One of the best ways for marketers to improve your blast, trigger, customer service, and transactional emails is with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML).
Focus on Two Distinct Areas First: Inside and Outside the Envelope
Outside of the Envelope, aka Items occurring outside the email’s body. This includes things like the subject line, optimizing deliverability, developing laser-focused targeting for modeling and segmentation, accessibility, and improving your email data and its hygiene. Hygiene includes parsing bounces, establishing hierarchies, implementing dynamic suppression rules, fixing errors on intake, and so on. Frankly, working on the outside of the envelope stuff isn’t the most fun, but it’s generally where you’ll see the quickest returns. (Improving/perfecting your Sender/IP reputation is an incredibly worthy project typically underestimated by most marketers.)
Inside the Envelope is what most people consider the fun stuff. Think things like developing dynamic, hyperpersonalized content; maximizing the efficacy of your copy and visuals; showcasing NBOs (Next Best Offers) and NLP (Next Logical Products); creating OTC standards (Open Time Content populates on open and then updates every time from then on); inventing micropersonas; more intelligent multivariate testing; and more.
As an aside, I’m aware that talking about the “Envelope” is very old-school. It’s been around since the beginning – you know, the days when you’d send an email to someone and then call them an hour later to make sure they got it. Even though the lingo is antiquated, it still works. Plus, it’s easy to understand.
What’s the long-term goal for using AI/ML in email?
To automagically develop your emails from start to finish, continuously optimize them along the way to get the BIGGEST bang for your marketing buck.
AI/ML makes it faster and easier to send more targeted emails to a more targeted list with more targeted offers/offerings at a more targeted time. This reduces bounces and SPAM complaints; improves sender/IP reputation; increases open, clickthrough, and adoption rates; and increases customer satisfaction (fewer unwanted emails.) Best of all, it makes you more money.
How far away are we from completely automated email using AI/ML?
Probably not as long as you think. Of all the things marketers are using AI/ML for, email is one of the most successful. The more disciplined you are at using AI/ML in your emails, the quicker you can automate the process.
Start small and keep growing. It’s important to note that folks who go hog-wild on implementing AI all at once almost always fail spectacularly. Artificial Intelligence will improve your email program, and the process needs to be disciplined. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Otherwise, you’ll get a massive bellyache.
Does that mean we won’t need email designers, analysts, and the like?
Your staff may have different tasks and titles, but as your email programs evolve, you’ll need folks who excel at identifying and executing disruption techniques. You’ll want team members who are good at integrating email with your other programs and channels, including everything from old-school catalogs and direct mailers to Voice assistants, glasses, refrigerators, and car screens. For now, AI requires oversight, no matter how many vendors may tell you otherwise.
What are some quick-win AI/ML + email projects I can start with?
Start with “outside the envelope” projects that improve your sender/IP reputation, especially hygiene and segmentation. (Please do hygiene. I hate it too, but the juice is worth the squeeze. Same with accessibility.)
If you’re itching to do something creative, work on using AI/ML to write and optimize your subject lines. (Technically, this is also an “outside the envelope” activity.) Once you’ve got that perfected, use it to elevate your reporting to the next level. Then swing back around to the creative side and use it for format and offer testing.
“Those don’t sound very advanced; I think I should do something big like full dynamic OTC (open time content) instead.”
You do you, and it’s important to remember that if you ever want to achieve fully AI-powered email, you need a rock-solid foundation and the best way to do that is to build – and strengthen — every element, from the ground up to maximize your revenues and minimize your costs.
Long-term, the ultimate key to successfully using AI/ML is to know how and when you need to disrupt it. The best way to determine that is to understand how each element works independently and with the other elements. Many folks prefer the sexier, more creative projects. I get it. That’s what most of our team likes too. However, it’s easy to run amok if you’re not disciplined. Plus, if customers don’t see your emails, none of the other stuff matters.
Want more specifics about what Artificial Intelligence can do to improve your email program? Click here now for 17 Proven Ways Marketing AI Will Upgrade Your Blast and Trigger Email Programs!
Have questions about using artificial intelligence in your email program? Have a tip you’d like to share? Tweet @amyafrica or write email@example.com.