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Subhankar Kundu in Transactional Emails

Transactional Email Service Provider Selection Guide

Many people think that all the email providers are alike. That is a big fat lie. In fact, it is an inaccurate information. Just like any other products or services, many factors set them apart, especially in case of email delivery quality, their capabilities to troubleshoot, the seamless API’s integration, and the customer support quality.

If everything is equal, everyone would be choosing the email provider who charges the lowest price. Let’s accept it – we cannot resist the temptation. Even so, we have to look beyond the cost. In this article, I have listed some vital factors to help you in evaluating the right email provider for your business.

Based on the type of emails you are sending, you can choose the right email delivery provider. There are two major categories of business emails- promotional and transactional emails. Some email delivery providers focus on only one type while some support both of them equally.

Using different IP address is the perfect option as it gives proper insulation to the transactional emails from complaints against spamming, which is otherwise associated with promotional emails. Click To Tweet

There are many operational efficiency advantages of using a single platform for both kinds of emails. However, this can put your reputation at risk since chances are high that your email provider has not separated your marketing and transactional email sending. This means that your promotional email sending reputation will bring down the deliverability for your transactional emails! For instance, if you are using a single dedicated IP address to send transactional and promotional emails, there won’t be enough separation between them.

Typically, marketing will help in managing the promotional email deliveries. However, the transactional emails, which is critical and has a vital application infrastructure, should be handled by the team involved in the development or IT. The two teams differ in their priorities and needs. Thus, in this article, I will highlight how certain factors can impact transactional emails as well as the developers.

Below are some of the factors that you should consider when choosing your transactional email provider

1 . THE RATE AND SPEED OF EMAIL DELIVERY 

Email providers put their focus on inbox rates. Almost all of them brag about their excellent delivery. Sadly, not all of them live up to the standards they set for themselves. This is because they fail to understand transactional email criticality by focusing more on bulk emails from their systems. Moreover, if an email arrives a minute later, it is as bad as email delivery failure regardless of the fact that it did arrive!

  • Always know performance about the speeds and rates

Aritic Mail, ensures high email delivery rate by regularly testing the inbox rates and delivery speeds with major mailbox providers, the time to delivery information is always available in our application for each message. With this data, we can keep a watch over our system and offer quick responses to any issues that may arise with performance or delivery.

  • Test the speed of email deliveries by yourself

This is not just for the email service that you use, but also for the email delivery provider. All you have to do is to set up an account at all mailbox providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, Apple, Hotmail/Outlook, and so on. After that, send some test emails from Aritic Mail platform.

  • Through Twitter, search for mentions of real-time delivery

You can search for brands along with words such as “delivery,” “deliverability,” “blacklist,” and “spam.” This will help you understand the delivery problem patterns of each email delivery provider. Typically, there are no perfect providers. Even so, if the problem seems to be recurring, then you should raise a red flag. While at it, ensure that you check the responses that are given by the providers to the problems.

  • Are they encouraging the use of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC?

In the era we are living in, these three are very common. Yet not all the providers make it easy to use them. You can judge how dedicated they are to offering you excellent delivery by looking at how well they offer support for authentication.

  • Who warms up the IP address?

Typically, when you choose the dedicated IP address, a lot of the email providers will write to you a document full of instructions concerning the warming up of the dedicated IP address. They will place the burden on you. Aritic Mail provides the warm-up schedule, help in automating it and Aritic team gets involved themselves with the customer while implementing email delivery practices including IP warm-up.

  • Look through known blacklists

A lot of times we meet customers who are looking for new providers because their providers are always getting blacklisted. This, in turn, injures the deliverability of their emails. Whenever a provider permits sending high volumes of bulk marketing emails, they get more spam complaints and blacklisting. This, in turn, causes them to be blacklisted. Aritic Mail does not allow promotional emails, and it also monitors spamming activities closely. Thus, we rarely face blacklisting issues. Gmail officially recommends separating your bulk and transactional email.

2. THE CAPABILITY TO TROUBLESHOOT

Regardless of how high your email provider’s reputation is for delivery, there are some variables that they cannot control. It may be inescapable for you to get into some delivery issues once in a while. While this may not be your provider’s problem, tools and capabilities for quick troubleshooting are a must have. So, what should you have?

Transactional Email Service

When you are dealing with bulk emails and lose a few emails, it may not be too big of a deal for you. But when you are handling transactional emails such as password resets, receipts, and so on, even a single missing email will lead to a support request that ultimately increases the cost of support. Therefore, you should strive to be able to research and trace every email’s life so that you can track any problems in delivery as soon as they occur.

  • Is the history of messages and events captured and stored extensively by your provider?

Go to a provider who tracks and stores all details like bounces, spam complaints, and delivery. This way, you can know what happened to a specific mail, and you can work together with the recipient to find a way forward. Most providers will have this information, but their lifespan will vary.

  • Does the provider maintain full content message history for at least 30 days?

Typically, before the support receives an email delivery problem, it would have lasted a few weeks. This means that you will need an email provider with a solid history of the emails sent. This way, you can quickly search and track down any emails that may be missing and solve the problem. At Aritic Mail, we store email history for a  year (metadata) and complete email log for  60 days. However, you have the flexibility to customize this based on your business requirements.

  • Does the provider store full content of your sent emails?

Content triggering spam filters sometimes tend to cause some delivery problems. For example, we have seen cases in which, the inclusion of a phone number in an email acts as a trigger. Such issues can be challenging to troubleshoot when there is lack of full content. It is sad to note that a lot of the providers will not provide a richly stored content. Those that do only save the emails for a short while.

  • Will the provider handle the burden of deliverability?

Many providers will blame you when there is a delivery problem. They will blame it on your content instead of investigating their end. They will also discourage you from switching to a different provider claiming that your content is the problem. Aritic Mail is different. We take responsibility for all deliveries, and we do not blame you for something that we have not thoroughly investigated. We will also let you know what is wrong and how to fix it.

3. DEVELOPER API AND DOCUMENTATION 

Whenever you work with an email provider, there is a very high chance that you may want to use the API that they have. You may also come across documentation that is incomprehensible, and this may lower your productivity. Therefore, take time to look at the developer documentation. While this may seem obvious, you can easily forget how high-quality documentation and libraries can impact your productivity.

  • How is the documentation organization and ease of finding it?

While ESP setup is straightforward, integration of features that are more advanced is hard. Therefore, look at the documentation carefully before you commit to it.

  • Are there current and well-maintained client libraries that can help reduce development effort?

Client libraries that are officially supported stand out always. Typically, they will quickly receive updates for the new features that are released. The provider will also be behind them and render help in fixing bugs during implementation.

  • Are there help docs that can be searched easily?

Aritic Mail strives to unify all the documentation. This includes guides, developer documentation, blog posts, and support documents. We also make it searchable from a single point. However, we provide more help docs and better search options to make it faster.

  • Can the API help you monitor delivery performance?

No one has the time to manually check the status page on Twitter for such issues. A publicly available status API will always be perfect for transactional email as it helps to automate monitoring of your ESP. Check their status page to see the information included and their transparency. When a status page is not helpful, it can easily create more problems.

  • Can your platform be flawlessly integrated?

Consider things like bounce handling, inbound, open tracking, and click tracking. One part of the solution is sending the emails. However, everything mentioned above is vital for managing transactional emails. Hence, ensure that the provider supports all that has been mentioned.

  • How useful are the templates?

Design, testing and development processes involved in setting up of transactional emails are burdensome. Therefore, when the provider gives you templates that are pre-made and tested, they will save you a lot of time.

4. CUSTOMER SUPPORT

When all things fail, and the tools from the service provider cannot help you in any way, the next best thing you can do is get customer support which will make all the difference.

  • Is the support’s response to emails timely?

When you are facing a challenge, and the support takes a day or more to get back to you, they will put you in a fixed spot. Before you pay for an account, send them support emails to test and see how seriously they take your requests.

  • Does the support team consist of knowledgeable technicians?

Email delivery has a lot of technical questions. There is nothing worse than getting an inapplicable answer to a technical question. Therefore, you can gauge their expertise by sending a tough technical question.

  • Is the status page informative and robust?

Check whether they are transparent, offer regular updates, whether they provide “deliver” information and whether they glide through issues. Aritic Mail shares its system status page available for public access.

  • Gauge the customer support by checking their twitter account

Check how timely they respond to tweets, how proactive and helpful they are, and whether or not there is constant praise or criticism from customers. Again, no provider is perfect but too many negative comments are something to worry about.

5. AFTER THE DECISION

Deliverability is a target that is always moving. Therefore, never stop monitoring it after settling on a provider. Keep evaluating them as often as you can.

  • Never assume amazing deliverability is automatic

Always watch out for blacklists and delivery with tools such as 250ok, Gmail Postmaster Tools, and MX Toolbox. These tools will help you know immediately as the problem arises.

  • Bulk and transactional emails should always be separated

Always use a different IP address and domain or sub-domain to send application/transactional emails from the one you send your bulk promotional emails. This way, the transactional email’s reputation will not suffer. This is advice straight from Gmail.

  • How easy is it to switch between providers?

Ensure that your provider’s interfaces (bounce handling, inbound, link and open tracking, and sending) are abstracted from your codebase. This way, you can easily switch between providers. When your provider has deep issues, being able to switch between providers with speed and ease will create a big difference between excellent deliveries and loss of thousands of emails.

  • Will a backup provider come in handy?

Always maintain a backup provider when running an application that is crucial. This helps when long-standing or delivery issues that are irregular arises. Aritic Mail offers you a complete status API that will help you to monitor and switch to a backup provider easily should an issue arise.

Key Takeaway

Sending an email to customers looks like a simple task, but there are a lot of things to consider to ensure they are actually delivered. Email delivery is far from being a commodity, and all providers are different. The difference becomes more pronounced when you investigate whether a provider’s focus is on transactional or promotional emails. I hope that these tips will make it easier for you to identify the best provider after comparing them.

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