Email open and click-through rates are on are a three-year high, mostly because of better targeting, according to a study by The Relevancy Group, collaborating with OneSpot.
Open rates rose to 28% in second-quarter 2018, compared with 27% last year and 25% in 2016. And click-through rates averaged 17%, up from 16% in 2017 and 14% in 2016.
The study attributes much of this success to ”senders executing more highly targeted and relevant campaigns,” but adds that a “big opportunity exists to driving even higher engagement.”
That opportunity is in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. And companies seem to acknowledge that, with 96.2% believing those tools can improve the customer experience. But the study also shows that 38% do not yet trust the effectiveness of AI.
Moreover, marketers are concerned about the challenges of converting to those technologies.
Of the 486 marketers polled, 70% are worried about the obstacles in implementing and training. An equal percentage are concerned about the hassles of switching or adding a platform. In addition, 67% fear giving up editorial control, and 54% added investment.
Yet many marketing teams are tied up with performing manual tasks that can be handled with automation, the study also determined.
Employees now spend almost 25% of their work week on tasks such as content selection, HTML coding, and proof testing of email messages. And the average enterprise emailer spends over $300,000 on those tasks, including the costs of in-house staff, email providers and external agencies.
Most teams put in over 36 hours -- the equivalent of an entire work week -- on manual segmentation processes related to personalization of content, the study adds. And senders who preside over enterprise programs spent over 11 hours a week on tasks that can be conducted with automation.
Most senders today are spending an inordinate amount of time and resources on executional tasks that can now be more efficiently handled by systems using AI and machine learning,” The Relevancy Group concludes.
Retail/ecommerce staffers put in the most time on content selection, followed by professionals in travel & hospitality and those in entertainment, gaming and sports. Manufacturing employees put in the least amount of time.
Most firms are spending budget on at least some email staff. For example, 25% say they have more than five full-time people devoted entirely to email. But over 35% have three, and only 5% are limited to one.
What would those teams do with the time saved by moving from manual processing to machine learning?
Almost three-fourths would focus on program planning, expansion and strategy. Two thirds would spend time on segment refinement and list cleansing. Half would spend more time on data analysis, and almost that amount on subject line optimization.