Four Advances in Email Technology to Benefit Marketers in 2017


In 2017, email will become an even more important customer engagement tool for MarTech professionals and, as SparkPost CEO Phillip Merrick explains, marketers will leverage key advancements in email to ensure their unique communication needs are being met and/or exceeded

Marketers are very familiar with email marketing and its high level of effectiveness.  Email marketing capabilities are included in almost all major “marketing clouds” and marketing automation suites, and most marketers execute their email campaigns through these solutions or via dedicated email service providers.

What marketers may not know is that almost all major providers of email marketing functionality rely on email infrastructure software to actually deliver all that email, and report back metrics on not just delivery but also engagement i.e. opens and clicks. Email infrastructure software — sometimes called an email delivery platform or MTAs — can be installed on-premise, or increasingly delivered through the cloud.

Email infrastructure software continues to evolve rapidly — here are four predictions of how these advances will benefit marketers in 2017.

1. Using the Cloud to Support Large Bursts of Email Traffic

Previously only retailers conducting flash sales really required significant bursting capability, but list sizes for many marketers have now grown into the millions, or even tens of millions. Meanwhile in our ever-impatient world there is a premium for those who act fast. Being able to send campaigns reliably to even a subset of these large lists in a defined period of time is a challenge. In response leading email infrastructure vendors are taking advantage of on-demand computing resources available through services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure.

Rather than having to statically provision network and server hardware to ensure there is sufficient headroom for email traffic bursts, these vendors can easily scale up or scale down capacity to manage peak loads.  The end result for marketers is reliable delivery at defined burst rates for lower costs. We are now seeing customers delivering into the tens of millions of emails over just a few minutes, with guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and at manageable cost.

2. Quicker Access to New Innovation … Like iOS And Android Deep Linking

One of the advantages of having email infrastructure in the cloud is getting quicker access to new features and innovation that is happening at the email infrastructure layer.  Rather than having to wait until the next upgrade of on-premise software – which might take months or even years – continuous feature delivery in the cloud brings innovation to email marketers much more rapidly.

A great current example is the desire to support deep linking within emails opened on mobile devices. The idea is that clicking on a URL will take you to a particular place within a mobile app, rather than a web page.  It’s one of the best ways to drive mobile engagement and mobile app adoption across your audience. However not all email marketing providers have been able to roll this out to their customers – the exceptions include those who rely on a cloud email infrastructure vendor to deliver their customers’ email.

3. Got Big Data? Go Directly to the API

Many marketers have invested heavily in accumulating as much data as they can about their customers and prospects, a strategy that goes under the buzzworthy heading of “big data”. Traditionally marketers have had to run extracts from these databases and upload them to their marketing cloud vendor in order to run targeted campaigns.  We are seeing tech-savvy companies like Pinterest and Zillow run highly targeted and personalized campaigns directly from their database and applications by using email APIs (application programming interfaces) to inject and send their emails. This makes sense when there isn’t a need for manual intervention in certain automated campaigns. Many email service providers and marketing automation vendors provide APIs of varying flexibility and breadth. Additionally for pure API-only email you can go directly to email infrastructure vendors.

4. Smart Email Marketers Ask About Infrastructure

The above examples illustrate several important ways in which email infrastructure advances benefit the email marketer.  For these reasons and more it’s increasingly critical that marketers understand how their email service provider actually delivers their email. Somewhat like asking “what’s in your wallet?” marketers should ask their provider who and what they rely on for email delivery. Does it go through a reputable cloud email delivery vendor? If the provider runs their own on-premise email infrastructure software, how often is it being updated with new releases and new functionality?

By getting smarter about the email engine that’s under the hood, marketers can derive even greater value from their email programs in 2017.