What’s Your E-Mail Delivery Speed?

  |  December 15, 2005   |  Comments

Does your e-mail service provider have a speed limit?

One of the modern era’s greatest inventions is the E-ZPass. Forget waiting in line to pay a toll to cross a bridge or travel through a tunnel.

Many joyous holiday trips have been spoiled by a 45-minute wait to pay a toll to use the Whitestone Bridge or the Midtown Tunnel. During these painful waiting periods, my family was treated to a never-ending rant about the sheer lunacy of having to wait to pay. Can you imagine the business case: "We want you to wait in line each way for an extended period to pay us $6.00 to cover the distance of less than a mile." Toll-takers barely make eye contact. At their very best, they give you the old "Have a nice day" line.

I’m completely baffled by the non-E-ZPass contingent. When I want to get someplace, I want to get there as quickly as possible, without delays or disruptions. Do people like delays, or are they grateful to add another couple of hours to their commute to listen to the latest Bruce Springsteen boxed set?

The holiday season brings the email delivery version of this problem into the spotlight. I continually hear horror stories from clients whose deliverability have shifted. Initially, the concern was based on whether messages were getting delivered to the inbox. Now, the focus is on speed. How quickly can they get into the inbox? Apparently, some mailings move at a snail’s pace.

Several retailers that send millions of messages at a time say their mailings move at 10,000 to 30,000 messages per hour. This is truly a snail’s pace. Their in-house solutions or outsourced providers claim ISPs can’t handle the increased mail volume during the holiday season or that message complexity and personalization are such that slow delivery can’t be helped. Some local broadband providers have turned to volume and simultaneous connection limitations, and at times adjustments must be made on an ISP-by-ISP or isolated-instance basis. But most ISPs (especially larger ones and those with whitelisting programs) can accept very high volumes.

The fact is, any slow downs are more likely due to scalability issues with your existing solution, not the ISP. I hear tales from retailers who start sending relatively small campaigns (1 million email messages) at 8 a.m. and finish over 12 hours later. Unbelievable!

I recently came across a report summarizing over 85 email service providers (ESPs). Few had revenues over $15 million. If you don’t have the revenue, you typically send smaller volumes. You probably can’t scale as volume and complexity increase, and likely don’t have the necessary capital to invest in the infrastructure to get there quickly.

The consequences of a Fortune 2000 company picking such an email provider can be catastrophic. Slow email sending and delivery (i.e., scalability) can have enormous impact on your business, especially during this most critical time of year. Consumers continue to embrace the Internet for making the shopping experience as painless as possible: no waiting, no lines, and in-stock products are shipped directly to their homes. This time of year, there’s a lot of impulse buying going on each hour as we draw closer to Christmas. If your message isn’t in customers’ inboxes during their buying phase (i.e., the range of hours you intended it to be delivered), you’ll lose sales and profits.

Being first has never mattered more, particularly when many competing retailers share the same customers. Are you first? More importantly, is your email with a provider that has the capital to invest in its infrastructure as well as the proven ability to scale as volume and complexity increases? Or are you waiting for hours at the toll to pay cash, believing the current solution isn’t bad? Maybe you’re one of those folks who likes mediocre sales and modest earnings.

Know your email delivery rate per hour -- and your provider’s speed limit. Ask your current provider why your mailings are caught in the slow lane. Demand higher mailing speeds. If your current email sending platform can’t send millions of dynamically generated email messages within an hour (even if your volume isn’t that high right now), make that New Year’s resolution to find a state-of-the-art ESP. Or, just pick up Springsteen’s new boxed set.

Happy holidays.

Until next time,

Al D.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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