Do brands still need bulk email software?

All this week, we’re running a series entitled The Future of Email Marketing. Our authors will deep-dive into the tools, technology and strategies changing email for the better. Each day will feature case studies, interviews, technology reviews and best practice – as well as the results of our reader survey. Expect cutting-edge insights, predictions and more!

There was a time when companies wanting to effectively make use of email as a marketing channel had to buy bulk email software to send emails to their customers and mailing list subscribers.

But times have changed. Cloud-based email delivery platforms like Sendgrid, Mandrill, Mailgun and Amazon SES have rapidly grown in popularity, calling into question the need for bulk email software.

Here’s why.

Cloud-based email delivery platforms offer high deliverability

Companies using self-hosted bulk email software face a number of challenges. In the war against spammers, email providers employ a significant number of defenses that can make it difficult for even legitimate senders to get their emails delivered. Brands wanting to send out their own emails will need to invest in delivery infrastructure and ongoing reputation management efforts.

Cloud-based email delivery platforms, on the other hand, largely eliminate the need to invest in email delivery infrastructure and they offer features and services that make it easier for companies to optimize deliverability.

For example, all of the major cloud-based email delivery platforms offer IP address warmup, support authentication standards like DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and have proactive reputation management programs to help ensure that they stay on the good side of ISPs and anti-spam organizations.

They have analytics capabilities

In today’s digital economy, it’s not enough for companies to send email and have it delivered. If they want to succeed and optimize their email marketing results, they need to track and analyze how recipients are engaging with their emails and responding to them.

At a minimum, most cloud-based delivery platforms offer companies the ability to easily track basic metrics like opens, clicks and unsubscribe requests and some, like Adobe Campaigns, are integrated into larger cloud-based marketing suites that are capable of combining analytics data culled from email with analytics data collected from websites and mobile apps to create high-detailed analytics views and customer profiles.

They play nicely with external applications

Every major cloud-based email delivery platform offers an application programming interface (API) that enables companies to programmatically send emails, schedule campaigns, manage their email lists and retrieve analytics data.

This makes it easier for companies to more easily switch providers, and also makes it possible for them to build their own tools to manage parts of the email marketing life cycle.

For example, a company that wanted to build its own application for creating and scheduling campaigns could do so. And companies can pull email analytics data into other analytics and business intelligence tools they’re using.

They come bundled with useful tools

Cloud-based email delivery platforms offer a variety of features that are often not found in bulk email software. These include:

  • Visual email creation tools that allow email marketers to design campaigns without having to code HTML and CSS.
  • Preview tools that allow marketers to see what their emails will look like on a wide range of devices and in different email clients before they send.
  • Robust mailing list management tools that allow marketers to, among other things, segment their lists.

While these value-added tools can in some cases establish a form of lock-in, as noted above, the availability of APIs mitigates the risk of vendor lock-in.

They allow companies to take advantage of innovation

By adopting a cloud-based email delivery platform, companies can more easily avail themselves of technological innovation.

Artificial intelligence is increasingly being applied to email marketing with great effect. Rarely, however, are new technologies like AI being integrated into bulk email software. Instead, they’re accessible through vendors that are integrating them into cloud-based platforms.

Another reason that bulk email software is probably on its way out is that email marketing is no longer an exercise in sending out large-scale email campaigns one at a time.

Transactional emails now make up a significant portion of the emails that many companies send. Since cloud-based email delivery platforms are also commonly used to send transactional emails, it makes sense for companies to outsource email delivery to a single vendor that can meet all of their email marketing needs.

Additionally, more and more companies are embracing marketing automation. While marketing automation doesn’t mean that traditional email campaigns will go the way of the dinosaurs, marketing automation is helping drive increased transactional email volume.

For example, marketing automation platforms are being used to execute email drip campaigns, onboarding series and repurchase reminders.

So are there any instances in which it makes sense for a company to choose bulk email software over cloud-based email delivery platforms?

In a nutshell: probably not.

Obviously, some companies are still using bulk email software to send email campaigns, but the reality is that, for most companies, sending large, one-at-a-time campaigns exclusively is not a path to success.

Highly segmented and personalized campaigns are in many cases a necessity, as are the kinds of automated email campaigns that bulk email software is ill-equipped to handle.

For these reasons, it’s likely that bulk email software will eventually be completely supplanted by cloud-based email delivery platforms over the coming years.

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