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By On August 20 2019 Email Marketing With 0 Comments Permalink

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of AI in Email Marketing

When thinking of AI, it’s easy to get lost in visions of Sci-Fi movies, sentient robots, and global catastrophe. However, AI is no longer merely part of a speculative future. It’s here, and here to stay.

By 2035, AI is expected to generate $14 trillion in additional revenue as well as a 38% rise in profitability, while 30% of companies worldwide are expected to use AI in at least one sales process by 2020[1].

One field where AI is already having a major impact is email marketing. According to a recent Statista survey, 41.3% of email marketers say AI has led to an improvement in revenue, while 13.4% noticed an improvement in click through rates thanks to AI, and 7.6% noticed an improvement in open rates[2]. Further, top-performing companies are twice as likely to use AI for marketing purposes than their peers (28% vs 12%)[3]

Despite these marked improvements, not everyone is on board with AI. Largely, this is due to fears that AI will replace jobs – some estimates predict automation will replace up to 40% of jobs worldwide, thereby saving 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity by 2021[4][3]

Still, given we’re only scratching the surface of its capabilities, AI isn’t going anywhere soon. That’s why we’re delving into the good, the bad, and the ugly of AI in email marketing. Rather than fearing an AI takeover, we’re examining what AI can already do, what AI might soon be able to do, what AI will probably never do, and most importantly, how you can use AI to make your job easier! 

What AI Can Already Do

Automated Subject Lines

Thanks to companies such as Phrasee, AI-written email subject lines are now nearly indistinguishable from human copy. While AI may not be well equipped to write longform creative copy, short, data-driven tasks like subject lines, ad copy, and calls to action are well within its grasp. In fact, Phrasee’s AI-generated subject lines perform better than 98% of human-written subject lines[5]

In one example, Virgin Holidays began using AI-written subject lines, leading to a 2% increase in email open rates that translated into millions of dollars of additional revenue[6]. Rather than simply creating generic subject lines, AI-written subject lines can mimic brand tone and voice, and even naturally incorporate emojis. 

There’s a good chance AI-generated subject lines have already made their way to your inbox, so next time you’re scrolling through hundreds of unopened emails, see if you can spot the difference! 

Advanced Personalisation & Segmentation

Personalisation and segmentation are already must-haves for any serious email marketer. Now, AI is poised to take things to the next level. AI-driven personalisation is already visible in many areas, from Spotify’s personalised playlists to Netflix’s recommendations. Email marketing looks set to be one of the next fields to benefit. 

AI can take a lot of guesswork out of your personalisation and segmentation strategies. Utilising data-driven insights, AI can help to personalise emails on a one-to-one level, while also finding segmentation opportunities that may be invisible to the human eye. 

This can include sending triggered, personalised welcome & thank you emails, as well as analysing customer behaviour to send personalised product recommendations. It appears that younger customers are willing to embrace AI for personalisation purposes, with 75% of Millennial and Gen Z respondents in a recent survey saying they can ’see the good that comes from it’ [7]

Essentially, by closely analysing customer data, AI can take personalisation to the next level, meaning the days of simply including a first name and calling that ‘personalisation’ may be over!

What AI Might Soon Do 

Conversational Emails

Alexa and Siri have been household names for years, helping millions of users to complete everyday tasks. Now, conversational AI seems set to break into the world of emails. By 2023, the number of voice assistants is predicted to rise to 8 billion worldwide[8]. Additionally, in a recent survey, 13% of respondents said they would be interested in having a computer voice assistant speak out their emails[9]

It seems likely that this demand will continue to grow, meaning Siri and Alexa may soon be an integral part of the email marketing process. This presents both opportunities and drawbacks, however it seems likely that optimising emails for voice assisted AI will be a key consideration in the future. 

Fine-tuned Predictive Text 

Anyone familiar with typing will be familiar with predictive text. Whether it’s Gmail finishing your sentence or your phone suggesting the word ‘that’s’ when you really meant ‘thanks’, we’ve all interacted with with predictive text at some point. As AI becomes more sophisticated and intuitive, it’s likely that predictive text features will continue to evolve, which could have major ramifications for email marketing. 

Studies [10] have already shown that predictive text has an impact on our literacy and even the way we talk. Some have even suggested that predictive text “could introduce biases into what people write” [10]. Consequently, marketing language and the way customers are targeted will likely have to evolve. 

Finish this sentence: AI is _______. 

What AI Probably Won’t Do 

Compose Full Emails 

Despite being excellent at writing short form copy like subject lines and calls to action, longform creative pieces aren’t typically AI’s forte. As anyone who has read these AI-written scripts, or, worse still, these AI-written Tinder bios can attest, most longform writing still requires a human touch. 

While some companies have enlisted AI to write data-driven journalistic articles, such as financial pieces and sports results, it seems likely that email copy will continue to require a more creative, human flair. 

Replace Your Job 

Despite justified concerns about job loss due to automation, recent estimates show these fears are largely unfounded. A 2018 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimated that, while automation will displace 75 million jobs by 2022, it will also create 133 million jobs, leading to a net gain of 58 million new jobs created by artificial intelligence[11]

In many instances, it seems likely that AI will make marketing jobs easier, replacing more ‘mundane’ tasks to allow people to focus on more innately ‘human’ work. For example, AI generated email subject lines may allow copywriters to focus more on creative endeavours.

The Future is Now

As digital specialists, we know that AI is both the future and the present, so contact XCOM today to find out how we can help you use AI to make your job easier!

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