Transactional Email Software for your Web App: Custom-developed Solution vs. Third Party

COO & Co-Founder

Choosing a transactional email system can be tricky. As there’s no one-size-fits-all email sending solution and each of them comes with strengths and weaknesses, it requires hours of research. Today is your lucky day, as this article will arm you with all the knowledge you need before sending out your first transactional email. 

Even though transactional emails are not promotional, they are the most important emails connected to your web application. They are messages that you send to users in response to a specific action, such as email address verification during signups or password reset. 

The main question is whether it’s better to build an email sending solution internally or choose from third-party services, such as SendGrid, Mailchimp, etc. 

Let’s take a closer look at several major things you should consider before you make the decision. 

Setup for easy transactional email integration

Transactional email software comes with a variety of features, so you don’t have to waste time on implementing them. All integrations go smoothly thanks to the tools within the email infrastructure provider and a set of APIs to make your web application connected. They streamline the process of transactional emailing and allow you to create better workflow to reach users at the right moment. 

Transactional email software also lets you integrate your web application with other business software (e.g. CRM) to streamline your business performance. 

A convenient user interface is what differentiates modern email service providers from basic SMTPs or clunky email systems. 

You have everything you need to create strong transactional messages. Visual editors provided by SendGrid, Mailchimp, or similar platforms allow anyone to create an email using content blocks, so even team members who don’t code can manage it without touching code. So, it won’t eat developers’ time. 

Customization is important, as the look and feel have a real impact on your reputation. Making it easy to use responsive templates, add images, links, subject lines, and any other elements that build engaging content is what you need. 

Also, remember the unsubscribe option, otherwise people will likely hit the report spam button. And while with SaaS solutions it’s built into the email structure, with in-house SMTP it’s up to you to manage opt-outs. 

Flexible and scalable SMTP 

Sending emails to hundreds or thousands of people a day can be a technical challenge. Email sending solutions such as SendGrid make it simple to upgrade the plan when your business grows, so you don’t have to bother with extra activity.  

On the other hand this usually requires extra servers and more people onboard with an on-premise solution. As you can guess, the maintenance requires additional technology to handle the successful delivery of large quantities of emails. 

It’s also important that reliable transactional email software can keep a near-zero downtime (which equals successful delivery and more confidence when your web application scales), which can be difficult to reach when the maintenance is on your end. 

SaaS solutions may become quite expensive as you scale, because of obligatory upgrades. Still, the expenses will be lower than managing your transactional email service, especially when there are unexpected outages or unwanted surprises. Plus, you pay for third party solutions only when you need them, so there are no maintenance costs.  

Reliable transactional email delivery 

Maintaining successful email delivery is challenging and requires state-of-the-art infrastructure that keeps you sure that the message you sent made it to the recipients’ inboxes instead of the spam folder. It also comes with monitoring changes in inbox provider requirements as well as authenticating your IPs and setting up your server with SPF, DomainKeys, DKIM, and Sender ID to care about deliverability. 

Why is it important? According to the 2018 Deliverability Benchmark by Return Path, 15% of global emails never make it to the inbox. Think about how many opportunities you can miss without the right email service in place. Delivery issues impact your bottom line, as you can lose revenue and customers’ trust when they don’t receive your messages. 

While SaaS email services have dedicated teams for solving email deliverability issues, with your SMTP it could be difficult to control what happens with the messages you send. You’re not notified when an email is routed to the spam folder or blocked by the inbox provider.  

SendGrid and similar email sending solutions provide you with tools that give you full control over deliverability. They also handle the implementation of protocols such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC (which can be cumbersome when you do it yourself). For context, both DKIM and SPF help protect your domain reputation by authenticating emails. 

As you can guess, IP and domain reputation are important, as better reputation means a higher chance to get messages delivered. When your reputation as a sender is bad, your messages land in spam or you can get blocked. 

Plus, every ISP (such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo) has its own rules for classifying messages as spam, so it’s difficult to understand delivery to various inbox providers. Again, SaaS solutions take the burden off your shoulders, so if you’re not familiar with domain authentication, leave it to others.   

Measuring the success of transactional emails 

How recipients engage with your messages is also important for your future activity. Hence, you should send emails to users who want to receive your messages, especially when you also send marketing emails (e.g with promotional coupons). This is why you need decent tracking metrics, such as the number of ignored messages or ones that are deleted without being read, the number of forwarded messages, etc. 

Unengaged recipients can lower your open rates and over time your emails can be considered as spam. It depends with different sets of insights, but you always need to keep an eye on them and analyze how the messages are performing. And that’s what you’ll have when you choose transactional email software. Real-time analytics with users’ behavior tracking, engagement metrics, logs to search for historical transaction emails, and even more.  

One of the biggest drawbacks of basic SMTP is that you usually don’t get live results of sent emails, as storing aggregate delivery metrics can be expensive. It’s also difficult to control the levels of access in the team. 

Choosing a reliable email software makes you have rDNS in place, which helps you build trust between your company and inbox providers. With service providers, such as SendGrid or Mailchimp your messages are automatically secured and integrated with major spam checkers. 

You also need to comply with international or local laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Again, email service providers are an unquestionably better solution, as they need to stay up to date with any changes in the matter of users’ privacy. 

24/7 support 

Having staff to support the email program can be costly and the question is whether you need any at all. But, there can be bumps on the road and when something goes wrong, you need to find resources to fix the problem. This means you sacrifice the time of some of your team members, unless you have a dedicated team for email infrastructure. I bet you don’t.  

Now compare it to the SaaS solutions that usually come with 24/7 support and can help you with any inquiries. 

Ask yourself whether you have the resources and time to handle potential issues, especially when you need developers to fix your email infrastructure. 

The bottom line 

There are many options to choose from. You can set up a server and handle the deliverability, security, and scalability issues or find a reliable third party solution that covers all your needs. 

When you decide to build an in-house email service, you may face severe consequences if your infrastructure fails. It comes with huge responsibility, a lot of time, and overheads. You may face limited scalability because of limited infrastructure, not to mention that performance tracking will be much more challenging.  

On the other hand, transactional email services are a convenient solution as they can do virtually everything you need. Of course, solutions with all features are a bit more expensive, but you’ll find them more affordable in the long term. Deliverability issues are their responsibility, so you don’t have to worry, will be updated about the email performance in real time, and have dedicated infrastructure with IPs to build your reputation. 

Even if some third party email solutions look pricier, they are usually cheaper in the long term. Think twice and make a wise decision.  

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