How to Incorporate Artificial Intelligence into Your Email Marketing Program

Screenshot of an email inbox, with the mouse-hand ready to click on "inbox"


PHOTO: Feng Yu

With an average email open rate of 18.0% in 2020, it’s not like marketing teams are squashing this email matter. Wait, 18% not good enough? We know the standards are low here, for sure. Bottom line? Email is still a priority.

Approximately four billion people have an inbox. It’s hard to sell ditching that marketing strategy. But working through the mud of open rates, send times, tone, content, links, and the looming monster to unsubscribe remains an absolute routine for marketers.

Some say artificial intelligence (AI) can help. In fact, it has become one of the earliest use cases for AI in marketing, according to Paul Roetzer, CEO and founder of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Marketing.

“If you think about your job as a marketer, write down all the rules, find out what emails to send, when to send them, what to say, what promotion to offer, what price to use. You’re going through and literally writing all these rules trying to predict what will generate the result you want, ”Roetzer told CMSWire’s Rich Hein and Dom Nicastro on an episode of the CX Decoded Podcast. And that’s the history of marketing. We’re trying to do these things to get someone to take action, and we don’t really think of it as a bunch of all these predictions, but that’s really it. So AI is kind of a catch-all term for the tools and technologies that make machines smart. “

A lot of email marketing is done

Email. No matter how much people talk about moving from email to real-time communication channels, email is here to stay. Roughly 35% of marketers choose to send three to five emails per week to their customers, according to a HubSpot report. Some of you send more. He admitted it.

Are Marketers Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Help? In terms of what marketers feel are valuable implementations of AI in their marketing programs, the use case of recommending highly targeted content to users in real time is # 1 out of 49 use cases presented to users. Marketing specialists in the 2021 State of Marketing AI report by Drift and the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute.

That use case scored 3.96, putting it on the cusp of “high value” (4.0), with 5.0 as “transformer.” AI marketing use cases that ranked in the top five include:

  • Tailor audience targeting based on behavior and similarity analysis (3.92)
  • Measure ROI by channel, campaign, and overall (3.91)
  • Discover valuable insights about high-performing content and campaigns (3.86)
  • Create data-driven content (3.82)

Related Article: CX Decoded Podcast: AI Marketing Use Cases

Where AI fits into email marketing

Marketers are using artificial intelligence to personalize their newsletters and see increases in brand awareness, website traffic, engagement, and open and click rates, according to Jared Loftus, chief operating officer of rasa.io , which provides AI-powered solutions for marketing emails. “Plus,” he said, “our customers are learning more about their audience with the unique data that a personalized newsletter provides. They are learning more about the specific topics that matter most to people. “

Email marketing remains one of the most important marketing tools marketers can leverage for lead generation and customer engagement, according to Loftus. It has always been a struggle to compile an email list that could be effectively targeted to personalize emails appropriately, he added. “Now,” Loftus said, “marketers are succeeding with AI-based email newsletters by selecting personalized content for customers based on their past viewing and engagement behavior.”

The very common practice of A / B testing in email newsletters is ineffective, Loftus argues, because web traffic and engagement rates remain low for these click-based products. Personalized email newsletters are designed to allow marketers to target users based on their past viewing and engagement behavior. They also allow marketers to use advanced targeting tools.

“This means that the ROI of this lead generation tool is much higher due to the fact that consumers are already familiar with the content before viewing it, and are much more likely to make a purchase or become active users if ‘ they are already committed to their brand, ”said Loftus.

Email subject line and delivery time help

Naturally, the entry of a supplier does not create a market. Additionally, the global value of marketing automation platforms, for which email and email analytics are critical capabilities, is expected to reach $ 25.1 billion by the end of 2023.

However, the use cases for artificial intelligence in email marketing run deep, according to a blog post by Mike Kaput of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. Some of the use cases include:

  • Write email subject lines.
  • Writing portions of emails.
  • Sending personalized emails to each potential client.
  • Optimization of shipping times.
  • Email list cleaning.
  • Automatic email newsletter creation with unprecedented customization.

He cited tools like Phrasee, Seventh Sense, Drift Email, and rasa.io. “Email newsletters are a piece of email marketing and, at the same time, a huge separate beast to decode and optimize,” Kaput wrote. “Fortunately, AI technology exists to make the whole process much smarter and more effective.”

Personalized email newsletters are in the middle of the martech stack because they require a well-developed infrastructure and a mix of technologies, according to Loftus. They are typically made up of an automated email platform that can send newsletters and a web analytics or market intelligence tool to collect information about users.

Related Article: 3 Misconceptions About Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

Putting the AI ​​machine to work

Roetzer said that most marketers tend to look at their email subscribers and constantly hack and hack some kind of data to figure out how to get more people to open, click and engage.

“You will play with the shipping time and when should I ship it,” Roetzer said. “Maybe you do it according to the time zone they are in. You are probably going to play with the subject lines. You can play with the links it contains. You’re going to keep trying things in search of what will get more of the result I want from my newsletter. “

However, what if the machine personalized all the hundreds of thousands of those interactions, knowing when someone tends to open emails and then starts sending your newsletter when they are most likely to open it? Then after 10-15 newsletters, you start to know what you clicked on and what subject lines prompted you to open.

And you can still add the human element. You can still write the 200-word editorial in advance and still mix that personal connection, but let the machine do the heavy lifting, according to Roetzer.

“In the background at all times, the machine is learning your personal preferences,” said Roetzer. “And then as the newsletter is created and sent out, the machine chooses from, say, 50 links that could go in there, picks the 10 that it thinks it’s most likely to click. That’s the power of AI applied to newsletters. “

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