Must-have SaaS email marketing features
Published March 22nd, 2023
14 min read
Thinking of building your own email marketing SaaS platform? It’s a brilliant idea. Not only does it serve the entire customer journey with one-to-one interactions, it’s also crucial to scaling digital personalization efforts. But where do you start?
Communications Specialist at Tiny
Email marketing is a multi-purpose martech tool: whether you’re looking to gain subscribers, send a newsletter, collect data, improve your onboarding flows, increase your conversion rates or deepen product usage. Email does it all.
It’s also an economic method, with the UK’s Data and Marketing Association (DMA) estimating the 2020 ROI at £35.41 (US$44.07) for every £1 (US$1.24) spent. That puts the cost efficiency of email marketing ahead of search, display, and social media marketing. And there’s another reason why the brilliance of email marketing is unmatched.
Email marketing reach
It’s widely recognised that email has extraordinary potential to reach a massive audience. The added bonuses are:
- You have full control to send and receive feedback
- It’s easily managed
- It leverages hyper personalization
- You’re able to establish direct contact with your customers.
And there’s even more obvious reasons to build an email marketing SaaS platform, within these email marketing statistics.
Email marketing software market
Despite the growth of mobile messengers and chat apps, email remains an integral part of daily online life. In 2020, there were four billion email users and that’s set to grow to 4.6 billion users in 2025.
By comparison (and despite its popularity), only 3.6 billion people used social media worldwide in 2020, and its projected increase to 4.41 billion in 2025, still lags behind the email projection.
email users in 2020
Global email volume and open rates
Next, there’s the astonishing volume of email activity. Globally the number of emails sent and received has increased each year since 2017. While 2021 saw an estimated 319.6 billion emails exchanged each day, by 2025 that’s expected to increase to over 376.4 billion daily emails.
It’s worth noting that when it comes to checking personal email inboxes, the DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker 2020 notes that 95% of people check their email at least once a day. Campaign Monitor’s Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2022 revealed that more than 50% of the respondents in the USA check their emails more than 10 times a day.
That makes email too big an opportunity to miss. So let's dive into the nitty gritty of SaaS application development for email marketing.
What is an email marketing SaaS?
Email marketing software as a service (SaaS) is a cloud platform that's been built to efficiently design, optimize, deliver, monitor and measure personalized and targeted marketing emails to potential and existing customers.
An email marketing SaaS eliminates (for its users) the cost of acquiring hardware and its maintenance, as well as software build, maintenance and installation.
Hallmarks of an email marketing SaaS platform are metrics-based efficiency, ease-of-use and the ability to email people through each step of the customer journey – to potentially convert to your product.
What is SaaS email marketing?
A SaaS email marketing campaign may consist of either a single email or multi-step, automated (ongoing) campaign that's been designed to onboard, engage, build either loyalty, brand awareness or increase product usage.
In the case of SaaS products, email marketing supersedes other techniques because it enables you to hyper personalize your communication and educate users so they quickly gain more value from your product.
Hallmarks of a SaaS product’s email marketing campaign are personalized, targeted emails sent at the right time of the customer journey to increase conversions, reduce churn and lift retention numbers.
Why create your own email marketing software?
Building an email marketing SaaS platform offers a huge opportunity for many companies. Either for their own inhouse use or as a viable niche offering, a well conceived and built delivery platform can make deep inroads in the right market. That's despite the market domination of the many behemoths – HubSpot, Mailchimp, Adobe/Marketo and Campaign Monitor (to name just four). There's still room for disruption.
According to the SaaS Sales Statistics from 99Firms, 73% of organizations indicated that by 2021 nearly all their apps would be SaaS, while in 2021 Campaign Monitor reported that 64% of small businesses use email marketing to reach customers.
However, a lot of your success depends on the features of the email marketing software you build, because your features are responsible for making sure the emails actually get delivered. You need to clearly itemize the key attributes your email marketing software needs, including the must-have and like-to-haves.
Otherwise, you may end up with the wrong features and terrible email deliverability rates – which can force further investment in development time and headcount, which could have been easily avoided.
Email marketing SaaS examples
There's many reasons why you’d consider building or upgrading your own email marketing platform. Here’s two likely examples.
EXAMPLE 1: Email marketing SaaS add-on/extension
The most likely scenario in this situation is where email isn’t the primary function of your app, but you want to add email creation and send functionality.
In this example opportunity, your core capability may be as an e-commerce engine (or something other than email), but you also need the ancillary functionality to better serve your customers – like creating, editing and sending both transactional and marketing emails.
EXAMPLE 2: Email Marketing SaaS niche-specific
Another scenario could be where you see an opportunity to capitalize on an explosion of niche-specific tools, within an industry. In this example, there’s currently huge growth in sales and marketing tools that offer Real Estate agents a one-stop-shop for managing leads, customers, listings and marketing. As the SaaS tool offerings grow, they add more and more features to compete, and one of those features, may be email creation and email marketing.
Think of this example opportunity as ‘HubSpot for a niche’, with pre-built automation, templates, delivery and content creation.
So, what do you need to build an email marketing SaaS platform?
Email marketing features: must-haves
When you build SaaS email marketing software, it’s essential to include the must-have features. One way to do that, is identify the key emails to be sent and the supporting metrics needed to assess their success and/or failure.
Most common SaaS-style business emails
A cornerstone of SaaS email marketing is communicating at different touchpoints in the customer journey. Those communications need to be personalized and timely. While the list of possible emails is extensive, here’s five different message types that can be mixed-and-matched within your email automation setup:
1. Lead magnet downloads
This is an evergreen technique, where a lead magnet is offered as an enticement to join the email list in exchange for the completion of an opt-in form.
2. Time-based drip campaigns
Commonly used for specific list segments, and is generally an automated series of time-based emails, at key pivot points within the customer journey. Can include long-tail nurture campaigns, onboarding, topic-oriented education, a welcome series and
3. Behavior-based campaigns
Share some similarities with drip emails, but instead of the content and timing being predetermined, behavior or trigger-based campaigns depend on the user’s interaction with your business. Therefore emails are different, for different users.
4. One-time broadcasts
A single (one-off) email that’s been personalized to the needs and wants of a group of people within the email list.
5. Transactional emails
These encompass all the emails related to a transaction or trial – billing, invoices, receipts, password resets, notifications, and reminders. They can also include cart abandonment emails.
Useful metrics/functionality for SaaS-style email types
|Click through rate
|Email conversion rate
|List growth rate
|Email share /forward rate
|Time based drip
|Behavior based drip
Email marketing features: must-haves
When scoping your email SaaS application development work, it’s important to keep the fundamentals in mind: it must drive awareness and sales. Therefore your email app should include a suite of features that not only helps you achieve those fundamentals, but also improves productivity and makes the overall email process easier.
The four must-have email marketing software features are:
- Mobile-responsive templates
- List management and segmentation
- Automation and deliverability
- Tracking tools and insights
Each of these play an important role in the success of your email marketing – from conception and creation, through contact management and quality checks, to ensuring they’re delivered at a time when they best support your micro-conversion goals.
1. Mobile-responsive templates
This is where the rubber hits the road in email marketing. Each year, more and more users are reading emails on mobile devices, so your messages must be easy to read on a smaller screen. According to 99firms Mobile Email Statistics, 47% of people open emails on a mobile app. So failing to optimize has a direct, negative impact on your sales offtake and can decrease your outreach.
The email app you build should automatically optimize for smaller screens and the drag-and-drop email builder should also provide a variety of pre-made templates – for simple emails, newsletters, and promotional emails – specifically designed for mobile users. These save time, increase the productivity of email software users and ensure on-brand designs are created.
How a great email html editor can improve your email builder templates
While a drag-and-drop email builder is a must-have for email creators, most email marketing software provides a poor editing experience.
When you compare the editing experience of email software to that used within other apps and content creation platforms, it’s usually clunky, tech-heavy, and unpredictable. So, there’s a real opportunity for an email marketing SaaS provider to improve their user experience (UX). Let’s see where some of the biggest improvement opportunities lie:
The text editor that your developers integrate in your email software, should be customizable so that it fits your email builder's user interface (UI).
- Modern rich text editors have a number of toolbar options (including inline mode) as well as custom skins and icons that give your devs the flexibility they require when building.
- Deep API access is also an essential for your email text editor. Your devs can then extend the editor and do whatever’s needed, when your growth and expansion plans come to fruition.
- Text editors that have templating functionality, allow users to insert premade sections or boilerplate content to accelerate the creation of emails.
- A non-editable plugin protects your app’s dynamic mail merge tags from being edited, as well as protecting key sections of your email – such as the head or footer.
- Email marketers do a lot of copying and pasting, because usually the email content itself is written in Google docs, Word, or Excel. But once they copy and paste the text into the email builder, things can often go wrong. Using an advanced WYSIWYG editor can give you a clean copy-paste experience and avoid hours of wasted time and frustration, with no need to fiddle with the underlying source code to make emails readable.
- A format painter plugin also makes it easy to update content styles to match the rest of your template.
- Add an emoji picker to your email editor for more expressive emails.
Clean and compliant HTML
Using an advanced WYSIWYG email editor in your email builder, ensures that it generates compliant HTML, that’s mobile and desktop friendly.
- CSS styles like font-size and color are applied inline for optimal email client compatibility.
- Your devs can set your target HTML schema to ensure compliance with email clients.
- Devs can set strict controls over the HTML generated from your email app, including 20+ other content filtering options and the ability to specify what elements are allowed and disallowed.
Every email user experiences the ‘send’ button anxiety: are there spelling errors? Do my links work? Is it readable on all the different browsers, devices, and email providers? Fortunately, by incorporating an advanced text editor when building your email app, there are ways you can automate quality control and increase the likelihood of error-free emails.
Using a text editor with advanced plugins can help catch and correct errors, with:
- Link Checking – Automate the checking of broken URLs before emails go out.
- Accessibility Checking – Automatically check your content is accessible and complies with WCAG standards (for example, each image should have an alt attribute) so you avoid potential fines and lawsuits.
- Spell Checking – Pick up spelling mistakes (can be checked in up to 13 languages simultaneously, plus medical terminology).
- Standardize your brand spelling conventions by building custom dictionaries within your email text editor.
Ensure you have inbuilt text editor controls that allow you to restrict font choices to only those available on popular email clients.
Or an Advanced Code Editor allows power users to tweak HTML code where needed.
With these types of rich text editor features built directly into your email builder, checking for errors is quick, easy, and streamlined.
2. List management and segmentation
The foundations of every email marketing platform is your contact list. At minimum, capture the basic contact details: name, email, address, birth date, or other custom contact information.
The next step is segmenting your list – creating different groups or applying tags to contacts, to label them in some way – to send more targeted emails and increase your conversions. According to the DMA, email segmentation can lead to a 760% increase in revenue. If your emails aren’t converting, it could be that you need to stop sending the exact same email to all your subscribers – instead, segment them based on lead qualifiers.
Personalization increases sales – one survey showed 88% of respondents looked more favorably on emails they felt were personally written for them.
However, personalization can go much further – like building in the ability to incorporate dynamic content into emails. Specific information such as birthdate, job title, where they live, products they’ve purchased, etc. can make all the difference in the level of personalization your email app can achieve.
These days, automation is a basic requirement for email marketing platforms, with around 85% of marketing professionals using email marketing software to help them automate campaigns. Automations can be set up by time, triggered by events/actions or conditions, have different logic options and results, so think carefully about how your automation functionality could work.
Email automation is a marketer’s best friend. Having the power to deliver the right emails to the right people at the right time in their customer journey, can deliver big returns. When building the email app, you may also consider if you want to have pre-built templates (for different workflows and needs such a welcome series and abandoned carts) within your automations, so that productivity is increased and users save time when they’re setting up automations.
4. Tracking tools and insights
Metrics are critical in email marketing. Your email app users must be able to easily measure and report on their email marketing campaigns, through rich reporting capabilities. While the obvious basics are open, click-through, bounce and unsubscribe rates, there's so much more functionality that can provide deep dives on both campaign setups and results.
- A/B testing (or split testing), lets you test various elements within your emails so you can optimize their performance. It’s been reported that A/B testing can increase email marketing ROI by as much as 37%.
- Spam testing lets you identify content that could trigger spam filters and negatively affect your email deliverability.
- Email deliverability is crucial to email success, because if it can’t get through, then all your effort is wasted. EmailToolTester has reported that 11.1% of all emails never reach the mailbox because of deliverability issues. Improving your deliverability has an immediate effect on open rates, click-through rates, and sales.
Wrap up: essential email marketing SaaS must-haves
Here’s a snapshot of the four email marketing SaaS must-haves when you’re building your own email app (plus 3 bonuses):
1. Mobile-responsive templates
Ways a great email html editor can improve your email builder templates:
- Clean and compliant HTML
- Quality control
2. List management and segmentation
3. Automation and deliverability
4. Tracking tools and insights
When you’re scoping your SaaS application development make sure you check off those four boxes (and bonuses). To help with your build, we’ve created an email-specific editor config of TinyMCE – you can download it for free and get a 14-day FREE trial of our Premium plugins when you sign up for our API key.
Marketing Communications Manager
Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.