Email Marketing in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
May 1, 2023
By Alana Smith, Email Marketing Strategist
There has been an explosion of affordable and accessible (no-code and low-code) AI technologies in recent months. ChatGPT, in particular, has savvy marketers wondering how to leverage the power of AI to improve the quality and efficiency of their work. Email marketers are no exception.
Here are several high-impact ways that email marketers can use AI to gain a competitive advantage.
AI-Assisted Content Creation
Mailboxes are more crowded than ever before. Email marketers need powerful, personalized subject lines to stand out. AI can help.
A single, well-crafted AI prompt can generate dozens of memorable subject lines. This method can be a great cure for writer’s block! The AI can help one see new creative possibilities when a tired, busy mind might get stuck framing the message in a familiar way.
Email marketers can go further by using AI-based sentiment analysis to refine the tone of their messages for unique audiences. E-commerce giants eBay and Groupon use the IBM Watson Tone Analyzer to perfect their email subject lines.
Headlines, CTAs, and Body Copy
Email marketers know that getting an email opened is only the first step. To engage subscribers and drive site traffic, the body of the email needs to be equally compelling.
Serving dynamic content—displaying different versions of an email to different segments of an audience based on commonalities in their contact profiles—is a great way to improve email performance and has never been easier to achieve. An email marketer can simply characterize a segment of their audience for the AI and ask it to transform their generic message into a targeted one. By refining the generated language, repeating the process for each audience segment and using common ESP features to disperse the content, an email marketer can easily take their game to the next level.
Drawbacks and Risks
Just as users have gotten more sophisticated at detecting phishing attempts in their inboxes or low-quality information online, frequent AI users are already beginning to recognize some of the hallmarks of content composed by chatbots. Rather than using AI to create a positive experience with their brand, email marketers could inadvertently turn off subscribers.
The “assisted” in AI-assisted content creation is key. As cool as new offerings such as GetResponse’s GPT-powered AI Email Generator or rasa.io are, email marketers should always lend a human touch to their emails and avoid taking an autopilot approach to campaigns.
Insights From Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics uses large amounts of historical sample data to forecast future trends, events, and outcomes. While a list of a thousand contacts will not yield meaningful conclusions, clients with large audiences can leverage data-driven insights from AI to improve their campaign performance. There are three key ways that predictive analytics dovetails with email marketing efforts: send time optimization, individualized content recommendations, and lead validation.
Send Time Optimization
Lots of digital ink has been split over the years on the topic of optimal send times. Each major industry has their own body of research and many individual marketers are familiar with the practice of using an A/B testing regimen to identify the best day of week and time of day to send their emails.
Boosting email engagement is a big business and AI is changing the game. New tools offer the chance to personalize send times based on individual subscriber behavior. AI sends each contact their email at a unique time within a determined window using its predictive analysis based on when specific subscribers tend to open their email. The days of sending an email to thousands of people all at one time are fading fast.
While some add-on tools are available, such as Iterable AI, many top ESP providers are rushing to fold optimization features into their current product offerings. Premium ESPs Marketo and HubSpot use Seventh Sense’s Email Delivery Optimization System, while Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign have their own proprietary programs.
Individualized Content Recommendations
By now, many users are familiar with the “if you liked x, you’re sure to like y” content formula. Regular consumers see that formulation as streaming services and online shopping platforms curate content but may not realize that sophisticated AI—with little understanding of the unique content or product offered—is operating behind the scenes.
These AI-driven recommendations are a powerful source of personalization and engagement and are not limited to websites or apps. Services, such as Litmus Personalize and Movable Ink, let email marketers in on the action. Those for whom e-commerce-style conversions are less relevant, can still use AI to present blog content and recommend travel activities.
Email marketers should always use a service, such as ZeroBounce or BriteVerify, to validate their leads before sending. “Cleaning by sending” is not a best practice, and contact validation is especially important when the marketer controls their own sender reputation. Marketers familiar with the validation process will know that “catch-all” leads have always been tricky; their email domains will always return a valid response from the SMTP service, whether the email address is actually valid or not.
AI is capable of taking out the guesswork. Certain validation services can now score catch-all leads and return a value that indicates how confident they are that a lead is valid. By trusting in an AI with a large data set, email marketers can reduce hard bounces, protect their sender reputation, and place more emails in the inbox.
AI is a New Frontier
Email marketers are on the edge of a new frontier, where the possibilities for improving campaigns appear endless. With a little caution and a goal-oriented mindset, the email marketer is poised to enter a golden age of innovation. Creating dazzling content and using insights from predictive analytics to drive engagement has never been this easy, because AI tools have never been this accessible and user-friendly.