General Archives – Essence of Email

Category: General

17 Jul 2019

International Email Marketing Spam Laws Explained

It’s often easy to neglect the legal aspects of email marketing while striving for higher engagement rates, more attractive creative, and a more stable revenue flow. After all, it’s just a bunch of email addresses, what can go wrong, right? 

Well, according to worldwide legislators – plenty! The never-ending quest for tighter privacy control, coupled with consumers’ aversion to aggressive marketing, resulted in strict laws against spam messages, unsolicited marketing, and other shady practices.

This article aims to help you stay on the good side of email marketing laws and regulations.

Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 – CAN-SPAM (US)

The American CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 avoids defining spam, with the rationale being that “commercial electronic mail message” and “transactional or relationship message” represent a structure protected by the Act, so it is implied that anything going against that structure can be considered spam. This also helped solve an earlier problem, where individual states defined spam by number (“bulk”), content (“commercial”), or using the term “unsolicited”, which left much of the attacks unpunished.

The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial electronic mail messages as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose).” 

Without going into too many details around the mechanisms behind each of the demands the CAN-SPAM Act puts before email marketers, what follows are the basic principles that need to be upheld to avoid having your emails marked as spam:

• Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

anti spam law

This example shows what an appropriate header might look like.

• Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

anti spam law

This example shows that the subject line reflects the content of the message.

• Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.

anti spam law

This example shows a clear advertising message (as opposed to fake news or friendly greetings).

• Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.

anti spam law

This is a two-in-one example, showing a clearly stated business address, as well as clear instructions on how to opt-out.

• Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future emails from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt-out of getting emails from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. 

• Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

• Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes it clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

Penalties: Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $42,530, so non-compliance can be costly. Make sure you follow these basic guidelines to avoid problems with U.S. authorities!


Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act aka Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

This relatively new (2014 is new as laws go) Canadian law defines a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM) as “any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, such as an email that contains a coupon or tells customers about a promotion or sale.” In terms of applicability, this law is applicable to “all communications sent by Canadian companies, to Canadian companies or messages simply routed through Canadian servers.” 

A CEM is any message that: 

• is in an electronic format, and includes emails, instant messages, text messages, and some type of social media communication
•  is sent to an electronic address, including email addresses, instant message accounts, phone accounts, and social media accounts
 contains a message encouraging recipients to take part in some type of commercial activity, including the promotion of products, services, people/personas, companies, or organizations.

The conditions this law imposes on email marketers are, for the most part, similar to those that exist in the CAN-SPAM Act, so we won’t cover them in great detail here. Suffice it to say that, just like the CAN-SPAM Act, this law requires either implicit or explicit consent by the recipient before sending them any commercial emails. Implicit consent, however, can be as vague as having your phone number or email available in a public registry! 

Penalties: The CASL threatens punishment of up to $10 million for companies and officers found guilty of being negligent towards its provisions. 

More on Canada’s Anti-Spam Law.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — EU

This regulation brought in significant changes in the way companies can market to Europeans, and it made email marketers dedicate specific attention to the way they’ve been processing personal information belonging to their European subscribers. 

Besides making some of the previously mentioned demands more strict, the biggest change GDPR brought to the table concerns consent. Following the law’s entry into force a year ago, the consent is no longer viewed as implied or explicit. Instead, the GDPR defines consent required for legal data processing as “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous”, proceeding to define what each of the adjectives would mean in practice.

For email marketing, this meant that soft opt-ins and opt-outs are no longer an option for European contacts, which lead to most marketers establishing a strong double opt-in mechanism, where site visitors are first asked if they want to subscribe to receive emails, and then asked again to confirm their decision in more clear terms.

anti spam law

This example shows a GDPR-compliant popup on the New York Times website — the headline states the purpose of the email collection, the consent checkbox is unchecked, and the text details what the subscriber will receive, while the Privacy Policy is easily accessible.

Here are the basic principles about how personal data should be kept, to avoid any risk from GDPR laws:

• Accurate and up to date
• Secured
• Transparent about how it’s going to be used
• Restricted to the minimum needed to do the job.

Penalties: As with other regulations, a big part of the GDPR is dedicated to sanctions, with fines of up to $20 million or 4% of yearly revenue, whichever is greater.

For more information, visit the EU GDPR website

The Spam Act 2003 (Australia)

This piece of legislation presents a continuation of the worldwide turn-of-the-millennium trend to protect email address owners from unsolicited email (and various other categories of) marketing messages. 

An interesting distinction between the previously showcased CAN-SPAM, CASL, and GDPR and the Spam Act is that the Spam Act establishes its jurisdiction whenever a “commercial electronic message” is sent to an “electronic address”, which eventually panned out to include email, SMS, MMS, and instant messages.

Additionally, the Spam Act includes the designation “low or no-cost” for the unsubscribe options (i.e. the subscribers need to be able to opt-out at low or no cost), which distinguishes it from other legislation, which dictates a compulsory free opt-out. Requests to unsubscribe must be actioned within 5 business days.

Finally, a peculiar decision by the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) was to disallow sending commercial emails to generic email addresses that are publicly available (such as [email protected]), insisting that all commercial messages need to be directed to an individualized address (e.g. [email protected]). 


Sum Up

While all this can sound intimidating and confusing at times, if you’re a legitimate business using a proper Email Service Provider (ESP), you are likely already complying with the rules.

These laws are largely targeted at spammers and are designed to prevent them from acquiring people’s email addresses without their permission and spamming them with unsolicited emails.

However, there are a few nuances in the laws that even marketers with the best intentions can accidentally violate, so it’s important to know how to stay compliant. We hope we have helped you to avoid the “I fought the law, and the law won” scenario.

If you are not sure about putting this into practice, get in touch with us to learn how we can help your business stay on the safe side of the laws.

11 Jun 2019

10 Email Copywriting Tips to Instantly Boost Your Conversion Rate

Engaging with your customers through email requires both creativity and analysis. Marketing research has proven that emotionally engaged customers will spend more, promote your brand, and remain loyal for years to come.

But email marketing can pose a challenge. After all, your email has only a few seconds to grab attention in your customers’ inboxes. Many brands have spent hours writing the perfect email copy, only to yield less-than-expected opens, clicks, and conversions. Your online business cannot afford to waste time or money on a failed marketing strategy.

So, to help your business market get smart, we’ve created a list of email copywriting tips sure to give your conversion rates a boost! As an email copywriter at Essence of Email, these are strategies I apply every time I sit down to write.

1. Grab Their Attention. And Quick!

You only have a few seconds to grab your customer’s attention in their inbox.

Although it takes up the least space, you should spend the most time crafting the perfect subject line. If your subject line fails, it hardly matters if you’ve written the most evocative, persuasive body. Your email still ends up in the trash.

The best subject lines motivate the reader to open the email with humor, shock, or excitement. Spend some time playing around with wording and grammar to find your perfect line.

2. Contribute to Their Inbox.

Your customer has tons of daily emails reminding him or her about new deals and product releases. It’s vital to grab their attention before your email lands in the trash bin.

However, more so than grabbing their attention, it’s your job as a copywriter to contribute to their inbox. Your contribution can take many forms, but it’s often helpful to think about your customer’s daily routine.

What do they like to see? What will put a smile on their face? Maybe it’s a funny pun or a cute rhyme. Maybe it’s informational or discusses a topic they’re interested in. Either way, you have valuable real estate by being in their mailbox. Take advantage of your opportunity by making them glad you’re there.

email copywriting tips

3. Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes.

When I’m in the process of copywriting, it’s often helpful to imagine a potential customer receiving my email on their phone or computer.

If I’m writing for a customer segment with young children, I take a moment to picture them cleaning up after a messy lunch or rushing off to soccer practice. I then ask myself, how can this product help this specific customer segment? The answer to that question should be the focus of the email. Discounts, company values, and other promotions are interesting, but the most important thing is to communicate how your product can improve the lives of your customers.

4. Keep It Short and Sweet.

When you’re writing for email, you have limited space and time. You have literally seconds to grab someone’s attention with an interesting subject line. After you overcome that hurdle, you face the challenge of converting your readers into purchasing customers.

There is often a temptation to write long-winded emails that can fully explain the merits of your project. Particularly when we feel passionate about a product, it’s difficult to step back and understand the limited time our customers have to understand our message. Instead of fully explaining your product, it’s more helpful to write a message that helps the customer arrive at the explanation themselves.

One great example I saw was Headspace’s (a meditation smartphone application) New Year’s campaign. Rather than explain to the reader all the reasons why they should use the app, Headspace simply asked the reader about their New Year’s resolution. This subtle approach allowed the reader to arrive at the message themselves: in the next year, they should begin meditating with Headspace.

email copywriting tips

5. Tell a Story.

Limited space doesn’t mean storytelling is off-limits. In fact, the best copywriters are always coming up with a story for their email. Even if you don’t write the entire story in your email, telling a story before you begin writing can help you to better understand the motivations and interests of your customers. This helps you take a walk in their shoes.

For example, I was writing an email for a dog collar promotion the other day. To begin, I imagined a brief story about a loving dog-owner who planned to bring her dog with her to a summer barbecue. I imagined her and all of her friends taking pictures with the dog and posting them online. Of course, I didn’t write the story explicitly, but this thought process helped me to come up with an ad campaign that played on America’s Next Top Model (with dogs!).

6. Use Action Words in Your Call-to-Action.

Think about these two examples:



The second one is much clearer and more direct. It motivates its reader to take action. Always add an action word in your calls-to-action to motivate the customer and direct them to your site.

7. Be Yourself. Showcase Your Brand’s Values.

Especially when targeting millennials or younger customer segments, your brand’s character matters. Work to demonstrate your brand’s values with your language and tone. Emphasizing the environmental or health benefits of your product is a great way to showcase your company character.

Although it’s wise to avoid overtly political allusions, companies that have a larger commitment to ethical business practices are more likely to succeed with certain customer segments. If your company is taking steps to do good, be sure to promote that in your copy!

8. Be Relatable, yet Polished.

It’s important to strike the right balance between relatability and polish. One basic way to sound relatable is to avoid industry jargon or verbose expressions.

Keep it short and simple, similar to the style in which your customer speaks. At the same time, make sure not to sound overly casual. At its worst, using an overly familiar tone can appear unprofessional and sloppy.

One way to avoid this is to check for grammatical and spelling errors rigorously. In addition, it’s best to avoid regional colloquialisms unless you are sure that your customers are familiar and comfortable with their usage.

email copywriting tips

9. Partner with an Expert Company.  

Even with all of these tips, copywriting for email marketing can be very difficult. Generating conversions requires skill across fields in graphic design, writing, and email strategy. It’s a steep learning curve for brands who are just starting out, or who are busy refining their product.

At Essence of Email, we are happy to partner with your brand to create authentic and effective email campaigns. You can trust that your conversion rate will increase with our help.

10. Use A/B Testing to Hone Your Strategy.

Although writing is an art, we also must test our success to make effective modifications.

A/B testing is most effective when there is a substantive difference between two email subject lines or messages. You can choose to change just the subject lines and keep the message the same or vice versa. Changing only one aspect of the email while holding everything else constant enables us to identify the specific part of the email that did or didn’t work.

Wrap Up

Copywriting for email marketing is a formidable challenge. However, these tips should help you succeed and overcome the many challenges. When in doubt, our team of graphic designers, copywriters, and eCommerce experts at Essence of Email can help your business craft the perfect email campaign. Check out our website and blog for more information on copywriting and successful email marketing tips.

16 May 2019
email marketing agency

10 Things to Look For in an Email Marketing Agency

Choosing the right (email) marketing agency for your company is never an easy task. There are dozens of reviews, forum recommendations, and other sources of information to consider. As helpful as they are, you may often be left with a feeling that you are overlooking something.

Based on our years of experience and many clients, we compiled a list of ten things to consider when you’re on the lookout for just the right partner to make your email marketing dreams come true.

Take a look at our list!

1. Look For Someone Who Can Provide Custom Solutions.

There are no generic problems in email marketing, so there can’t be any generic solutions either.

Agencies offering easy fixes at an affordable price might seem like they are a dream come true, but this dream can quickly turn into a nightmare when you realize they are trying to jam a triangle into a square-shaped hole, or worse.

Be careful not to choose an agency that will have you changing your plans every other day because they don’t understand your business goals. Instead, look for an agency that will solve your problems with solutions tailored to your brand and your strategy.

At Essence of Email, we provide custom solutions based on each client’s email marketing needs. Our flexible arrangements last for as long as you need them to – 30 days, 60 days, 6 months, or even several years of constant success!

2. Value and Transparency

Stay away from agencies who are eager to get more than they are eager to give.

Watch out for clever salesmen and make sure the sales pitch focuses on what is important to you: how the solution will improve your business, the processes, return on investment (ROI), reports, and communication.

3. Their Past Work

Always ask to see examples, or case studies at the very least, of the work the agency has previously done.

Do the results and the work suit you? Does it look like it will be an improvement over what you have right now? Is ROI along the lines of what you expect? Those are some of the questions you must keep in mind in the process of choosing the right email marketing agency for your business.

4. Your Budget vs. Agency Pricing

Email marketing is an investment.

Some businesses can dedicate a big budget, while others look for something smaller in scale. Most email marketing agencies have scalable services, but those worth your time will have a transparent billing practice and provide quotes based on your business needs.

5. Look For an Agency That Keeps Its Work In-House.

While you’re looking to outsource your email marketing efforts, it’s a bad idea to hire an agency that is looking to do the same. Some agencies contract with a client only to send the work overseas, or rent it out to freelancers. There are multiple problems with this practice, most importantly, the inability to address time-sensitive concerns.

6. Not Afraid to Push Their Team Front and Center.

A great email marketing agency is made up of a team of diverse talents and expertise.

Always be sure to check out the “Our Team” page. Does it even exist on the website? Can you find the team members on LinkedIn? Your future partner should be proud of their team, and shouldn’t be afraid to put it front and center. The team should be multi-disciplined, with unique experts in their respective fields – back-end, design, copywriting, project management, etc.

7. They Come (Highly) Recommended.

Check the reputation of agencies on groups and forums to get an insight into their performance. Make good research, read case studies and testimonials and look for reviews.

Once you find an email marketing agency that comes recommended as the one that can solve problems and help you get your show on the road, you’ve discovered a good prospective partner for months and years to come.

8. What Kind of Content Are They Providing for Their Website Visitors?

While this doesn’t seem overly significant at first glance, the content your prospective partner provides can be a very important clue about their approach to your brand and the email marketing challenges it will pose.

If an agency’s content is stale, outdated, and just not of very good quality, you might want to move away because they either don’t care to share their knowledge with you, or they can’t be bothered to work on their image, something a serious marketing agency would never do.  

Do they consistently offer internal assets (eBooks, blog posts, webinars, etc.) that convey their thought leadership and expertise? Externally, do they contribute to industry publications and share helpful industry-related insights? Do they present at industry events? Are they maintaining their social media platforms well? If so, it is very likely they will take good care of your business, too.

9. Strategy vs. Execution

While some agencies may convince you with their analytical and strategizing skills, ask for evidence that they are strong on the execution side as well.

Sure, being strategic can be of tremendous value, but if an agency doesn’t have the capacity to execute, all the nice-looking reports in the world aren’t going to do anything for your channel.

Conversely, focusing solely on execution will result in complete chaos in the long term, with your campaign results boiling down to luck or divine intervention. This is why it’s important to choose a partner who can focus equally on both.

10. How Do You Feel About Them?

Finally, when all is said and done, you have to give yourself a minute and compile all these impressions into a clear vision of how you see your partner.

Look for an agency that will make this process easy for you, where after each conversation you’ll feel content, inspired, and valued, rather than confused, disappointed, or even frightened.


While you’ll ultimately be the sole judge of how good a fit an email marketing agency will be for your brand, we feel these 10 tips are a good place to start when making a decision. Whether you want to take them at face value and go through them as if they were steps, or you’re just looking for fresh perspective before committing, these 10 properties are what separates the best from the rest.

Need help with email marketing? Get in touch with us for a free consultation!

email marketing expertStefan, 27, loves beer and hard rock. Loving son and boyfriend. Selling email marketing services to people who understand how important it is to communicate with customers in just the right way.

07 May 2019
grow your email list

Grow Your Email List with Social Media [Free eBook]

If your eCommerce shop target audience is on social media you’d better get those followers onto your email list. Otherwise, you are risking losing them in case the social media platform becomes unpopular, your profile gets blocked, or your social media pages start having low engagement rates.

After a few months of compiling data and tracking results of different email marketing activities for us and our clients, we decided to compile all the pieces of information and create an eBook to help eCommerce shop owners and managers grow their email lists with social media.

grow your email list

As of 2019, 45% of the world population use social media daily:

• Facebook has over 2.32 billion monthly active users
• Twitter has over 321 million users tweeting away monthly
• YouTube has more than 1.9 billion logged-in users every month
• Instagram is used by over 1 billion people worldwide each month
• Pinterest has over 250 million monthly active users

In this eBook, we have covered the five most popular social media platforms and different ways you can use them to collect emails from your followers which are relevant for eCommerce brands. Each eBook section focuses on different social media:

• How to Grow Your Email List with Facebook
• How to Grow Your Email List with Twitter
• How to Grow Your Email List with YouTube
• How to Grow Your Email List with Instagram
• How to Grow Your Email List with Pinterest

Since each social media platform requires different strategies, you will need to do some planning and work to successfully collect all those emails.

To make all of the steps easier to follow and make sure you don’t miss any, we have prepared a checklist on how to grow your email list with social media – this is a bonus from us and a thank you for downloading our eBook.

Good luck and if you need help with your email list growth, let us know.

grow your email list

18 Apr 2019
esp migration

ESP Migration Guide for eCommerce Shops + Free Checklist

Email service providers (ESPs) are essential for brands looking to invest in email marketing.

As your brand grows, you may find yourself outgrowing the capabilities of your current ESP. Choosing and subsequently migrating to a different ESP can be pretty tedious and carry some risks. However, if done correctly, it can set your brand up for more advanced email marketing tactics down the line and more robust growth.

Since there’s been a lot of buzz lately going around the Mailchimp & Shopify breakup, and lots of talk about ESP migrations, I created a post that outlines a general plan of attack with any ESP migration.

esp migration

While I pull examples from different ESPs such as Klaviyo, the general framework should hold for all ESPs, even if the specific functionalities vary from platform to platform.

There are several categories of factors to consider when embarking upon migration, and I’ll be addressing each one of these core areas:

• Subscriber Data Migration
• Deliverability and List Health
• Integrations, Configurations, and Customizations
• Email Content Transition

I also include an ESP Migration Checklist to help you cover all relevant points.

Let’s begin.

1. Subscriber Data Migration

Moving your email subscribers list over to the new ESP is one of your first orders of business. You’ll also want to migrate over all of the subscriber/customer profile data as well. The exact methodologies will depend on your ESP’s functionalities, but regardless, you’ll want these core elements to be pulled across:

• Subscriber profile data such as email address, first/last names, time of subscription, location, and custom fields
• Subscriber order data
• Subscriber event data
• Subscribers’ opt-in/opt-out statuses, i.e. suppression lists

Automatic Syncing

Many ESPs have an automatic integration available to sync subscribers from your old ESP. If this is available, you certainly want to make use of it.

Automatic syncing is a quick and easy way to get the bulk of your subscriber data over to the new ESP. However, be wary of how much data actually passes through. It’s likely that you’ll have to do additional manual imports to get all of the requisite data over.

For example, the Klaviyo sync with MailChimp pulls in subscriber First/Last names, email addresses, member rating, opt-in status, subscription timestamps, opens, and clicks. But it doesn’t automatically pull in custom fields and variables. Thus, in that case, you’ll need to subsequently do a manual sync to map all the additional fields.

Moreover, to get the subscriber order and event data into your new ESP, you’ll want to activate the other relevant integrations, particularly with your shopping cart platform.

Manual Syncing

Most ESPs allow you to manually import and update subscriber data via CSV or other file uploads. This is a great tool in your arsenal during data migration.

When uploading the data, be sure to understand the structure of your data and how your new ESP receives it.

Two things to watch out for are:

• Data Types
• Default vs. Custom Fields

Data Types

ESPs store various data into different data types, such as text/string, number, boolean, date, and lists. Depending on which data type each of your data variables gets mapped to, you may have restrictions on the logic set you’ll have access to when segmenting.

It’s important as you sync your data that you pay attention to the data type.

Two examples to quickly highlight this point:

1. Let’s take for example a variable for Age. If you mapped Age to simply Text/String type data, you would only be able to access logic that looks at Text/String:

Now, if you are really going to segment using Age, it’d be much more useful to reference Number type logic, such as:

One caveat here is that some ESPs have the ability to recognize and transform the value into different data types, so they may be able to detect that you wanted to use a Number type, despite uploading it as a Text/String type.

2. Sometimes you’ll have data that varies in length for each subscriber profile. A most common example would be the number of items per order − one subscriber may have ordered 5 items in their order, while another may have only ordered 2 items.

One way to structure the data would be using separate variables for each discrete item, such as:

Item 1
Item 2
tem 3
Item 4
Item 5

However, this becomes unwieldy because a) you won’t be able to predict the maximum # of items ordered and b) when utilizing this variable inside emails dynamically, it’s difficult to show exactly what they ordered as there will be many blank variables.

Instead, the better structure here would be a List/Array data type. In this case, your first subscriber with 5 items would have something like this:

Subscriber 1: [Item_1, Item_2, Item_3, Item_4, Item_5]

Subscriber 2: [Item_1, Item_2]

You can also easily loop through the array when pulling the variables inside an email.

Which would result in something like this product table:

Default vs. Custom Fields

Another distinction to pay attention to is default vs. custom fields/variables. Often times, ESPs have their own set of default variable fields that you can map data to. These default fields sometimes have special properties, and may be indicated with a special notation such as a preceding “$” sign. For example, the $value default field in Klaviyo indicates a monetary value associated with orders that get mapped to a subscriber and aggregated to report on CLV, revenue per recipient, monthly order value, and such.

Normally, if your data fits neatly into one of these default values, I’d recommend mapping that variable directly to the default variable of the new ESP.

Custom fields, on the other hand, is entirely defined by you as a user. You can map all sorts of data to them, and name them accordingly (do remember the data type discussion above). One mistake I do see is that people fail to clean up and merge their data fields sufficiently before mapping. This could result in your data being split across redundant variables such as this example:

(Global) Suppression Lists

Another important subscriber list area to pay attention to is making sure your global suppression list is synced up corrected to your new ESP. In essence, your global suppression list consists of all subscribers who have opted out of your marketing emails for various reasons, such as unsubscribe, spam complained, or hard bounced. Keeping your suppression list updated will ensure you don’t accidentally send marketing emails to these contacts who are not eligible.

If your new ESP isn’t automatically pulling this in through the automatic sync, you’ll want to download the suppression list from your old ESP and subsequently upload it into the suppression list section of your new ESP.

Backing Up Data

Before you shut down your old ESP, make sure to back up as much data as possible:

• Download your subscriber lists with all profile properties checked
• Pull all the past email creative into a folder
• Export all metrics reports, preferably the CSVs of the raw data by email message
• Screenshot important segmentation criteria
• Keep a record of A/B testing numbers and results

Worst case is that you’ll never use these again, but more likely you’ll want to reference some of them in the future.

2. Deliverability and List Health

Moving ESPs will almost certainly cause fluctuations in your email deliverability. That said, if you are careful with implementing best practices, you can come out of the migration unscathed (or better yet, in better shape).

There are a host of deliverability house-keeping items you’ll definitely want to be aware of during a migration.

Pick Your Timing

If possible, I recommend avoiding certain times of the year when planning an ESP migration. Particularly, the Q4 holiday season is a poor time to migrate. The inbox becomes very competitive during this time of year, and the inbox providers become more strict than usual with allowing incoming mail to be delivered. Introducing a wild card of an ESP migration isn’t usually a good idea, as it makes it harder for you to get ramped up and establish a solid sender reputation now than at other lower-volume times of the year.

Also, if you have certain big seasonal sales you normally run, try to avoid migrating immediately before those as well. There’s a warmup period during the initial phases of migration that require a more restricted volume of email sends, and that could have a tangible negative impact on short term sales promotions.

Configure Your Sending Infrastructure

The step of configuring your new sending infrastructure can be easily missed in the midst of the chaos of the migration. Yet, it’s an important step to implement in order to get your sender reputation off to a good start.

Depending on if you are using a dedicated or shared IP address, the steps vary, but the most basic ones would include updating your SPF and DKIM records.

These are basically TXT records you add to your DNS in order for inbox providers to better identify your legitimate marketing emails are coming from you.

Some ESPs such as Klaviyo combine the authentication process through using CNAMEs to simultaneously white-label your domain, and offer additional customizations such as URL shortening and dedicated link tracking.

Regardless of your ESP, the important thing to note is that you will have to do some updates and configuration in order to get your new sending infrastructure set up correctly. Your ESP’s account manager and documentation should be very helpful in regards to the exact steps.

List Warm-Up and Cleaning

In order to ramp up your email list correctly on your new ESP, it’s best to institute a structured list onboarding process

The reason you’d want to onboard in a disciplined manner instead of all at once, is because the inbox providers are generally more suspicious of emails sent from new infrastructure. It can be indicative of phishing, spoofing, and spam attempts.

As such, you’ll want to properly warm up the list so as to start off on the right foot deliverability-wise on your new ESP.

Also, an ESP migration is a great time to do some list cleaning in order to prune off dormant deadweight from your list.

3. Integrations, Configurations, and Customizations

Now that you have your shiny new ESP, you’ll need to make updates to the account settings, as well as integrations and templates. While some of the default settings can work well, chances are you’ll need to update at least some of them to meet your brand’s specific needs.

Global Frequency Caps

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, global frequency caps basically refers to a hard limit on the number of marketing emails a single subscriber can receive within a certain period of time. The purpose is to have a filter in place so that no single subscriber gets bombarded with too many emails, regardless of how many automated and/or campaign emails he or she might trigger in rapid succession.

Most ESPs have some sort of global frequency cap, though they may not allow you to configure it or override it selectively.

You should take a look at the options available and configure it according to what works best for your email marketing program.

For example, Klaviyo (they call it “Smart Sending”) has a default setting of one email every 16 hours, which might be too conservative depending on your campaign cadence, resend frequency, and robustness of automated emails.

You may also want to selectively override the caps for certain automation. I normally override this for the Welcome email that delivers an incentive upon subscriber signup, as well as the first checkout abandonment email.

Attribution Setup

Chances are your new ESP will have its own mechanism for tracking revenue attribution. This can be a very useful feature for reporting and analysis, as well as triggering automated emails based on purchases from email.

That said, it’s not a bad idea to a) run Google Analytics (or other web analytics platforms) concurrently with the native ESP attribution and b) configure the attribution window to align with your own parameters.

Normally, ESPs will have a feature to allow you to append UTM parameters to all links within outgoing emails. This is superbly useful, as you don’t want to spend tedious hours tagging each link with these. Sometimes you can also configure the tracking parameters’ structure:

As for the attribution window, the default settings can often time be changed as well:

Organizational Settings

A simple point of configuration that might be easy to miss is your organizational settings. This is where you can usually configure your Company, Name, Address, Phone, Default From Address and Name, etc.

It’s a good idea to properly set these up since many templates would pull these values dynamically into the footer and other areas of your emails:

One mistake I see people making is having their personal info in the organizational settings, which incidentally pulls in that info into the marketing emails.

Opt-In & Opt-Out Settings

Configuring your opt-in and opt-out settings and pages are important to ensure a great user experience as well as to grow and retain your subscriber list.

Global Unsubscribes

For ESPs that have a List-level organizational structure, there may be an option to configure how unsubscribes to any particular list or email get treated, whether as a global unsubscribe or a local unsubscribe.

I normally like to set it by default to a global unsubscribe, but if you are maintaining specific lists for preferences, you could also go the other way… though I prefer using custom fields and variables to keep track of preferences instead of lists.

Custom Preferences & Unsubscribe Pages

The default pages for unsubscribing and email preferences for most ESPs are pretty sparse and basic. Case in point:

If you want to apply any customizations to it, you’ll need to configure it yourself either using the default drag & drop editor or through editing the HTML source code.

Aside from branding/design changes, I recommend two other starting customizations:

1. Adding frequency preferences to your unsubscribe page to try and “save” a portion of potential unsubscribers.

2. Pull in only relevant preferences on the email preferences pages so that the form is not too overwhelming.

Single Opt-In Lists

By default, many ESPs pass new subscribers through a double opt-in process, i.e. they have to further confirm via a link in their email before getting onto the list. While this is not always a bad idea, and indeed is required in certain jurisdictions, you may not want to have double opt-in by default and instead go for single opt-in.

In that case, you’ll want to configure your list settings accordingly. You may even need to email your ESP’s support directly to have them turn on the single opt-in functionality if it doesn’t exist already in your account.

Note that most of the time, manual CSV uploads will be single opt-in regardless of the settings of the particular list.

Email Signup Forms

Most sites have some sort of email signup forms onsite. Common suspects are:

• Footer forms
• Blog page signups
• Popups/flyout forms

You’ll need to make sure all of these forms are now passing subscribers directly into your new ESP.

For embedded forms on the site, such as a footer signup form, you can usually either a) swap out the code with the default embed code provided by your new ESP or b) change the hard-coded version’s action URL and list ID values to pass now to the new ESP’s URL & list:

Additionally, sometimes these footer forms pass directly into your shopping cart’s newsletter list, which can get automatically synced with your new ESP via a direct integration.

For the popup and flyout forms, if you use a third party software to power those, you can usually just swap out the integration directly inside that software. For example, inside Justuno, on the last setup page of each campaign, you can choose where to pass the subscribers to:

You’ll still want to make sure all incoming subscribers are directed to the correct lists inside your new ESP though.

Shopping Cart Integration

In addition to other apps, you may decide to integrate with (loyalty apps, product review requests, recurring billing, shipping management, etc), the most important core integration for your new ESP will be with your shopping cart platform.

Enabling and configuring this integration is going to be key to power your email efforts moving forward given how much order-event data gets pulled through. Your ESP should have extensive documentation on the specifics on how to integrate with your shopping cart.

Here are a few random pointers to take into account though:

• You may still need to add some additional tracking scripts to your site outside of the core integration in order to fully tap into all of the functionality. Klaviyo, for example, often times requires you add Web Tracking, Product Tracking, and Add to Cart tracking scripts onto your site in order to use those events.
• If you are pulling in Amazon order automatically, make sure to configure your automated email segments and campaign email segments to exclude these contacts. You don’t want to land in hot water with Amazon for inadvertently sending marketing emails to these customers.
• Your new ESP may have a dynamic coupon generation option. This will usually involve an additional layer of setup during the integration process.
• Make sure to monitor the sync between your ESP and shopping cart, both at the beginning and ongoing. If the sync goes down without you knowing, it can have some significant effects on your email channel revenue.
• Spend some time configuring and checking your (dynamic) product catalog feed. This can be utilized at times to generate dynamic product recommendations inside your emails.

4. Email Content Transition

Email Content Updates

The first step in transitioning your existing automated emails and getting your new campaign emails into your new ESP is creating an updated email template. Whether you are using drag & drop or a custom HTML-coded template, you’ll need to create a new version inside your new ESP.

At the very least, you’ll need to incorporate the dynamic variables of your new ESP utilizing their new syntax.

For example, Mailchimp’s *|ARCHIVE|* becomes {% web_view %} in Klaviyo, and *|UNSUB|* becomes {% unsubscribe %}.

Automated Email Transition

Per my note about deliverability and onboarding in the section above, it’s usually a good idea to get your automated marketing emails transitioned to your new ESP first before transitioning campaign emails (which you’ll need to warm up).

The general process we like to follow for moving the automated emails is:

• Create the mirrored version of the existing live email sequence in the new ESP.
• Run quality assurance and testing on the new sequence to check for outdated links, images, copy, coupon codes, etc.
• Make sure all triggering mechanisms in the new ESP for that particular sequence will work as intended. For example, if it’s a welcome series, you’ll need to first make sure your signup forms are passing the subscribers into the new ESP and into the correct list, the automation trigger is configured based on the addition to that list, and any coupon codes work as intended.
• Check that no subscribers will unintentionally get the sequence once it is turned on. For example, if you haven’t synced up all of your subscribers yet, and you turn on a sequence based on the addition to a list… and then add a manual batch of subscribers on that list, they’ll get sent that email sequence.
• Turn off the existing automated email sequence in your old ESP.
• Turn on the existing automated email sequence in your new ESP.
• Back-populate contacts if applicable.
• Monitor for any abnormalities after launch.

Click to enlarge image

A note about turning on/off automated sequences: if you have multiple emails within a sequence, often times you’ll have contacts who are making their way through it still at the point you want to make the swap. In this case, one option you have is to implement a date filter at the initial trigger point of the old automation and keep both the new and old ones running simultaneously for a while, until which point the contacts in the existing automation all finish it.

Then you can turn off the old automated sequence.

For example, for a welcome series it might look like this:

You can utilize this tactic in combination with back-population (if your ESP has it) to minimize the number of contacts who would otherwise have missed the emails in the automated sequences.

Transactional Emails

Generally speaking, we recommend keeping your transactional (like order/shipping confirmations) emails inside your native cart or app. If you do so, you can still do some customizations for branded design, as well as add some UTM tracking parameters to get more visibility into conversions.

Otherwise, if you do decide to move some transactional emails onto you new ESP, you’ll need to make sure it’s supported. Also, keep in mind that by default subscribers on your suppression list won’t get these emails − you’ll usually need to have your ESP turn on a special “transactional” designation for each individual email message so that those messages will override the suppression.

If you don’t do this, a handful of your customers who may have unsubscribed in the past to your marketing emails will end up not getting future transactional emails from you.

Campaign Email Transition

The best approach to transition your campaign emails is to follow some sort of onboarding plan to the new ESP. 

It’s also best to stop sending from your old ESP entirely once you begin the campaign email transition process, because generally speaking, inbox providers don’t like seeing marketing emails from your brand coming from too many different sources and it can have adverse effects on your short-term deliverability.

esp migration

I hope you found this helpful. I’m also including a checklist of the key steps of the ESP migration process. 

Good luck with your present or future ESP migration. If you need professional help with it, email us or book a call


Xiaohui “X” Wang is Founder and CEO of Essence of Email. He is a veteran of the email marketing industry, having led the strategic and tactic efforts for over 250+ eCommerce clients ranging from small mom & pops to IR500 retailers. He is super passionate about all things email and constantly keeps abreast of the cutting edge of email technology.