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How to Boost Email Opens by 35% Using Artificial Intelligence

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Gumtree is the UK’s top online classifieds website, with a million new ads published each week. Part of eBay Group, the site reaches millions of visitors every month. But when it came to getting users to open emails, the company struggled to capture attention.

“The problem we needed to solve was that we had 6.5 million users, but our open rates were really poor,” says Gumtree CRM manager Ed Lye in this video. “So we needed to bring something in to actually get users to open our emails.”

Gumtree turned to AI in email marketing in the form of Phrasee, an AI-powered marketing language generation tool, to address the problem. Phrasee's artificial intelligence writes subject lines that perform better than human-written ones. Phrasee "reads" your brand's emails, then uses the data to write high-performance subject lines.

Using the tool, Gumtree was able to split test up to 10 AI-generated subject lines at a time. Phrasee then used the results of each test to improve its subject lines over time.

The result? Gumtree saw a whopping 35-50% increase in open rates. The company also saw a 44% lift in clicks.

We’ve talked in the past about how AI can both automate and augment the work marketers do. Phrasee’s work with Gumtree is a great example here. Phrasee’s AI didn’t just improve email performance. The tool also freed up Gumtree's marketing agency to tackle higher-value tasks.

“Phrasee helped because it took the resource issues away from our agency and allowed them to focus more on the content,” says Lye.

This all sounds well and good, but what about cost and time required to get the system running and see results?

Gumtree was using Salesforce as its email service provider (ESP). It still does. Phrasee integrates with Salesforce, so Gumtree didn't have to change its current infrastructure. Phrasee was able to create and send split tests right through Salesforce.

Gumtree did its due diligence on Phrasee before they became customers. But they didn't need to become experts on AI to make a decision. They took the time to understand how AI could transform their business. Then, they vetted what Phrasee could actually do before making a decision. They didn't need to learn to code or understand the nuts and bolts of machine learning to do so.

There's a lesson in here for marketers. AI in marketing is exciting. And it's quickly transforming how we do business. But it doesn't need to be rocket science—and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to benefit from it.

Start with a single use case in your organization. Like Gumtree, figure out what challenge you need to solve. Then see what AI tools exist to help you solve it.

Gumtree got started by realizing they had an email open rate problem. Then, they found a tool that could help. And they judged the tool's performance based on the real business results it produced.

In fact, when asked to describe how the machine learning behind Phrasee works, Lye notes:

“We don’t need to know, we just know that it works for us."

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