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Is AI All It’s Cracked Up to Be, or Does email Already Have the Answer?

Viafoura LogoArtificial intelligence (AI) is generating a huge buzz right now, with promises to do things like answering our emails for us and handling customer service.

In fact, a Weber Shandwick survey of CMOs found that they expect AI to transformmarketing and communications even more than social media has. And, as consumers, we fully expect artificial intelligence to someday remind us to pick up milk on the way home.

AI does have a lot to offer – someday. At present, it’s an intriguing technology that’s being used to inform the development of everything from self-driving cars to medicine to, yes, marketing.

However, when it comes to consumer interactions, AI has many challenges, according to Tom Wood of Foolproof. These include:

  • Answers to consumer requests are only as good as the AI’s knowledge base.
  • Artificial agents can seem impersonal or robotic; algorithms that can help the AI differentiate between factual and emotional content are needed.
  • Consumer expectations for brand interactions are quite high, and automated responses may disappoint us.

And Garett Sloane of Digiday points out that it’s still difficult for brands to quantify and analyze chatbot interactions.

Mark Smith of Kitewheel throws a bit of cold water on the whole concept of artificial intelligence marketing. In his view, AI is the newest buzzworthy iteration of the kinds of analytics and automation already available to marketers. Besides, we still need human intelligence. He writes, “The intuition that guides marketing implementation is unique to humans.”

Already intelligent

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Artificial intelligence and digital marketing alike rely on data. While the devil is in the details, as we all know, data-driven marketing works –- and the more data sources, the better it works. In fact, there’s plenty of intelligence in today’s marketing platforms. While you wait for the machines to take over your marketing duties, are you getting all the intelligence you could be out of the tools you already use?

Take email for example. It’s such a tried-and-true medium that some marketers are tempted to set it and forget it. However, it’s evolved into a highly data-driven marketing channel, that done right, can lead the way in extremely personalized consumer-driven experiences. If you haven’t dug into your email platform’s tools and analytics lately, here’s what you might be missing:

Dynamic emails: Are you tailoring the content of your emails to specific consumers based on known or observed data? Your email platform should be able to do this for you. Dynamic email marketing can custom-tailor content on the fly. Examples of dynamic content are live maps that show a customer’s proximity to a retail location and countdown timers that show how many days or hours there are left for a promotion.

Contextual triggers: Your smart email platform can use a number of external, real-time factors to send emails when they’re more likely to be relevant. Think an email promoting stylish rain gear to Bostonians when they’re experiencing a thunderstorm; or how about a coupon for brunch sent on Saturday afternoon?

Automated nurturing: Who says software can’t provide the human touch? Modern email marketing platforms let you set up lead-nurturing emails that encourage prospects and customers to deepen their engagement with your brand. You can gain more data to enrich customer profiles with progressive profiling: Ask customers for incremental bits of data over time; for example, one email might ask a customer to identify as male or female. As you gain more data from each email interaction, you can use it to hone your messaging over time. You can also send triggered emailsbased on rules you set.

Tracking from discount code to conversion: Forget clunky CRM applications. A truly intelligent email platform will follow a consumer’s journey from receiving and clicking on a discount code all the way through to the sale. Along the way, it will reliably keep track of preferences and behaviors, so that in future, everything about the next email will be even more personalized.

Savvy matchmaking: Who needs a shadchan when you’ve got email marketing? It’s possible to take advantage of third-party platforms to segment your email list into groups or personas. Once you’ve done this, you’re then able to tailor your content and creative to capture the interest of all the single urban dog-lovers on your list, while making sure that the 38-to-54-year-old vegan cooking enthusiasts get their own fascinating missives from you. And who knew that it was the mothers of toddlers who were most likely to appreciate your discount on a chain saw?

What are you waiting for?

If you’re ready to get smarter about email marketing, there’s no need to wait for artificial intelligence. Your email marketing platform is probably smart enough already. (If not, maybe it’s time to upgrade.)

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