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Email Service Providers Most Commonly Used by U.S. Online Shops

The Publicare Email Marketing Benchmark: Part 2

12. May 2016

Analysis

If for a moment you think of email service providers (ESPs) as auto manufacturers then the most popular ESP “auto manufacturers” in the United States produce affordable compact cars with a mix of safety features, superb fuel economy and reliable performance. Luxury features not essential for driving such as park assist or a superb sound system are not where their focus lies. Infographic

According to our research, the ESP covering the most bases, or to stay with our comparison, the manufacturer with the most commonly used compact car is MailChimp – by our measurements 26.0% of U.S. e-commerce companies who send their emails via an ESP rely on them to run their email marketing.

We gained this insight and made many more findings by analyzing 109,239 email campaigns distributed by 4,166 U.S. e-commerce websites in a 3-month timeframe (December 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016). This benchmark follows part 1 of our study, revealing the “Email subscriber acquisition strategies of 6,000+ U.S. online shops”.

90.5% of the 4,166 websites (3,771 websites) send their emails via an ESP.

Our study showed that MailChimp is followed by email service providers that are known for providing the equivalent of heated seats and more options for professional services, strategic advice and customization – Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget) with 10.1% and Bronto with 8.8% of the market share as we measured it.

While we counted a surprising number of platforms in use – 117 of them! – the top three captured the lion’s share of the websites in our study. These top three were used by 44.9% of the websites, and the top ten platforms accounted for a whopping 75.3% of them. The remaining 107 platforms captured the remaining 24.7% of websites combined.

% of websites that used the top 20 ESPs as we measured it:

ESP% of websites
MailChimp25.96%
Salesforce Marketing Cloud10.13%
Bronto8.83%
Listrak7.21%
Constant Contact6.10%
Oracle Responsys5.25%
Experian4.46%
Silverpop3.79%
iContact1.80%
Sailthru1.80%
Whatcounts1.38%
Strongview1.33%
Campaign Monitor1.27%
Klaviyo1.22%
eBay Enterprise (e-Dialog)1.09%
Yesmail1.06%
Mad Mimi1.03%
EmailDirect1.01%
Hubspot0.98%
Lyris0.95%

Nevertheless, while the top three platforms we looked at were used by the most websites, this shouldn’t lead to false conclusions as the number of customers does not equal revenue.

Why does MailChimp alone seem to have over a quarter of the market share?

Many e-commerce companies – especially online-only “pure players” – face constant margin pressure as they act in markets with transparent prices: their buyers rely on price comparison sites and search features to engage with the most affordable (and yet reliable) supplier. Therefore, to maintain or even increase profitability, their main leverage is to cut costs. With an attractive CPM around $0.40 and a self-service approach avoiding extra fees, MailChimp seems to address this need efficiently. They predominantly target growing e-commerce businesses, but we found that companies of all sizes and from all industries actually use MailChimp. This is similar to the ESP situation in Germany. According to what we know – CleverReach conquered the market with a “freemium” offer, affiliate marketing and low volume fees just like MailChimp. They appear to host more paying commercial user accounts than any other “enterprise” ESP competitor.

Adoption of responsive email design

More and more purchases happen via mobile devices and e-commerce sites need to meet this demand. So we checked the number of emails per platform in our study that are distributed in responsive design and noticed significant differences in the adoption rate. Possible reasons for this may be the difference in template technology between the ESPs, availability of responsive template samples or toolkits, and/or proper implementation.

The ESP whose customers distribute responsive emails to the highest degree, based on our research, is Hubspot (81.8%). Then there are the ESPs whose customers send out responsive as well as non-responsive emails. Constant Contact and Klaviyo tied in our study with having the highest percentage of customers that send out both types of emails at 26.1%


% of responsive email campaigns launched by the customers of each ESP as we measured it:

Email Service Provider% of responsive emails
MailChimp78.07%
Salesforce Marketing Cloud48.18%
Bronto43.65%
Listrak53.96%
Constant Contact23.82%
Oracle Responsys32.89%
Experian33.99%
Silverpop43.34%
iContact24.39%
Sailthru45.99%
Whatcounts46.37%
Strongview46.30%
Campaign Monitor66.08%
Klaviyo75.37%
eBay Enterprise (e-Dialog)57.05%
Yesmail63.40%
Mad Mimi0.00%
EmailDirect36.07%
Hubspot81.85%
Lyris19.85%

Email deliverability settings

Just as car buyers look for reliability in the vehicles they purchase, email marketers look for good deliverability when selecting an ESP. Good deliverability is the key that actually lets you drive your email marketing vehicle because your emails are actually delivered to the inbox instead of the spam folder or instead of being rejected entirely. There are lots of factors affecting deliverability and email reputation, i.e. list hygiene, authentication technology, bounce management, and last but not least relevant content leading to high open and click rates as well as low opt-out figures. Also there is no way for us to tell how many websites use their ESP as SaaS or as on-premise software. For on-premise, since you control the software on your infrastructure, you control the deliverability settings. With SaaS it is not always in their control, so the adoption rate of deliverability settings vary. Many deliverability factors cannot be automatically measured and assessed by an external party like us. However there are factors we can examine – especially those implemented (or not) in the mail header.

One of the important mail header settings influencing deliverability is a DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) signature. Surprisingly, we found that only 9 of our top 20 platforms had 100% DKIM implementation among the websites we analyzed. These ESPs are either able to implement DKIM globally to all their emails across all user accounts, because the required nameserver settings happen on their side. Or they stand for a well-working customer onboarding process, if the customer is required to add a DKIM nameserver record to a domain he owns.

The 11 ESPs that are at less than 100% may give their customers a choice on whether they want to use DKIM or not, or their onboarding process may not be as rigid as it should be. 22.1% of the companies we observed that used Lyris did not have a DKIM, followed by Strongview (19.7%) and SalesForce Marketing Cloud (16.6%).

Another standardized mail header entry that helps to achieve top list quality and subsequently higher deliverability rates is “List-Unsubscribe”. As it is widely acknowledged and supported by large ISPs like Gmail and Hotmail, we believe there is no reason why a professional ESP shouldn’t have it implemented. The “List-unsubscribe” offers recipients an additional way to easily unsubscribe and helps prevent spam complaints. Implementation in the mail header can be done via an http link or a mailto link.

We found that for our sample of websites 7 ESPs had a 100% implementation rate of http list unsubscribe links and 11 ESPs had an 100% implementation rate of mailto list unsubscribe links. In our study, we found that MailChimp, Sailthru, Campaign Monitor, Mad Mimi, EmailDirect, and Hubspot had a 100% implementation rate of both http and mailto. There are 7 ESPs which had some customers from our sample group sending emails which had neither http nor mailto implemented. 70.0% of the websites we looked at that use Strongview did not have list unsubscribe, followed by eBay Enterprise (formerly eDialog) (63.41%) and Klaviyo (50.0%).

The implementation rate of DKIM, mailto list unsubscribe, and/or http list unsubscribe among customers of the top 20 ESPs:

ESPDKIMhttp list-unsubmailto list-unsubeither list-unsub
MailChimp100%100%100%100%
Salesforce MC83.43%7.85%97.91%100%
Bronto93.76%10.21%100%100%
Listrak86.03%14.34%85.29%85.66%
Constant Contact100%100%7.83%100%
Oracle Responsys99.77%94.44%95.45%95.45%
Experian99.47%10.12%98.21%99.40%
Silverpop97.57%6.99%100%100%
iContact99.22%98.53%100%100%
Sailthru100%100%100%100%
Whatcounts95.97%86.54%50.00%92.31%
Strongview80.29%8.00%28.00%30.00%
Campaign Monitor100%100%100%100%
Klaviyo100%43.48%50.00%50.00%
eBay Enterprise90.88%29.27%24.39%36.59%
Yesmail100%2.50%100%100%
Mad Mimi100%100%100%100%
EmailDirect100%100%100%100%
Hubspot100%100%100%100%
Lyris77.88%30.56%100%100%

Which ESP’s customers send the most emails per week?

Looking at our sample group of the 3,771 e-commerce sites that send via an ESP we saw that on average Sailthru users sent more emails per week (4.0) than any other provider. Followed by users of YesMail with 3.6 per week and Experian with 3.3 per week.


What’s next

As our empirical research reveals an enormous array of data, we plan to continue to deliver exciting information to you on many different facets of email marketing, i.e. email vs. social media marketing, in depth deliverability settings, and email HTML structure and content. Stay tuned!


Methodology

This study examined emails sent to Publicare by our selection of 6,757 e-commerce related websites with the highest Alexa and Internet Retailer website ranking in the United States between Dec. 1, 2015 – Feb. 29, 2016. We included the holiday season to ensure that even low-frequency senders are covered in our sample. Even if they just sent out 1 promotional email in those 3 months, they are included.

4,166 websites from our study of 6,109 online shops to whose newsletters we subscribed in mid 2015 launched at least one email in this timeframe. For each website we analyzed which mail system type they are using.

90.5% of the 4,166 websites (3,771 websites) send their emails via an ESP. Of the remaining 9.5%, 3.7% (154 websites) send their emails via a sending service. The top 4 sending services are Sendgrid (39%), Amazon SES (37%), Mailgun (11%), and Mandrill (11%).

The types of websites we looked at were 90.0% e-commerce shops and 10.0% media/news portals, forums, blogs and such.

Published by Publicare Marketing Communications, Inc
6 North Main Street, Suite 320
Fairport, NY 14450
USA

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