How eBay Used AI-Powered Copywriting to Boost Email Marketing Performance by 700,000+ Opens Per Campaign
eBay is one of the most recognized and respected brands in the e-commerce space. With over 170 million active users worldwide as of April 2020, eBay’s global consumer reach has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade as online shopping has become a larger part of life for the modern consumer.
The question is: in a digital retail space which is growing more crowded by the day, how can a digital retail brand stand out from the crowd and engage modern consumers at the scale necessary to build and maintain a competitive edge?
The answer, it turns out, can be found in one of the most highly touted and widely misunderstood technologies of the digital age: artificial intelligence (AI).
A Pioneering Brand
Producing marketing copy that's consistently engaging, creates impact, and drives revenue is a great challenge for an e-commerce brand with over 101 million email subscribers worldwide. Creating the subject lines for these campaigns requires a monumental effort and was extremely time consuming for eBay’s internal team. Each week, they were tasked with creating standout, relevant, and high-performing content — a repetitive and creatively draining process for any marketer.
Therefore, in 2016, eBay embraced AI technology to power its marketing language and optimize its campaigns at scale. eBay needed a creative technology solution that offered scalability, but also reflected its brand and adapted to the constantly changing behaviors and preferences of its audience.
As an established e-commerce brand, eBay’s journey to better email marketing performance was never going to be a typical one. Embracing AI-powered copywriting was no simple task. It involved a major rethinking of eBay’s overall email strategy, and no small measure of forward thinking. Thankfully, eBay’s marketing team was equal to the task, and embraced this exciting new technology from the ground up.
“We needed a creative technology solution that offered scalability but also reflected the brand’s voice and adapted to the constantly changing behaviors and preferences of our audience.” — Justine Del Greco, Marketing Manager Global CRM, eBay
At the heart of the Phrasee product are the natural language generation and deep learning models which generate copy at scale and constantly optimize performance. Phrasee’s team of computational linguists built eBay’s bespoke language models — the language environments that generate copy that are specific to a customer’s plans, promotions and, most importantly, the brand tone of voice. This allowed eBay to generate copy at scale in just a few clicks.
“Phrasee-generated language is based on scientific insight yet is human sounding and tailored to eBay’s brand voice”
As eBay made AI-powered copywriting a key facet of its overall digital marketing strategy, the positive results came pouring in. eBay has seen a 15.8 percent average open rate uplift and 31.2 percent average click rate uplift, providing consistent return on investment on all campaigns. On average, Phrasee delivers over 700,000 incremental opens and 56,000 incremental clicks per campaign, amounting to a significant improvement in eBay's overall email marketing performance for its U.S. campaigns.
A Vision of the Future
By optimizing both the language in eBay’s email subject lines as well as the headline copy within the email using creative personalization platform Movable Ink, eBay was able to increase average click rates by more than 40 percent. This massive increase in overall email marketing performance sold eBay on a long-term commitment to AI-powered copywriting moving forward and allowed the e-commerce megabrand to glimpse what the future of digital marketing will look like.
eBay is not alone. Many of the digital age’s most successful retail brands, such as Domino’s, Groupon, and Virgin, have transitioned to a “digital-first” strategy, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular.
Parry Malm is CEO and co-founder of Phrasee. Phrasee uses AI-generated language to power copy (email subject lines, push notifications, Facebook ads) for global brands and generates new, never-seen-before language in real time, using natural language generation and deep learning.
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Parry is a well-known digital marketing dude. He has worked with countless brands and media outlets to help them optimize their online results, and is one of the world’s leading experts on email marketing (which he blogs about here sometimes.) He started his career coding middleware for CRM software, then sent out millions of emails for global brands, before running the strategy department for an ESP. He holds a BBA (1st) in Marketing & Statistics and can probably beat you in an Excel-off. On weekends, he helps wayward youths see the error of their ways through the magic of interpretive dance.