Like most people, you probably had your first taste of artificial intelligence (AI) from science fiction movies. Now artificial intelligence has made it relatively very far from the day it first came into existence. With technology across various industries, there are emerging trends as it’s utilized to improve different processes. Artificial intelligence plays a critical role in the field of digital marketing, particularly when it comes to email marketing.
For its direct approach and cost-effective methodology, email marketing has been an integral part of digital marketing. Email marketing is more powerful than ever with the help of artificial intelligence. Including personalization, automation and data analysis, it has introduced several benefits to getting higher conversions. AI is key in upgrading your email marketing tactics to give your email strategy that extra boost for more favorable results.
In terms of what we can achieve through email marketing, artificial intelligence has greatly expanded, enabling enhanced personalization and driving conversions.
Let’s first understand AI, before we dig into its practical implications.
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Alan Turing forever shaped the definition of AI in 1950 by proposing an “imitation game”, where a computer had to behave in such a manner that a human wasn’t able to distinguish it from a real person. This view of general AI shaped research for decades and finally led us to the weak vs. general distinction we see today.
A machine that emulates some facet of human intelligence and does it well but is falling short in many areas is narrow AI.
General artificial intelligence essentially mimics the characteristics of human intelligence and is all about having the characteristics of the common definition of AI.
Since it’s new and exciting, Mentioning AI raises people’s eyebrows. The concept itself is almost 62 years old, while the recent advances in AI technology certainly are exciting. That being said, the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the rise of applications based on AI gets people excited as it will finally change the way we experience the world around us and is already starting to change how we leverage technology to deliver more personalized experiences for our subscribers and customers. But, any organization that says it is applying AI to its product and services without any further clarification as to what that means exactly is just trying to capitalize on the hype rather than the practical application of how it’s going to elevate your email marketing.
The primary question is, “Will the technology apply Machine Learning, Machine Intelligence or Deep Learning?” And the second question is, “What pain point or problem does the product or service they are pitching solve?” Finally, organizations that are pitching AI as a solution usually glosses over one critical aspect of what makes these technologies worthwhile: huge volumes of clean and actionable data. This is a critical challenge for many companies today, so any valid technological claim needs to be clear about what data inputs will be needed to make the solution effective.
However, while we usually talk about incorporating or using AI in marketing, what do we truly mean by that?
Read the following example to see it in action;
The entire content of the email can be automated, just as the email subject lines can be automated and optimized. Software powered by AI can use images, pre-written copy, blog post snippets, promotions, links, curated contents, and even machine-generated content to produce emails that are optimized for a high engagement rate.
AI algorithms can’t just determine the most suitable combination of different types of content, but this automation also significantly reduces the resources and time needed to keep your email campaigns up and running.
Optimizing subject lines:
The email subject line is one of the most important aspects of your overall email marketing strategy.
Encouraging click through and to read the email, a good email subject line will stand out in the recipient’s inbox. While on the other hand, a poor subject line will be ignored and skimmed over, or even worse, can be interpreted as spam by the ISPs and cloud land in the spam or junk folder.
Traditionally, to get email subject lines right for your audience, it takes a good copywriter plus a lot of experimentation and analysis, however, AI is now making this a simple task.
To generate subject lines that will attract a higher click-through rate, AI uses algorithms. To optimize and improve your subject lines over time, AI analyzes the results of each individual marketing campaign.
Personalization can mean the difference between one that’s just a waste of time & resources and a hugely successful email marketing strategy. Emails with personalized subject lines get a 26% higher open rate and deliver 6x more transaction rates.
In fact, customers now expect it since personalization has become so pervasive in email marketing. Non-personalized, generic email addresses as “Dear business owner” or anything other than the recipient’s name is likely to be ignored and may come across as spammy.
AI really expands the possibilities, while some basic level of personalization has been quite common in email marketing for a long time.
To predict future behavior based on previous interactions and data trends, predictive analytics uses customer data, complex algorithms, and machine learning.
Determining optimal timings:
Trying to figure out how often to send emails to your subscribers and customers and the optimal time to do so is part science and part art. Email marketers traditionally depend on data analysis, experimentation, and their own common sense and intuition to accurately figure out these timings.
By automatically analyzing various data points, now AI is taking the guesswork out of choosing the frequency and timing of email campaigns. AI algorithms can accurately determine the best time to launch your email campaign so they’ll get more opens and reads. Additionally, it can also identify whether you should opt for bi-weekly or weekly or monthly emails.
Not just this, but artificial intelligence enables you to easily automate this process on an individual basis. Earlier, you could have only chosen a single time to send the email campaign to your entire subscriber list. But, now you can easily email small groups of subscribers or even individual customers at different times to increase engagement based on the demographics and previous interactions of your subscribers.
So while Mark might respond better to an email that’s sent to him on Tuesday evening during his commute to his home from his office, Jenifer might be more likely to buy something from an email that’s sent to her on Friday evening when she’s trying to kill some time at work before the weekend.
Personalizing and automating email timings to optimize engagement and sales for individual customers have been made possible with AI.
Data filtering & analysis:
Marketing is increasingly becoming a data-driven discipline, and the key to improving personalization, customer experience, targeting, etc., is the effective use of data.
However, once data has been collected, consolidating it at scale and analyzing it to determine patterns is complex and tedious for humans. This is where AI comes into play: its ability to take on complex organizational and analysis tasks that would be difficult or impossible for humans to carry out is one of the great strengths of AI in the workplace, freeing up humans to do the more creative, intuitive work that they are more suited to.
For example, in account-based marketing (ABM), AI can be used to improve account selection when ABM is carried out at scale. DemandBase found that they could use AI to filter out accounts from their list of prospects that would eventually lose the company money in the long run.
It’s very common when customers add items to their shopping cart but don’t complete the checkout process. Email marketing is a highly effective channel to reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate and boost your sales.
With the power of AI, you can easily optimize your retargeting strategy. Some customers may not be ready to make their purchase for a day or two, while others may respond better to an email that’s sent an hour after they’ve left your website. AI can clearly differentiate between these different types of customers to send your retargeting emails at the most suitable time. By suggesting another couple of algorithmically-chosen effective items, you could even increase your sale value.
Product and content recommendations:
With a report on ‘digital bookshelves’ by Jussi Karlgren, a Swedish computational linguist at Columbia University, way back in 1998, the practice of clustering customer behaviors to predict future behaviors began. And during the same year, Amazon started using “collaborative filtering” to enable recommendations for millions of their customers.
Fast forward to 2019, and the most successful organizations have built their product offerings around the ability to provide highly personalized and relevant content or product recommendations, including Netflix, Amazon, Spotify. This all comes from AI-based clustering and interpreting of consumer data paired with demographics and profile information, as Lori Goldberg wrote in a brief history of artificial intelligence in advertising for Econsultancy. These AI-based systems continually adapt to your dislikes, likes and react with new recommendations tailored in real-time.
Now many other leading organizations are following the suit with their own recommendations that are powered by AI. Because customers are used to the level of personalized recommendations provided brands like Netflix and Spotify, they now look for other brands to provide the same experience.
Publishers are also implementing content recommendation widgets powered by AI that can identify relevant content to surface to their readers, based on readers’ browsing habits, even personalize those recommendations.
Customizing email promotions:
Offering special promotions and discounts to your audience is a great and effective way to both increase sales and to persuade more people to sign-up to your subscriber list.
Using machine intelligence to determine the optimal offer for each individual customer, you can boost sales even further by customizing your promotions to each individual customer.
If a customer gets excited at the chance of just a 15% discount, by offering them a 40% or 50% discount you will be reducing your potential profit. However, if you know some customers that wouldn’t purchase for anything less, you can offer them a bigger discount for a chance of making a successful sale.
You can also choose to offer special promotions and discounts on specific products, free shipping, among other incentives, discounts, or freebies. All personalized to each individual customer’s interactions and shopping behavior. Without the power of AI, this kind of individual promotion and discount customization would be impossible.
Audience targeting & segmentation:
Marketers need to target increasingly granular segments to reach their customers with the level of personalization that many have come to expect.
Ai can be used to successfully achieve this. Drawing on the data that companies already have about their customers, machine learning algorithms can be trained against a “gold standard” training set to identify common properties and critical variables, and even point out incorrectly identified contacts.
Segments can be as simple as age and gender, or as complex as buying personas and past behaviors, the extent to which marketers can segment their customers comes down to the data that they already have about their customers.
Segmentation doesn’t necessarily have to be static. Dynamic segmentation is an AI application that takes into account the simple fact that human behavior is rarely unchanging or fixed, and that they can take on different personas for different reasons at different times.
For example, if a young person who is in their late 20s browses for a product for a friend or relative who is quite old, using real-time data, dynamic segmentation will put them in group with the segment most appropriate to their current buying behavior, showing the most relevant offers and avoiding using old data for targeting.
A boost in sales and revenue, increased engagement and conversions, and faster and more efficient processes, all of these uses of AI offer the same benefits.
By using AI-powered email marketing software you can reduce the time you spend on your email campaigns while improving the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Upgrading your strategy to incorporate AI in your organization is sure to be a worthwhile investment for a long time.