Email campaigns are one of the best marketing tools available to any business. According to a study by the Radicati Group, there are nearly 3.7 billion users projected to exist at the end of 2017. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 203.8 million adult email users. That is a lot of opportunities to make a connection and an eventual conversion with a potential customer.
Of course, when you design your email campaign, you should find a specialized service to handle the actual mailings. These email platforms are specifically designed to handle mass mailings, saving you the expense of hiring someone whose only job would be sending email to your list. Knowing which platform is best for you is important, however. After all, value isn’t just about cost. An inexpensive platform may not have all of the bells and whistles you need; at the same time, you shouldn’t have to pay for perks and things that you aren’t going to use.
Here’s a brief look at the top five email platforms for e-Commerce and how they rate in terms of price, services offered, and how they can benefit you as a marketing director for your e-Commerce company.
MailChimp is one of the oldest email platforms. The company was originally created as a small side project but now sends out over 600 million emails per day. When it comes to pricing, MailChimp stands out from the competition. That’s because they are the only one of these to offer a fully free tier.
MailChimp offers two tiers with an add-on available that lets you really dig into your email campaigns. The Forever Free plan, however, is great for people who are just starting out. This plan lets you send up to 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 recipients. So if you have a relatively small mass-mailing list, this can let you discover what email campaigns can do for you. If you have more subscribers than that or you need to send more emails, pricing starts at $10 per month.
Keep in mind that the free plan is extremely bare bones with little to no access to any reports or testing features.
The add-on available is the Pro Marketer addition. This upgrade to the unlimited email package allows you to create email campaigns that have much more reach and depth than standard one-shot email. You can create emails that fire on nested triggers with combinatorial conditions. For example, you can create an email that fires when a customer makes a purchase, and a separate email if the order is over a certain amount. Combine these triggers with the built-in autoresponders and you’re maximizing your click-through rate.
MailChimp is also extremely flexible, allowing you to import your mailing list from a variety of places, whether it’s a contact list from Google or Apple, or a csv file.
A huge part of any email platform is how easy it is to see how well your campaigns are doing. After all, if you send a thousand emails and nobody clicks them, did you really send any at all? MailChimp gives you more than just the statistics of open and click-through rates. You also get performance over time reports to let you know which campaigns are working well and which are not.
MailChimp also gives you tremendous flexibility when it comes to designing your email. Not only are there quite a few completely customizable templates, you can also design your own using HTML.
MailChimp is also able to integrate with Facebook Ads, allowing you to target your PPC campaigns there with the segments you’ve already set up.
The only part of MailChimp that is a little lacking is their technical support. However, they do have a live chat with support specialists from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, email support, and a huge database of self-help articles. Keep in mind that the live chat and email are only available to customers with a paid tier.
Klaviyo is a great email platform that also serves additional functions, such as creating customer service solutions via a helpdesk and taking payments. As an email platform, however, Klaviyo is extremely competitive.
Pricing is a little higher than other platforms, starting at $25 per month for unlimited emails to up to 500 subscribers and going up as your subscriber base expands. At higher tiers, you are also assigned a personal account manager to assist you with your campaigns. Klaviyo also has a free tier, but it’s limited to 250 contacts and 500 emails per month. As part of the free tier, you have to have Klaviyo branding on your emails as well.
One of the best parts about Klaviyo is its one-step integration with Shopify. That makes it extremely attractive for businesses that are already using the Shopify platform. Data pulled from Shopify’s intense analytics are cross-loaded into Klaviyo, saving valuable time and effort.
Once the data is there, Klaviyo has built-in sequences or “flows” that target specific segments, such as abandoned shopping carts, welcome emails, birthday coupons, and others. These flows are designed to save you and your marketing team a lot of work.
You can also use Klaviyo’s segmentation to target specific audiences for Facebook PPC ad campaigns, letting you leverage more bang for your buck. For added value, Klaviyo is also able to integrate with Amazon Seller accounts in the United States (there is no integration for overseas Amazon platforms yet).
Klaviyo’s customer service and support offers live chat from 9 am to 5 pm EST on Mondays through Fridays. This is only available to paying customers, however. They also have email support, which usually generates a response within one business day. Their customer support team also has an extensive database of support articles and live demo videos. They also hold live chats, where users can participate in a Q&A about the features being demonstrated.
If you’re on Shopify or Amazon, then Klaviyo is going to make your email and ad campaigns much easier. If you don’t use them, you might have more difficulty eking out Klaviyo’s full functionality.
This email platform has grown since its inception in 2003 and looks to offer more than just email automation. ActiveCampaign has four different tiers of service depending on your needs: Lite, Plus, Professional, and Enterprise.
The Lite service is designed for sending email and newsletters but has no data integration. Plus offers more customer service integration as well as introduces SMS marketing. Professional and Enterprise both offer a much more in-depth level of service; however, Enterprise comes with a dedicated account specialist to help you.
Pricing for ActiveCampaign starts at $15 per month for up to 500 contacts on the Lite service and goes up to $459 per month for 100,000 subscribers. By comparison, for up to 500 contacts, the Plus tier is $70, Professional is $159, and Enterprise is $279. They do offer a deep discount for annual prepaid billing instead of monthly billing, and this can cut up to 40% off your bill depending on the tier and number of contacts.
ActiveCampaign supports a wide range of features that have become expected. A/B split testing, as well as active segmentation. The templates available are all fully HTML customizable and also allow you to use a drag and drop function if you aren’t familiar with code.
Unfortunately, the reports that ActiveCampaign provides aren’t that great at providing at-a-glance information. Everything that you expect is in there; it just requires some clicking and drilling down to get to it. If you’re looking for something that you can review at a glance, you’ll need someone who can create those infographics for you. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but something to be aware of.
Support is very helpful. ActiveCampaign offers one-on-one training that allows a support specialist to walk you through the available features. Additionally, if you’re located in Chicago in the United States, you can get in-person training as well. There are weekly live sessions to demonstrate features with a Q&A session afterward, and the support articles are exceptionally helpful if you’re migrating from MailChimp or Hubspot.
ActiveCampaign also features integration with Shopify and WordPress, although not quite as easily and robustly as Klaviyo. Active Campaign also has phone support, but that is limited to its Enterprise customers. Others get email and live chat support.
Much like ActiveCampaign, this email platform has begun to stretch its legs and branch out into other avenues, seeking to become an all-in-one marketing solution. This includes creating webinar hosting, creating landing pages for email click-throughs, and some rudimentary customer service functions.
GetResponse is similar to ActiveCampaign in how they set their pricing. Not only is the price based on the number of subscribers that you have, you are also charged according to the tier of service: Email, Pro, or Max. For example, with fewer than 1000 recipients, the three pricing tiers are $15, $49, and $165, respectively. For high volume clients with over 100,000 subscribers, there is the Enterprise plan that starts at $1199.
GetResponse offers a discount for prepaying 1 or 2 years in advance. This generous discount pegs in at 18% and 30% respectively.
There is a 30-day free trial, but that is limited to 1000 subscribers, but doesn’t require any credit card information, so you won’t be charged at the end of the trial if you forget about it.
If you’re just looking for diverse email functionality, then the email tier will serve you well. With that, you get access to the standard slate of tools that you’ll need. These include importing your database, segmentation options, split (A/B) testing for your email campaigns, and a large library of customizable templates.
The only downside to the email tier is that you are capped at one user. That means your email campaigns are tied to one account. With the upper tiers, you can have 3, 5, or 10 users on your account.
If you’re looking to use GetResponse for something more, the upper tiers introduce landing pages with split testing and webinars.
GetResponse’s analytics are very easy to read, with brightly colored graphs and pie charts that allow at-a-glance looks into the important numbers you want. Open rate, click-through, and unsubscribe and bounce rates are all there, with the option to drill down as deep as you need to.
Support for GetResponse has flagged in the past year. They no longer have phone support, instead opting to discontinue it in favor of 24/7 live chat or email support. To be fair, the live chat is available at all times, and is virtually identical to phone support, but allows for better communication.
Founded in 1998, AWeber was created by Tom Kulzer, who created the software while working in sales at a hardware company. His automated system allowed him to check in and follow-up with his customers, dramatically increasing his sales.
As an email platform, AWeber has pricing that runs at about the middle of the pack. While there is no free tier, the pricing matches roughly what the other four have, with a slightly better value if you’re willing to prepay for a year. The company offers a 14% discount if you prepay quarterly and a 14.9% discount for subscribing to their annual plan.
Importing your email list into AWeber is simple; if your data is in an Excel file or set as a tab or comma separated file (TSV, CSV) or as plain text, it’s a simple matter to import. You can also import your data manually. AWeber also allows you to add your imported data to preset groups of auto responding emails, which saves you time.
While AWeber’s templates may not be completely compatible with all the latest bells and whistles for HTML – such as web fonts – there are over 700 different ones to choose from. Some of them are a little dated, but with tweaking, there’s something for nearly everyone.
Additionally, they also offer the standard RSS to Email feed, allowing you to automatically create an email update from your latest blog.
Reports generated by AWeber are the usual analytics that help you see how well your email campaigns are doing. Among the types of reports you can generate are
- open and click through response rates
- geographic locations for open rates
- response and growth over time
- individual history to see what campaigns are generating response from segments
One area where AWeber stands out is in their customer service. They also have email and chat support, but they also offer live phone support. This easy accessibility to their customer service is good for those who are new to creating email campaigns.