Is AI Breathing New Life Into Email Marketing?

As digital channels such as social media continue to be a vital tool for customer engagement and product promotion, it’s easy to overlook “old school” tools like email. However, recent improvements in email marketing – underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) – are turning email marketing into a viable marketing tool.

Compared to the possible instant response on social channels, email marketing tends to be less effective due to its limitations, including difficulty in finding and retaining subscribers, and low open and click-through rates.

Conventional wisdom would have you change certain things about your email content to improve its performance, such as offering more discounts, crafting a better subject line, or sending messages with a different frequency. But these suggestions are based on the notion that, as a human, you can guess why readers are or aren’t connecting with your content. While true to a certain extent, this assumption requires a high degree of trial and error to arrive at the desired response from recipients.  

Now, help from AI makes it possible for businesses to discover new lookalike customers, better understand and segment existing customers, predict topics of interest, and anticipate customer behaviors. These actions can help you solve some of the most vexing challenges with email marketing.

Increase Open Rates With AI-Powered Segmentation

There is a reason why your readers aren’t connecting to your content. By taking an AI-based approach, you can see a highly accurate analysis of the problem – as well as your audience’s needs – putting you considerably further along than if you only employ guesswork.

While only 21 percent of marketers in Asia Pacific delivered personalized email beyond just name in 2017, 76 percent of them indicated that they were keen to do better personalization in email marketing, according to a Econsultancy report.

The report also pointed out that using a data point in addition to the recipient’s name is twice as likely to trigger them to open the email. Imagining if AI could write a short novel that almost won a literary award, it can also analyze all the user data including the content consumed by users across screens, and then extract the most frequently used keywords to identify topics that your audience is most interested in, and create predictive segmentations.

Once you gain such actionable insights, you can then develop content or create offers that correspond closely with their preferences and needs. As AI is capable of identifying as many keywords as possible, you will have multiple touchpoints to engage with your audience.

You can even predict who will respond to your new campaign based on their responses to past campaigns, and customize mailing features that make it easier for them to do so.

For instance, a major online and print publisher in Taiwan used to send the same emails to all readers, resulting in low open and click-through rates. Content and headlines weren’t relevant or sufficiently attractive to trigger recipients’ interest.

By adopting an AI-based approach, the publisher used deep learning to link reader profiles with their online behaviors to establish segmented profiles based on key attributes, such as age and interests. This process allowed the publisher to tailor mailing lists to the right group with appropriate marketing content. As a result, its open rates increased by 42 percent, and click-through rates increased by as much as 107 percent.

Grow Your User Base With Lookalike Audiences

The right AI models can also analyze data gathered from users’ online activity to find those who “look like” your current customers, helping you develop targeted ads and other outreach efforts. This process starts with the breakdown of demographic data about your current customers with as much granularity as you choose. It can include data from your website, campaigns, apps, customer relationship management software, application programming interface integration, and more.

An AI-enabled platform then maps that information with additional sources to find close potential customer matches. Using this valuable data set, email outreach becomes less of a guessing game and more of a precise targeting tool.

Retain Subscribers with AI Prediction

Based on behavior patterns, the AI-enabled platform can help you identify subscribers who are likely to leave your service. Certain actions indicate their readiness to move on, but you can prevent this migration if you give them reasons to stay. Once you have identified this subset of your subscribers, you can plan and implement your re-engagement strategies, such as:

  • Creating emails targeted solely to this group of “potential unsubscribers”, and segmenting further into interest groups.
  • Offering surprises, deals or rewards specific to those groups.
  • Using formatting and links to make it easy for readers to take action.

AI is the most promising tool that is driving personalization in email marketing like never before. The AI-based approach makes it possible to identify the behaviors and interests that should trigger customer engagement in email marketing, and determine how the content delivered should be customized to produce the desired outcome. The benefits mentioned above are testament to how AI can make this old marketing method thrive again.