Hipwood just launched a new classifieds website in New Zealand (Post a Note), and we are reaching out to users and trying to improve current user experience. For now, we will probably not use very many traditional email marketing campaigns (newsletters), as we are focusing on attracting users and making sure they enjoy the experience. In addition, transactional emails will definitely be an integral part of our experience, as we need them to validate accounts and listings. But the fact of the matter is that there are so many email platforms, and then even more transactional email platforms… So it can be hard to determine what is right for your company!
First off, let’s decide what type of company you are, and what types of emails you will commonly send.
1. Informal Blog
These types of sites get users to subscribe, and then send traditional email campaigns to users in the form of weekly blog updates or monthly newsletters.
E-commerce sites can be two different types: click-and-mortar or online only. An example of a click-and-mortar would be Indigo online, while online only (would be a great example of many of the Shopify sites like our friends at Cursor and Thread ( hand made bow-ties). These sites involve a large number of transactional or one to one emails to the user. Every time you receive an email saying thanks for registering, purchase confirmation, shipping details, password recovery, etc is a transactional email. In addition, these companies may also wish to send you important promotions, newsletters, or content you find useful because of the purchase of a particular product. They use both types of email.
3. Online Auctions
This is for sites like ebay and Amazon. These guys use even more transactional email than e-commerce sites, as they use it to update your current bids on an item, watch listed items, items you have placed online, account settings, shipping, and payment information. And once you give them your information, they will send you weekly updates on items that may interest you (leave my credit card alone darnit!).
Companies that deal largely in subscriptions include magazines, newspapers, and now video and music services like Netflix. Subscription companies still use transactional emails for basic account settings (sign-up, billing, password recovery), but tend to use more targeted traditional email marketing campaigns. They send you promotions, new additions, and content that interests you based on the articles, movies, or music you’ve read, watched, or listened to.
5. After Service
Some companies use both traditional email and transactional email campaigns to reach customers after they have received a product/service. Some have transactional email designed to send a few days after you received your service to ask how it was, and see if there is any feedback. Other campaigns will contact you months after your product/service and remind you to come try them again, possibly with a discount as an incentive. These can be used for e-commerce sites, as well as spas, hair salons, etc!
Now that we’ve gone over some general categories and uses for both traditional email marketing and transactional emails, let’s pick the platform that is right for you!
Features: Sign-up is incredibly easy, and they don’t take your credit card number for the free-version (extra piece of mind). Choose from over 400 ready-made templates or make your own, as they have a seam-less drag and drop system. In addition, I was super impressed with how many sources they could import your contacts from (salesforce, excel, etc- there’s like 12 options!) MailChimp uses an open API and encourages other applications to integrate with it. Currently PayPal, Google Analytics, Shopify, FreshBooks, Salesforce, SurveyMonkey, and more can work with it.
Pricing: If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month absolutely free. After that it increases in $5 increments for every 500 subscribers, and unlimited emails.
UI: Very slick, modern, and easy to use. I like that they have fun graphics to help you along the way. ie. I get a high-five from a monkey, when I have successfully sent my campaign.
Cons: On the free model you have to send a ‘magical number’ of campaigns before you can unlock the advanced features like A/B testing. This was annoying as this was one of the features we wanted to try from the get go! Also their basic version of Autoresponder (automated emails), requires you to pay before you can use it.
Mandrill is Mail Chimp’s home grown transactional email program, created by its own developers. This would be used best for companies that have to send transactional email all over the world. It is built on the same proven Mail Chimp platform with great templates, integration, reporting, and it even has a mobile app.
Pricing: It is free up to 12,000 emails per month, then you pay 0.20-0.10/thousand emails depending on the total amount of emails sent.
Features: They have over 400 customizable templates to choose from. Reporting is very simple, and has a number of tools to extract information from. In addition they have a built-in WordPress plugin, Facebook Fan Page app which allows your Facebook fans a way to sign up for emails from your Fan page.
Pricing: They have a free 60 day trial, that again has limitations on what you can do. Constant Contact’s pricing is monthly and is based on your number of email addresses ranging from $15/month for up to 500 addresses to $75/month for up to 10,000.
UI: Feels very corporate, and built so you know even your parents can understand it.
Cons: It costs extra money to send surveys to your subscribers. And finally, there is no forever free version for smaller scale email marketers.
Features: SendGrid divides itself into 2 separate entities. Email marketing and transactional email are both completely different, with completely different pricing plans. SendGrid is used by such clients as Pandora, Spotify, Foursquare, and more. These guys again offer all the bells and whistles of traditional platforms, but have a very good transactional email program. In my opinion these guys, would be great for large scale transactional emails, but not for the newer start-ups or smaller businesses.
Traditional- 100,000 emails cost $104.95, per month, and go up from there.
Transactional- $9.95/month to send 40,000 transactional emails.
UI: Very modern, stylized, and very easy to use.
Cons: Very expensive, better suited for large scale companies.
Features: Enables users to send emails much like the other companies. A/B testing, auto-responders, mobile ready templates, social sharing, Google Analytics integration, phone app to view campaigns, list management, and integration with hundreds of apps (Salesforce, WordPress, etc.).
Pricing: Monthly payments of $9 for up to 500 subscribers and 2,500 emails. After that prices increase roughly $20 per every 2,000 subscribers.
UI: It is very intuitive and functional, although it’s not the prettiest.
Cons: They don’t have as many templates available for users. Created very bare bones, so it has lots of customization available for developers, but as stated, are limited with pre-made options.
Features: This platform has 35 colour themes, 39 social networking buttons and very easy-to-use campaign creator. It has integration to all the important applications, and uses Google Analytics. Has one of the best customer service programs to help users do just about anything.
Pricing: Free- You can store 2,500 contacts, and send 12,500 emails per month but do not get access to support.
Paid- It starts at $10/month for 500 contacts, then increase to $42/month for 10,000 contacts.
UI: Very colorful, simple, and easy to use.
Cons: There have been some designers, that find Mad Mimi too restricting to create what they want.
Features: Same features as others, with integrations, reporting, and Google Analytics. Also, contains the surveys feature, auto-responder, over 500 templates, and an actual spam test feature (to make sure your emails don’t go to spam).
Pricing: It costs $14/month for 500 subscribers, and prices increase by the number of users. There are also options for monthly and annual billing, which lowers the price 15%.
UI: Very straight forward design, very easy to use.
Cons: If you are looking for statistics regarding conversion rates, you’ll have to Salesforce.
For this project, we chose to go with Mail Chimp as we liked their UI, reporting, and high open rates. However, if our current mail server can no longer handle our transactional email capacity, we may move to SendGrid. Selecting the right email marketing platform totally depends on what is right for your business needs. I hope this comparison helped!