Machine learning — a powerful subset of artificial intelligence (AI) — is advancing email personalization beyond broad segmentation to turn every email subscriber into a segment of one. With machine learning, every person interacting with a brand should have their own unique content experience, a practice we call individualization.
Many marketers are picking up on the benefits of email personalization solutions driven by AI, and for a variety of reasons. From an operational perspective, AI has the ability to dramatically enhance the email marketing function. AI takes traditionally human-powered and automated tasks and adds a cognitive layer, like machine learning, to it. This cognitive layer allows machines to take on the more time-consuming marketing tasks at scale.
We wanted to learn more about how executive marketers perceive and understand machine learning and artificial intelligence as it pertains to email marketing for scalability and more. We surveyed 400 US marketing leaders and compiled the key insights in our latest report called “The Email Individualization Imperative.”
One of the most insightful findings was that 97% of marketers are confident that machine learning can personalize content to individual interests and improve the customer experience. Here’s a closer look at the results and data-driven insights that reveal why marketers feel so confident in using machine learning to deliver individualized customer experiences via email.
Personalized Emails Are Having a Dramatic Effect on Response Rates
The study found that email engagement has been steadily increasing over the last three years. Open rates have increased from nearly 25% in 2016 to over 28% in 2018. We can likely assume this success is a result of more targeted and personalized email campaigns; marketers have learned that basic segmentation, whether that’s as simple as utilizing a first name in a message or swapping out offers based on subscriber behavior, can have a considerable impact on response rates.
But it’s still the early days. While personalization can help marketers better tailor messages, our data suggests that basic personalization in the form of segmentation often doesn’t provide the level of individualization that customers want. Email marketing technology that leverages machine learning allows brands to utilize real-time customer data signals to send content to segments of one, at scale. These individualized content experiences will only continue to deliver higher relevance as well as higher response rates over time.
Machine Learning Can Save Marketers Nearly One Week’s Worth of Work Spent on Manual Processes
Machine learning can more efficiently handle the executional tasks associated with running email personalization programs, enabling marketers to up-level their output and focus on more strategic work.
Our research shows that most marketing teams spend more than 36 hours per week on manual email segmentation. This includes tasks such as content selection, content development and list building–all in an attempt to personalize the content experience.
The majority of the marketers surveyed (70%) reported that machine learning would eliminate these manual processes and allow them to shift those work hours to more strategic initiatives, like program planning and scaling. More than half of the marketers surveyed said they would use the time saved through machine learning to conduct deeper data analysis on a regular basis, test email content and optimize their send lists.
For marketers in the retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors in particular, they have even greater opportunity to optimize their time and work more efficiently with machine learning. The report found marketers in these sectors spend a weekly average of 46 hours and 40 hours on operational email tasks. By utilizing machine learning to optimize transactional emails for retailers, or to increase email frequency with individualized content to build relationships and loyalty with audiences for CPG brands, AI gives these marketers a great opportunity to see real ROI with individualization.
Click here to read and download the full report. And to gain more expert insight on the impact of machine learning on email personalization, attend our upcoming webinar. We’ll dive into the impact of personalized mailings on email response rates, strategies you can use to up-level your personalization efforts and improvements you can expect to see when utilizing AI and machine learning in your email marketing programs. Register now to reserve your spot.
Damian is SVP Customer Success & Business Development at OneSpot.