— February 28, 2019
The email marketing industry is currently in the midst of a seismic shift in the way it builds marketing content and in how that content is delivered to consumers.
Chances are quite good at this point that any global internet user with a Facebook account, an Instagram account, or an email address has probably already experienced this shift, most of them without even realizing it.
Like so many of the digital marketing shifts that preceded it, the one currently taking shape is being driven by technological innovation. Much like the advent of the smartphone and the widespread adoption of marketing automation, the latest technological innovation to rock the digital marketing world has the potential to disrupt some of the industry’s most long-held beliefs and strategies, and to offer brands and marketers new email marketing powers on a scale that few could have anticipated.
What is this amazing innovation that’s currently turning the email marketing game on its head?
It’s artificial intelligence, and it’s about to change everything.
What Everyone Should Know About AI
Artificial intelligence is an extremely powerful digital marketing tool. Sure, today’s AI may not look like the all-purpose humanoid robots we remember from our favorite sci-fi films, but there’s no question that it’s already having a big impact. Be it the recommendations on our favorite eCommerce site, the films on our Netflix homepage, or the inexplicably enticing copy in the ads on our Facebook news feeds, AI is touching our lives in subtle but important ways every day.
In a world where consumer data is worth its weight in gold, and where many brands sit atop untold mountains of that data, the ability to sift through it and glean valuable marketing insights from it is a precious commodity indeed. The thing is, algorithms capable of doing just that have been widely available for some time. Re-branding such algorithms as “AI” and marketing them as such has become an all too common practice in the email marketing space.
True AI however, is capable of much, much more.
What sets AI apart from the algorithms and automation technologies that preceded it is something far more valuable still: artificial intelligence learns. True artificial intelligence gets more effective and more efficient at completing its assigned task with every passing day.
If you build an AI for the specific task of optimizing a brand’s email marketing processes (like we did), it will learn to do so more effectively with each and every send. It will learn what a brand’s unique audience responds to, what it doesn’t, and thus how to engage that audience more effectively over time.
That’s the true AI difference, and that’s what every email marketing brand should be actively seeking.
How AI Helps in Building an Effective Email Strategy
Every brand’s audience is different, and no brand’s audience’s tastes stay the same forever. What works in an email marketing campaign today could very well fall flat next week (or even tomorrow!).
That’s why regular, thorough, and ongoing split testing should be an essential element of every brand’s email marketing strategy.
There’s a problem, though: most successful brands send out a great number of emails over the course of every week, and the process of manually split testing them, analyzing the performance data these split tests generate, and optimizing each campaign’s content accordingly is incredibly time-consuming and onerous.
But not for artificial intelligence. AI can manage these tasks quickly, efficiently, and repeatedly, optimizing your email marketing campaigns to reflect the changing preferences and tastes of your audience as it goes in real time, and with very little human input at all.
AI and Subject Lines
There is strong evidence to support the belief that email subject lines are the single most important element of any email marketing campaign.
Research has indicated that a full 47% of consumers make the decision to open or ignore and email based on that email’s subject line alone. Aside from a brand’s “from” name – which drives this decision in a full 64% of cases – no other aspect of an email marketing campaign drives the all-important open as much as its email subject line does.
With email open rates across all industries hovering somewhere around 18%, there remains plenty of room for improvement here. Using natural language generation and deep learning AI to generate, test, and optimize email subject line language has proven to have a massive positive impact on driving increased subscriber engagement and open rates for brands in many industries already.
The ability to split-test AI-generated, brand-compliant email subject line copy at scale quickly and efficiently, and to optimize future subject line language based on the resulting performance data can be an extremely lucrative one for brands.
It’s important to keep in mind however, that while email subject line optimization is among the first aspects of email marketing to feel the full force of AI marketing language, it certainly won’t be the last.
With 6.5 million users and “really poor” open rates that were only getting worse, classified ads site Gumtree, a division of eBay, decided to give AI-optimized email subject line copy at try in the hopes of boosting user engagement several years ago.
This type of “subject line effectiveness decay” is a startlingly common problem in the email marketing business, as subject lines which garnered robust open rates in the past show diminishing returns over time in almost all cases.
The promise of fresh, unique, on-brand subject line language to include with each and every campaign was simply too intriguing for the forward-thinking team at Gumtree to pass up, so they formed a partnership with AI-driven marketing language vendor Phrasee to see what AI was capable of.
After experiencing a sustained increase in email marketing ROI resulting from a 35%-50% increase in campaign open rates, Gumtree has now made AI a key aspect of its larger email marketing strategy.
Have a look at the video:
An AI-rich Email Marketing Future
As the positive results from AI-optimized email marketing continue to roll in, it’s a safe bet that the number of brands making use of this game-changing technology will increase massively in the months and years to come.
When it does, AI will quickly progress from being a curiosity or a “nice to have” to an absolute email marketing essential.
A future where AI-driven email marketing is the norm for every brand may be coming much sooner than most think.