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10 Considerations When Choosing the Best Email Marketing Software

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Marketing Director, Americas , Emarsys

Are You Thinking of Buying New Email Marketing Software?

email marketing softwareWhat considerations should you look at when it’s time to purchase email marketing software? Before you buy, it might behoove you to step back and ask a few critical questions.

Among key considerations, you’ll want to consider the type of software you need to achieve your overarching goals, the kinds of and extent of personalization you want to provide, and whether your investment will be worth it in the long haul.

10 Questions to Consider Before Adopting New Email Marketing Software

Here are ten questions you should think about before adopting new email marketing software or a more all-encompassing marketing solution (of which email is a core tenant).

1 Do we need new email marketing software — or something more all-encompassing?

In today’s multi-touch retail environment, it’s never been more important to be channel-agnostic. How does your email strategy fit into your overall marketing strategy?

If email is at the core — as it should be for any e-commerce company — adopting a separate system or standalone ESP is a huge mistake.

Data will be siloed, communications will be fragmented, and the experience customers have will be isolated only to what you know about them via one channel.

So, what do you really need? An email provider, or a solution that connects email with everything else?

2. Can I create the experiences I want to create? 

Forget about email… for just a second.

What experiences are you trying to create for your customers? This question is pivotal, and ties back to your strategy — requiring a thorough understanding of the customer journey, persona mapping, audience needs, and more.

THEN, bring email to the forefront when it makes sense, and integrate email marketing to provide the desired experience for your customers.

Related Content: The Truth About Email: Use it to Drive Experiences First & Conversions Second 

Email is perhaps your most powerful tool for execution of necessary campaigns and communications, and it should be at the core of your marketing strategy. But get out of the “channel-first” mode of thinking, and consider the experience you want to provide — then design those beautiful interactions via email when and where it makes sense.

3. How will the system enable me to improve deliverability?

When it comes to email deliverability, it’s more about practices and less about the platform.

If deliverability is an overarching goal, you’ll still want to do due diligence and review tools, technology, and support available to help ensure high inbox placement. But it’s an illusion to think that a tool will transform deliverability… it’s truly about what you do with it — your approach and strategy.

Ask these questions if deliverability is a high-level goal:

  • What kind of insight will be available to review key performance indicators like bounces, complaints, opens, clicks, and unsubscribes?
  • Does the platform have their own tools or an integration with a provider that can provide insight into inbox delivery, spam folder delivery, black listings, or spam trap hits?
  • How will I be made aware of deliverability issues? Is it possible to set up automated alerts when there’s a problem?
  • Does the platform support email authentication like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC?
  • Does the platform offer dedicated IPs, shared IPs, or both?
  • What’s the criteria for sending from shared or dedicated IPs?
  • What does on-boarding and ramp-up look like? How long is it going to take?
  • What level of support can I expect to receive if there are problems during ramp-up or beyond?
  • Am I going to be working with a deliverability expert, frontline platform support, or my on-boarding consultant? Are those resources going to be available to me when I need them or as issues are happening, or will I have to wait for support from somebody in a different time zone?
  • What kind of issues are common during ramp-up, and how are they typically addressed?

4. Can I do different kinds of email campaigns with the system?

Once you’ve determined which experiences you want to create — and that email is the right channel to create them with — you’ll want to make sure your email partner or solution can actually do certain kinds of campaigns that you need.

► e-Newsletter

Will the system support execution of your newsletter in a way that can be tailored for each individual? Preference centers commonly let you “line up” individuals’ marketing content desires, so ensure your newsletter works in with that.

► Welcome series

Once a customer offers their personal data or makes a first-time purchase, a welcome series will engage them further.

► Abandoned cart

Abandoned cart emails almost always require a connection among website and email. These two systems have to “talk to” each other. Therefore, if you want to automate abandoned cart emails (as opposed to doing them manually or constantly exporting data), you’ll need to ensure web and email are connected and then configure rules for the passing of this data and dissemination of reminder emails.

► Other trigger- or event-based emails

Will the system enable you to pull and use specific data sets to both scale AND automate specific and “one-off” emails, such as:

  • Post-purchase. Sending different content or different cross-sell/up-sell offers to individuals based on what they just bought.
  • Win-back or re-engagement. Identifying and engaging customers before they churn with re-engagement emails based on customer lifetime value, product preference, or recent browsing activity.
  • Specific offers or premiums for customers that have a known affinity for a specific product or category.
  • High spenders. Special offers to your “best” high-value customers and VIP members.

5. …And will various campaigns pull from a unified customer profile so they all “work together” to reflect customer preferences?

Ask how all these various campaigns will work together so that customers aren’t getting redundant or unwanted communications, but instead, content that makes sense for them.

The customer’s lifecycle stage needs to be reflected across their entire journey. Call it a unified customer profile, holistic picture, 360-degree view — whatever. The key is that all campaigns need to access or pull from customer data so they work together.

For instance, if a new contact subscribes to your newsletter and responds to a welcome series by indicating the content and products they want discounts for via a preference center, those preferences should be reflected in product recommendations in future campaigns.

6. What’s the personalization potential with my email campaigns?

In conjunction with different kinds of campaigns working together, personalizing content within emails can drastically set your brand apart from the majority whom are actually not fully personalizing emails.

Related Content: Using Email as the Core of Your Personalized Marketing: Kath Pay [Podcast]

Matt Hayes, CEO at Kickdynamic, defines email personalization as “the ability to automatically change email content to match each individual’s behavior, preferences, and within the context of their stage of the buyer journey.”

This goes beyond using the customers’ names or including item recommendations in emails. The key to personalization, in fact, rests more on what you know about customers than the system you pick. Harness certain types of customer data — like category interests, brand preferences, gender, location, and average order value — to discover insights about certain customers or groups. Then use technology to bring it all together.

Hayes estimates that about 30%-50% of typical “business as usual” emails (emails sent to your entire database) can still be personalized. Dynamic content and intricate segmentation are elements of personalization to consider, too.

Personalized emails deliver a 6x higher transaction rate than non-personalized emails.

7. Can I leverage dynamic or real-time content within the body of the email?

Dynamic content within emails is one element of personalization that shows your customers you care about when, where, and how they view an email.

Content blocks that load in real-time with up-to-date content — no matter when the recipient opens them — leverage a technology called Open Time Content. These emails go beyond static, stagnant emails and add an element of not only interactivity, but they can also immerse customers in differentiated, multimedia material.

Examples of Open Time Content might include:

  • Countdown clocks. Timers indicate a sense of urgency and catch attention — usually at the top of or embedded within widgets in an email.
  • Live inventory. Better than providing stagnant images of products is showing which products are actually available, highest-selling, or best for that individual based on availability.
  • Weather updates. Industries in travel and hospitality, for instance, can add utilitarian components in emails to help customers. Weather conditions or location information can do that!

8. Does this system hit on the three A’s — automation, AI, and analytics?

In order to really capitalize on all elements of personalization, you need to consider whether the email marketing software you’re looking at incorporates what I’m calling the three A’s.

► Automating email campaigns across your database. B2C marketers using automation experience conversion rates as high as 50%!

Using artificial intelligence to improve content placement and Send Time Optimization

Looking to analytics for performance results and constant improvement

You can’t hope for the highest levels of personalization within emails without automation (enabling scale and efficiency), AI (allowing best send time, relevant content placement, recommendations, etc.), and analytics (to see what’s working) to augment your approach.

Since CX is the key differentiator today and the bar for what constitutes an amazing experience continues to rise, emails that aren’t personalized — and which don’t leverage some degree of automation, AI, or analytics — are, quite frankly, emails not worth sending at all. 77% of return from emails comes from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.

9. How will this solution impact the efficiency and effectiveness of my team?

One of the most important considerations when adopting any new software (especially email marketing tools) is “how will it affect my team and impact our workload, process, and overall efficiency?” Without a doubt, you’ll want to work with your marketing team to research, discuss, and plan such an endeavor!

“Write down the functionalities (or requirements) you’re looking for and what the email marketing system needs to do — make them specific. If you relate all of the requirements to real-life use cases (campaigns you’re going to do in the coming year-and-a-half), you keep it realistic. Score the requirement by importance, and ask for feedback from your team on the scoring, before you have seen any system. That way, you can make sense of any evaluation among your team.”

Jordie van Rijn • Founder, emailvendorselection.com • @jvanrijn  • LinkedIn

Email marketing software should make your life easier, more efficient, and also quite effortless — or at least free you up for more time spent on strategic outlining of campaign flow, design, and copy creation.

The details matter! With any prospective solution, be sure to analyze or at least ask about:

  • The interface. Is it intuitive and easy to work in? Is it easier to work with than what you’re currently using? Can you easily preview emails across every device?
  • Drag-and-drop images or code. Part of an easy interface might include drag-and-drop widgets, the ability to plug in certain elements, or a simple code to fire components within the content.
  • A key element of automation, segmenting — in some capacity — is key to delivering relevance and resonance. It will also exponentially reduce the amount of time you’d spend developing your own campaign blueprints or outlines.
  • Easy scheduling. Is it quick and easy to finish and schedule emails within the system?

10. Will this system be technologically obsolete in a few years?

This is one of the most crucial questions to ask before spending thousands of dollars per month on email marketing software. How will it serve your needs over time? Is it flexible and agile enough to grow and improve with your needs and the evolution of email? For example, can the software currently (or eventually) support: 

  • Embedded or “one click” buying. Many email experts believe embedded transactional functionality is the future of email marketing.
  • Animated, video, or GIF content. Interactive content is on the rise. Leveraging multimedia within emails is one area you’ll want to ensure you can take advantage of.
  • Mailable microsites. Interactive, engaging, even 3D emails can serve as microsites in and of themselves. Can the system support this kind of user experience?

Can the software support continuous improvements, to-be-created features and functionality, and other futuristic components of email marketing… or is it unchanging? The more robust the system, the better.

Conclusion

An investment in new email marketing software requires careful analysis of the pros and cons of systems in contention.

Is a standalone system sufficient? Or do you need something more substantial that interlinks all of your customer data? What experiences do you want to provide, and what kinds of personalization do you anticipate wanting to use? Are the three A’s important to you, and how can they save your team valuable time?

Careful consideration of these points will set you up to make the best decision when it is time to buy. Doing your homework and preparing — taking into account the most critical aspects of new email software for your business — is the first step to successful selection, implementation, and, ultimately, business growth. ◾

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About the Author


Lindsay Tjepkema is the Director of Marketing at Emarsys and host of the Marketer + Machine podcast. She and her team deliver resources that empower marketers to seek out solutions and strategies that will allow them to focus on what they love strategy, content, and creative — not technology. Although her true love is tech marketing, Lindsay has worked in a range of industries, from life science to talent management, economic development to software development, eProcurement to social networks, and more. She has crafted and executed B2B and B2C strategies for brands like Intel, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, OfficeDepot, SalonCentric, Ashley Furniture, and more. Her experience is built on time spent leading in-house teams, in agency settings, and independently running her own marketing consultancy.

Connect with Lindsay: LinkedIn@blueprintmkt