Beginner’s Guide Vol. II: How to choose the right Email Service Provider (ESP)
We're back! If you read Volume I of Beginner’s guide to transactional emails, you are ready for Volume II. By now you have a fair idea about the basics and fundamentals of transactional, triggered and marketing emails as well as the guidelines to follow when sending your transactional emails. We now move on to the next and most crucial aspect:
How do I Select the Right ESP for Sending Transactional Emails?
Whether you are a marketer or developer, getting the right service for your most crucial emails has always been a daunting task. You see all the marketing and promotional copy, but it's really hard to know which one to choose!
Why Transactional Email Matters Even More
Unlike marketing emails, transactional emails is a totally different ball game. These are relationship building emails, not with commercial intent and contain critical information that is unique to each of the recipients. So the criteria for choosing an email service provider for transactional emails is very different when compared to marketing emails. For this reason, many successful companies keep their transactional and marketing emails separate.
What to Look for When Choosing an ESP for Transactional Emails
The basic expectation every online business has is to be able to send these critical emails on time, to the inbox and do it over and over again without any error.
All that glitters is not gold (what to overlook when choosing an ESP)
Don’t we all love to put our best foot forward? No wonder that every ESP in the market is a shiny object with large numbers of emails they send, numbers of customers using them, worlds No.1, most beloved, etc.
These are all good to know statistics but can lead you to an embarrassing situation if you merely go by these numbers. This article attempts to make choosing easier and provides guidelines to follow to make the right selection.
Go deep in what you are shown as right! (going beyond the metrics)
Fundamentally we all know what parameters one should evaluate any ESP on. Inbox delivery, pricing, features are some common parameters but what is important is,
What is your approach to evaluate these parameters?
Let’s look some of the below approaches to be in a better position to make a call:
Cheap does not necessarily save costs
Price is the main agenda for many brands while it is discussed at the last. We always compare the price of one ESP with another which is logical and good approach. However, what is not looked at is why someone is charging more than others? What value are they bringing for your most critical emails? Will 20% savings do any good if 20% emails land late or never see the Inbox? Well, think about it...
Sending huge emails is not more sexy
A lot of ESPs promote that one of the many reasons you should select them is large numbers of emails sent by them. Well, what will be good to know is how many of them are transactional and what is their Inbox delivery? Are they being delivered on time? Are they being sent from a separate Infrastructure?
Features, the ones that you actually need
This is like selecting a handset with millions of features which are good to have but we hardly put them to use. Yet we want them. As a wise user you must select fundamental features which are important rather than wanting all of it. Features like dedicated IP, web-hooks, clean API for sending emails, real time reports and bounce handling are basic needs when sending transactional emails.
Features that are good to have but not to be swayed for are location based reports, template library, setting up rules, Sub-accounts etc.
Inbox delivery which can be experienced
One of the most critical elements when selecting an ESP is their Inbox delivery. Inbox delivery is not rocket science, ummm.. well, actually it is rocket science.. not so easy to understand.
It is important that the infrastructure carries the symbolic difference in the way it deals with marketing emails, notification emails, and transactional emails. If all emails are sent using the same infrastructure with no differentiation or minimal differentiation, it might take away the depth in % of inbox delivery which one commits on the website than actually is!
There are many ESPs who are exclusively sending notification and transactional emails. These ESPs will always have more suitable infrastructure for transactional email then the others.
Emails that travel at the speed of Flash (Superhero)
As a matter of fact, most transactional emails are time critical and require an SMTP service which delivers them quick and on time. Especially for time sensitive emails like OTP, invoices, stock market news etc. should be delivered in less than 5 seconds to your Inbox.
Do a sandbox test to ensure that your emails are always on time.
Customer service that focuses on solving problems rather than closing tickets
One important factor that is overlooked or not considered seriously while choosing right email delivery service is support over email, chat or phone. While most ESPs offer email support, you should evaluate their response time. This will include 2 elements
- how soon they acknowledge/ respond to your email
- time taken to resolve the issue
In case of critical emails especially time-sensitive ones, you will need instant problem resolution so live chat or 24/7 chat support is the best option.
Choosing the right ESP has become like choosing a career. You want to be happy and enjoy working with it. A wise approach can help you be at peace and make your customers happy with transactional emails reaching on time and in inbox.
Ending with a quote,
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”