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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2017-08-30

When it comes to email marketing, A/B testing has served as the undisputed king of performance testing for many years. From subject lines, to designs, photos, calls to action and more, A/B tests help marketers determine which campaign elements resonate best with target prospects. But a powerful new breed of testing is making its way into the email world, and marketers need to know that A/B is no longer the only game in town.


Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are providing an alternative testing methodology, and while it’s still early, some experts are saying AI is superior to A/B. In fact, many companies are already leveraging AI to fuel data analytics, customer targeting and improved email campaign results. And those results point to the limitations of A/B testing, which has traditionally been used to analyze the performance of one email element at a time, or to validate hypotheses. AI, on the other hand, is now being employed in new solutions that empower marketers to test all their email elements simultaneously. Through continuous testing, AI allows email approaches to evolve – and to be optimized on an ongoing basis.


As an example, if a marketer wants to optimize an end goal metric, such as email conversions. AI engines can then examine response data to determine how to best reach that goal. Email elements that “win” (or deliver better responses) can be kept, while “losing” elements can be trimmed away. One AI vendor recently stated that a customer that leveraged its technology to test more than 150 email designs across a seven-week period, with a goal of coming up with the best performers, was ultimately able to achieve a 38% improvement in conversions.


Additional ways that AI testing can help with email marketing include:


  • Optimal days and times: By sending a blanket message to prospects all at once, marketers risk sending the right message to the right person – but at the wrong day and time. Leveraging AI, marketers can send messages when customers and prospects are most likely to open them based on their past behavior. Sending emails at the optimal time can significantly improve opens and conversions.


  • Product recommendations: Personalized product recommendations (such as “people who bought this product also bought these…”) have long proven to increase sales. AI can mine large data sets of customer behavior, including clicks and purchase history, to create personalized recommendations specific to each customer. From there, it can be used to send highly targeted campaigns, resulting in higher click-through-rates and sales.


  • Market segmentation: Machine learning has made it easier for marketers to segment their customers and identify those personas that are the best matches for their offers. For example, AI can identify the age groups, locations or income levels tied to those who purchase your products the most, and match offers that have yielded the best results with similar audiences. In addition, by examining recency, frequency and monetary data, AI can determine your best, most loyal customers, and help create offers to which they will most likely respond.


  • Customer lifecycle: By analyzing transactional, behavioral and intent data, AI and predictive analytics enable marketers to send contextual emails throughout the customer purchasing lifecycle. (Contextual emails contain content that is personalized and relevant to each customer based on their individual data, such as their location, past behaviors, device in use, etc.) By examining, say, the time required for a customer’s journey to an initial purchase, or the time between purchases, marketers can employ AI to create optimally timed and more powerful campaigns to engage with their prospects.


Leveraging AI for email campaign optimization is still in the early stages, but vendors are confident it will be used by marketers pervasively in the years ahead. It represents a large potential change for email marketing – one that will deliver increased personalization and heighten the power and effectiveness of email like never before. Very exciting stuff!



Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can help you achieve better email marketing ROI, and convert more prospects into customers. Ask us how. Also, take a look at our complimentary e-book on building a successful B2B email marketing database. â€¨

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