Marketers have traditionally embraced new technology, finding ways to apply it in creative ways. Though artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest example of innovative technology, it is fundamentally different in that its potential effect on the overall marketing function is transformative. It's on par with the arrival of the Internet decades ago.

AI shows great promise, and marketers are still learning how to use it effectively and integrate it with, or use it to complement, the processes they're already using.

A similar trial-and-error effort took place during the early days of the Web, when companies were experimenting with how to use it as its capabilities evolved. AI will likely significantly re-shape parts of the marketing function as it evolves and as organizations find new ways to apply it.

With AI, marketers will better reach and engage audiences, enabling them to do things they couldn't do before. Moreover, they'll be able to automate tasks that take humans a long time to do or which require skills or knowledge that not many people possess.

The most exciting opportunity for marketers using AI is that it can transform the ever-increasing avalanche of data into actionable knowledge. In doing so, it can achieve better personalization and relevance for marketers' ongoing activities—at scale.

The State of Email Marketing

Sending emails has long been an essential part of digital marketing because of its direct marketing approach and relatively low cost. And, more and more, the email marketing function has got-ten more sophisticated and data-driven.

Unfortunately, the large amount of collected data has made it nearly impossible for marketers to go beyond the surface when analyzing information and making decisions. Teams don't have the skills in-house, nor do they have enough time, to thoroughly analyze and understand the data. In other words, marketers have become bottlenecks in the process.

Advantages of Using AI for Email Marketing

AI is dramatically improving the ability of marketers to understand information, create complex plans, and execute at a scale once thought impossible. Moving forward, AI could significantly reshape parts of the marketing function as organizations find new ways to apply it.

With AI, marketers are better able to search and engage their audiences, enabling them to do things that seemed impossible not too long ago. AI can increasingly predict content and offers that are most likely to drive an individual customer to convert. It can also detect the best time of day for reaching customers, and the frequency of messaging that is most likely to keep them engaged.

AI-driven data analytics enables marketers to understand their audience on a deeper level. For example, it can study users' behavior and measure their response to various marketing incentives. AI can do so without human intervention throughout the process.

The advantages of implementing AI in email marketing are many, including the following:

  • Better analytics. Fundamentally, AI can analyze a higher volume of data than humans can handle. It can translate data into relevant, unique, and timely content for each customer.
  • Uncovering insights. AI can turn a firehose of information into a fountain of knowledge by delivering insights that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Marketers can use deep learning to understand, anticipate, analyze, and act faster. These insights can then drive smarter campaigns.
  • Better segmentation. Using data AI can drive the creation of separate lists that receive the most compelling messaging and valid offers based on their details. Intelligently segmenting email lists enhances open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately conversions.
  • Predictive analytics. AI puts predictive analytics on steroids by making assumptions, testing, and learning autonomously. It can identify opportunities for experimentation and even generate messaging and creative for testing. "Next best offer" is one form of predictive analytics that helps organizations better judge customer spending habits; after that, it can guide marketing efforts toward connecting with customers to close a deal.
  • A/B-testing. With AI, A/B-testing becomes automated, allowing marketers to better evaluate the difference between various versions of an email.

Execution and Optimization

Email marketers look for ways to implement their plans. Machine-learning can be used to auto-mate and optimize many aspects of an email marketing program, such as content, send times, and frequency. AI could, ideally, predict the content (and offers) that are most likely to drive an individual customer to convert, along with the best time of day, and the frequency that is most likely to keep them engaged.

Among the ways AI can assist:

  • Generating and testing subject lines: Finding the best subject lines with less time lost in testing. AI is now able to automatically create alternatives without having to have an actual person writing them.
  • Optimizing delivery time: "Send-time optimization" modifies email delivery times based on when recipients are most likely to see and open messages.
  • Generating and testing copy: Find the most persuasive language for direct-response marketing messages.
  • Newsletter creation: Streamlines newsletter creation and delivers one-to-one personalized content that's optimized based on recipient actions.
  • Content optimization: Create content most likely to drive a conversion for each subscriber. In the optimization process, AI can personalize the images, the placement of various elements on the email, and the call to action.
  • Product recommendations: AI can analyze numerous metrics to offer subscribers personalized product recommendations in real-time. It can look at shopping and surfing of subscribers or customers to improve click-through rates, engagement, and, hopefully, sales.
  • Chatbots: Natural-language processing can help chatbots communicate with humans with increasing ease. Chatbots are excellent as customer care, marketing, and sales tools. For example, they can help generate email lists from website visitors.

Results Can't Be Denied

Statistics confirm AI's early success in marketing, and offer a peek at where things are heading. For example:

  • 61% of businesses using AI claim it is the most critical aspect of their data strategy.
  • For every $1 spend in email marketing, $38 in revenue is generated using AI.

Meanwhile, according to Gartner:

  • 80% of business and tech leaders say AI already boosts productivity.
  • When AI use is present, 49% of consumers are willing to shop more frequently while 34% will spend more money.

Moving Forward

As AI becomes integrated into familiar toolkits, it will become commonplace and marketing campaigns will get savvier and ultimately more personal. Moving forward, the technology will use past purchases, interests, and browsing behaviors to set up automated campaigns to further nurture your leads.

Stay tuned.

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Email Marketing and Artificial Intelligence: What's Coming and What You Need to Know

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image of Eric Wanta

Eric Wanta is CMO at Zive, maker of Kiwi for Gmail and Kiwi for G Suite, which takes Google apps like Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and Slides out of the browser and helps companies improve G Suite rollouts and user adoption.

LinkedIn: Eric Wanta

Twitter: @ericwanta