No matter what some marketing cloud companies would have you believe, your customer analytics platform shouldn’t be sending your emails.
Ever heard the phrase “better together”? Well, that may apply to classic pairings like peanut butter and jelly and Thelma and Louise, but there are some scenarios where the notion simply doesn’t hold up. For example, at Custora, we believe that your customer analytics platform and your email service provider (ESP) should be kept apart — a separation of church and state, if you will.
We know there are a lot of companies that are trying to be jacks-of-all-trades, and that it can be tempting for marketers to go to a one-stop shop for data insights and email marketing — but we want to urge you to resist that temptation. Frankly, we’re unconvinced that any company is capable of being really good at customer analytics and also act as a great ESP. Despite what large marketing cloud providers would have you believe, your customer analytics platform shouldn’t be sending your emails. Let’s take a closer look at why.
Specialized Tools for Specialized Tasks
To understand why your customer analytics platform and email service provider should come from different vendors, let’s think about the complex tasks performed by each. ESPs might send out five million emails to five million customers on any given day — and developing the technology required to deliver those messages to customers’ inboxes without a hitch (known as “email deliverability”) is a gargantuan task in and of itself. These platforms must also come equipped with a user-friendly interface that allows marketers to select which customer segments receive which emails, upload any creative, and perform quality assurance before the email goes out the door and into the online ether.
Most of these ESPs also include sequential logic programs that allow marketers to deploy automatic “if/then” campaign management tactics. For example, if a customer doesn’t open a particular email, the ESP could be programmed to send another follow up email three days later. These ESPs are also capable of providing valuable analytics on who’s opening, who’s clicking links, and which subject lines are performing well — data that marketers can use to deploy more effective campaigns down the line.
All of this to say: there’s a whole lot of work that goes into good email marketing. That’s why it’s an enormous industry, made up of companies that have been innovating in that space for years. By focusing all of their energy on perfecting email marketing, these companies have been able to elevate their offerings and develop sophisticated features that an all-in-one platform simply can’t compete with.
The same is true of the world of predictive customer analytics. Generating customer insights requires organizing a huge volume of data from myriad sources, including ad impressions, email open rates, and online and in-store purchases. As is the case with email marketing, reaching the apex of predictive customer analytics is a daunting task — which is why it’s so difficult to effectively merge the two into one platform.
The Problem with a One-Stop Shop
Umbrella marketing cloud solutions don’t deliver the specialized expertise of best-in-class analytics or ESP platforms, but there are other issues at play as well. For one, many ESPs charge largely based on how many emails they send. Meanwhile, the insights derived from a customer analytics platform may reveal that you’re sending too many emails or that certain customer segments don’t read your emails at all. If your analytics and ESP are provided by the same company, it may not be in the vendor’s best interest to advise you to send fewer emails, even if it is in your best interest as a retailer.
Additionally, keeping your analytics platform and ESP under one umbrella limits your flexibility. As your brand changes and marketing technology continues to evolve, you may find that a different ESP fits your needs better than your existing one — but if your ESP and analytics platform are provided by the same vendor, you risk losing your customer data if you choose to switch.
Ultimately, we believe that one-stop shop marketing cloud companies will limit your brand’s ability to grow and take advantage of the benefits of new innovations in either space. While shopping around for specialized solutions will require a greater initial time investment, it will also pay off in the long run — and your martech stack isn’t a place where you want to take shortcuts.