bronto esp alternative

When Your ESP Goes Extinct: How to Navigate Life After Bronto

by | Mar 5, 2021

Earlier this week, Oracle Netsuite announced that the Bronto marketing platform was assigned End of Life status. It’s official: Bronto is going the way of the dinosaurs.

I worked at Bronto Software from 2014 to 2017, and it changed the course of my life and my career. Professionally, I consider it the setting where I “grew up.” It was my second sales job and my first brush with marketing technology. On a personal level, Bronto is where I met my now-husband. It’s where I met some of my closest friends. The culture that Joe Colopy and Chaz Felix built was unique – the epitome of the lightning-in-a-bottle that only comes from combining smart, dedicated people, a cool product, and rapidly-growing industry. But — as it goes in life and in the Martech space — all good things must come to an end. 

During my time at Bronto, the company was acquired twice. The first time, it was acquired by Netsuite in 2015. Shortly after, in 2016, Oracle acquired Netsuite. The problem with the latter move was that Oracle already had another ESP in its portfolio, Responsys. Suddenly, Bronto went from being a standalone platform to a small part of a robust product suite. The Oracle  NetSuite corporate image blotted out the beloved little green dinosaur logo. Product updates and enhancements eventually came to a halt. 

Meanwhile, the Martech world kept evolving. And while Bronto was once the cutting edge, the lack of investment in the platform post-acquisition led to its becoming obsolete. Anyone paying attention saw this meteor coming for a while. 

But there’s a bigger story to tell.

The end of Bronto signals a more exensive extinction — that of the traditional ESP.  Back in the cretaceous period (read: early 2000s), email was once the primary communication channel between brands and customers. As more data and new channels became available, and customer experience became just as important as the products you’re offering, email now shares an increasingly crowded stage of communication platforms.

Consumers have also changed. Today’s customers expect brands to know all about their needs, preferences, past interactions, and purchases. In fact, research shows that customers are willing to make a long-term trade of personal privacy in exchange for a short-term benefit or convenience, like more relevant promotions, product recommendations, and online shopping experiences.

The implications of these trends are twofold: First, though email remains the workhorse of the marketing strategy, omnichannel has become more critical. Marketing messages must now be integrated with other end channels like SMS, mobile push, and paid advertising. Second, marketers need to be able to move at a faster pace, which means they need tools that enable them to access and use all customer data to deliver these highly personalized, cross-channel experiences and drive the results businesses need to grow.

The proof of this is in the results. Companies that over-rely on email have already fallen behind those using omnichannel and more data-driven tools. For example, our clients that send automated, personalized abandonment journeys across multiple channels report a 3x higher conversion rate and a 24% increase in open rates than compared to those that send one-off messages.

Similarly, Simon clients have reported a 20x overall increase in conversions, in part due to their ability to quickly build custom micro-targeted segments and launch multi-channel campaigns from a single platform.

This is why systems that enable real omnichannel experiences have been rapidly winning market share. While the email category has continued to grow, the best tools used to send email nowadays don’t only send email.

Recommended Read: What’s possible when you bring data and end-channels into a single place? Read how Equinox’s CRM Director seamlessly scaled up communications and personalization during COVID.  

How to move on from Bronto

Are you a Bronto client that’s now shopping for a new partner? As a Simon employee, I am admittedly biased. However, I do feel passionate about helping frazzled marketers and eCommerce professionals find the right partner and platform that’s going to be able to meet their needs, whether that’s Simon or any other platform.

I’d encourage you to look at Bronto’s end of life as an opportunity to take stock of your marketing program wishlist. This is a chance to rework your marketing stack to set your business up for success as the CX evolution continues. With the rise of the end-to-end experience cloud, heightened customer expectations can now be met with marketers’ ability to access their customer data and use it to build and launch automated, multi-channel, and hyper-personalized campaigns–quickly and at scale. That said, there are some qualities that you should look out for when shopping for your Bronto replacement.

Ease of migration

The timing of Bronto’s ride into the sunset could be problematic, according to digital marketing agency, Tinuiti. “Q4 2021 presents a huge hole and challenge in the middle of the timeline. Brands need to be aware that safely onboarding subscribers to a new ESP could take 4-6 weeks (dependent on list size) and that most development teams have a code-freeze heading into the holidays.” 

Because of this, Tinuiti suggests that you plan your migration to take place between now and September 2021, or January to April 2022. But regardless of when the migration happens, you can’t afford any downtime when switching from Bronto to your new tool. When evaluating marketing technology providers, it’s crucial to understand how they can quickly and efficiently help you move off Bronto and into their platform.

Here are seven questions to ask vendors regarding the migration process:

  1. How long does it typically take new clients to launch initial campaigns? What’s the average time to value?
  2. What services are included during initial setup and implementation?
  3. Is there a dedicated integrations resource or consultant?
  4. Is there any platform training?
  5. What resources or technical support are clients/brands expected to provide during onboarding and migration?
  6. Will there be any lapse in performance?
  7. What is the vendor’s ability to support and run IP warm-up?

Capabilities

It’s no longer enough just to have an email service platform with an intuitive UI and good deliverability. Those are table stakes. Take care to evaluate whether the new platform can support your strategy across channels, now and in the future.

Questions to ask: 

  1. Can the vendor provide an example of a multi-step, multi-channel journey targeting a particular audience segment?
  2. Describe how the rules for a segment are managed in the product. Ask for details about what data can be used to create these rules (transaction data, onsite data, CRM data, customer service information, and campaign/content attributes) and if there are any restrictions.
  3. Are the customer segments dynamic?
  4. Does the platform enable triggered campaigns? (welcome, cart abandonment, back in stock, etc)
  5. Describe the platform’s content personalization capabilities.
  6. Can users build HTML templates?
  7. What are the platform’s experimentation capabilities?
  8. Are users able to easily set up and run A/B and multivariate tests across all channels and journeys? 

Ease of use

In its heyday, Bronto empowered non-technical marketers to create segments, campaigns, and messaging. Your next solution should allow for the same.

Questions to ask: 

  1. Ask the vendor to describe its typical business users.
  2. Do you need to have any technical background to use the platform effectively?
  3. Does the vendor have a WYSIWG email editor?
  4. Can users directly query customer data to define segments through a non-technical UI?
  5. Does the platform provide a non-technical UI to conduct multi-channel journey-based orchestration?

Support

Change is hard. Consider the problems with Bronto’s [lack of] support, and the type of relationship you want from your new technology vendor.

Questions to ask: 

  1. What does the team surrounding the platform look like?
  2. Is the same level of support provided for all clients?
  3. Does the vendor provide any strategic advisory or best practice instruction?
  4. How frequently do clients meet with their customer success manager?
  5. Are there any additional costs associated with support and strategic advisory?
  6. Describe the additional support provided during migration, onboarding, and implementation.
  7. Ask the vendor to detail how they provide ongoing support once implementation is complete. Be sure to ask about details about key contacts, advice about best practice, issue reporting and escalation and notice of product enhancements.
  8. Ask the vendor to describe communication channels that you have access to for support. This can include slack, email, calls, zoom and more.

Integrations

The Martech world will continue to change and grow. As that next new channel or new Martech darling comes on the scene, does the new provider have the capabilities to integrate this into your marketing ecosystem easily?

Questions to ask: 

  1. Does the vendor have the ability to activate data, trigger campaigns, and personalize content in all major end channels (SMS, push, on-site, customer service and advertising channels)
  2. Does the vendor integrate with your data sources, such as customer data warehouses, eCommerce platforms and data management platforms?
  3. Does the vendor integrate with your in-house built solutions such as custom e-commerce platforms or data warehouses?
  4. Can the vendor ingest custom data science models and algorithms?
  5. Does the vendor have two-way integrations with BI tools like Tableau or Looker?

Innovations

Finally, when looking for your Bronto replacement, I’d advise you to find a partner that’s in it for the long haul and actively investing in its platform.

Questions to ask: 

  1. Ask the vendor to share their product roadmap.
  2. What features and innovations differentiate the vendor’s product from competitors?
  3. Ask the vendor to describe the key areas of investment within its product, and how this will enhance its capabilities, and how it will benefit you,
  4. Describe the major developments that the vendor expects to see in the coming years relating to the CDP or ESP space How will its solution be positioned to support these?

I’ve spent nearly a decade listening to marketers try to address the challenge of leveraging all of their customer data to drive personalized, cross-channel experiences in a way that is scalable and drives revenue. And ESP point solutions just aren’t the solution. So while I’m genuinely sad to see a once-great product go extinct, I’m excited for former Bronto clients to have the opportunity to explore marketing solutions that can help them elevate their customer marketing across not just email but SMS, push, web personalization, and direct mail as well.

If you’d like to explore how Simon can help, request a demo today.

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