Kath Pay

Founder Holistic Email Marketing

Using Machine Learning in Email for 'Always On' Optimization

Using Machine Learning in Email for 'Always On' Optimization

"Machine learning" has moved out of science fiction and into real-life applications, like powering Tesla cars that run on autopilot and robots that can beat humans at the Japanese game of Go. For marketers, it gets them closer to their email nirvana: true 1:1 personalization on a mass scale.

Machine learning, at its simplest, is a method of data analysis that allows computers to learn – to analyze, predict and act – without explicit instructions or programming.

That last phrase – "without explicit instructions or programming" – highlights the difference between today's rule-based marketing automation and systems that use machine learning.

Both machine learning and today's marketing automation systems use algorithms to analyze data and set outcomes. However, even the most complex marketing automation programs rely on specific rules or conditions that users write for them. Those rules don't change unless someone goes in to alter them.

Out in the real world, though, customer behavior is changing constantly. Also, no two customers are alike. Segmenting the database and targeting messaging help marketers address these differences, but the rules that govern those activities don't recognize the subtle changes that build up over time into a mass movement. 

Systems that use machine learning to analyze data can generate insights that constantly adjust and refine the content sent to different customers based on their different characteristics and behavior.

Instead of sending messages based on one point of past behavior, these systems continually take in data, analyze it and use those insights to personalize messaging without requiring marketers or their IT cohorts to keep tinkering under the hood to keep up with changes.  

Machine learning in action

It's all around you, but it usually works so seamlessly you don't realize it's there:

Netflix: Netflix's recommendation engine analyzes data generated by three basic sources: your preferences (what you put on your list), your behavior (what you actually watch over time) and what other people are watching ("Trending Now"). Then it sifts through all that data gained by granular tagging of all scenes within the movies, to predict what you'll want to watch and presents those predictions as viewing recommendations.

As you watch (or don't watch) what Netflix suggests and change your personal viewing list, your recommendations list will change to reflect your behavior.

Twitter: Many social media listening tools use a combination of machine learning and linguistic rule creations to filter out nuggets of meaningful content from the fire hose of Tweets as they flash past, whether it's to detect customer sentiment in general or to learn what they're saying about you in particular.

Spam filtering: ISPs use a host of factors when deciding whether to route an email to the inbox, divert it to the junk folder or block it outright. User behavior such as clicking the "report spam" button, moving an email from the spam folder to the inbox and adding a sender's name to an address book or safe-senders list helps increase filtering accuracy for each account.

Airbnb: The travel service uses a dynamic pricing model that helps site hosts figure out how much to charge. It incorporates neighborhood location, amenities, time of year, fluctuating demand and other data points to help hosts get the most reservations at the best prices.

Machine learning for email marketers

Your fellow email marketers have been putting machine learning to work in their own programs. Here are a few examples:

Subject line optimization: Machine learning and marketing automation come together to help marketers choose the best subject lines with less time lost in testing. Here are two ways email marketers can use this technology:

Touchstone uses a proprietary algorithm to predict likely open, click and bounce rates using a simulation of an actual email database and comparing results to billions of other tests – using real data to power the results. Phrasee's language analysis tool predicts which emotional triggers in subject lines will drive more responses. Both services use results to refine and improve predictions over time.

Delivery time optimization: Also called "send time optimization," this service predicts and modifies email delivery times based on when recipients are most likely to see and open messages.

Copy optimization:Persado's persuasion automation platform uses algorithms to find the most persuasive language for direct-response marketing messages. Its Persado Go service analyzes message drafts (email, social posts, newsletters, ad copy, etc.) and suggests revisions using natural language processing and machine learning.

Newsletter creation:  Alchemy Worx has developed a newsletter automation service that streamlines newsletter creation and delivers 1:1 personalized content using machine learning that continually optimizes content choice based on recipient actions.

Real-tme Content Optimization:Cordial uses machine learning and proprietary multi-armed bandit algorithms in coordination with real-time systems to rapidly find content which is most likely to drive a conversion for each individual subscriber.  The system allows unlimited variants to be tested and self optimized while reducing lost conversions. 

Take the next step toward 'always on' optimization

The advent of machine learning doesn't mean you have to toss out all of your rules-based marketing automation. Instead, identify areas that would benefit from continuous optimization. That's where automation based on machine learning will drive better results without a constant injection of staff time and money.

The best way to see how machine learning solves the twin problems of lack of resources for optimization and scalability for personalization is to talk with email industry people who are making it work for their brands, clients and customers.

You'll actually be able to do that in a special session during the Email Innovations Summit (May 18-19 in Las Vegas). The panel includes Dela Quist of Alchemy Worx, who will show how machine learning powers both the Touchstone subject-line optimization service and Alchemy Worx' newsletter automation system.

Check the agenda to read more about the discussion session (Track 2, 3:40pm on May 19) and then register to attend.


Title: Using Machine Learning in Email for 'Always On' Optimization
About: Machine Learning and subject line optimization
Audience: Email Marketers
Publisher: OnlyInfluencers.com
Copyright 2015, Only Influencers, LLC


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Saturday, 29 April 2017

When I first started writing this post, it was going to be a comprehensive guide to everything you need to do to get your marketing email messages to the inbox. The modest post quickly turned into a full-length book, and not just any book, but, a highly technical book talking about all the intricacies of authentication, including DKIM, DomainKeys, SPF and DMARC. Who knows, maybe I will publish that book one day ;-) Everyone I have ever spoken to about deliverability wants to know what is the secret to bypass the ISP filters and get every single email delivered to the inbox. I always open my phone and load this photograph:

In this day and age, digital marketers have the ability to be pickier than ever when it comes to new software. For every marketing problem, there are at least a handful of solutions to choose from; however, they all come with a price attached. One of the most painstaking jobs that marketers are tasked with is accurately measuring ROI from all of their channels and tools. Every tool comes with promises of dramatically increasing ROI, but how do you, as a marketer fully realize whether or not the software you’re using is actually working for you?

It’s now 2017. We marketers have been chanting for “More data!” for years… and I think we can agree: we got it. Marketers use between 3 and 15 (!) data sources in their marketing, and the problem more often than not is that it doesn’t all live somewhere we can get to it or make sense of it.

From time to time, the discussion on the Only Influencers' Email list turns to whether we as marketers need to be complex or not. Some email marketers say "Blast away!" Others say, "Let's be smarter than the average bear."

Let's get one thing straight right away: if you see yourself as a button-pusher, and if your email strategy is just to blast out campaign after campaign, this article is not for you. Unless you hunger for more. In which case, stick around.

In the middle of rushing to send the latest announcement, update, sale email or whatever, it can be easy to forget the “who” and the “why”. But to maximize results, marketers need to know their audience well enough to know who they are sending to, and why that message will be important to that person. Do this by creating a customer journey for each segment of your audience.

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