal, but now those employed by corporations with European Union customer data need to be aware of and act on the new regulations being enforced in May. With this update, Act-On will have a European Union-based database as GDPR demands and sending will occur there as well to support the policy updates its customers make.

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