11 december 2020 - last updated 14 februari 2022 - klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie
For the past 3 years, Inventory Alarm has been sending emails via SendGrid, mostly with good results. Since the beginning of October Inventory Alarm has started to switch to Rapidmail for sending transactional e-mail. The reason for this is the desire to process personal data in the EU and not in the US. And as it turns out, Rapidmail has a better delivery rate as well!
This delivery rate is from the first week that we used Rapidmail for a selection of our Lightspeed eCom customers. Later in this blog you can read more about it.
In terms of functionality, SendGrid is a solid product for transactional email. It has almost everything you need in terms of features. It is also competitively priced. When we were looking for a transactional email provider in 2017, SendGrid was the industry standard, an obvious choice.
I did notice that with SendGrid’s shared IP addresses the delivery percentages have fluctuated a bit lately. This can be solved with your own IP address at SendGrid, although there are still a few things to take into consideration (such as “warming up” the IP address).
In an earlier blog post I already wrote about the EU-US privacy shield that was declared invalid on July 16, 2020.
In terms of technology, features, support and much more, US based services have a fantastic offering and I have a lot of experience with them. Nevertheless, in view of these kinds of legal developments, it is (unfortunately) wise to take a closer look at this and to investigate whether there are no alternatives where you can be more sure that no GDPR rules are being violated.
If you set aside a moral and/or practical judgment about how bad or likely it is that US intelligence services would snoop around in your customer data, the legal GDPR reality remains that you as an entrepreneur have to do something with.
Since SendGrid is an American company, and it has no European servers, I asked SendGrid support at the end of July for their position on this issue. There was no up-to-date information about it on their site.
SendGrid’s position is: it has no impact on SendGrid as they not only store data in the US based on the privacy shield, but also based on EU approved Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs).
Now I’m not a lawyer, but if you read some marketing - and legal blogs about this, you soon realise that those SCCs are not a real solution: “For example, an organization must determine whether the legislation in the receiving country, in this case the United States, leads in practice to conflict with the safeguards from the GDPR and whether additional measures can be taken to adequately protect personal data.”
And that legislation in the US is precisely the problem: FISA 702. So the question is, as long as this law is in place, whether a party like SendGrid can promise and fulfill “appropriate safeguards”, as long as US legislation can overrule this. So this is a gray area, at best.
Most of Inventory Alarm’s customers are located in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
As described in the privacy statement and the aforementioned blog post: the e-mail addresses of Inventory Alarm subscriptions are stored in a database that is hosted in a data center in the Netherlands (Amsterdam) where all data is encrypted for storage as well.
However, as soon as an e-mail is sent to an e-mail address that an item is back in stock, Inventory Alarm used SendGrid to deliver the e-mail, and SendGrid processes the e-mail address and corresponding e-mail content.
SendGrid support was also clear: they have no plans to place servers in the EU.
Based on the advice and step-by-step plan of the Dutch Data Driven Marketing Association, it was decided to switch to a 100% European alternative. With this, we stay on the safe side, and Inventory Alarm is ready for the future.
Now you can of course think: can’t we just wait for some sort of renewed version of the Privacy Shield, the Internet is worldwide, right? Personally, I’d rather think: if I don’t have to send the data of my customers (and their website visitors) to the US, then that would be my preference. You can also think: well, before privacy authorities come to us, they will probably first look at compliance of larger organizations. As a software company that handles many email addresses, I think Inventory Alarm has a responsibility to do this the right way. And, it is also nice to be able to honestly say to your (potential) customers: we have this covered!
The question then is: which European alternative are we going to use? I’ve researched a few, with help from this handy list:
Sendinblue is a French company as well, with servers in France. Sendinblue, like Mailjet, offers both email marketing and transactional email. This is a 100% European supplier. However, the possibilities were somewhat less extensive than those of the other alternatives studied.
Flowmailer is Dutch, with servers in the Netherlands. It offers everything you need for transactional email and is clearly a premium product, which you can see in the features, API, support and effort put into on-boarding new customers. The hefty price is also there, but it can certainly be worth it. Flowmailer does not offer e-mail marketing (newsletter) functions, it is purely focused on transactional e-mail, but very extensive. A very good candidate. Bonus points for the energy they put into privacy awareness.
Finally I tested Rapidmail. Rapidmail is a German company with servers in Germany and a large number of positive reviews on Trustpilot, among others. Rapidmail offers both transactional email and email marketing.
They also make privacy within the EU a main priority.
In addition, Rapidmail is certified with a number of email whitelisting organizations, which means that they are doing very well in terms of spam prevention and delivery rate. Perhaps also because German providers such as web.de, gmx.de are known for their strict spam filters. And indeed, after a few weeks of testing, it was seen that the delivery percentage is very good, better than SendGrid (with SendGrid this can probably be solved for a large part with your own IP address).
The support from Rapidmail is also fast and it is clear that they know what they are talking about. For example, together with support, I figured out how you can realize a 99 +% delivery in terms of email headers and other settings, for email addresses of web.de, gmx.de and gmx.at, among others.
A number of customers have already switched to Rapidmail, in the meantime all Inventory Alarm customers who still used SendGrid have received an email with the invitation and clear instructions to switch to Rapidmail (of course at no extra cost).
This delivery percentage is from the first week that we used Rapidmail for a selection of customers:
99.73% was delivered, so 0.27% of the e-mail could not be delivered, and that was mostly because the receiving mailbox did not exist (anymore), or was full. A good reminder that we have to check whether the email address exists prior to sending an email.
After 2 months of using Rapidmail, the 7-day delivery rate has not dropped below 99.50%, with peaks at 99.91%. At SendGrid, the delivery percentage varies between 93% and 95%.
In addition, Rapidmail also has e-mail marketing features such as extensive newsletter functionality including tags and segments. Rapidmail has many options for configuring and designing things, and a simple “drip” marketing automation function.
It has a higher price point than SendGrid, but in my opinion offers a lot of added value.
Since I was also looking for good and privacy-friendly newsletter software, and this is also included in the product, the choice was made.
Rapidmail is therefore a good match for Inventory Alarm.
All webshops that became customers of Inventory Alarm after October 10, 2020 already use Rapidmail to send back-in-stock emails. In addition, a selection of customers was approached in October and November to try out Rapidmail for their accounts. The other customers will soon receive email about setting up Rapidmail as a mail server. Fortunately, this is quite easy.
If you did not previously set up SPF and DKIM in your domain DNS for SendGrid and Inventory Alarm, then you will see the instructions for Rapidmail at the bottom of the overview page in the Inventory Alarm dashboard. Have you previously set up your DNS for SendGrid? Then you will soon receive an email with instructions on how to easily arrange this for Rapidmail.
I think Flowmailer and Rapidmail are two good examples of Cloud service companies from the EU that offer a good product that is privacy-friendly.
If you want to try out Rapidmail for your own e-mail marketing: if you use this link you will get 25 euro free Rapidmail e-mail credits!
Spotify’s CEO, Swede Daniel Ek, has indicated to invest EUR 1 billion of his own money in European tech companies over the next 10 years. An interesting development.