Bronto End of Life: How to Migrate Your Email Service Provider (ESP) Successfully

Ruthie Careyby Ruthie Carey

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After nearly six years since Bronto’s $200 million acquisition by NetSuite (which later became Oracle NetSuite as a result of the former acquiring the latter in a $9.3 billion deal in 2016), the company is opting to discontinue Bronto as a service.

On the second day of March 2021, the company sent out an email letting Bronto users know that the Bronto Marketing Platform will reach its end of life in the middle of 2022.

In whole, the email to Bronto customers reads:

“Dear Customer,

“We have important news to share about the Bronto Marketing Platform. Over the coming year, we will migrate our marketing automation technology and resources to the Oracle Customer Experience Cloud. We believe this will create an overall superior customer experience. Due to this strategic plan, we will no longer be selling the Bronto Marketing Platform and thus are announcing the end of life.

“This notice is to inform your company that the Bronto Marketing Platform has been assigned End of Life status and the last date of service will be May 31, 2022. The Bronto service and any related ACS or Professional Services you may have ordered will be supported until the end of the last date of service. You will be able to continue to use the Bronto service until the end of the last date of service and if you choose, you may renew your services until our last date of service, May 31, 2022.

“Please ensure that all appropriate contacts in your company are made aware of this notice.

“Thank you for being a valued customer. Your account manager will contact you shortly to discuss next steps.”

Before going any further, let’s take a moment to get our definitions in order. An ESP is merely an acronym for “email service provider.” Similarly, end of life (sometimes abbreviated as EOL) is a term used by software vendors to convey that it will be limiting or outright ending support for a specific product or service, with the intention of shifting efforts to newer products or versions.

When a platform reaches its end of life stage, it is necessary for users to migrate (or move) to a new service provider

For instance, back in 2018, Magento announced the end life of Magento 1.0, informing customers that support for the version would be discontinued come June 2020.

As far as Bronto customers are concerned, what this means is that they must now seek out a new email marketing platform to support their business’s email communication efforts.

Those who currently employ Bronto for their eCommerce email marketing campaigns should approach the looming requirement of migrating email service providers (ESP) with a sense of urgency. Aside from simply needing a new platform, the fact is that timing the move correctly is key to a successful ESP migration effort.

According to Amy Slater, Visiture’s Head of Email Marketing:

“On average, a well-executed migration will take 4-6 weeks,  but give yourself a little margin. The goal of a successful migration is to avoid any disruption to a healthy email program, but it’s not uncommon to run into minor delays, especially during the platform integration and IP warming process. To minimize any negative impact, avoid migrating during your brand’s seasonal high time and near important sale dates, holidays or product launches. If your brand participates in Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Holiday gifting, aim for a completed migration before September 30.

“If you’re migrating from Bronto due to EOL announcement, that means you need to start planning seriously for migration today.”

The fact is that migrating from one email platform to another is a complicated process that involves a significant commitment in time and resources. ESP migration requires an advanced strategic approach and deep knowledge of the platform, the email program, the technical requirements for integration, and deliverability.

To help retailers with this vital endeavor, today, we will explore some of the ESP options available to eCommerce email marketers and what to look for in an email marketing platform, as well as how to migrate from Bronto to the newly selected software.

Migrating Email Service Providers: How to Select a New ESP

When it comes to ESP migration, selecting the best email service provider for the company is of critical importance. With that in mind, the necessary features for a platform will largely depend on the goals of the organization.

For most retail brands, email is a potent tool for driving traffic, sales, and customer retention. Given the multitude of business objectives that email marketing can serve, retailers need to know what they are looking to get out of their email platform before settling on one for ESP migration.

Therefore, crafting a feature grid of the most important ESP features is essential for selecting the right email service provider for a brand. Moreover, it is essential to rate these elements in order of importance. Therefore, if all of the components cannot be contained within a single platform, sellers know where their priorities lie.

To this end, it can be quite helpful for retailers to audit their current features and what they want to see from the new ESP selection.

That said, some of the features that merchants will likely want to see from their new email service provider include:

Responsive Email Templates

Responsive email templates are a critical tool to possess in an environment where consumers read emails on a variety of different device types. In fact, when examining email marketing metrics, MailCharts notes that over 50 percent of all emails are opened on mobile devices. 

However, many organizations are not crafting their campaigns with this dynamic in mind. As evidence of this, MailCharts also speaks to email mobile optimization, stating:

The average company tracked by MailCharts sends 14.3 emails per month. Only 33 percent of these emails are mobile optimized and 24 percent of these emails are promotional. As you can imagine, these stats vary for each industry… In the eCommerce world, for example, the average volume was slightly higher than the aggregate, at 16.4 emails per month. Fewer emails were mobile optimized (only 30 percent), while more emails were promotional (41 percent).”

Understanding this, it is imperative that retailers ensure that their email campaign designs are consistent across devices. Not only is this task essential because of the increasingly high open rates on mobile devices but because doing so will give merchants the competitive edge over the scores of sellers that are not employing response email designs.

Therefore, a good email platform will not only enable sellers to design emails from scratch if they so desire, but it will also come with a library of premium responsive templates that retailers can customize to fit their needs.

List Growth Tools

Growing an email marketing list is critical as email database decay occurs at an annual rate of 22.5 percent.

Thankfully, there are a multitude of ways to generate new email subscribers. When engaged in ESP migration, retailers will want to consider platforms that possess email list growth tools such as:

  • Pop-Ups
  • Exit offers
  • Landing page creation tools
  • Customizable subscription forms
  • Contest integration abilities
  • Social media and messenger integrations

Alternatively, sellers might consider opting for a third-party vendor that specializes in email list growth such as JustUno. With tools like JustUno, retailers can obtain many of the aforementioned abilities, as well as other valuable features such as product recommendations, pre-built promotions, advanced targeting capabilities, and A/B testing tools.

Segmentation Abilities

The fact of the matter is that a merchant’s customer base comes with a diverse set of characteristics, interests, habits, wants, needs, and the like. Therefore, to increase the impact of email campaigns, it is necessary to be able to send certain messages to specific audience segments.

This practice, known as email segmentation, is one of those must-have email marketing features. By using email segmentation, retailers can create distinct subscriber groups based on their age, gender, location, purchase history, browsing patterns, and other data points that will help to create more personalized messages.

The granularity with which these groups can be refined can sometimes become tedious. However, this is how retailers can substantially increase their email campaign’s engagement and conversion rates. In fact, email marketing statistics from Mailchimp show that segmenting email subscriber lists serves to elevate clicks by over 100 percent.

Meanwhile, this same strategy has also shown to result in an astonishing 760 percent increase in email revenue

Knowing this, when migrating email service providers, it is essential to procure a platform that enables list segmentation.

Personalization Elements

Much like possessing tools for segmenting email lists, the ability to personalize email marketing campaigns is an essential tool in the current eCommerce ecosystem.

As McKinsey reports on personalized customer experiences:

“A survey of 1,000 US adults by Epsilon and GBH Insights found that the vast majority of respondents (80 percent) want personalization from retailers. Personalization can even be called a ‘hygiene factor’: customers take it for granted, but if a retailer gets it wrong, customers may depart for a competitor.”

While this survey pertains predominantly to on-site experiences, the same dynamic is true for email marketing. 

This assertion is supported by email personalization statistics that show that:

  • Emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened
  • 74 percent of marketers say that personalization increases engagement
  • Personalized emails produce six times higher transaction rates

Given how important personalization is to email campaign optimization, this is one feature that brands should not overlook when migrating email service providers.

Dynamic Content Inclusion

Continuing on the importance of email personalization, the ability to leverage dynamic content is another strong contender for must-have ESP features.

For those who are unaware, dynamic content refers to email content that changes based on the user’s behaviors, preferences, habits, and the like. 

Dynamic content serves to ensure that the messages that merchants are sending to their audience are highly relevant and tailored to their tastes, thereby increasing potential opens, engagements, and other critical email marketing KPIs.

Using dynamic content, eCommerce retailers can significantly increase customer experiences, engagement, and overall campaign performance.

A/B Testing

A/B testing, sometimes referred to as split testing, is a critical ESP component for email optimization.

A/B testing serves to enable marketers to test multiple versions of the same (in this case) core email, altering elements like the copy, CTAs, images, and other parts of an email to determine which performs better with consumers.

While this can be done manually or through third-party solutions, baked-in A/B testing features will enable merchants to quickly and easily run parallel campaigns side-by-side to see which one resonates most with their buyers.

This may not be viewed as a must-have feature for some retailers, but it is certainly an incredibly useful tool for those who are migrating email service providers and want more tools at their fingertips.

For other merchants, A/B testing features will be viewed as an absolute necessity for a platform to possess.

It all comes down to the brand’s wants, needs, and objectives.

An AI-Driven Engine

As far as all of these personalization elements are concerned, it is vital that the selected email service provider use an AI-driven engine as a means of harvesting and learning from consumer data so as to deliver an accurate, high-quality product and content recommendations.

Moreover, an AI engine will give retailers the ability to leverage predictive analytics. For those who are not familiar with the term, predictive analytics is the ability to use customer data to anticipate how they will react to certain messaging, promotions, recommendations, and the like. This is done by combining and studying data related to their purchase behaviors, content interactions, on-site browsing patterns, customer relationship management data, social media engagement, and data from a variety of other sources to produce a complete, predictive picture of the customer. 

Of course, all of this information is likely to be too much for the average person to harvest, analyze and produce actionable insights with, which is exactly what makes possessing an AI-driven email marketing engine a critical consideration when migrating email service providers.

Cross-Channel Capabilities

In the current eCommerce and digital marketing environment, the number of digital channels on which companies and consumers can connect is constantly growing. Today, the path to purchase is not linear but instead exists within a multidimensional framework.

Therefore, omnichannel eCommerce marketing strategies have become essential. As a result of this dynamic, many email service providers have evolved by expanding offerings and sharing data with other critical channels like social media platforms to help support remarketing and audience targeting efforts. Others still have integrated abilities for mobile push notifications and SMS messaging.

When looking for email service providers which allow for cross-channel support, retailers can opt to seek out those where such features are baked-in to the platform or are able to be easily integrated through various third-party apps and extensions (more on this shortly).

The point here is that the ability to reach customers in a variety of formats and through different portals has become a critical component to success. Depending on the company’s aims and requirements, cross-channel capabilities should be strongly considered when migrating email service providers.

Third-Party Integrations

Email marketing often works best when closely integrated with other systems and services that a brand employs. Therefore, when vetting out platforms for ESP migration, it is important to consider those that offer easy-to-use APIs, platform extensions, and integration capabilities that will enable merchants to expand the potential and value of the selected platform.

Through such an offering, retailers are likely to find opportunities to integrate automated marketing workflows with mobile applications, social platforms, loyalty programs, and other important facets of the company.

Some examples of ESP integrations that would be beneficial for a company to leverage include:

  • Attentive
  • Google Analytics
  • SMSBump
  • Postscript
  • Facebook, Instagram, and other social integrations
  • Popular CRMs
  • The specific eCommerce platform used by the brand

Intuitive Interface

Naturally, one element that is likely to be high on most retailer’s list of desired ESP features is an intuitive interface.

Platform usability is a vital component to email marketing success. After all, clunky, convoluted platforms will be much harder to use, thereby requiring significantly more effort to learn, integrate and use to optimize email marketing campaigns. 

Therefore, when migrating email service providers, it is essential to consider the interface and usability of the platform to ensure that email marketing teams can successfully generate campaigns that drive results.

Scalable Features and Pricing

As mentioned earlier, the ROI on email marketing can be quite impressive when the right tactics are employed. However, when establishing this figure, it is also necessary to factor in other elements such as the cost of the platform, email frequency, if emails increase customer lifetime value, and similarly overlooked components.

Generally speaking, the subscription cost of an email marketing platform is based on the size of the merchant’s email list, increasing in price with the number of subscribers.

Moreover, many email service providers will supply additional features with each tier increase. This means that as brands grow their email list and gain new subscribers, their email marketing platform will become more expensive but supplies the company with new features to manage their growth successfully.

Therefore, when choosing a platform for ESP migration, retailers should do so with an eye on expansion, while also remaining within their budget. Take a look at the price increases of each tier and the features that come with the upgrade and determine if everything aligns with the company’s desires and requirements.

The fact of the matter is that some email service providers are better suited for catering to enterprise-level organizations, while others are geared toward small business owners. Approach vetting different email marketing platforms with this information in mind.

Analytics and Reporting

The ability to analyze an array of email data points and metrics is critical to optimizing campaigns for maximum performance and ROI. Unfortunately, many marketers tend to get hung up on open and click-through rates, failing to consider the implications of other critical email marketing metrics such as:

  • Delivery rates
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Engagement over time
  • List growth rates
  • Revenue per email
  • Revenue per subscriber
  • Overall ROI

That said, these kinds of figures are much harder to ignore or overlook when a platform comes equipped with a robust set of data analytics and reporting features.

The fact of the matter is that in today’s era of marketing, almost every business decision made with the aim of optimizing performance should be driven by concrete data.

With that understanding, a top-notch reporting and analytics system is of paramount importance when migrating email service providers.

Customer Support

In the real world, things go wrong. When they do, having a helping hand is always a nice thing.

When it comes to ESP migration, merchants will find that support levels vary from platform to platform, with some offering after-hours support and others only providing a library of documents for clients to figure things out on their own.

While most retailers can likely make things work with either option and everything in between, the level of support desired is something that business owners should strongly consider when migrating email service providers.

With these features laid out for consideration and debate, let’s go ahead and take a look at the ESP migration process and explore some of the email marketing platforms that merchants might use to supplant Bronto.

ESP Migration Process

As is true for migrating an online store to a new eCommerce platform, migrating email service providers demands that retailers follow a series of steps to complete the transition.

The fact of the matter is that ESP migration is a complicated, in-depth process. As a result, retailers will require a variety of internal technical and project management professionals to complete the migration successfully and without error. 

However, many eCommerce brands do not possess such resources. In which case, it is highly advisable to partner with a skilled, experienced email marketing agency like Visiture to help manage the migration to completion and beyond.

That said, the steps that need to be carried out when migrating email service providers include:

ESP Discovery

During this stage, the brand and their agency partner will go over the first two sections of this article, i.e., the features that are required for the company’s needs, aims, and objectives, as well as the potential email service providers that meet the established criteria.

After developing a shortlist of potential ESP migration winners, the agency and the brand will work together to coordinate demo sessions of each potential email service provider to help get a more hands-on look at what the platform provides, how it operates and if it will integrate well with the company’s existing technology stack.

Historical Data Audit

After establishing which platform will be used for the ESP migration, the brand and its partners will conduct a data audit for the current platform (e.g., Bronto) and collaborate to determine which information should be imported to the new email platform and what data should be sunsetted based on program use, customer activity, and other important variables.

At this point, a compliance audit will also be conducted to ensure that the company and its practices are in line with existing laws and regulations like CCPA, CANSPAM, CASL, GDPR, TCPA.

Data Upload and Mapping

At this point in the ESP migration process, the company’s migration partner will work to upload the brand’s contact database and all of the dependencies identified in the data auditing process, mapping all of the data to the appropriate fields in the new email platform.

Creative Migration and/or Recreation

With the new email platform set up from a data and contact standpoint, the agency will then move to begin migrating any creatives on the existing platform to the new email services provider. This includes materials like images, campaign templates, and workflows.

However, if it is not possible to migrate any of these materials, the team will begin work on recreating any elements that could not be transferred in the ESP migration.

DNS Record Setup

During this stage, the agency partner will work to set up the proper domain name system (DNS). This is essentially a protocol that is essential for transferring data online. The fact is that email addresses are attached to domain names (which follows the @ symbol in the email address). Email servers use the DSN to match the address to its destination and deliver emails.

At the same time, the migration team will establish the DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), which can be accessed from the DSN, to check that the source is genuine. The reason for this is that spammers sometimes forge email addresses for phishing scams. Businesses that employ DKIM protocols protect themselves from reputational damage as this information informs inbox providers like Google that the source is legitimate. If the DKIM is not present, the email will be rejected.

The same will be done using DMARC, or “Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance.” This is another protective protocol that helps brands safeguard from spammers. As the DMARC website reads:

“DMARC… is an email authentication, policy, and reporting protocol. It builds on the widely deployed SPF and DKIM protocols, adding linkage to the author (“From:”) domain name, published policies for recipient handling of authentication failures, and reporting from receivers to senders, to improve and monitor protection of the domain from fraudulent email.”

Finally, DNS records will be utilized to publish an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record to enable ESPs to send emails on behalf of their clients.

Component Rebuilds

At this point in migrating email service providers, the agency will rebuild any customer segments and workflows in the new email platform, using the specific logic and events available through the new service provider.

Integration Connections

From here, the agency will begin work on reconnecting any and all necessary integrations from the previous email service provider to the new one. This can include everything from the brand’s website to its CRM, third-party vendors, analytics, and the like.

At the same time, if new integrations need to be connected, this will be done during this stage in the ESP migration process.

Testing and Quality Assurance

With all of the necessary components in place, the migration partner will begin to test data capture and flow for all dependent sources. This includes testing event data and all associated triggers for functionality and accuracy.

IP Warming and Deliverability Monitoring

With the ESP migration complete, the agency partner will then move into the IP warming and deliverability monitoring stage to ensure that the retailer’s messages are generating excellent email deliverability.

During this stage, the team will develop a four- to six-week throttle schedule broken down by ISPs and domains to prepare the new program for pristine inbox placement. At this point, the team will continually monitor engagement, performance, and deliverability throughout the IP warm-up stage.

ESP Launch

Finally, with the migration fully completed, the brand and the agency will launch the company’s new ESP.

With the entire process for migration email service providers laid out and broken down, let’s take a look at some of the email service providers that retailers might opt to employ.

ESP Migration Options

As it stands today, there are a myriad of fantastic email service providers from which merchants can choose. Some possess all of the features mentioned in the previous section, whereas others will possess some–but not all–of the tools listed.

For Bronto users who are facing an ESP migration, some excellent replacement platforms include:

Klaviyo

Klaviyo is a cloud-based eCommerce multi-channel platform that offers the full spectrum of email, SMS, push, and social channels with features that enable retail marketers to optimize campaign performance.

Featuring integrations with Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, YotPo, Salesforce, Facebook, and tons of other industry-leading platforms and solutions, Klaviyo provides retailers with all of the necessities for maximizing customer data.

Using Klaviyo, sellers can incorporate customer data to create targeted emails, build focused social media ad campaigns using Facebook Custom Audiences and implement other means of reaching the most relevant consumers.

Moreover, Klaviyo also provides users with a robust segmentation system, A/B testing capabilities, automated abandoned cart flows, product recommendations based on user behaviors, a fantastic library of email templates, reporting and analytics components, and many of the other features discussed in the previous section.

Finally, if users do encounter problems or require some assistance, Klaviyo’s library of training modules and live chat support are available.

Omnisend

Another great ESP migration option for eCommerce retailers is Omnisend.

Formerly known as Soundest, Omnisend is an intuitive, streamlined email marketing platform designed specifically for eCommerce merchants aiming to institute an omnichannel marketing strategy, hence the name.

To that end, Omnisend is capable of delivering marketing messages via email, SMS, and website notifications, as well as enabling merchants to share information with Facebook and Google for retargeting campaigns.

Omnisend also integrates with industry-leading eCommerce solutions like Shopify and Shopify Plus, BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce, as well as a myriad of retail-oriented third-party tools.

At the same time, using this email service provider, retailers can build out a variety of automation workflows, personalize email campaigns for increased relevance and impact, access professional-grade email templates and email capture forms.

Moreover, Omnisend provides retailers with advanced segmentation features that enable sellers to craft hyper-personalized email campaigns that speak to their customer’s specific interests.

To that end, Omnisend’s “campaign booster” feature automatically segments and re-sends emails to users who did not open a message the first time it was delivered. This feature is fantastic as inboxes are notoriously overrun these days, thereby enabling emails to slip through the cracks. With the “campaign booster” element, retailers can ensure that their emails reach users and drive the desired outcomes.

Listrak

Another top contender for those migrating from Bronto is Listrak.

Listrak supplies merchants with an arsenal of potent email marketing tools including a drag-and-drop email builder that enables novice email marketers the ability to produce stunning, professional-grade emails quickly and easily. However, for the more experienced marketer, Listrak also allows for the addition of HTML code in certain areas to customize emails to a greater extent. If complete control is desired, full HTML emails are available as well. 

Using Listrak, sellers can provide a myriad of product recommendations, integrate customer reviews, segment email subscribers (which predictive analytics can be added onto), create automation workflows, and leverage tons of potent tools that make email optimization increasingly simple.

Additionally, Listrak also comes with robust reporting features that can be sliced in a multitude of ways and provide a clear breakdown of a seller’s campaign performance.

Iterable

For those that wish to focus on building an omnichannel experience, Iterable is a serious consideration for ESP migration.

Iterable comes equipped with native support for email, SMS, push notifications, in-app messaging, social media, and other cross-channel marketing opportunities.

As far as email creation is concerned, this platform provides sellers with a basic WYSIWYG editor and makes common email element blocks like text, images, buttons, and the like customizable for more unique campaigns.

Iterable also features important email marketing components like automated workflow creation, rich analytics and reporting elements, list segmentation abilities, deep personalization capabilities, and an intuitive interface that requires a minimal learning curve. 

However, where Iterable really shines is with its AI features. The platform’s AI system serves to analyze a plethora of customer data to help sellers craft highly-relevant, engaging campaigns that successfully achieve their desired outcome.

Iterable is one ESP migration that merchants should seriously consider as a replacement to Bronto.

Braze

Originally a platform that focused on mobile devices, Braze has evolved into a well-rounded, multi-faced email service provider that is worthy of extensive deliberation among the top brass.

Braze is another outstanding option for merchants that are looking to partner with a platform that takes cross-channel marketing seriously. With email, in-app messaging, SMS notifications, and more, retailers can reach consumers in the destination that matters most at that moment.

Braze features an HTML email builder, a rich segmentation tool that allows for customer profile data integration, predictive targeting capabilities, multi-channel automation workflows, and robust reporting features that supply a clear view of campaign performance.

Moreover, Braze allows merchants to craft powerful cross-channel customer journeys and A/B testing tools to optimize just about everything the platform has to offer.

Emarsys

Finally, another Bronto replacement that sellers should strongly consider is Emarsys.

Emarsys is much more than just an email service provider. Built with a focus on omnichannel experiences, Emarsys offers retailers a comprehensive marketing platform that optimizes retail revenue and business operations by offering users in-depth data analysis, predictive analytics, and AI-powered tools for personalizing experiences, messaging, offers, content, and other components aimed at increasing customer retention and loyalty.

Moreover, through this platform, sellers can effectively engage consumers with tailored experiences on their website, through mobile, social ads, direct mail, and (of course) email.

As far as the company’s email marketing elements are concerned, Emarsys arms sellers with a drag-and-drop visual content editor that allows for quick and easy campaign customization. At the same time, the platform also supplies sellers tons of critical email marketing features like dynamic content, personalization components, segmentation abilities, mobile-first email previews, email triggers, and a slew of other tools for campaign optimization.

Using Emarsys, retailers can ensure that they are optimizing customer experiences across the entire digital ecosystem of touchpoints by making the most of their data, thereby elevating the customer experience by leaps and bounds.

Final Thoughts

Migrating email service providers does not need to be an overwhelming task.

By following the guidelines and information laid out above, retailers can develop a comprehensive roadmap for ESP migration.

That said, it is important to consider partnering with a marketing agency that can assist in the vetting process, guiding the ESP migration through the necessary stages of development and ensuring a smooth and successful launch.

If your brand is currently using Bronto and needs to adopt a new email marketing platform, reach out to Visiture’s email marketing specialists.

Our team of expert email marketers can help create an ESP migration plan tailored to fit your company’s wants, needs, and objectives, ultimately allowing it to elevate its email marketing performance and revenue.

 

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