If anyone is qualified to understand the potential impact of robotic process automation (RPA) on marketing, it's Shail Khiyara.
Throughout his career, Khiyara has held marketing roles at all three of the leading providers of RPA technology, including his current role as customer experience officer at UiPath.
And while you might expect someone working for a robotic process automation technology provider to be using its own technology, Khiyara says increasingly marketers from other organisations are also asking what the technology might do for them.
"They are trying to do a better job at customer experience, and they don't have massive amounts of budgets that are coming their way, so they need to morph and change their marketing mix," he tells CMO. "How can you do more with less is the challenge marketers are facing. And that is why they are coming to RPA."
Khiyara has seen eight core marketing use cases for RPA emerge, such as the creation of software bots for data cleansing and pipeline analysis through to the automation of vendor management and payments within the marketing function itself.
"An interesting aspect of digital marketing is that it is still held together by 20th century paperwork, particularly around the payment cycles," Khiyara says. "So automating the whole payment mechanism becomes critically important."
The use cases for RPA
One use case proving especially useful for Khiyara has been automation of market insight gathering using bots that can trawl competitors' websites and other sources of information to uncover changes and other developments.
"A bot can go in and read a press release and be able to give you the information back based on paraments that you define," he says.
Khiyara's long-term goal, however, is to use RPA technology to better understand all aspects of customer behaviour across different interactions to understand their entire customer journey and design different journeys to suit different behaviours. By understanding the customer journey in its entirety, he hopes to be able to personalise that journey more accurately, and in a manner that is dynamic right up to the customer's last interaction.
Khiyara says RPA is a tool that can be used to solve multiple different problems due to its ability to easily facilitate the movement and manipulation of customer data within an organisation. Hence he says marketers are starting to ask more questions about what RPA can do, especially as an alternative to the many point solutions are now available to them.
"RPA addresses the obesity existing in the marketing stack," Khiyara says. "The solution is fairly easy to use. We offer free training through our Academy, so there is a capability for anyone who is a non-IT person to go in and learn it. I have had marketing people go in and develop bots on their own."
While RPA is often discussed as a tool for taking headcount out of organisations, Khiyara says the sheer volume of tasks to be done in marketing, and the pressure to do more and more each year without additional budget, is making the technology essential.
"I am yet to see massive FTE reductions in this market. In fact what I have seen is the reverse," Khiyara says. "They are seeing the agility in marketing of being able to do a lot more in a shorter amount of time in a faster way. And they are seeing it impact the customer experience as well.
"It is not about talent replacement; it is about talent augmentation. It is not about cost optimisation; it is about true digitisation. I'm a big fan of how RPA drives human resilience and actually helps humans rise to the next level."