Practical Ecommerce

How to Choose an Email Service Provider

Selecting an email service provider can be a daunting task. With so many potential providers — and a vast range of pricing options and levels of service — how do you know which providers are the best match for your ecommerce business?

In this article, I’ll address five keys to help you decide.

1. Understand Your Needs

Start with understanding the basics of your email needs.

  • Size. What is your current database size?
  • Frequency. How frequently are you emailing?
  • Monthly volume. What is your average monthly volume of emails sent?
  • Personalization needs. Are you using techniques like personalization or dynamic content?
  • Triggered emails. Are you utilizing real-time triggered and transactional emails such as an abandon cart program and order confirmations?
  • Segmentation. In what ways are you segmenting your database?

The answers to these questions will help identify what type of provider you need. For example, if you have a low frequency without personalization or segmentation, a basic, no-frills plan will suffice.

2. Plan for Growth

It is crucial that your provider offers options that match your current program and offers tools to facilitate growth. This is extremely important, because learning how to use more advanced features that email service providers offer will allow you to grow your program.

Working with a provider that offers tools that are more advanced than what you are currently using should help grow your program by learning to use these tools fully.

3. It’s Like Car Shopping

Choosing an email service provider is similar to car shopping. Establishing the most important features narrows the choices, but you still must pick just one company. With cars, perhaps you’ve established you want a high-end luxury car, and are torn between an Audi and a BMW. Occasionally, it comes down to personal preference. Make sure you test drive different providers to understand the user interface and its ease of use before you make a final decision.

4. Ask about IP Addresses

The Internet protocol address is a unique number for every computer on the Internet. The IP address you are emailing from is similar to a “digital reputation.” Depending on the type of email and volume, you should ensure your email service provider would be assigning you a dedicated IP address that only your site or company is emailing from. Shared IPs are meant for small volume senders who do not have enough frequency or database size. Larger senders should be on dedicated IPs to ensure their reputation is not affected by what other emailers are doing.

In addition, if you are a large sender with many transactional or triggered emails, consider having separate IPs to send different types of emails from. This way, if your promotional messages have compliance problems, they will not affect the deliverability of important transactional messages like order confirmations or shipment notifications.

5. Ask for Recommendations

When making your final decision, ask for testimonials or recommendations from current clients. Most providers will have companies similar to yours that you can talk with.

If you’re still undecided and need more detail on the providers and their major differences, consult with email vendor selection guides, such as Red Pill Email. It comes with a consultation — for both small and large enterprise clients. Seeking an unbiased opinion can lead you to the perfect email service provider.

Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Massimo Arrigoni May 16, 2012 Reply

    There is also the ESPinator by ClickMail Marketing that can help in the selection process: http://espinator.com/

    Also, with regard to the use of dedicated IP addresses: it’s a more complicated topic: dedicated IP addresses are not necessarily the best solution. Specifically, if you are in a pool of high-quality senders, sharing IP addresses with them can actually improve your deliverability, rather than hurting your deliverability, especially if you are not a particularly large volume sender.

    If you decide to use dedicated IP addresses, please note that you will need a high enough number of IP addresses to support your volume: many ISPs (e.g. Yahoo!) limit the number of messages that are received from a single IP address in a specific period of time.

    For more on this topic, see for example: [http://www.quora.com/Email-Marketing/Whats-more-important-for-deliverability-to-authenticate-your-email-domain-or-have-your-own-IP-address](http://www.quora.com/Email-Marketing/Whats-more-important-for-deliverability-to-authenticate-your-email-domain-or-have-your-own-IP-address).

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