What is an email service provider?
That seems like a simple question, but it’s not—at least certainly not anymore. The meaning of the term “email service provider,” or “ESP” for short, has evolved along with the email marketing industry.
A decade or so ago, most ESPs were standalone services that largely did one thing: send email. Pricing was almost entirely done on a CPM model of the cost per thousand emails sent. Back then, people distinguished between mail transfer agents (MTAs), which were the back-end engines that actually sent the email, and ESPs, which were the front-end user interfaces that provided marketer-friendly tools to load lists, set up templates, and ultimately press send.
Flash forward… There’s been roughly $10 billion in mergers and acquisitions in the ESP industry, as we note in Litmus’ first-ever State of Email Service Providers report. While there are still many standalone email service providers, lots of ESP functionality now resides within customer relationship management (CRM) systems. As the name implies, CRMs manage the entirety of a customer relationship, including communications via email and other channels.
And then things got even more complicated…