Alexa’s New Changes will Improve Email Marketing

Greg Sterling’s Marketing Land article on what the new Alexa capabilities mean for email marketing pumped me full of adrenaline this morning. I’ve had the same bounce at the top of a tough mogul run after several cappuccinos—on a foggy day.

Alexa Cliff Notes

Alexa can now read and delete your Gmail and Outlook email. Amazon is adding other functions, but for those of us in digital marketing, that ‘read and delete feature’ required a couple cleansing breaths. Those helped clear the fog. Here are the two most important points:

1. Alexa reads to the recipient the sender and subject line.

  • Okay. In truth, that’s not a lot different than what a recipient does when visually scanning emails. Don’t know the sender? In the trash.
  • Too much sizzle on that steak? Trash.
  • Might be interesting? Read it (which Alexa will), or hit next or archive. No big deal, right? You’re just having Alexa do this verbally for you as you’re cleaning up the kids’ breakfast mess. Cool.

2. But wait, what about replies?

Need to write a quick reply to one of those emails? Alexa takes dictation, reads it back to you, and then asks if you want it sent. Alexa will also include a signature that says “sent via Alexa.” It’s like having a Mad Men secretary without the sexism!

Alexa Just Made Us Better Email Marketers

Let’s face it. Our email boxes are jammed daily with examples of lousy email campaigns and misleading subject lines. As a digital marketer, I take these personally, because they waste people’s time and companies’ marketing budgets. Rapid changes in AI tech like what Amazon’s Alexa just handed digital marketers, demands revisiting some basics as well as agility. Sort of like what you rely upon when you get to the top of a black diamond ski run.

Re-Apply Basic Principles to Email Marketing

Subject headings are even more important. We need to get them right. Good subject headings:

1. Personalize.

  • According to Experian, promotional emails personalized with first names have 29% higher unique open rates and 41% more unique click-through rates. But go beyond that. Make sure your data gives you interests, locations, or previous transactions that you can use to tailor your email subject heading.

2. Target people’s needs or curiosity.

  • Use your data to tell you what those needs and interests are.

3. Utilize keywords.

  • After analyzing over 20 billion emails, the global email marketing agency, Alchemy Worx found the most effective and ineffective keywords in terms of open rates.
  • Among the best keywords: Upgrade, New, Congratulations, Alert, Latest, Deduction.
  • Among the worst keywords: Deals, Groovy, Learn, Open, Urgent, Exclusive, Buy.

Alexa Reminds Digital Marketers – the AI future Is Now

For a while, we’ve relied heavily on visual email candy. Once a recipient opens an email, we give them handy buttons and cool graphics. We track data from those buttons, and we need to ensure we are setting up our email analytics to include the new ways people respond using Alexa. Think I’m overstating it? Alexa is now installed on 20,000 devices worldwide, which is a jump from 4,000 at the beginning of 2018. Google Home will no doubt soon follow this email-reading feature.

Not only do we need to augment the visual with the auditory in our analytics, but I can envision apps in the near future that record subject lines and emails in brand-appropriate voices. James Earl Jones. Lauren Bacall. Or (God help us) jingles.

Whatever comes, as Greg Sterling said, these “devices will provide more utility for owners.” That means digital marketers need to keep their knees loose and their edges sharp.