What to Look for in a Best-in-Class Email Marketing Vendor

What to Look for in a Best-in-Class Email Marketing Vendor

What to Look for in a Best-in-Class Email Marketing Vendor

Everything you need to know about picking the best email marketing vendor. Download now to explore key features, ROI assessments, and more.

Contrary to popular opinion, email marketing isn’t dead. Effective email tactics matter more than ever, especially for businesses looking to supercharge their e-commerce growth.

Recent data underscore why email is still such a vital platform for marketers:

As the nature of online shopping evolves, the need for more sophisticated email marketing solutions will continue to grow. With revenue growth and customer retention rates hanging in the balance, partnering with the right email service provider (ESP) is critical.

From assessing various features and capabilities to understanding pricing and potential ROI, this guide delivers everything you need to find the ideal vendor to support your email marketing initiatives.

Navigating the crowded ESP marketplace may initially feel daunting, but we’re here to separate good from bad and fact from fiction.

How to Evaluate ESP Vendor Capabilities for E-commerce

To say e-commerce is a growing sector is to undersell the phenomenon. Reporting shows that, in 2022, 19% of global retail sales were generated by e-commerce. By 2027, that number is projected to hit 25%. 

With that kind of cash influx, more and more ESPs are evolving to support e-commerce-focused businesses. This is partly because one-size-fits-all ESP options are often limiting in terms of their feature depth, technical flexibility, and ability to consistently deliver an exceptional customer experience (CX). Particularly for companies serving a large global audience, traditional ESPs no longer cut it.

Examples of gaps that the latter group addresses far better than their traditional ESP counterparts include:

  • Cart abandonment recovery via email retargeting

  • Advanced audience segmentation based on buying activity

  • Production recommendation and notification delivery

  • Automated follow-up emails based on trigger actions

  • Extensive reporting and analytics abilities

These capabilities are core to any e-commerce retailer’s success (we’ll do deeper on each a bit later in this guide). When augmented by automated workflows and content templates, business leaders can leverage them to:

  • Incentivize shoppers to complete purchases

  • Group customers accurately based on various criteria

  • Offer personalized recommendations to elevate the CX

  • Boost both immediate and long-term revenue

  • Grow customer engagement and drive repeat business

On top of all that, e-commerce ESPs save companies of all sizes an enormous amount of time and money. As a result, they can lower costs, improve daily margins, and increase their income substantially. With the sky-high demand for excellent online shopping, the need for ESPs that can keep up will trend in the same direction.

Getting your voice heard: The importance of e-commerce deliverability

Before discussing more granular content and automation-related features, it’s important to highlight the most important part of any email campaign: deliverability.

It’s not as simple as pushing send and waiting for audience engagement to trickle in. As of June 2023, the average reported email deliverability rate was 85.7% across all platforms. This means over 14% of emails never hit a consumer’s inbox. During high-traffic times of the year, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) sales, subpar deliverability can have severe consequences on brand reputation and bottom line.

To benchmark your current email deliverability performance, here are some ballpark figures to keep in mind:

  • An email deliverability rate of 89% is considered decent

  • An email deliverability rate above 95% is excellent 

  • If your deliverability rate falls below 80%, it’s considered poor

When shopping around for an ESP, a great deliverability rate and track record should be at the top of your wishlist. But it doesn’t necessarily boil down to one number. An ESP’s ability to steer your emails clear of a consumer’s spam folder or the promotions tab will ensure your messages have a higher open rate and, consequently, a much better chance of generating engagement.

Beyond this crucial capability, here are some indispensable features your ESP should rate highly for.

5 foundational email marketing features for e-commerce businesses

This section will delve into a handful of critical areas in which any ESP your e-commerce business considers should excel.

Automation for things like cart abandonment recovery

The ability to turn abandoned shopping carts into recovered revenue is one of the most powerful tools in an e-commerce business’s tech stack. By selecting an ESP that makes it easy to set up and send automated emails to those potential buyers, reminding them of their unfinished purchase, you’re much more likely to attain conversion and revenue goals, regardless of the campaign or season.

Advanced audience segmentation

The success of modern email marketing blitzes often depends on well-structured audience segmentation. The parameters are vast and will vary greatly between organizations, but some popular examples include age, purchasing habits, and geographic region. With tighter segmentation, you can personalize your content to each group and enhance the effectiveness of your messaging right off the bat.

Production recommendation notifications

Nailing your product recommendation email notifications is another game-changer if you partner with a strong ESP. By analyzing browsing and buying history, you can send targeted emails suggesting products that align with clear preferences and behavior. By enhancing the shopping experience to this degree, increased brand loyalty and recurring sales are typically a click or two away.

Automated follow-up emails and triggers

Automated emails are for more than just closing deals or enticing consumers with upsells. A robust ESP can also help you address customer retention and re-engagement to-dos by scheduling follow-up emails to strengthen your brand’s connection with customers on the verge of converting. Adding personalized touches can further ingratiate yourself to your target audience and bolster your CX.

Extensive reporting and analytics abilities

The more data-driven your decision-making can be, the more agile and strategic your email marketing becomes. For this reason, extensive reporting capabilities must be at your disposal via your ESP. This feature provides valuable insights into email performance, enabling you to understand what strategies are working and which ones need tweaking. Continuous optimization, led by analytics, will grow your ROI.

5 advanced features for modern e-commerce businesses to consider

With those e-commerce ESP essentials covered, let’s turn our attention to some more advanced ESP features companies should consider when deciding on a vendor. As consumer habits and the marketing landscape as a whole continue to evolve at warp speed, these SaaS elements aren’t solely for massive global corporations, either. Businesses of all sizes can leverage these features to drive revenue quickly. 

AI-driven product recommendations and email personalization

Machine learning and AI stand out as two of the most influential forces in e-commerce today. When combined in an email marketing platform, it enables brands to automatically dissect customer behavior and preferences, pinpointing the best product recommendations to send via and facilitate conversions. Rinse and repeat for other content considerations like follow-ups, reminders, and birthday discounts.

With 71% of consumers now expecting personalized services from brands, leveraging these tools is crucial. Together, machine learning and AI can help futureproof your marketing efforts. 

Seamless integration with e-commerce platforms

An ESP’s ability to enhance focus areas like audience segmentation, product recommendations, and so on is only as good as its integration options. If you can’t connect your email marketing system with platforms like Shopify, Woocommerce, Magento, and others, your campaigns will lack sufficient data and customer information to be effective.

Data synchronization between the two should be seamless and instantaneous. Many well-known ESPs boast comprehensive integration but make sure you look into the details and even speak to a company representative to get the full story. You don’t want to cut corners here.

Workflow automation and optimized customer touchpoints

Email workflow automation isn’t solely about saving your marketing team precious hours of working time, though it accomplishes this magnificently. Without any manual data manipulation, it ensures every email message reaches the right consumer at the most opportune time, maximizing conversions and sales.

The scope of automated email workflows is as vast as it is versatile, which means the possibilities are endless. The most eye-opening part? Marketers who use automated segmentation have seen revenue increases of up to 760%.

Customer data management for personalization

Capturing and processing massive amounts of customer data is important, but managing and using it as a springboard to conversation personalization can get overlooked as a key part of marketing execution. Taking advantage of an ESP’s ability to interpret consumer interests and interactions to accurately understand intent is vital to strengthening trust in your brand.

Data management can impact support inquiries, ensuring those requests are routed properly and resolved promptly. It can also mean the difference between sending generic content and tailoring entire email messages to individual customer tastes. The easier your ESP makes customer data management, the higher your engagement rates will be long-term.

Engaging, interactive email design templates

Given the skyrocketing popularity of DIY design suites like Canva and Biteable, minimum standards for eye-catching email design have risen accordingly in recent years. As a result, cutting corners on your ESP’s design capabilities will almost surely come back to haunt your future marketing campaigns.

Creating visually appealing emails goes beyond simply including an image or two. Embedding, videos, GIFs, and other interactive elements have improved CTRs by 200%. Partnering with an ESP who can help you craft wow-worthy email visuals is well worth the investment.

With so many features and must-haves on the table, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: pricing. Read on for a breakdown of ESP pricing tiers and how to assess your potential ROI.

The truth about pricing tiers of leading ESPs

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of potential ESPs serving clients around the world. Due to rapid technological innovation and democratization throughout the past decade, the vast majority allow you to accomplish the basics to some degree of satisfaction.

Internal questions you should ask before choosing an ESP that can help here include:

  • How many team members will actively use or need access to the platform?

  • How many recipients will be targeted by campaigns right away?

  • What is your target audience growth potential? How will that impact send volume?

  • Which region(s) are your customers in? Which compliance boxes must be ticked?

  • What is the realistic quarterly or yearly budget allocated to email marketing overall?

Answering these and other questions will help you pinpoint how much you should spend. A freemium tier may be enough for smaller organizations to get you started in the right direction. For more mature companies, you’ll have different pricing structures available to you, including scalable tiers that evolve alongside your growth and expansion.

Whether pricing tiers are built around bundled features, the number of active seats or premium users, or email send volume, it’s important to look beyond the upfront startup costs and think long-term. Your ESP must add value beyond financial gains, which can include saving you time and related expenses with an easy-to-use UI and simple integration with your existing e-commerce platform.

Your email marketing should be an asset, not a deterrent, to increasing sales, thus enhancing your overall ROI.

Assessing your potential email marketing ROI

Though it’s tempting to focus solely on the bottom line, business leaders weighing different ESP options must balance pricing considerations with the possible return a boosted email marketing machine can deliver.

To make an informed decision, it’s vital to combine all the pieces and determine which elements are dealmakers or breakers. For example, an ESP that offers advanced segmentation and top-tier content personalization may serve you best in your marketing campaigns. At the same time, other companies may be willing to trade in some of that feature muscle for more robust reporting suites.

Other elements of an ESP that should factor into your purchase choice are:

  • Customer service and support, both its scope and reputation

  • Self-serve educational resources and documentation

  • Best practice tutorials and quick-start guides for new users

  • Cybersecurity and downtime track records

  • Number of existing customers the ESP serves in your vertical

All the features and support in the world can’t compensate for a low glass ceiling for expansion and customer acquisition. Choosing an ESP that can evolve alongside your business instead of holding you back is the most significant step you can take down the path to success.

The power of Bird’s e-commerce email marketing

By ticking all the feature and capability boxes listed in this guide, you can be confident that an ESP can support your e-commerce business as it strives for exponential growth and global expansion. As a globally recognized email and communications provider, Bird streamlines the email marketing process for e-commerce retailers worldwide.

Customers like Uber, Google, and Facebook choose Bird because we deliver:

  • Signup forms to grow your subscriber base and ensure your outreach is expected and compliant.

  • Exceptional email reliability with over 6 trillion emails sent annually

  • Unrivaled scale delivering almost 40% of all commercial email worldwide

  • Unrivaled data insights that leverage competitor tracking and gives granular visibility into delierability

  • Ease of integration with native integrations to CRMs, ecommerce platforms, any all the tools you use.

  • Intuitive automation allowing you to build dynamic marketing journeys without the need for a developer. 

  • Faster design options using a templated system that’s represents for your brand

If you’re looking for an ESP that will support your e-commerce brand every step of the way as you become a worldwide sensation, Bird is an easy choice.

See the difference first-hand—book a personalized demo and an audit of your email marketing system.

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Your new standard in Marketing, Payments & Sales. It's Bird

The right message -> to the right person -> at the right time.

By clicking "See Bird" you agree to Bird's Privacy Notice.