The New ESP -- From Email To 'Everychannel' Service Provider

The traditional Email Service Provider (ESP) has transitioned into an “Everychannel” Service Provider, according to the Relevancy Group's annual ESP Buyer's Guide released Thursday. 

An ESP, or email service provider, has traditionally been a company that offers email-specific marketing and infrastructure services. With the advent of data-driven multichannel campaigns, however, the ESP titans of old have had to diversity their offerings to cater to the new needs of marketers.

The Relevancy Group discussed this transition in their annual ESP Buyer’s Guide. The research firm measured the performance of seven ESPs over a three-month period, and evaluated how the vendors’ technology met the expectations of 431 surveyed email marketers.

“There is tremendous demand from email marketers for ESPs to shift from only providing email solutions to Everychannel solutions,” says David Daniels, CEO and Founder of The Relevancy Group.



The Relevancy Group dubs the new ESP an “Everychannel Service Provider,” as opposed to strictly email-centric services, highlighting how Email Service Providers focus on email deliverability but lack a centralized database so integrations are a continuous pain point.

Data and analysis capabilities are central to Everychannel Service Providers, however, and these companies can work across multiple channels encompassing email, mobile, app push, display and social. Providers focus on real-time optimization and likely have predictive intelligence solutions thanks to machine-learning algorithms.

Everychannel Service Providers also address identity management, so anonymous data can be linked to CRM data for more personalized communication.

“When asked about the top 10 most important product features in their ESP selection, many cited the ability to execute in Everychannel, such as social marketing and mobile app execution,” says Daniels.

The Relevancy Group also noted that email marketers are more likely to be executing multichannel tactics such as retargeting email subscribers in online advertising, than utilizing email-only tactics like A/B testing.

This is likely driven by the rise of Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) and Cloud adoption year-over-year. Overall adoption of a single SaaS or Hosted Solution increased from 44% in 2016 to 55% in 2017, according to The Relevancy Group survey, while multiple vendor deployments dropped from 23% in 2016 to 19% in 2017.

Daniels says that marketers who strictly focus on the email channel will not be left behind yet.  

“Email still remains the most profitable and widely utilized digital marketing channel so there is great value for email-only marketers,” asserts Daniels. “However, it is increasingly difficult to capture consumer attention in the inbox and being one of the dozen or so brands that consumers subscribe to.”

That challenge is driving marketers to seek additional channels where they can follow their email subscribers and target them with advertising at the individual level, says Daniels. “This is also driven in part by the rise of People-Based marketing from the likes of Facebook, Google and others,” he says.

Zeta Global, a Big Data and analytics company, received the top accolades all around in the study. Other companies highlighted include Epsilon Agility Harmony, IBM Marketing Cloud, Experian Marketing Services, PostUp, MessageGears and Adestra.

“Zeta Global received the highest marks in customer satisfaction and overall functionality, services and innovation,” says Daniels.

The Relevancy Group will be hosting a free webinar to discuss the report’s results on Wednesday, March 8. 

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