Collecting email addresses and sending newsletters is probably already a part of your online business, but there are other aspects of email that may not come to mind when setting up your e-commerce site. For example, what about the email receipts that get sent to your customer after placing an order or follow up emails based on the products your customers order? What do you need to do to make sure your e-commerce plugin reliably delivers your email receipts?
Your Cart66 account comes with with a professional email service
Before we go into all the details, you can relax knowing that Cart66 comes with a professional transactional email service powered by Mandrill to send all your e-commerce emails like customer receipts and follow up customer emails. So you don’t have to read the rest of this unless you are just curious about why we include this service for your e-commerce store. You can just jump to the end and learn about setting up your SPF and DKIM records.
What’s wrong with the way WordPress sends email?
WordPress does not send email, so none of this is the fault of WordPress. WordPress uses a “mail” function in PHP to send email and that function uses the web server’s open relay mail server. Basically, an open relay mail server is one that will just send mail without having you provide a username or password. The biggest problem with this is that spammers use this to blast out all their unwanted spam emails. In an effort to reduce spam, many email services like Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc. simply reject mail email sent through an open relay mail server. Therefore, you will want to use an SMTP server for sending your emails.
Your own SMTP server vs Professional email services
To cut to the chase, you really don’t want to run your own mail server. Installing and managing spam filters sorting through inbound email and jumping through hoops to get your email server’s IP address recognized as a legitimate address it makes running your own mail server virtually impossible and certainly impractical. It’s just too much work and there are some great, low cost mail services you can use. Look into services like Gmail, Rackspace email, or Fastmail to handle your day to day email needs. Your e-commerce site can be hooked into any of these mail services to dramatically improve the reliability of your outgoing messages.
Transactional email vs Newsletters
There is a difference between sending out newsletters and sending out transactional email messages. Email newsletters go out to (hopefully) large lists of people. Everybody gets basically the same email at the same time. Transactional emails are different. A transactional email message is sent based on a customer doing something – like getting an email receipt, a forgotten password reminder, or an email thanking them for submitting a form on your site. In other words, your customer executes a transaction of some sort and you then send and email to him.
There are several services designed specifically to handle transactional based email. This is the best type of service to use for your e-commerce store since you will be sending transactional emails. Three of the most popular transactional email services are:
All of these services are good, but we have found Mandrill to be the best of the services because Mandrill has:
- Very generous free accounts for sending up to 12,000 emails per month
- Excellent statistics on the performance of your emails
- All features are available to you at every pricing level
Mandrill also has a great WordPress plugin that makes it super easy to start sending your contact forms and any other email by through WordPress with your Mandrill account.
Drip emails based on what products are purchased
Cart66 Cloud also allows you to drip emails to your customers at timed intervals that you specify and based on what products your customers order. For example, if you sell WordPress themes, you might want to set up an automated email that goes out 1 day after the purchase to make sure your customer knows how to access your documentation and support forums, or to see if they have any questions. You might also want to include a coupon for a future purchase in the email.
Another use for dripping emails would be if you wanted to sell an educational course or a series of lessons. A customer buys your product and then once per week they get emailed a lesson. Again, the important thing to realize here is that the schedule that these emails get sent on is based on when the customer makes the purchase – not like a newsletter where everyone gets the same email regardless of when they signed up.
SPF and DKIM records for your domain
This is a generic tip for anybody sending email with your own domain name. Whether you use Cart66 or not, you can improve the speed and reliability (not getting flagged as spam) of your emails if you set up SPF and DKIM records. This does not have anything to do with Cart66 in particular, this is just a tip for improving the delivery of your email in general – even if you are just using Gmail for your domain.
To even further improve your email delivery rates, you can create SPF and DKIM records if you have access to the domain’s DNS settings. This is not required but it is a good idea and pretty easy to do.
When you add a SPF record to your domain, that allows receiving email servers like Fastmail, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, and others, to verify the identity of your emails. This increases the speed of delivery and the chances of a successful delivery (not ending up in the junk mail folder). The SPF record lists Mandrill’s server information to explicitly give Mandrill permission to send mail on your behalf.
The DKIM record allows Mandrill to digitally ‘sign’ emails for your domain. This also improves the speed and reliability of delivering your mail.
To add the SPF and DKIM records for your sending domains, you’ll need to add records of type ‘TXT’ through your hosting provider, domain registrar, or DNS provider. Here are instructions for adding these DNS records for your domain
Here is an example of what your SPF would look like if you use Gmail for your email and also use Cart66 (powered by Mandrill) as an allowed sender.
v=spf1 include:aspmx.googlemail.com include:spf.mandrillapp.com ~all
To enable DKIM, you do pretty much the same thing. Create a TXT record for mandrill._domainkey.1bigidea.com with the following value:
v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIGfMA0GCSqGSIb3DQEBAQUAA4GNADCBiQKBgQCrLHiExVd55zd/IQ/J/mRwSRMAocV/hMB3jXwaHH36d9NaVynQFYV8NaWi69c1veUtRzGt7yAioXqLj7Z4TeEUoOLgrKsn8YnckGs9i3B3tVFB+Ch/4mPhXWiNfNdynHWBcPcbJ8kjEQ2U8y78dHZj1YeRXXVvWob2OaKynO8/lQIDAQAB;
Here is link for more detailed instructions on adding these DNS records for your domain.