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Artificial intelligence (AI) has captivated the media with its potential to change our lives and improve applications from robots to hyper-personalization. More than anyone, email marketers are excited to learn about the impact AI may have on driving engagement and improving efficiency. As it stands, many marketers are still unsure how to apply AI in practice, which means unrealized potential and unrealistic expectations fueled by vendors who eagerly sell AI solutions without communicating its explicit value to marketers.
The truth is that AI is not a panacea for the bulk of marketers’ pain points, and it’s not going to displace marketing or sales teams any time soon. That’s because implemented correctly, AI algorithms call for a deep reservoir of data, significant technology investment, and a data savvy team to manage it all. That being said, there are exciting ways that AI can help marketers maximize engagement and conversions.
Content is an obvious part of email marketing strategy that could benefit from automation. Marketers spend a significant amount of time testing content combinations - from the body copy to the subject lines to the images within the layout – in order to determine which perform best, but the process is prone to human error/bias and is quite time-consuming. That’s where AI can help.
Not only does AI technology enable you to quickly identify which content combinations perform best, but it can also alleviate a lot of the time spent on A/B testing. Further, it will allow marketers to test more elements with minimal effort. On top of that, the right tool can pick the winning combination for each segment during delivery to start serving up the right content and drive incremental revenue.
Marketers often rely on broad assumptions about the best time of day to send marketing emails. While these conclusions might work for some of your subscribers, they don’t broadly apply to every individual on your list. At the end of the day, subscribers are unique, even if they can be segmented into various buckets. Each one has different habits and preferences for checking and engaging with email.
AI could automate the ideal send time and day for each subscriber based on his or her unique engagement history. Machine learning technology can analyze the preferences of large subscriber audiences quickly and determine the time and day to send emails that will maximize engagement and conversions.
The same idea applies to the frequency and cadence of the emails you send to each subscriber. While one subscriber might engage more if you increase the frequency of your check-ins, others might feel overwhelmed and unsubscribe. AI could help marketers automatically tailor frequency and cadence to fit the needs of each subscriber.
Often, brands miss out on revenue opportunities by giving subscribers the wrong promotion or offer. While some subscribers might convert with a lower offer (for example 25 percent off versus 40 percent), others might only engage with an offer when it cuts the price by a certain margin. You can see how the wrong offer could lead to a loss of revenue, but humans alone can’t accurately predict the right offer to send each subscriber.
The right tool can collect and learn from purchase data over time and predict which types of offers perform best for each subscriber. As illustrated by the Lands' End example above, a possible approach can be a combination of a percent off and free shipping, a certain dollar amount off or nothing at all. Whatever it is, AI technology can help you drive more revenue from your promotional campaigns.
While the above use cases can enhance your email marketing program, it’s important to keep the AI buzz in perspective. Remember that many of the AI applications on the market today are still in their infancy so be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
While there are tools already on the market paving the way for AI-powered email marketing, marketers should start by investing in incremental enhancements. If you adopt the right technologies now, you’ll be able to implement more advanced AI capabilities as they become available down the road. In the meantime, continue to execute email marketing best practices that keep your subscribers engaged and loyal long-term.