The world of digital marketing is one that moves fast and changes often and it can be a challenge for business owners and brand managers to keep up. But advancements in the field of artificial intelligence have made it easier to launch and run successful digital marketing campaigns, particularly when it comes to email.
Although there have been some amazing developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) recently, the concept got its name back in 1950. At that time, Alan Turing, a computer pioneer, developed the Turing Test. A machine would be considered intelligent if a person interacting with it could not determine if it was a machine or a human being.
That was the beginning of the field of AI, which has now become more commonplace. In fact, AI is under the surface of most interactions we have with our digital devices today. This is what has made it such an exciting development for marketers. Not only are users accustomed to interacting in AI, they welcome the personalization that the system can provide.
Why email marketing?
Despite all the communication apps on the market, emails remain one of the most powerful digital marketing tools. Statistics indicate that there are over 3.7 billion email users around the world, which is nearly half the world’s population. Most individuals spend over five hours a day checking their emails (TechCrunch).
Emails can make a difference in a customer’s mind when it comes to purchasing decisions. In fact, many say marketing emails give an additional incentive for customers to make the purchase.
Yet, one of the biggest complaints among consumers is that they receive offers that don’t match their interests. With AI, marketers can change that and develop more successful email marketing campaigns. Today, Hubspot says: “B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales pipeline contribution by an average of 10% according to a report by Forrester”.
How AI is used in email marketing
Thanks to its ability to learn consumers’ behaviour in a fraction of the time it would take a person to come to the same conclusion, AI has been saving marketers time and effort, which they can spend elsewhere promoting their brand and growing their business. AI can compute information faster and make inferences that are more accurate than we could, which helps companies personalize their offerings to customers.
There are countless ways AI and automation are helping business owners improve their digital marketing return-on-investment (ROI) — we shared an Artificial Intelligence in Digital Marketing Overview here. Email marketing is one of them and it’s a great place to start if you haven’t explored automation before.
Ways AI has enhanced email marketing
AI’s ability to gather data on a consumer’s behaviour has helped brands customize their digital offerings and communications with prospective customers and clients. From personalizing an email’s content to determining the best time to deliver said email, AI has helped marketers develop more successful campaigns.
Does your business use a program like Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign or Constant Contact? Then you’re already using some element of email marketing automation. Among other things, tools like those can help with Drip Campaigns, managing workflows, managing subscriptions etc.
Top Tools: Email Marketing Marketing Automation
- ActiveCampaign: “Go beyond email marketing with true marketing automation…”
- Constant Contact: “Powerful email marketing, made simple. Create professional email campaigns that bring customers to your door.”
- Mailchimp: “Create unique campaigns, Connect your favorite tools, Automate your busy work, Optimize all your efforts”
- Benchmark: “…helps time-strapped marketers quickly and easily nurture customer relationships
that lead to business growth…”
- GetResponse: “All-in-one Online Marketing Platform to Grow Your Business” including Email Marketing + Marketing Automation
- BombBomb: Specializing in video email marketing and automation
- Drip: Marketing automation for eCommerce
- AWeber: Top email marketing platform
- Hubspot: Robust all-in-one marketing software, including email marketing automation solutions
- Marketo: Top-rated marketing automation software
There are many other powerful automation and email marketing tools to choose from. How do you know which one will be right for your brand or business?
VentureHarbour provides a good list of “things to consider” when choosing the best tool to reach your email marketing goals:
- Number of features
- Cost & Value
- Ease of use
- CRM capabilities
- Customer Support
- Security & Compliance
Note: That last one is important, especially if you’re sending email marketing communications to Canadians and Europeans (among others). There are specific (and serious) rules your marketing emails must follow. Emailing Canadians? Make sure to review Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Sending something to Europe? Familiarize yourself with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Now, back to Drip Campaigns:
These are another way that savvy marketers keep in touch with new leads and customers. Do your customers automatically receive a “Welcome” email when they fill out a form on your website? That’s a simple “drip’ — ideally the start of an automated process where pre-crafted emails are sent to that prospective customer over time as they move through the sales funnel.
One of the challenges with email marketing is that it can feel impersonal to recipients. Through AI, marketers can adjust the delivery time and the content of their emails to better suit individual customers.
One of the major benefits of using AI in email marketing is increased engagement. By using AI’s ability to analyse and predict consumer behaviour, marketers can achieve more success in getting customers to “click through” or interact with emails. The systems are even able to help marketers develop winning subject lines and other email elements proven to grab the reader’s attention and enhance engagement. Big companies like Adobe are also working on ways that AI can help them to provide image suggestions for email marketers.
Beyond personalizing the content of emails, AI is also capable of using customer data to determine the best time of day to send out the emails. Again, based on past behaviour, the system can adapt and adjust to a user’s activity level to determine the most receptive time to send the content. Marketers can also adjust how often messages are sent. Thus, those customers who are eager for more content, based on past conversions, can be receiving more regular emails while other customers receive more periodic messages.
“1:1 personalisation using AI/machine learning will become commonplace and necessary for a brand and email plays a crucial role in customer experience as it often kick starts their journey” Kath Pay, Holistic Email Marketing.
An additional advantage of AI is its ability to find new customers for a brand. Rather than rely on traditional demographics like age and geography, AI can suggest new users based on their behaviour.
By sending out more personalized messages based on timelines identified by AI systems, email marketers have been giving customers more of what they want, leading to a better conversion rate overall.
Tools and tips for a successful email marketing campaign
- Use a Top Tool: Choose to use one of the many, great email marketing automation tools on the market today (see list above)
- Sign-Up: Make it easy for people to sign up for your emails/eNewsletter via an eye-catching and simple form on your website. (In the same sentiment, make it easy to people to opt-out. See Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) for email marketing rules.)
- Workflows: Learn about and set-up “workflows” using your automation tool. What’s an email workflow? From CampaignMonitor, “email workflow is a series of automated emails that trigger based on subscriber behavior or data. These are often referred to when marketers assemble a series of automated emails that work together to accomplish a goal, such as onboarding new customers or nurturing new leads“. Here are some great workflow tips and samples c/o the Hubspot Blog.
- Create a drip campaign that starts with new prospective clients receiving a “Welcome” or “What’s Next?” email when they fill out that webform.
- Personalization: Nothing turns customers off more than an impersonal, automated message. But, using data from AI, brands can predict what products individual customers may be more interested in, which allows them to personalize an offer.
- Subject Lines: Though it’s only a few characters long, an email’s subject line can make or break your chance of getting a reader (potential customer) to click through. Good subject lines are persuasive and engaging.
- Clean Content: Keeping your message clear and concise will be appreciated by information-overloaded consumers. As well, be sure to keep the overall look of your email clean and easy-to-read by using bullet points, a single image and links that work.
- Call-To-Action (CTA): Be direct with your CTA so your email recipients know what it is they will get if they click the link.
- Contact Consumers Sparingly: Don’t overwhelm a customer with too many emails. Rather, utilize AI data to determine how often they interact with your content and adjust your campaign accordingly.
As AI is still a developing technology, don’t be afraid to start small. Your brand’s 2019/2020 digital marketing strategy would do well to include even a refreshed website sign-up form or a first, personalized introductory eNewsletter to your target audience. Even a minor change in an email campaign can generate big improvements in engagement.
Due to the complexity of AI, many brands feel more at ease working with an agency specializing in email marketing to help them wade through the wealth of information about AI and the wide variety of available tools. Stir can help. Get in touch with our expert content marketing team today to talk about your company’s email marketing strategy and how AI and automation will help to maximize ROI.