4 Key Things to Look For in an Email Service Provider
“Respect your elders.” It’s an old school bit of wisdom you probably heard when you visited older relatives as a child. And while you might not think that phrase has any relevance in the digital marketing sphere—beyond maybe reminding marketers not to condescend to older consumers—it’s worth remembering that there’s one marketing channel elder that deserves our respect: Email.
Email was the channel that allowed modern digital marketing to flourish and as this channel grew to prominence over the years, it distinguished itself as a powerful way to support effective communication, brand relationship building, and customer experience over the long haul. Marketing teams that are able to cut through that noise and create marketing emails that can capture their customers’ attention and drive them to take action are putting their brands in a position to succeed in a big way in today’s business landscape. In fact, Braze proprietary research has found that there’s a 45% lift in engagement among users who receive emails from brands, as compared to individuals who receive no messages, and other studies have consistently shown that the channel drives a massive return on investment.
Here’s the tough part: Most of the major email service providers (ESPs) aren’t set up to help you create email campaigns capable of standing out from the crowd. Why? Because the customer engagement landscape has changed since the rise of mobile devices...and most ESPs haven’t.
The rise of mobile has led to major changes with the ways consumers engage with brands online, amping up the pace of activity and information consumption via mobile devices, and significantly reducing the half-life of customer data. In this landscape, your email marketing strategy needs to embrace dynamic segmentation, message personalization, and a customer-centric approach to be effective, but that can be almost impossible if you’re leveraging an ESP that isn’t built to support those capabilities at scale.
Fortunately, today’s marketers have options. With a bit of vigilance, it’s possible for brands to find an ESP that fits their needs and allows them to respond to an increasingly challenging business landscape. So as you and your team crafts your email marketing strategy, make sure that the ESPs you consider have the following features and functionalities:
1. Streaming Data Architecture
The era of batch-and-blast email is over. According to MarTech Advisor, 90% of consumers become annoyed with brands who send them irrelevant marketing messages, raising the risk that they unsubscribe from future emails or stop patronizing those brands all together.
You can nip this problem in the bud if your ESP is built on a foundation of streaming data—rather than traditional data batching. Streaming data-based solutions are architected to support the continuous flow of information in ways that make it possible to power live, continuously updated customer profiles that allow marketers to understand each user’s preferences and behaviors in meaningful ways.
Streaming data also makes it possible for marketers to leverage dynamic segmentation to ensure that users seamlessly move between different audience segments as they take actions, engage with messages, or complete actions, reducing the risk that people will be targeted with irrelevant, broken customer experiences caused by outdated data.
2. In The Moment Message Personalization
There are 293 billion emails sent every day, which probably makes your head hurt just thinking about. That’s why standing out from this ocean of emails can be so difficult sometimes. Ultimately, the best emails—the ones that actually get opened, the ones that drive people to take action—are built around personalized content that actually provides value to each specific recipient. Your ESP should make it easy to personalize the messages that you send (and ensure that the details you pull into your emails are up to date). One great way to make that happen is by allowing marketers to dynamically insert information via API.
Here’s how it works: Just build a simple email template, then leverage a dynamic content tool (like Braze Connected Content) to pull information from your internal systems or public APIs and insert them directly into the message at send time. That means you can customize what aspects of each message are personalized—for instance, you could include a photo of the item they just placed in their shopping cart—and to ensure that the details are timely and relevant. The upshot? While legacy ESPs rely on batched information and creaky databases to inform their personalization efforts, modern API-driven ESPs are built to support effective, time-sensitive personalization every time.
3. Effective Customer Journey Management Capabilities
You send an email, the user opens it, and then . . . what exactly happens? Ideally, that message should motivate the recipient to take some sort of action. Click a link. Open your app. Make a purchase. That’s because that long email is just one (important!) part of a broader journey for that customer. To provide each individual with a journey that speaks to them and helps encourage them to take—and keep taking—key steps, your ESP needs to be able to visualize this larger journey for you and helps you chart it out.
What does that look like in practice? With the Braze customer engagement platform, marketers leverage Canvas, our powerful customer journey feature, to build out intuitive messaging flows that provide users with compelling, cohesive experiences, message after message. Canvas makes it possible to see customers’ ongoing engagement and to optimize for each step in their journey. Along the way, you can test the impact of different subject lines, message timing, and a whole host of other campaign elements, all right within Canvas. By leveraging this kind of customer journey management, you can build, test, and optimize your email flows every step of the way, ensuring a more positive, more impactful customer experience.
4. Seamless Cross-Channel Orchestration
Many legacy email service providers were conceived when email was the only game in town. But while email is a powerful foundation for effective customer engagement, one of the best ways to enhance your existing email program is to complement the email campaigns you’re already sending with supplemental campaigns in complementary messaging channels.
Braze research has found that using the right combination of channels in your campaigns can significantly increase engagement seen from email alone. While sending emails to customers leads to 45% higher engagement, compared to customers who haven’t received any messages, adding in-app messaging to your email campaign can support a more cohesive, end-to-end customer experience and lead to a 315% increase in engagement. If you go even further and add push notifications as well, this three-channel cross-channel engagement strategy can drive a 543% increase in engagement, making your marketing efforts significantly more effective.
To get the full value of digital marketing’s most impactful channel, you need to ensure that you have the ability to send scalable, personalized marketing emails in the moment. Investing in an ESP that has the real-time data, personalization capabilities, customer journey orchestration features, and cross-channel reach needed to enable a modern email strategy is key to winning this durable channel. To learn more about the next generation of email marketing, check out our Next-Gen Email Webinar.