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How do companies and agencies use email service providers? Where can ESPs improve and what do marketers really think of them?

Our 2016 Email Marketing Census sheds light on many different parts of the industry, including direct feedback from agencies and companies on their provider. This article has a look at what they had to say.

How are email service providers used?

With the increasing complexity of a marketer’s role it is understandable that web based providers are used more than others (with a 14% increase on 2015). Using a dedicated ESP allows marketers to concentrate on strategy and execution, without having to develop their marketing technology too.

ESP types

As for specific uses of a provider, basic segmentation is practiced by an overwhelming majority – with almost four in five respondents implementing it (and a further 16% planning to). Segmentation is a vital tool for marketers and so it’s reassuring to see respondents include it in their strategy and subsequently rate the ROI from email marketing as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. In comparison, of those that don’t implement segmentation, only 46% would rate it the same. Can you really afford not to be using basic segmentation?

The second most important practice is, unsurprisingly, mobile optimisation (64% of respondents say they do this). It is likely to continue as a priority moving forward too, considering one of the most frequently used applications in 2015 on phones was email.

It’s also good to see that regular list cleansing is a popular practice, with over half (54%) of respondents saying it was part of their strategy. Good data practices mean you only engage those contacts who want to be engaged, whilst also complying with data regulation. And with the European data law changes likely to be rolled out this year, it’s more important than ever that your data is up to date.

Where can ESPs improve?

The Census also highlights areas that require improvement. This year’s census is no exception and shows potential issues within mobile optimisation and marketing automation.

When asked “What is the main barrier to success…?” both agencies and companies considered there to be a technology shortfall in both practices. For mobile optimisation this was 11% and 15% of respondents, respectively; however, with marketing automation this spiked to 21% for both.There was also a perceived difficulty (6% for companies) in measuring ROI for mobile optimisation, which could translate as a slight reporting issue for providers.

As for marketing automation, a huge barrier was the ability to integrate data, with a huge 28% of agencies and 37% of company respondents believing this to be the case. With a third of respondents saying this, it is something that should not be ignored.

Automation challenges company

It’s important to note, however, that the census doesn’t ask at which end these issues occur and it is unlikely they all sit at the provider’s door but the percentages are high enough for them to be addressed either way.

The truth: what marketers really think

Despite the room for improvement it would seem providers are largely achieving what they set out to do – provide. This is reflected by an increase in email marketing investment, which sees the base rate investment of £0-5000 at its lowest for 5 years and mid-market investment (£10001-50000) increasing by 8%.

Not only that but word on the street says 63% of agency respondents and 54% of companies love their provider.

love esp

No wonder, because – despite being given a relatively low proportion of marketing budgets – email is considered by almost three quarters (73%) of companies to offer ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ ROI.