How Brands Can Use AI to Boost Their Email Marketing Strategy

AI can personalize better than humans can.
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For many marketers, email is the channel that delivers the highest ROI. But what if it could perform even better?

Average open rates for email hover around 21 percent and click-through rates are a respectable 2.6 percent. The Data and Marketing Association says email offers the best ROI of any marketing channel and the lowest cost-per-acquisition, at $10.32.

What’s most encouraging about those figures is they describe an industry that is just at the dawn of an artificial intelligence-based revolution. By employing machine learning to every aspect of email communication, marketers can ensure their messages reach the right consumers at the right time with resonant messages.

Currently, use of artificial intelligence to segment and personalize messaging has boosted click-through rates by an average of 14 percent. And segmentation is just the beginning. Artificial intelligence can also be employed to create eye-catching subject lines, copy and calls to action that move the reader down the purchase funnel.

Subject lines that stand out

Unless your email list is less than 100, the reality is that personalizing is too hard for humans to accomplish.

The average office worker now gets 121 emails a day. Even if your communication is fortunate enough to escape the spam filter, the odds are against you. However, you can improve your chances by tapping machine learning. Some artificial intelligence-based email systems, for instance, can predict how likely your subject line is to get a response and even flag it for being too rude.

These systems can also ensure that subject lines are brand-compliant. Without machine intervention, creating and approving subject lines can take weeks. Automation can significantly cut down on those times. Research also shows that open rates can vary greatly based on the subject line. Adding the word “alert,” for instance, boosts rates by 61.8 percent. Of course, if you use that trick too often it will undermine credibility. But artificial intelligence can help craft subject lines that attract attention without eroding trust.

Copy that persuades

Marketing has successfully progressed once a consumer opens an email. But what good is an email that doesn’t persuade the reader to do anything? What works best is lively body copy that doesn’t waste the reader’s time and engages the reader in a style that suits him or her specifically (that might be no-nonsense, chatty, etc., depending on the recipient).

With artificial intelligence, marketers can figure out which style to use with toolsthat analyze a particular recipient’s social media and web activity unique to that consumer. For instance, an artificial intelligence system might identify one target consumer as a high achiever and recommend words like “absolutely” or “done.”

To dynamically create an apropos message, these systems can also consider variables like weather, time of day and time of year. If you’ve booked a rental car for the weekend, then an email might note that snow is expected within a 200-mile radius and suggest places to ski, for instance. More prosaically, an email might merely suggest based on your past purchases. According to data, 80 percent of consumers say they find those suggestions useful.

Calls to action that work

The end goal of email communications, of course, is to get the consumer to do something. Achieving that result often relies on presenting the right product and the right offer. That’s hard to pull off, but artificial intelligence-based segmentation of email lists, fast A/B testing and maximizing ideal send times can get marketers closer to that goal.

Data about consumers’ past purchases, for instance, can offer clues to the price points and products that are in their range. Data can also indicate when rewards discounts are about to run out. Historical data about buying cycles can also help. A consumer might always (but unconsciously) buy their dad a Father’s Day gift on the Thursday before the date. That is useful information if marketers are planning to send a Father’s Day offer.

The bottom line

It may seem strange that the best way to personalize email is by automating the process of creating it. Unless your email list is less than 100, the reality is that personalizing is too hard for humans to accomplish.

Artificial intelligence can do that manual work on behalf of marketers, leading to messages that are conceived with the end user in mind. That’s the promise of artificial intelligence-based marketing. The good news is that we’re already seeing this promise fulfilled.

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