Approach to Data Differentiates ESPs

Josh GordonEmail is sometimes a forgotten direct digital marketing channel. While it is core to any customer experience a brand tries to create, basic email capabilities are a commodity. Email is essentially bucketed in two primary categories - blast campaigns and dynamic/relevant campaigns. A mix of both is good, and good ESPs do both expertly. Dynamic and relevant email programs are obviously much harder to execute with precision, so when shopping for a new ESP most marketing organizations draw comparisons based on the most difficult elements of their likely complex email software ecosystem.

At first glance it may seem as though the email provider marketplace is developmentally stagnant. Most ESPs do the same stuff, so scalability and price become determining factors. The truth, however, is that good email software providers see the relatively stagnant feature development and jump at the opportunity. The result is that ESP shoppers must dig deeper when it comes to email vendor selection because the points of differentiation between ESPs are more subtle and precise than ever. The good news is that the benefits that may seem buried deep within a software platform are worth digging for because the difference they make is enormous.

As usual, with every direct digital marketing consideration, the story starts with data. While blast emails are simple to produce, execute, and measure, the data is vital for more targeted and triggered email programs where personalization should also be an important component. The data is where ESP shoppers should begin their line of questioning.

What most ESPs do a very poor job of is capturing data native to the platform. The superficial but important data points are all accounted for – like click through rate, etc. – but capturing and storing behavioral data natively to an email platform is where the next wave of functionality separates great email providers from the market standard.

An ESP that captures behavioral data gives the marketer many advantages, most of which are better suited for a series of follow up posts. One distinct advantage, however, is the ability to have prior knowledge and important behavioral information already in the database for a NEW email subscriber. Most ESPs begin gathering data – or marketers begin a series of complex data appends – once a subscriber signs up. When the ESP captures behavioral data natively, a host of important and defining information is already stored within that subscriber’s profile. That makes targeted email marketing possible out of the gate, instead of weeks to months of data gathering and analysis before assigning a subscriber to a series of lists.

Are you shopping for an email provider now? If so, how high on your list is data management?

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