Can A Hybrid Email Sending Strategy Give You The Best Of Both Worlds?
Email marketers may think they need to choose between in-house and cloud-based technologies, but columnist Steve Dille argues there’s room for them to succeed together.
A very long time ago — at least in “Technology Time,” where huge leaps of evolution can seem to happen practically overnight — businesses began to use email as a fundamental tool to reach and engage consumers.
How they implemented it was pretty straightforward: They invested in their own on-premise software systems, so they could self-manage their email programs.
But soon thereafter, those marketers began running up against deliverability issues. The root of the problem? Spam.
To combat it, ISPs developed hurdles and safeguards designed to keep spam out of the inbox, but those measures made it more and more complicated for in-house email marketing systems to cope with the complexities that became an increasing part of ensuring deliverability.
Even today, we see an average deliverability rate of 87 percent, which means 13 percent of potential revenue is getting left on the table.
One View Of The Future: ESPs
Cloud computing brought a promising potential solution: the Email Service Provider (ESP), which allowed companies to outsource their sending capabilities so they could concentrate on strategy and messaging, not on infrastructure challenges.
ESPs offered flexibility, deliverability advances and the potential for getting beyond in-house infrastructure headaches. For many companies, they seemed to offer a perfect sending solution.
But if anybody expected ESPs to be a panacea, they were wrong:
- Even with an ESP, deliverability can still be an issue. A business should never simply hand off its sending duties and expect optimum results without some degree of oversight.
- Using an ESP can be excessive if a business handles its own database and targeting, and all that is needed is a reliable sending platform.
- When email volumes grow, so can ESP costs, to the point of impairing cost efficiencies.
- Security and privacy needs can prohibit some marketers from sharing sensitive data outside their company’s own walls — or servers.
Blending The Best: A Hybrid Email Infrastructure
If you’re trying to optimize email deliverability and scalability but also hedge against costs and maintain data security, to name just two considerations, what you need most are options.
The sending infrastructure that gives you the best options? A hybrid, where your own in-house, on-premise email system is integrated with a cloud-based ESP.
It’s a setup where the strengths of each platform smoothly complement those of the other, and more importantly, give you flexibility and efficiency you won’t obtain by relying on just one or the other:
• Use separate sending options for different mailstreams. A hybrid approach lets a company pick the right solution for each mailstream.
An e-blast to all or some segment of your audience might be better handled via your ESP, while transactional email such as payments, shipping confirmations, password resets and the like might belong within your on-premise system, particularly if they need to be integrated into other in-house transaction systems.
• Outsource the hassles of deliverability and hardware without an overhaul to your on-premises systems. The original advantage of ESPs still holds up, and leading-edge on-premise software products are designed to capitalize on an ESP’s ability to expertly address deliverability concerns by integrating with those cloud-based providers.
By doing so, you can also right-size your own in-house hardware and network infrastructure to handle just those needs that have to be done on-premise and maintain the business rules and integration you have built over the years.
• Achieve easy scalability. This might seem like one of the most obvious advantages an ESP can offer, but it deserves to be restated.
Message volumes can spike both predictably and unpredictably across your marketing calendar (Anybody who’s been through the holiday season can attest to that!), and it doesn’t make sense to maintain an on-premise hardware footprint predicated on spikes or periodic plateaus.
A cloud-based ESP on standby can take up the slack whenever or however it happens.
• Protect yourself through redundancy and recovery. In a hybrid sending structure, a marketer has two active sending environments on hand, so it’s simple to switch from one to the other if there’s a failure on either side. That can be seamlessly automated, depending on the degree of integration between on-premise and ESP.
• Gain flexibility in security and privacy compliance. Data security is paramount nowadays, and your firm may not think cloud-based platforms are as secure as on-premise servers.
Moreover, many heavily regulated industries are required to keep specific types of data strictly in-house, so a hybrid architecture lets you choose which approach suits your security concerns.
Just as in animal husbandry or farming, where cross-breeding two species or strains is designed to merge the strengths of each, a hybrid email sending infrastructure creates a smarter, more agile solution for a lot of businesses.
By hybridizing its sending infrastructure, a company won’t wind up with a Labradoodle or a drought-resistant wheat, but they’ll capture email marketing benefits they’d never be able to leverage by just keeping to one approach or the other.