An email parser is a service or software program that extracts relevant data from emails and condenses it into a structured form.
Why do you need one, you might ask?
Well, since emails are the most common medium for transferring information in the 21st century, most people are flooded with email messages daily.
And with all the messages they’re getting, it becomes almost impossible for them to comb through each email to extract and structure the data they need from the messages.
This results in them spending hours just extracting and formatting data from the messages they received — hours that they should be using to grow their business.
Why is email parsing important?
Email parsers can take pertinent details from an email message such as the sender’s email address, name, and phone number (among other things). It can then directly export the information to a CRM system automatically.
Imagine a fairly large travel agency getting droves of emails/inquiry (daily) about their rates and packages.
If someone from the agency were to manually comb through each email to find the pertinent details and sort all the data out, it’d take days (or weeks) to complete the job — that, right there, is wasted manpower.
If the company were to use an email parsing software, however, they’d no longer need to assign someone to do the sifting and sorting for them — the email parsing software will do it for them automatically.
In other words, whether the company receives 3 or 300 inquiries via email daily, the travel company doesn’t need to exert extra effort to keep up with the increasing workload. That exemplifies one of the biggest benefits of an email parser software for scaling businesses.
Can you give me a few more use-cases or examples of email parsing?
Many companies receive purchase orders and invoices, which really belong in their accounting systems like Xero or MYOB.
An email parser can be used to extract the relevant data fields (e.g., Purchase date) from these emails.
More advanced parsers such as Parserr, allow users to extract information from tables, email attachments and even stripped HTML text.
Here are a few more examples of how Parserr can and should be used:
1. Automating order fulfillment in e-commerce
2. Recording invoice data from services like PayPal, AdWords, and so on.
3. Capturing the contact and personal information of real estate leads
4. Parsing vital data from automated PDF reports from third-party tools
5. Consolidating pertinent data obtained through web forms and direct
6. Monitor lead activity through social media notifications for scoring/segmentation
What can you do with extracted data?
Once email data is parsed and exported into structured data, it is made available in a useful format such as CSV, XML, JSON for download.
It can also automatically be forwarded to third-party apps such as Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Office 365, and MailChimp.
Is email parsing like web scraping?
Yes, email parsing is very similar to scraping the web for data. But instead of extracting data from HTML websites, it allows you scrape data from emails.
How do email parsing tools work?
Most email parsers allow you to either pull specific messages directly from your mailbox or forward them to the designated email address of your parsing account.
Once the emails are available to the parser, a parsing algorithm will extract the data fields you are after from the email.
Most email parsers are rule-based and will allow you to configure custom parsing rules.
Creating a parsing rule is usually straightforward and can be done without ever writing a single line of code.
Watch Email Parsing at Work
Now that we’ve covered the basics of email parsing, it’s time for a firsthand look at how it can be done.
Configuring an email parser software to process the exact data you need may seem intimidating, but with a tool like Parserr, the process is made as intuitive and manageable as possible.
Using the visual parsing rules management tool, you start by selecting the email component or “attribute” where Parserr should look for data. This could be the email’s subject line, sender’s address, recipients, message body, and attachments.
Remember, different email attributes contain specific information that suits different objectives.
For example, if you want to capture leads for your email marketing campaign, you need to choose the “From” email attribute. This automatically extracts the email address of the email’s sender,
After making a selection, Parserr immediately generates a live preview based on a “test email,” which you’ll send to your parsing account address during the initial setup process.
Take note that you can also relaunch the setup in case you want to use a different test email for creating new rules. To do this, navigate to the “Rules” tab and then click “Try Quick Setup.”
To check the preview of the parsed data, look for the “Initial data” field.
If you chose to extract the email’s body, the initial data might look something like:
Of course, parsing the email content as is won’t do much good. That’s why you need to refine the data with the help of various parsing filters.
Using Parserr Filters
To add filters to your parsing rule, simply click on the green “plus” button right below the initial data field. This will bring up a small pop-up window where you can browse the different rule categories.
Here is a quick breakdown of the top five Parserr rule categories that you’re most likely to use:
1. Find Content You Need
An email parser’s main purpose is to comb through an entire email for specific pieces of information — it only makes sense for you to start with the “Find content you need” rule category.
This filter will allow you to find lines that contain a keyword or phrase, URLs, email addresses, U.S. phone numbers, and more. Some options require you to configure the rule first in order to work as you intended.
2. Search & Replace
As the name suggests, the “Search & Replace” rule scans the email attribute for an exact string of text and then replaces it with something else. It’s commonly used to remove unnecessary text, especially after using the “Find content you need” rule.
To set up a “Search & Replace” rule, specify the text you want to search for and then enter the replacement in the “replace with” field. Leave this blank if you simply want to delete the searched text.
3. Remove Unwanted Content
If your sole purpose is to shave off certain elements of an email message, then you should opt for the “Remove Unwanted Content” rule category. Just remember that it can only remove lines, line breaks, and link URLs.
There’s very little input required to complete this step. After selecting the specific email component you want to remove, it’s a done and done.
If you need to extract data from attachments, then you need to use the “Files” rule category. Parserr will then provide you with the appropriate tool to clip off the area of the document where you want to extract data.
For example, the “PDF Extraction” tool lets you directly highlight and extract a specific area of any PDF document.
5. Use a Regex
Short for “Regular Expressions,” a “regex” allows you to extract information using tokens, which are strings of text that pertain to different types of data.
While using regular expressions has a fairly steep learning curve, it’s a handy way of quickly obtaining specific information. You can start learning about them on this website.
Using Your Parsed Data
When it comes to email parsers, extracting data is only one side of the coin.
An email parser software must also help you use the information you collect from your emails.
In Parserr, you can easily export your parsed data through the “Export” tab where you are given the option to choose the desired format:
Using Zapier, however, is perhaps the most reasonable route since it allows you to connect Parserr data with over 1,000 web-based services — from CRM platforms to email marketing tools.
Some of the most useful Zapier integration workflows or “Zaps” come pre-built for your convenience. All you need to do is click “Use this Zap” and supply the necessary credentials and permissions.
For example, if you want to send your lead data to MailChimp, you simply need to activate the following Zap:
To learn more about Zapier integrations and how to create custom workflows, refer to this post.
Email parsing is a great way to ease some of the growing pains of a budding business. It enables them to pool their time, energy, and focus on more meaningful tasks as their data collection efforts work in the background.
If you’re interested in taking the next step, don’t hesitate to start your free account today. Good luck and happy parsing!