What is AI, and how is it relevant to email marketing?
A good way to understand AI is to think of it as machine-learning technology. Like a robot, AI technology can scan endless databases of technology quickly and efficiently. Then, rather than delivering the results for a human to parse through and make insights out of, it moves forward with analyzing the data, deriving insights, and acting on those insights itself.
Like all new technologies, AI is exciting. But email marketers shouldn’t expect to just sit back, relax, and let the robots take over. We’re still a long way from that.
In the meantime, smart email marketers can leverage AI to improve their workflow, increase KPIs, and look awesome to their bosses – earning themselves a bit more of that sit-back-and-relax time.
Here are 5 aspects of email marketing that can benefit from AI.
1. Send times
Where AI really shines is its ability to hone in at the individual user level. Today’s consumers expect an increasing amount of personalization, and if your brand doesn’t deliver, they’ll happily find one that does. In order to retain and delight customers, it is essential that your brand personalizes not just by user persona, but to every single customer.
AI can help you do that – starting with optimizing your email send times. It’s time to say goodbye to your days of painstakingly A/B testing to find the best days and times of the week to send to different subsets of users. Even with that outdated approach, you’re left with large subsets of users, or constantly drilling down to smaller and smaller subsets. It’s simply not efficient.
Instead, AI can monitor the open and click behavior of each of your email recipients, tailoring your send times down to the minute and individual.
Different consumers respond to different types of promotions. Certainly, you can make predictions about how some of your audience segments respond to dollar off vs. percentage off deals, or whether exclusive freebies are especially tantalizing to some. But with that approach you’ll always end up ignoring some at the benefit of the others, losing yourself some incremental revenue and boring your customers.
AI measures how each of your email recipients respond to every single one of your promotions. Most customers don’t want to be notified of every promotion you’re running; they only care about the ones relevant to them. To prevent sales fatigue, your best bet might be to not offer certain deals to some customers, or to translate the deal into a version they would find compelling. AI figures that out for you – at scale.
According to Marketo, 79% of consumers prefer to engage with offers only when it has been personalized to them based on their previous purchases and interactions with the brand.
AI makes that a reality, and takes it a step further: delivering personalized promotions not just based on prior purchases, but what your individual customers are most likely to buy next. For instance, a shopper who invested in heavy winter gear during the fall isn’t going to be interested in similar products during the spring, but the styles of winter outerwear they selected often informs their style preferences for a spring wardrobe.
Some customers only care about what discounts you’re offering. That is the one thing that keeps them loyal to a brand – price and value. They couldn’t care less about your philanthropic efforts or your latest social media contest.
On the flip side, others want to know all about your brand. Feeling connected to your brand is what keeps them loyal.
And then of course, there are the ones in the middle. They like some types of content but not others. Persnickety millennials can fall into this category, as well as the even more picky, less attention-paying Gen Z.
AI weeds out irrelevant content, so your email recipients only receive what they’re truly interested in. As a result, each piece is a winner in their eyes. They’re consistently impressed with the content you put out, because it seems uniquely relevant and useful to them.
And what about content format? There’s videos, podcasts, images, long-form and short-form articles… and that’s just getting started. AI sorts this all out for you, determining your individual subscriber’s preferred content format. You may have three versions of an email where the featured content is displayed in a different format, and AI will send the appropriate one to each of your email recipients.
Some AI technology even helps you optimize the content before sending it. Adobe Sensei scans an email draft, and then offers suggestions on how to improve the design down to the finest details, such as whether a picture of an orange tent for 6 people would perform better for a camping gear retailer than a picture of a blue two-person tent.
AI can even tie into your brand’s presence elsewhere on the web, looking at how your subscribers engage with different types of social media posts to determine what tone to use in their email, what kind of content they like, and whether to reference that same social content in the email, too.
4. Subject lines
All of the above, from the send time to the content within the email itself, is moot unless you have a compelling subject line.
Email marketing best practices and A/B testing can help you discover if your customers like to see emojis or capital letters in your subject lines, or whether you should use questions.
But what about the tone of those questions, and which types of emojis resonate better with your subscribers? This is yet another area where AI can personalize down to the individual user. AI startup Phrasee claims its AI-powered algorithms compose subject lines that outperform human-written subject lines 95% of the time!
At 122%, email marketing delivers one of the best ROIs. Yet average open rates hover in the 20 percent range. Personalized subject lines, on the other hand, get 50% higher open rates. AI can unlock that personalization for your brand.
Finally, frequency is one of those magical elements that determine whether or not an email marketing program is successful.
Some consumers need constant reminders from your brand. If you want them to stay loyal, you have to constantly remind them of a reason to stay loyal. These consumers don’t get annoyed, no matter how many emails you send them.
On the other hand, others only want to be notified when it’s something they truly care about. As we’ve mentioned in the points above, AI helps ensures you only send them the emails they’re sure to open.
And of course, there are those whose preferences can’t be put in a box. Send too much period, and they’ll unsubscribe. Send too many of a certain type of emails, and they’ll unsubscribe.
AI finds the frequency sweet spot for each of your email recipients, preventing email fatigue and ensuring that the emails that you do send pack the biggest punch.
Personalize your email outreach with AI
Over half of consumers will switch brands if a company doesn’t personalize their communications to them.
Segmentation is no longer enough. A/B and multivariate testing can help you design email campaigns for different audience segments, but AI takes you to the next level. AI is testing designed for the individual user.
Plus, AI takes care of the machine-learning elements of email marketing – freeing up your time to focus on creative direction and strategy.
Give your audience what they want. Improve your open and click-through rates. Personalize your email outreach with AI.