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When AI meets email marketing
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When AI meets email marketing

“Humans use available information as well as reason in order to solve problems and make decisions, so why can’t machines do the same thing?”

This was the question put forth in 1950 by Alan Turing, a young British polymath who explored the mathematical possibility of artificial intelligence. He published a paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” and it was the beginning of AI as we know it today. (Courtesy: Harvard University resources)

Now, with generative AI, we’re seeing machines go beyond simply analyzing raw data to actually creating new output – poetry, art, design, and even music. 

Let us explore what happens when AI meets email marketing. From the lens of a marketer, AI has infinite potential for transforming email marketing. At each stage of email creation and delivery, there is plenty of friction, where the marketer must undertake a fair bit of “email engineering” to smooth out the entire process. This is where AI steps in.

 In this article, we decipher how email marketing campaigns can create “frictionless hotlines” throughout the customer journey and generate unprecedented outcomes. 

But first…

The stages of decision-making in email marketing

Emails can no longer be a slapdash collection of tepid “hello”s and “here’s what we want to sell to you”s. Your customers are aware that you want to sell to them, and there’s a lot they’d rather do than give your messages their valuable attention. They have jobs to work, friends to catch up with, kids to pick up, and shows to binge upon…

So, how exactly will your email(s) get their attention and engage them?

We figured out the eight specific elements on which a marketing email’s success heavily depends:

  • Subject Line
  • Header
  • Body 
  • Footer
  • Landing page (while not directly part of the email, it is essential for driving email-based conversions)
  • Audience segment 
  • Send time 
  • Delivery

These factors are applicable to broadcast emails, where the same email is sent to large numbers of recipients. They are also relevant for certain types of triggered emails for when an event (cart abandonment, for e.g.) occurs during a customer journey.

They work for transactional emails as well – sent out post-purchase. Here too, you’ll have to make decisions about personalizing each email (possible to address each specific individual?) and explore how to kick off the journey for their next purchase.

These decisions have very real consequences. Send out to too many inactive users (who haven’t opened an email from your brand for 90 days or more), and you risk harming your domain reputation. Send to too few, and you’ll miss the benefit of reactivation.

So, how can AI help?

Let’s start with a few well-known examples: 

AI applications include advanced web search engines (e.g., Google), recommendation systems (used by YouTube, Amazon and Netflix), understanding human speech (such as Siri and Alexa), self-driving cars (e.g., Tesla), and automated decision-making and competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go).

Now, we move on to a broader perspective of different AI approaches, as explained in a Netcore Cloud report on AI in Email Marketing:

  • Machine Learning

Using example data or experience to refine how computers make predictions or perform tasks. Or methodologies (how-to processes and guides) on how artificial intelligence would do these things.

  • Deep Learning 

A machine learning technique in which data is filtered through self-adjusting networks of math loosely inspired by neurons in the brain. Or using data and applying math inspired by how we think as humans.

  • Supervised Learning 

Showing software labeled example data, such as photographs, to teach a computer what to do. Or show examples to the computer to teach it how to do something.

  • Unsupervised Learning 

Learning without annotated examples, just from the experience of data or the world—trivial for humans but not generally practical for machines. Yet. Or learning by applying what they know, which humans do every day, but machines haven’t yet needed to or been able to do.

  • Reinforcement Learning 

Software that experiments with different actions to figure out how to maximize a virtual reward, such as scoring points in a game. Or adding a layer of ability to software to take actions/activities and calculate a logical reward.

  • Artificial General Intelligence 

As yet non-existent software that displays a humanlike ability to adapt to different environments and tasks, and transfer knowledge between them. Or creating software that can think like humans – take information and apply it based on what it is doing, when and where.

What AI can do for and with email

Raj Venkatesan, author of The AI Marketing Canvas: A Five-Stage Road Map to Implementing Artificial Intelligence in Marketing, says, “An effective strategy is to use AI to personalize each aspect of customer engagement; acquisition, retention, growth, and advocacy (or word of mouth). Modern marketing is about using first-party consumer data and algorithms to personalize the firms’ marketing for acquisition, retention, growth, and advocacy. The idea is to put the customer in the center and use AI to enhance the customer’s experience with the brand….”

In the context of email marketing, this is what AI can do to achieve what the above quote describes:

  • A/B testing: AI can be used to automatically test different versions of your email campaigns (known as A/B testing) to determine which one performs best. This helps optimize email campaigns for maximum conversion rates.
  • Delivery: If you send too many emails and hit over a specific number of invalid recipients in a minute, major ISPs like Gmail will view it as suspicious behavior. They will also decelerate the acceptance rate of emails from the marketer.

AI helps you look out for issues that may lead to this. It can even fix the main cause of such occurrences and learn from these mistakes so that they may not be repeated.

It’s also quite handy with domain/IP warmup – deciding how many emails should be sent in a day based on how previously sent emails have performed.

Now, let’s go deeper and explore AI’s efficacy in optimizing the email itself. 

  • Header: AMP components for email let you insert headers, like a search bar, into the email itself. Users can search for products, deals, etc., right within the email. You can even provide an instant “Add to Cart” option and perhaps even a “Pay” action – so that customers don’t have to move away from their inbox to get everything they want.

    Bring AI into the mix, and it will power search bars to carry pre-filled text that nudges recipients to use the function. This text will be based on the user’s previous history and other text samples.

  • Body (images and text): Generative AI can match an infinite collection of different text and images to specific user personas. AI is not currently used for this purpose, but its efficacy will be unquestionable.

    AI can even help with personalizing email templates. For example, in the ideal scenario, a marketer can just say, “I want a Valentine’s Day campaign sent out to my best customers,” and it should be done.

  • Footer: Email footers can be invigorated with brandlets, gamelets, and ads using AMP components and Atomic Rewards. AI can help create AMPlets that appeal to each customer. It can use them to understand the customer by building interactivity through AMP and incentives provided by Atomic Rewards.

  • Landing Page: Thanks to AMP, you can move the conversion funnel inside the email and remove the need for landing pages entirely.

However, if marketers still want one, they can use generative AI in tandem with machine learning. This duo can effortlessly produce stunning, personalized landing pages that nudge the right customers to take a specific action. They can also be disposable pages – created within a minute for a particular customer and then dissolved after the customer has taken the targeted action.

Summing it up

Email marketing is all about getting the ‘R’s right: right person, right message, right time. As mentioned earlier, eight elements in an email make or break a marketing campaign. AI is already being used in four of them (subject, segmentation, time, delivery); the other four are where AI will be applied in the near future (header, body, footer, landing page).

AI can help marketing emails strike the right balance between being educative and persuasive throughout the customer journey. 

AI is the future of email marketing. It has primarily assisted with campaign management; it is now time for AI to take the leap into creative functions. It has infinite potential to eliminate friction from each marketer’s day-to-day tasks and bring about a higher ROI than the current industry standards can ever imagine.

Based on the blog “Email and AI: A Perfect Match” by Rajesh Jain. He is the founder and Group MD of Netcore Cloud, a bootstrapped SaaS company that helps brands create outstanding AI-powered customer experiences at every touchpoint.

50+ top-notch brands, such as
YourStory, Axis Securities, and CaratLane, across industries partner with the Netcore Cloud AI-powered email platform to roll out AMP emails and boost their ROI.

We have sent more than a billion AMP emails across 200+ highly successful campaigns. Connect with us to understand how you can benefit from our expertise and experience.

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