By Suzanna Chaplin, CEO, esbconnect

AI is creeping into all facets of marketing, but its impact – positive and negative – is certainly being felt in the email marketing space. Most noticeably, it has raised its head in content generation, where it is increasingly applied to writing subject lines and body copy.

Even the best email copywriters sometimes get stuck in a subject line rut and revert to tried and tested copy that’s often overused. And AI, it is true, can unearth different angles and options that haven’t been considered before, and bring new life to old lines. But to ensure you keep authentic and relevant to your audience, would need to train it utilising your data.

At the same time, AI-generated content often has a vanilla sameness. It lacks uniqueness and personality, making it less engaging than that produced by a real person. This sameness is also reflected in email sequencing, especially in the B2B space, where we’re seeing companies delivering very similar series of marketing messages with a recognisable look and feel that betrays the fact it’s AI-generated. So when it comes to content creation, AI is a mixed bag.

The B2C opportunity and the B2B pitfall

Another danger of AI is that it can encourage over sending by making the email process easier.  Again, this will be seen more in a B2B environment. As data here is often based on legitimate interest rather than consent, there’s a temptation for businesses to increasingly use email as an outreach tool while not taking advantage of the opportunity to deliver personalisation.  AI excels because it can work so much faster than any human, the skill will be used to send out thousands of emails each uniquely relevant to the individual. Imagine providing insight on each of your customers or prospects and asking the AI to write a series of emails, personalised to each person’s habits and preferences.

Because the B2C world is driven by consent, real value is attached to B2C data. Consequently, brands know that over sending and non-relevant content can lead to people unsubscribing and simply decrease the value of the data asset. Instead, the opportunity of AI is to use it to increase ROI in the email channel by tapping into the richer CRM databases brands have to deliver greater personalisation, develop individualised marketing journeys, and improve the effectiveness of the channel for them. We also focus on positive engagement but an email address is one of your most valuable assets, so rather than using AI to drive up opens and clicks, consider using it to prevent unsubscribes.

Unlocking the power of data 

Another area where AI is starting to bring real value to the email world is unlocking patterns in data that can influence successful email marketing. Numerous factors impact an email’s performance on a given day. This encompasses everything from the email list, the data used, the time of day the email is sent when people click on the email, and the device used to access the email to spam filters and what else is already in their inbox.

The vast number of permutations of the data makes it impossible for humans to find trends manually, especially when dealing with campaigns involving large email volumes. AI helps to overcome this challenge by pinpointing why a campaign worked – or why it didn’t. In unearthing new insights, brands can react quicker and in a smarter fashion to deliver a better customer journey for every end-user, leading to improved campaign performance.

AI and measurement

AI’s potential to impact measurement is one more area where things get interesting. Currently, the open rate remains a key reported metric, but in reality, it’s irrelevant. As a result of privacy changes, Google and Apple cache elements of an email, including images and open tracking pixels. This makes it impossible to tell if an email open is computer-generated or the result of an action by a real person.

As a result, brands must rely on a click of a creative to identify if that creative is working. While they can look at basic information – for example, whether the email has been delivered and clicked on – they can’t access critical campaign information to inform future activity, such as whether the subject line is engaging or how long a user spent reading the email.

Today, marketers are crying out for better ways to track and report email campaigns so they can understand what is resonating and what isn’t, and this area seems ripe for AI to provide a solution.

It’s still early days, but AI’s here to stay, and markets need to experiment to see how it can enhance this channel for them – particularly its ability to deliver predictive insights that can reshape their email marketing.

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