- Easy to learn
- SMS texting
- A/B testing across variant media types
- No journey mapping
- Limited automation tools
- Expensive as a standalone SaaS experience
Zendesk Connect is the help desk software giant’s proprietary email marketing platform. Built into the newly created CRM ecosystems Zendesk released in late 2018, Connect serves as a fundamental and straightforward marketing platform. Nevertheless, the platform has its limitations and falls short as an actionable enterprise solution.
Connect: WYSIWYG standout
Zendesk Connect works like any email service provider (ESP) or digital marketing automation platforms such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Given the similarities to other platforms, Connect is ultimately a solution for those who currently subscribe to Zendesk’s other suites of software. But, for new users and beginners to digital marketing automation, Connect is a straightforward tool to pick up and access.
Connect is a browser-based desktop platform featuring WYSIWYG visual editors for emails, web alerts, and other media. These visual editors feature a drag-and-drop style, rich text editors, blocks for different types of media like GIFs and solid-state images, and general content creation features. Users who have the knowledge or talent on their team can also open up an iFrame and code their emails, web alerts, and other digital assets in HTML5. Keep in mind though, the visual editors are “pop-ups” and are pasted into layover iFrames and feature minimal editing space. Like Mailchimp, Connect is a viable option for simple, do-it-yourself work.
Ease of use and user experience
As mentioned above, Zendesk Connect is easy to use. Users can quickly create accounts with necessary log-in information fields, or they can opt for connecting their Gmail account and Google Cloud. Upon the first launch, the platform offers a step-by-step tutorial and assisted in-platform guide that helps teach users navigation, the nature of the platform’s clicks, and so much more. During our demo, we quickly developed an understanding of this platform. We skipped the tutorial and assisted platform guides and dove right into making a single broadcast email in the visual editor. After finding our way through the simplistic sidebar, the platform began to come together. List manipulation and creating new campaigns also was easy. By just the click of a few buttons, we created digital campaigns that featured email, web alert, and web-hook variants.
Connect also has a plethora of support behind it. According to the majority of users on G2 Crowd and Capterra, Zendesk’s in-platform support is well liked and usable. But, the real highlights, according to user reviews, are the knowledge bases and user communities. Connect has a very well laid out and designed user knowledge base that can be accessed from the platform.
Top-notch A/B testing
One feature that sets Connect apart from the likes of MailChimp is the A/B testing. Users can create several types of media and variants and test each asset against social media and email list imports. Once users create a new campaign, they can produce various emails with built-in web alert triggers or limited automation. The A/B testing is very versatile and can prove useful for dynamic campaigns that require segmentation, regionalization, and targeted style and content designs.
Texting through Connect
Another highlight for Connect is its SMS texting features. They are easy to lose and can be deployed along with the other media types and web assets in any given campaign. Like the HTML assets, the SMS texts can be edited and designed, A/B tested, segmented, regionalized, targeted, and so on. Connect’s SMS platform emulates Constant Contact’s version.
Automation? No thank you.
Though users can create emails and web assets built on triggers, the extent of the automation capabilities in-platform is minimal. Unlike other enterprise marketing software such as Salesforce Pardot or Oracle Eloqua, Zendesk’s flagship ESP doesn’t feature journey mapping or deep automation capabilities. Due to this lack of tooling, Connect is held back and is indeed only a glorified MailChimp or Constant Contact. We find it troubling that Zendesk, a company that has the caliber of being an aggressive competitor to Salesforce, Microsoft (creators of Dynamics 365), and Hubspot, scrimp on building a full marketing automation experience.
The biggest demerit for Zendesk Connect is the price. As a standalone product, Connect starts at $153 per month for 2,000 subscribers. From there, the pricing is based on a “sliding” structure. The more email subscribers, the higher the price. For marketers who intend to send to 50,000 subscribers, for example, the price jumps to $918 per month. There are additional fees for SMS texting delivery and certain email types.
With this pricing structure, Connect is not a viable standalone platform. Granted, every user is allowed full platform access at all subscription levels. But, given the lack of actionable automation features, users ultimately are purchasing a very expensive MailChimp. We do recommend, however, that users look at Connect from the bundling perspective. Zendesk has very affordable bundle subscriptions and offers custom pricing for enterprises and nonprofits. For small campaigns, ActiveCampaign, Drip, Campaign Monitor, or one of the “Salesforce alternatives” (e.g., Zoho, etc.) would be more affordable options with better feature sets and platform tooling.
What we think
Connect is a great tool to use and has a lot to offer for A/B testing and essential email marketing. Though it lacks the enterprise-level automation and journey mapping features one would expect from a company like Zendesk, the tool has proven to be easy to learn, widely accessible to new users, and useful in its own right. But be warned, small organizations should look elsewhere if considering Connect as a marketing software-as-a-service (SaaS). Between the high price and the limited features, small organizations could have better return on investment if they employ cheaper platforms with far more elements.
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