Nathan Sykes
March 7, 2019

How Machine Learning Can Improve Email Marketing

Machine Learning can improve Email Marketing

Despite the many obituaries, email is still a powerful marketing tool. People and businesses sent more than 281 billion emails per day in 2018, and that number is expected to increase to more than 333 billion by 2022.

Today though, email marketing is getting a modern makeover. A growing number of marketers are using machine learning to improve their email strategies. Here are several ways this technology can improve this tried-and-true marketing channel.

Related reading: 9 Easy Email Hacks To Increase Open Rates

Continuous Optimization

Marketers frequently test different versions of emails to see which ones work best with their audience. One of the leading ways to do this is through A/B testing.

The simple explanation of this is that you send two different versions of the same email to two groups of people. You then gauge which variation performs best.

In this kind of testing, there are two distinct phases — the exploration phase and the exploitation phase.

During the exploration phase, you test the two variations. You must run the test for long enough to ensure that the results aren’t just coincidental. After you complete the test, you can analyze it to determine which variation performed best. During the exploitation phase, you put your findings into action by sending out the variation that performed the best to the rest of your customers.

A/B testing works well, but it does have its limitations. There’s a significant delay between when you start the test and when you implement your results. This can mean missed opportunities. Conditions can change over time, meaning your findings may become less relevant, the longer you take to implement them. The long testing period means you also spend substantial resources using a tactic that isn’t optimal.

How ML Beats A/B

Machine learning can help you to overcome some of these limitations – or at least reduce their impacts.

With the help of AI, you can perform multi-armed bandit testing. This strategy is similar to A/B testing, but it allows you to continuously run tests, implement findings immediately and gradually optimize your results. Essentially, it enables the exploration and exploitation phases to occur at the same time.

To use a tool that uses machine learning to conduct multi-armed bandit testing, you set up a campaign, define your goals and create several email variations. Your software will then automatically and continually run tests throughout the duration of your campaign. It will adjust your strategy as it goes, according to the findings of the tests. This enables more immediate and extensive optimization.

You can use this method to test nearly any aspect of a campaign from the copy, to the images included, to the time you send your emails. There are many different kinds of software that perform this kind of testing, including Optimail and Automizy.

Related reading: How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Can Be Used for Marketing

Automatic Copy Creation

The subject lines of your emails are critical to your campaigns’ success, as they play an important role in determining whether people will open your emails. In addition to using machine learning to test different subject line variations, you can also use it to automatically create high-performing subject lines for your emails.

Companies like Persado and Phrasee are using artificial intelligence technologies including machine learning, natural language processing and natural language generation to write email subject lines and other copy for marketers. Natural language processing refers to how a machine turns language into code that it can understand. Natural language generation refers to how a program uses its knowledge of language to create messaging.

Persado takes copy and breaks it down into six elements:

  • Narratives
  • Descriptions
  • Emotions
  • Calls-to-action
  • Word positioning
  • Formatting

It takes into account your brand voice and the copy that performs best with your customers in each of the six categories. The more campaigns you run using Persado, the more the program learns about how different audiences respond to language. This means the system will only get more accurate over time. In addition to emails, you can also use Persado for social media ads, website content and more.

Phrasee works in a similar way. It analyzes all of your marketing copy from the past 12 months and analyzes it to identify strategies that work. It emphasizes creating copy that fits your brand voice and still sounds human although it’s generated by a machine. According to Phrasee, its machine-generated language outperforms human-generated marketing language 98 percent of the time.

Enhanced Personalization

Personalization is becoming increasingly important across all kinds of marketing, including email.

In a recent survey by the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) and Adestra, 82 percent said that personalization helped to increase email open rates. Further, 63 percent said it is either “extremely effective” or “somewhat effective” at delivering key performance indicators, or KPIs.

Artificial intelligence can help marketers to include more personalization in their email strategies.

Using the testing methods detailed above, marketers can run tests on various aspects of their emails to determine what works best for different customers. They can split customers into segments based on similarities in characteristics or location. They can even personalize emails for individual customers, then send these customers emails with subject lines, images, and topics tailored to their preferences. And they can customize aspects such as the timing and frequency of the emails.

Related reading: Why Personalization Is Something You Need To Be Hyped About


AI can help you to generate product recommendation emails based on customer’s online shopping history. Using a tool such as Moosend, you can automatically send customers emails to promote certain products.

You might suggest products that are similar to ones they’ve purchased in the past or that customers similar to them have purchased.

Moosend can also send emails promoting the products that are most popular on your website or the most profitable. Another useful feature is the ability to automatically trigger emails if someone leaves an item in their online shopping cart.

In Closing

Growing numbers of marketers are using machine learning and other forms of AI to improve their email marketing. It’s also proven valuable in many other areas of marketing that are interconnected with email marketing. These include:

  • Customer segmentation
  • Landing page creation
  • Messaging sent through other channels

AI is transforming the world of marketing. If you haven’t started exploring how AI may be able to help improve your marketing, there’s no better time to start than now.

You can see some informative stats on how AI is changing B2B Sales in this article by Will Cannon on Uplead.

Featured image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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Nathan Sykes enjoys new technologies and the ways in which they can be used to enhance business strategies. Follow him on Twitter to stay up to date with his latest articles.