4 Ways AI Can Transform Email Marketing

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In today’s email marketing space, few buzzwords carry as much weight as “artificial intelligence.” Everywhere you look, people are talking about AI and how it’s a potential game changer for marketers. And while that’s likely true in the long run, the reality is that only 5 percent of email marketers are currently using AI. But those early adopters are seeing remarkable success: A recent study by the Relevancy Group (TRG) and Return Path found that email senders who use AI are generating 41 percent more revenue than non-users.

So what’s preventing the other 95 percent of marketers from achieving those same results? We’re still in the early stages of integrating AI into the email marketing space. So it’s likely that many marketers are still trying to figure out how AI can be applied to processes that they’ve been using for decades. And some may be skeptical that AI can actually improve the performance of their email program. 

It’s becoming clear that the best uses for AI in the email marketing space will harness its data analysis capabilities to uncover insights at the individual subscriber level, which can then be used to optimize a brand’s email program. This work would take countless man-hours using traditional methods, but AI-powered analysis gives marketers access to more accurate data-based insights in less time.

What follows are four ways that AI is positioned to change the email marketing landscape.

1. Engagement Monitoring

Today’s reality: Most marketers use traditional metrics like read rate and complaint rate to monitor subscriber engagement. And while these numbers provide high-level insight into overall audience engagement, they fail to tell the whole story. Traditional measures provide no clue into the engagement and activity of individual subscribers—which means that marketers are likely to miss important signals of email fatigue, disinterest, and frustration, putting them at risk of losing subscribers to spam complaints and unsubscribes.

The future with AI: Using AI, marketers can closely monitor subscriber interactions at the individual level to gain better insight into engagement at various points in the subscriber life cycle. AI can also provide visibility into which campaigns and offers resonate with each subscriber and identify the most loyal and valuable contacts on a brand’s email list. With these subscriber-level insights, marketers also gain the ability to predict when subscribers are beginning to lose interest in a brand’s email program, allowing them to target re-engagement campaigns with remarkable precision.

2. Send Time/Send Frequency

Today’s reality: Two questions are nearly universal among email marketers: (1) What time should we send this email; and (2) how often should we send email to our subscribers. Conventional wisdom and best practices provide some guidance, but it’s almost impossible to know the right answer at the individual level. But these are critical questions! Sending too many emails is a surefire way to annoy your subscribers. Sending too few emails means missing out on valuable conversion opportunities. And if you send at the wrong time, your message could be buried under a mountain of other emails.

The future with AI: With the power of AI, marketers can finally solve the mystery of send time and send frequency. By analyzing historical data to determine when each subscriber is most likely to be active in their inbox, it’s possible to identify the best time for each individual to receive an email. This same type of historical analysis can be applied to send frequency, in order to determine the optimal cadence at the individual level.

3. Email Personalization

Today’s reality: Most email marketers maintain an email list with thousands (or even millions) of subscribers. And while the goal is to deliver a personal experience for every subscriber, it’s simply not possible to build custom campaigns for each individual using traditional methods. Instead, marketers rely on segmentation to create groups of subscribers who share similar behaviors and preferences and build campaigns targeting these groups in hopes that the content will resonate with a majority of readers.

The future with AI: Using AI-powered insights, marketers have the ability to customize campaigns at the individual level, based on each subscriber’s unique behaviors and preferences. AI can help marketers target each email’s content and offers to the individual subscriber, ultimately leading to stronger relationships and increased ROI.

4. Deliverability

Today’s reality: Marketers around the world struggle to reach the inbox. Good deliverability requires a careful balance of sender reputation, list hygiene, subscriber engagement, email infrastructure, and much more. When deliverability problems arise—which may not always be obvious—marketers need to have the right tools in place to recognize the issue. And of course it can take a great deal of time and effort to identify the root cause of deliverability issues, find the right solution, and implement the steps to resolve the problem.

The future with AI: Using predictive analysis and machine learning, AI-powered solutions can identify deliverability problems, suggest appropriate solutions, and take steps to implement the solution. And all of this can happen before deliverability issues damage your email program. AI has the potential to reduce the time marketers spend solving problems so they can focus on driving the business forward and delivering ROI from the email channel.

Jen Ribble is director of public relations at Return Path. With more than 15 years of marketing and PR experience, Ribble is passionate about the art of storytelling and the science of creating high-quality, data-driven content. In her current role, Ribble is responsible for elevating the company’s reputation in the marketplace, crafting engaging thought leadership content, enhancing customer relationships, and driving inbound leads.

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