Comparing Five Transactional Email Providers

With the world of email, there are thousands of solutions for transactional email. In this article, we will go over five different providers with pros and cons of each and then discuss which one wins the trophy out of all of them. What is Transactional Email: One-to-one emails that contain information that completes a transaction or process the recipient has started with you. This is different from marketing email as those are targeted at large groups. 

Amazon SES Screenshot
Amazon SES sends millions of emails a day and powers millions of businesses email needs

Amazon SES

Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) is a cloud-based email sending service designed to help digital marketers and application developers send marketing, notification, and transactional emails. It is a reliable, cost-effective service for businesses of all sizes that use email to keep in contact with their customers. With the current offerings from Amazon SES, you cannot beat the price of sending emails through this platform. Here is a cost outline from the Amazon SES website:

Amazon SES Pricing

Amazon SES is very versatile too, you do not only need to use it for transactional email. You can use Amazon SES for marketing email as well which is a cost saver for you instead of paying for dedicated email marketing software. An outbound message is defined as a single email communication sent to a single email address. A single email communication sent to multiple recipients is considered to be a unique message to each of those recipients. An inbound message is defined as a single received email communication with at least one recipient associated with a rule in your account, regardless of the number of recipients. Features of Amazon SES include High Deliverability, Content Personalization, Authentication, Dedicated IP Addresses, Monitoring, Sender Reputation Management, Flexible Email Receiving, Multiple Email Sending Interfaces, Mailbox Simulator, AWS Integration, Pay Only For What You Use. With all of these features, you cannot go wrong. Our favorite part of Amazon SES is the Sender Reputation Management which allows you to monitor how your emails are being perceived such as bounce management and complaints. Another feature that is very convenient is templates, you can use tags to customize the appearance of each email. 

PROS:

  • Cost – Amazon SES is the cheapest transactional email provider with all of the features provided
  • Flexibility – You can customize Amazon SES to work exactly like you want it to with routing rules.

CONS:

  • Ease of use – you really have to be a pro at navigating complicated UI’s

Postmark App Screenshot

Postmark

Postmark is the pricier solutions of all of these and offers very basic transactional email sending. Postmark is designed around developers as it has powerful tools to work inline with your current application and offers very simply SMTP setup to start sending emails. When we visited their website we stumbled upon pricing, sorry for bringing it up again we were just so shocked at how expensive it was to send emails. The basic plan starts at $10 a month and includes 10k emails as opposed to the cost of Amazon SES for that amount which is only $1 to send. Every 1k emails you send it will cost you $1.25 which is 12 times more expensive than Amazon SES. Postmark currently does not offer discounted rates and is not as easy to gauge your insights such as sender reputation.

Here is a pricing feature for Postmark

Postmark App Pricing

Postmark app bolsters the fastest delivery time of transactional email. Here are stats as of 5/12/2018 at 11:00 AM

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 10.47.30 AM

PROS:

  • Fast – Delivery times with Postmark are really fast to the inbox.
  • Built For Developers

CONS:

  • Cost – Postmark is one of the most expensive transactional mail providers
  • Restrictions – you cannot send any promotional email or your emails cannot contain and promotional content so it is hard to upsell if you want to.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 10.54.30 AM

Sendgrid

Senddgrid states they are the transactional email provider of choice for developers. Sendgrid has one of the easiest UI’s we have seen from a transactional email provider. The pricing is really transparent and comes with a plethora of features you will enjoy such as SMTP, API, Insights, DKIM Customization.

Choose the Email Platform Your Developers Love

“SendGrid can power your entire email program at scale, whether you’re sending with Marketing Campaigns or programmatically over our Email API. You’ll be delighted, and your developers will too.” – Sendgrid Website

As you can see the free trial includes 40k emails for the first 30 days and the essentials plan includes up to 100k emails with 2k contacts. Contacts are individual emails accounts you send too such as clients or users. We find that the template editor in Sendgrid is extremely easy to use and very user-friendly. We used to use Sengrid at Xenon Cloud but switched to Amazon SES as they do not charge for contacts. If you are just starting out you want to use Sendgrid for the ease of use of it, it is super easy to set up and get started using transactional email in under an hour. SendGrid was built to be reliable and infinitely scalable for sending both transactional emails and marketing emails at a rate of up to 10,000 messages per second.

Sendgrid Pricing
Sendgrid pricing is very transparent

PROS:

  • Beautiful UI – The UI of Sendgrid is stunning and very easily accessible to make changes to your email infrastructure
  • Built For Developers and Startups
  • Flatrate Pricing

CONS:

  • We have none
Elastic Mail Screenshot
Elastic mail offers 150,000 free emails a month for transactional and marketing emails.

Elastic Mail

Elastic Mail offers 150,000 free emails a month but requires you to put in a credit card if you go over that limit. The UI could use some work but as an overall solution to transactional email, you can be sure to start out with a solution like Elastic Mail. We have never seen a generous option such as this for transactional email. When you sign up you will need experience with DNS as you have to create records such as CNAME and A records before you can start to send but their tutorials help with that. Once you are set up you can easily send mail from your application using SMTP or the API. We found that the SMTP solution worked better for us when we tested out Elastic Mail.

Here is a pricing outline of Elastic Mail

Elastic Mail Pricing
Elastic Mail offers 150,000 free emails a month for every account which is the most generous of all the transactional email providers we reviewed.

With Elastic Mail, you can gain insights into how people are receiving your emails with the reporting tool built in. Our favorite reporting feature is the unsubscribe reports. It lets you know why people are unsubscribing from your emails. Elastic Mail is the cheapest of email providers when it comes to sending in bulk priced at a penny cheaper than Amazon SES per thousand emails. If you are sending less than 150,000 emails a month we recommend Elastic Mail because all of these emails are free. We have found when we tested it although the delivery times can be delayed by a minute or two if you can deal with that than Elastic Mail is for you. You can also get a dedicated IP address for $0.79  a day which equates to $24.50 a month which is about standard for all email providers.

PROS:

  • Cheapest – Elastic Mail is 10% cheaper than Amazon SES
  • Drag and Drop email customizations
  • Forms – Allow you to build subscribers for marketing purposes

CONS:

  • DNS – You have to have experience with DNS to use Elastic Mail such as setting up DKIM, SPF, other providers do this for you automatically.
Mailgun Screenshot
Mailgun is the beginners tool for transactional email with easy setup and easy pricing

Mailgun

When we first started with transactional email we chose Mailgun because of how easy it was to set up and the simple pricing. The pricing structure over the years have changed and they used to offer more free emails per month and that was a big deal for us being a nonprofit. Over time we had to switch to something that was more suitable for us. When we say it is easy to set up we really mean that all you have to do is sign up and verify your sender address to start sending email, then you get the SMTP details to start sending the email you choose to. Mailgun is one of the few that have constantly had an uptime reliability of 99.99% which makes it one of the very reliable service providers for transactional email.

Here is a pricing outline of Mailgun

screencapture-mailgun-pricing-2018-05-12-13_02_43

Mailgun offers robust features such as email validations and Intelligent Inbound Routing & Storage. Many companies use Mailgun too which ensures they are backed and here to stay. Mailgun also offers 24/7 support options which are hard to come by unless you purchase a dedicated support plan from other companies.

PROS:

  • Email Validations – Mailgun checks to make sure the email you are sending too is a valid email.
  • Uptime – Mailgun has the most uptime out of all of the transactional email providers

CONS:

  • Not for marketing – you cannot send marketing email through Mailgun using a third party software.

Conclusion

Transactional email is a very tricky decision to make you have so many different options to compare but we hope this guide helped you a little more make your decision. Here at Xenon Cloud, we found the best solution for us was Amazon SES for the ease of use and customizability. If you need help picking the right provider you can always reach out to our consulting specialist by filling out a support ticket or using the contact form here. Out of all of these solutions, Amazon SES wins the trophy for the best transactional email provider as it allows you to use the platform extremely cheap and allows you to send marketing emails through its platform.

If you want to learn about choosing the best email marketing platforms you can read more about that here.

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