For a number of years there’s been a fair amount of ‘buzz’ around Artificial Intelligence (or AI) and the role it can play in all marketing but especially email marketing.
Whether we like it or not, AI is already everywhere. And for many of us, AI plays a big role in our daily lives - from the voice assistants on our phones and in our homes through to the recommendations Netflix gives us and the weekly playlist Spotify curates for us. The latter two are perfect examples of how AI can serve us up highly relevant content based on our previous behaviour. This level of intelligence and insight is a marketer’s dream so, naturally, we’re all chomping at the bit to discover the new ways AI can help us with our marketing. Seeing as great email marketing programmes are always built on great data, it’s the perfect channel to fully harness the power of AI.
Before we dive into the future, let’s take a step back. The intelligent use of data in email marketing is nothing new. Dynamic content (where different content is served up in the same email based on a user’s preferences’ and behaviours’) has been around for years - as has segmentation and personalisation. From ‘happy birthday’ emails through to location specific offers, the best email marketing campaigns have always used data to serve up relevant and engaging content - which will always have a much higher chance of converting.
Beyond this, Amazon pioneered the approach of sending cross-sell emails based on their customers’ purchasing habits and have become one of the world’s most powerful companies because of it. Now, according to a report by McKinsey, 35% of Amazon’s revenue is generated by its recommendation engine.
In short, the use of data by businesses of all shapes and sizes to send better email marketing campaigns is nothing new. However, what’s exciting, is how advances in AI can help take this to the next level.
First, let’s be clear on one thing, we don’t ever expect AI to replace people in email marketing. It will supplement the role of the email marketer but it won’t replace the craft of creating email marketing campaigns and programmes. Instead, the two will work together to enhance the effectiveness of email marketing programmes.Here’s how:
Personalised emails already stand a better chance of converting than those without personalisation. AI can help take this to the next level. Expect to see the accuracy of product recommendations to increase and for it to happen in real-time. As consumers, we’ve become increasingly demanding and we expect the experience a business gives us to match our expectations. AI is going to help deliver us content that isn’t just specific to a segment of a database we belong to, but genuinely specific to us.
It’s not just personalised content AI will help with - it will help optimise how and when emails are sent. One of the most common questions we are asked is: “When’s the best time to send my email campaign?” There’s no right answer to this as it varies hugely depending on the nature of the business of the demographics of the database. However, what AI promises is being able to determine the best time to send an email to each individual subscriber based upon when they are most likely to open it. What’s more, we will also be able to tailor subject lines to each individual so emails are more likely to be opened.
Expect to see email marketing automation become more advanced, especially when email marketing platforms are linked with CRM systems. Lead nurturing programmes will become more sophisticated and will be able to serve up content (whether that’s copy or images) to an individual based upon their interests and previous interactions with the business - either online or offline.
Back in 2017 we said we were excited about the changes GDPR would bring to email marketing and we were proved right. GDPR has given us healthier databases with more engaged subscribers and business are creating better content as a result.
We say the same about AI. We welcome it and see it as being a powerful tool we can combine with our knowledge, experience and creativity to produce email marketing campaigns we know will be successful and deliver results.