It’s a new decade and it still looks like email isn’t going anywhere. (Sorry, Sheryl Sandberg.) Love it or hate it, email is a tried and true tool for communicating with customers, and your customers not only read it, but they expect it.
Customers today are certainly evolving in how, where and when they read their emails—but most importantly, they are evolving in what they want from their emails. And they expect more. That means what worked in 2017 for email marketing isn’t necessarily going to work for 2020. Consumers want discounts, they want to be in-the-know-but they also want your bank to know them, know their dreams, and then tell them how you’re going to help them get there.
Put AI to Work
Even with a dinosaur like email marketing, artificial intelligence is all the rage. AI software for email marketing has come a long way in a short period of time, providing a few key advantages. AI software can provide more in-depth and advanced levels of personalization than ever before; it can also make your subject lines better and help optimize your timing for email delivery.
Gone are the days when a team of copywriters spends hours A/B testing subject lines. Now, AI programs are able to generate subject lines that optimize click rates, tracking performance and tweaking the formula. Teams used to spend hours toiling over data to figure out at which times different age groups opened their emails, and on what types of devices. With AI software, that sort of data analysis is no longer necessary.
We’ve seen AI software that can calculate the timing of emails and their follow-ups down to the second, maximizing click rates and ensuring that the email format corresponds with customers’ preferences and habits. AI software right now can even adjust the dates and times that an email campaign goes out individually, based on the habits of the people you are sending the email to and which stage of their banking journey they are at. Could you imagine trying to do that kind of spreadsheet work with a team of people?
We also love AI’s email marketing tracking programs. These programs are able to analyze the results of each email that goes out, ensuring that the next email it helps generate can be even more optimized, timed more perfectly, and have an even more compelling subject line. This frees up your analytical team to spend their time interpreting the data to come up with bigger-picture marketing plans, thinking more strategically.
The New Personalization
Personalized emails generate a transaction rate that’s six times higher than non-personalized emails. It used to be that the biggest deal in personalized email marketing was automatically using somebody’s first name in the body of an email. The new personalization that gets clicks and engagement is about more than just a name—it’s about relevance.
The banking industry has been slower to adapt to personalization than other industries. A reason for this is a reluctance to use customer data to market, but there really should be no excuse for blanket email campaigns that don’t target content and products based on the recipients of those emails. Shame on the company that addresses an email with the spammy greeting “Dear Valued Customer.” But if your bank is sending emails about short-term retirement plans to 20-somethings or first-time home buyer deals to people who already have a mortgage, then you’re also wasting your time and money.
One simple email campaign from Capital One shows how behavioral data can be used in a way that is personal, relevant and considerate. A promotion for a price verification service from the bank used a simple subject line: “Hi, we saw you just spent $57.10 on Amazon.” See what they did there? (It’s worth noting that Capital One has one of the highest email open rates among banks.)
AI makes list segmentation and personalization easier to execute and easier to plan. Predictive analytics can help you understand not only what your customers are interested in and how they’re behaving today, but also what they will be interested in next year. Plus, the sheer amount of data AI makes accessible can help you craft emails that are both personalized and considerate. Take all the behavioral, demographic and location data that AI provides and think of the possibilities for crafting a message based on that information.
Crafting the Message for Today
Just because you have all this fancy AI software, data and subject line generation at your fingertips doesn’t mean you should skimp on the body of your email. Your customers expect more from your email content, too. They don’t just want to know about a product, they want to know how that product is going to help them reach their goals. AI can help format copy to be as email-friendly as possible, but everyone still prefers the human touch. Can a robot really convince a young couple that their bank is a partner in achieving all their hopes and dreams, not only for their wedding day, but also for their future together?
Your marketing team should be focused on discovering the immediate and long-term goals of your customers, and crafting all the stories that tell them how your services will help them get there. As in most cases, AI is a revolutionary tool. But it’s not a stand-in. Rather, it will help push your teams to think bigger and better about the possibilities. As for age-old marketing tools like an email, even there, those possibilities are boundless.