AI Email Marketing – What to Expect from the Next Big Tech Innovation

Written by: Scott Cohen

Artificial Intelligence–or “AI” as everyone really knows it–has impacted the workforce and economy in ways we are only beginning to fully understand. The use–and usefulness–of AI and AI tools in marketing and content creation remains a topic of debate for both companies and marketing professionals worldwide.

What does AI mean for email marketing professionals? Will AI remove the need for email marketing professionals? (Short answer? No.) And how will AI help businesses and professionals improve their efficiency and quality of work? (Another short answer? A great deal in time.)

This article aims to provide a comprehensive, though early, understanding of how AI can revolutionize email marketing efforts. We’ll cover the current challenges, applications, case studies, and future trends of AI and offer actionable insights to help marketing leaders harness AI for enhanced customer engagement and improved campaign performance.

Let’s start with the fundamentals.

What is AI Email Marketing?

AI in email marketing combines machine learning technology with communication and data mining. The end result of this combination is a three-fold transformation in terms of improving efficiency and offering valuable insights for the marketer while enabling deeper personalization in the customer experience.

How does AI Transform Email Marketing

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AI and the tools that leverage AI draw from vast databases to inform marketers, revolutionize traditional marketing practices, and introduce innovative and timely solutions. AI is particularly valuable for email marketing for its ability to optimize content, email personalization, segmentation, and automation with increased speed.

As the algorithm and machine learning engine “learns” more, email marketers can analyze in very short order vast amounts of data to understand customer behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns. Email marketers can take this knowledge and optimize campaigns, making them more targeted and impactful.

Identifying the areas within email marketing where AI can make a substantial impact is the first step in harnessing its power. AI is particularly valuable in optimizing content, personalization, segmentation, and automation. By leveraging AI algorithms, marketers can analyze vast amounts of data to understand customer behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns.

Where Is AI In Email Marketing Now?

AI is now widely used by marketers in the US. Statista reports that 51% of email marketers across the US and Europe believe that using AI in email marketing is more efficient than traditional methods. And 34% of marketers identified AI’s ability to personalize content and newsletters as the most interesting application of AI. 

Will AI Replace Email Marketers?

No.

That said, email marketers are required to understand and act upon the nuances of human behavior. They’re required to anticipate trends and craft messages that evoke specific emotions (usually the ones associated with making a purchase, let’s be fair). AI won’t replace these human requirements, but rather enhance the human ability to deliver.

Email Marketing Challenges for which AI has Solutions

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Email marketing is hard. AI could help. Let’s take a look at some email marketing challenges that we see often when we talk to email marketers.

Saturation and Competition

Consumers are overwhelmed daily with marketing messages and attempts to capture their attention. The constant flow of content, ads, and promotions creates a hurdle for every marketer. Your email content needs to be high quality and relevant to have a chance at outshining your competition.

Personalization Demands

Consumers prefer personalized marketing efforts and respond better to them. Personalized email marketing requires accurate data to inform your campaign efforts—this involves data collection, management, and analysis. 

Achieving and Maintaining Email Engagement

Great email engagement requires continuous efforts in crafting and delivering compelling, personalized content that resonates with diverse audiences. The constant struggle to overcome “email fatigue” and prevent subscribers from disengaging at best (opting out at worst) demands innovative strategies to keep messages relevant and exciting.

Nurturing Leads

As consumer behavior continues to evolve, your strategies for nurturing new and existing lists and maintaining customer loyalty must evolve with it. Adopting a long-term perspective on customer loyalty and customer lifetime value is essential to maintain relationships until new conversion opportunities arise.

Converting Leads

Getting a customer–no matter how engaged they are with email–remains a challenge. Ensuring that calls to action are persuasive, the user journey is optimized at as close to a 1-to-1 level as possible, and the experience from email to conversion is seamless requires meticulous planning and execution.

So, where can AI help?

AI Solutions for Email Marketing and Email Marketers

AI can be used to improve performance against all of these challenges. Let’s take a deeper look at how AI can be used to streamline the email marketing process and improve your efficiency.

Personalization at Scale

One of the primary advantages of AI in email marketing is its ability to deliver personalization at scale. Consumers prefer and respond better to personalized marketing efforts. Email campaigns that use personalized automated AI tools receive a 46% higher open rate. 

Non-AI driven email campaigns can often struggle to meaningfully personalize content and messaging that caters to the diverse preferences of a large audience. AI can more quickly enable dynamic content and product recommendations based on pulling from a content library and learning about individual user behavior at scale.

Grammarly is an excellent example of a company that uses AI personalization at scale. 

Dynamic Content and Product Recommendations

We touched on this already, but to dive a bit further…

AI algorithms can be set to analyze user behavior, such as browser history and past purchases, to dynamically adjust the content of emails. This ensures that each recipient receives personalized recommendations where possible. Better personalization of product recommendations can increase conversion. Want proof? Epsilon reports that personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than non-personalized ones.

Sephora uses AI to send personalized product recommendations to customers. The Hustle uses AI to assist with subject line generation. 

Behavioral Targeting for Enhanced User Experiences

AI-driven behavioral targeting involves understanding how users interact with emails and tailoring subsequent communication based on these interactions. AI can optimize email campaign timing, frequency, and content by analyzing open rates, click-through rates, and other engagement metrics. This not only enhances user experiences but also boosts overall campaign effectiveness.

Hubspot uses AI to track engagement behavior and demographics. Take a look at one of their recent emails. 

A/B Testing Optimization

Your speed to market for A/B testing can be improved dramatically with AI. Tests can be rapidly analyzed and the most effective elements of email campaigns can be identified quicker. This speed to optimization can help CMOs (and their email marketers) fine-tune their strategies, ensuring that the emails being sent are more likely to resonate with the target audience.

Virgin Holidays used AI in A/B testing and saw a 2% open rate increase. 

Real-time and Predictive Analytics

AI can ingest and provide analytics and data in real time. Quick access to data enables rapid adjustments and optimizations

AI’s predictive analytics capabilities empower marketers to anticipate customer behavior and preferences. By analyzing historical data and identifying patterns, AI can predict future actions and enable marketers to build audience segments and tailor email content more efficiently.

By leveraging these AI-driven capabilities, CMOs can strategically overcome various challenges associated with email marketing. 

The Washington Post is an excellent example of AI using analytics to send emails based on customer interest.

Streamlining Processes and Maximizing Efficiency through Automation

AI is a game changer when it comes to streamlining workflows and increasing efficiency in email marketing. It can help automated a great deal of manual tasks that are both time-consuming and prone to human error.

For marketing professionals, this means more time to develop strategy, more time to devise innovative email marketing campaigns, and more time to analyze comprehensive data insights provided by AI. (You know, the stuff you’ll get promoted for!)

Automated Trigger Emails

AI can further enhance email marketers’ automated trigger emails, including welcome emails, post-purchase sequences, and cart abandon emails.

(Side note, if you don’t have a cart abandon email and you’re in ecommerce, get one going yesterday. One study has shown that conversion rates can be increased by about 5.2% just by sending a simple abandoned cart email within 20 minutes.)

Uniqlo’s abandon cart email is a great example of an automated trigger email. 

AI-Driven Customer Segmentation

Advanced customer segmentation is another area where AI brings significant value to email marketing strategy. AI enables marketers to better move beyond broad categories and create highly targeted segments based on intricate data points.

AI can analyze purchase history, website behavior, social media interactions, email engagement, as well as the traditional demographics and geographic locations to power these segments and enable deeper messaging personalization.

Real-Time Segmentation Adjustments Based on User Behavior

AI doesn’t stop at initial segmentation; it continuously adapts based on user behavior. AI can automatically adjust segmentations in real time if a customer’s preferences change or they interact differently with emails over time. This dynamic approach ensures that campaigns remain targeted and relevant as customer behaviors evolve.

Take a look at Amazon’s segmented email.

Sentiment Analysis in Email Marketing

Sometimes, what customers say they do can contradict what they actually do. That said, understanding customer emotions is crucial for crafting emotionally resonant and effective email campaigns.

To convert a customer, you must connect with their motivations and needs. Solving a problem for customers means removing the frustration, stress, and discouragement this issue presents. 

To connect with these emotions and develop a bond of trust, companies can use AI analysis to identify patterns of emotions in consumers, providing a detailed roadmap into recipients’ emotional responses.

AI analyzes the language used in emails, social media interactions, and customer feedback to determine sentiment. For example, it can identify whether a customer’s response is positive, negative, or neutral. This information is invaluable for tailoring email content to align with customer sentiments.

Once sentiment is identified, AI can dynamically adjust email content to match the emotional tone preferred by the recipient. For instance, if a customer expresses excitement about a product, subsequent emails can highlight similar products or promotions to maintain their positive engagement.

Amazon AWS uses AI for sentiment analysis. Take a look at an Amazon email.

Overcoming AI Adoption Challenges and Concerns

Overcoming AI Adoption Challenges and Concerns

Despite the current (and future) benefits of AI in email marketing, implementing this new technology has its own challenges and concerns, including data privacy, security, and the ethical use of AI.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these common challenges and hurdles businesses may face when adopting AI:

Ensuring data privacy and protection.

Data and privacy are hot topics right now–especially when businesses consider leveraging AI. Simply put, if you mishandle data, you’re in trouble. Businesses and marketers must understand how AI collects, manages, and uses data. Businesses must also understand how with the speed of AI, potential data mishaps can become bigger problems much quicker. Transparency with consumers on managing their data will improve brand image and foster long-term trust.

Compliance.

Whether you use AI or not, compliance with local, state, federal, and international regulations and laws is a requirement. AI is another piece of the puzzle. AI laws are being debated at the state and national level. Ensure your company stays up-to-date and ready to adapt. 

Bridging the skill gap.

Understanding the complexity of AI is vital for an organization to adopt it responsibly. Employees and professionals must learn to use new AI tools, train new and existing AI models, and implement new processes.

Employee’s fear of displacement.

Many professionals are wondering now, “What does AI mean for me and my job?” It’s been said that AI won’t replace marketers, but marketers who use AI will replace marketers who don’t.

Good leaders must ensure that employees are both reassured of this notion, but also promote AI professional development. AI assists and augments human capacity, but won’t replace it. Encourage employee involvement, collaboration, and curiosity.

Losing the human connection.

The human touch will remain a vital part of customer service and brand messaging. AI can easily fall into the category of “good enough” in terms of language use, and (at least right now) robots still can’t bring a sufficient level of empathy and understanding.

With AI chat boxes, generational AI (genAI), AI-driven trigger emails and automations, and more, it can be easy to remove the “human” aspect from customer touchpoints. Find your “sweet spot” where AI improves efficiency without removing the human touch.

Finding reliable AI applications that are reliable.

AI email marketing tools are not all the same, and some AI tools are better than others.

When considering an AI tool, ask questions around these categories:

  1. How long the tool has existed.
  2. Capabilities.
  3. Its data management reputation.
  4. Model selection.
  5. Integration with your current systems.
  6. Ethical considerations.

Takeaway

AI can address many challenges faced by marketing leaders and offer solutions from personalization at scale to streamlined automation. The collaboration of AI with human insight is a crucial combination that acknowledges AI’s strengths in data analysis and automation with irreplaceable creativity of human marketers.

With its advantages comes an acknowledgement of challenges like data privacy and concerns over employee displacement. That said, the companies that properly embrace the challenge and benefits of AI will no doubt see its indispensable value.

The future of email marketing is linked to the evolving capabilities of Artificial Intelligence. The email marketers that embrace the increased potential to enhance customer engagement and drive business growth will come out the other side with marketable skills and an enviable history of email marketing program success.

In the meantime, if you are in need of the services of an email marketing agency, contact InboxArmy to learn more. We help businesses of every shape and size build and deploy your email marketing campaigns and implement your email marketing strategy.

About Author

Winner of the ANA Email Experience Council’s 2021 Stefan Pollard Email Marketer of the Year Award, Scott Cohen is a proven email marketing veteran with nearly 20 years of experience as both a brand-side marketer and an email marketing agency executive. He brings to our clients a unique blend of experience building and managing larger CRM and retention teams, sending millions of emails and SMS per week, and award-winning copywriting chops. For more information, follow him on Linkedin

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