How AI Could Impact Email Marketing

Artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning were highlighted as the one of Gartner’s top ten strategic technology trends for 2017, and the industry is expected to experience high growth rates over the coming years. 

The AI market is expected to grow at a high compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 62.9% to be worth more than $16 billion in 2022 according to Research and Markets, while Tractica estimates AI revenue will grow from $643.7 million in 2016 to $36.8 billion by 2025.

Artificial intelligence will also have implications for the email marketing industry, playing a role in the automation and personalization of cloud-based digital communication, according to email testing and marketing company Email on Acid.



Justin Khoo, an email developer at Email on Acid, chatted about the different ways that artificial intelligence could potentially disrupt the email marketing industry in a conversation with Email Marketing Daily. Khoo is also the founder of Campaign Workhub, an email marketing review and editing service based in San Francisco.

Although Khoo says artificial intelligence is still in its early stages, he asserts that marketers will gain deeper insights and enhance creativity by weaving AI into future marketing campaigns. Khoo says that a lot of vendors today “throw the word AI out” when they really mean machine-learning tools that are focused to learn specific results, like send-time optimization. 

“Business intelligence has been around for awhile, but that’s guided,” says Khoo. “You manually put in what you’re looking for in a search box.”

Some of the bigger companies offer “more high-level” AI services, he says, like IBM’s Watson and Salesforce’s Einstein. These companies offer what Khoo refers to as “unguided AI,” a system that doesn’t require human input to categorize or find the correct insights.

“In the future, those types of technologies could really add to email,” says Khoo, describing several examples of how AI could be integrated into email campaigns. 

Artificial intelligence could help automate customer service-oriented emails with AI bots responding to email questions, similar to Google Inbox’s Smart Reply feature. Voice assistance services like Siri or Alexa could also be integrated into email applications to read aloud content or trigger responses. 

Khoo says that artificial intelligence has also begun to play a role in analytics, recognizing early warning signs that might have implications for email deliverability or revenue Artificial intelligence could pick up on the small nuances of online behavior that might signal intent to purchase, such as looking at reviews or downloading content, and then send different types of email messages when the AI feels customers might be ready to complete a sale.

Artificial intelligence can help an email marketer optimize content and layout, but it still lacks the capabilities to develop and design emails.   

“Right now AI cannot create a marketing campaign for you,” says Khoo. “It cannot design an email and it cannot make sure that email looks good. Email development cannot be automated by AI right now, but maybe in the future.” 

Khoo says that testing becomes even more critical “when you make the AI do more and more advanced things, like moving content around.” While AI can offer predictive content, maximized subject lines, and generate compelling offers, it still can’t guarantee the email in question looks perfect in every inbox.

It’s also critical to set boundaries on the sources the AI can learn from, so angry customers or Internet miscreants can’t influence the tone of the bot.


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