The term ‘machine learning’ might seem scary. The first time I heard it myself, it conjured up images of killer robots taking over the world.
However, in the context of marketing, machine learning is simply the process of setting up programs to analyze user information and make intelligent decisions without being specifically programmed to do so. This is different to rules-based marketing automation programs, which requires explicit instruction and programming from marketers and web developers.
The fact is that you’ve almost definitely experienced machine learning already. Netflix, Amazon, Google, and countless other tech companies making use of this powerful tool to analyze your behaviour to serve you more personalized content on their websites and via email marketing. Now, machine learning programs have become much more affordable and accessible to small to medium businesses.
Previously, automation and segmentation were the tools of choice for email marketers. Machine learning and hyper-personalization are the next frontier – and they’re sure to generate gigantic conversions . Hyper-personalization means 1:1 e-commerce emails that have been tailored specifically for each customer based on their purchase behaviour and interaction with your emails and website. This is an important strategy for your store, because 74% of shoppers are frustrated when shown content that is not personalized.
As a result, machine learning allows e-commerce stores to capture the personalized shopping experience a customer receives in a bricks and mortar store. You also benefit from machine learning by staying ahead of the competition by being able to deliver more relevant and enticing content to your customers.
Rules-based marketing automation strategies, such as creating segments from your email list and delivering targeted messages accordingly, can be effective. However, the rules that inform these strategies don’t recognize that customer behaviour is always changing. Machine learning fixes this issue by continually taking in data to alter the content shown to customers in marketing emails – without the need for humans to alter the rules and conditions in the program.
Additionally, no customer is exactly the same as another. So while segmentation helps to remedy this, machine learning can make a truly personalized experience for customers by continually adjusting and refining the content shown to each individual recipient.
While machine learning might seem overwhelming right now, there are a number of ways that you can easily get more sales by implementing it in your store’s email marketing strategy.
1. Sending Personalized Products
First and foremost, machine learning allows you to serve your customers the products they’re most likely to buy.
In the e-commerce world, Amazon are the kings of utilizing machine learning to create a 1:1 personalized online shopping experience for their customers. This is based on a series of algorithms that analyze the behaviour of users, such as what they click on, search for, add to their shopping carts, purchase, and so forth.
Using this machine learning, Amazon algorithms can automatically deliver highly personalized product recommendations to customers on their website and through behavioural target marketing. This includes email marketing as well, with Amazon sending personalized product recommendations right to customers’ inboxes.
To read a more in-depth guide on how Amazon uses product recommendations and machine learning, read here: 3 Ways to Achieve Amazon-like Sales Growth with Product Recommendations.
However, you don’t need a huge team of web developers or Jeff Bezos amounts of money to implement machine learning in your email marketing.
SmartrMail allows you to easily send personalized product recommendations in e-commerce email newsletters to send out to your email list. We use machine learning to predict what each of your subscribers is most likely to purchase next. To do so, simply set your product mix settings to ‘recommended’.
This also saves you time. Rather than creating multiple email newsletters to send out to different segments you’ve created based on purchase history, you can quickly and easily send out one newsletter that will show each subscriber different products based on their individual behaviour.
But using machine learning in delivering personalized content to customers isn’t limited to just email marketing. There are a number of programs that can also make use of machine learning to recommend products as customers browse your website, or order specific products as they use your store’s search engine.
2. Timing Your Emails
Nothing annoys me more than waking up in the morning and seeing my inbox has been flooded with promotional emails that international companies sent me during the night.
The more emails there are, the less likely I’m going to look at each of them individually. Instead, I’ll probably just select all of my unread emails, and mark them all as read. I guarantee you that I’m not the only one who does this.
There is no specific time that will ensure that your emails are read. The reality is that your subscribers are all different, and will open your emails at different times, based on their location, time zone and daily routine. Even if you’ve hypothetically found the ‘perfect’ time to email them, it’s still impossible to ensure that your email will be read; there are an infinite number of scenarios that might prevent a subscriber from seeing your email.
Additionally, nobody has the time to sit around at a computer 24/7 to send out individual emails to each subscriber based on the the time of day that they engage most with your emails; even using rules-based automation to set the sending time of your newsletters is unnecessarily time consuming.
However, machine learning can get the timing of your email newsletters as close to perfect as possible. Machine learning can predict when recipients are most likely to open emails you send, resulting in an increase in open rates, click through rates, and transaction rates.
3. Pushing Customers Along the Purchase Journey
The beauty of machine learning is the ability to utilize large amounts of data that no human possibly could (or at least no standard e-commerce marketer). Sure you can probably analyze your purchase data in excel and determine which items are frequently purchased by the same customers. But even the best excel wiz can go further than purchase data and start analyzing every visit and interaction with your site.
By tracking data such as what your customers are viewing on your store, and how many times they’re visiting your store – you can start to measure intent and give customers an extra nudge if they haven’t found something they like or are hesitant on a big purchase.
A basic example would be to increase the frequency of your emails to customers who’ve shown a strong intentions to purchase (or reduce your frequency to those who haven’t).
However with machine learning and some clever browse tracking, you can identify what items are typically purchased by customers after they viewed (and didn’t buy) other items on your store. Armed with this data, you are able to use these trends in customer purchases to serve relevant recommendations to other customers who engage in the same ways with these products.
Like you, your customers are time-poor and don’t have time to browse your entire site to find something they like. Start utilizing your browsing data and predict their next purchase for them.
While I’ve listed 3 of the main ways you boost your store’s sales by implementing machine learning in your email marketing strategy, there are an infinite number of possibilities that are becoming available and more accessible to you each day.
The goal of machine learning is to create a 1:1 personalized online shopping experience for all your customers that mirrors traditional bricks and mortar shopping as closely as possible. This will result in higher engagement with emails and your e-commerce store, leading to more sales. A more personalized experience is also likely to result in an increase in customer lifetime value and brand loyalty as well.
Machine learning might be intimidating at first, but it’s actually incredibly easy to start implementing right now. In fact, in order to ahead of the pack, it’s an imperative to incorporate machine learning in your email marketing.