Comparing E-Commerce ESPs: Which Is Right For You?
Email marketing is a major revenue-driver for e-commerce companies. Not only is it direct, totally controllable, and measurable, but it also boasts an incredible ROI with an average $44.25 return for every $1 spent [Experian].
However, running a successful email marketing campaign does not happen overnight. It takes years to build up a large, engaged email list as well as continuous testing and optimization to determines what resonates best with your audience.
And while there are plenty of factors that come into play and may affect how effective your business’ email marketing efforts are, there is one that can make or break the success of your entire email marketing initiative (no matter how big your list is or how much testing you’ve done): choosing a lousy email marketing service provider, or ESP.
What is an ESP?
No… it’s not the ability to read minds (although very good ESPs sometimes seem like they can). An ESP, or email marketing service provider, is a service that hosts email marketing services on their servers, which are specifically optimized to send a high number of mass emails to subscribers.
As of September 2017, there are 455 email service providers out there - all with a unique offering of features, segmentation abilities, deliverability rates, and more. So, how do you go about sifting through all of these ESPs and determining which one is right for your business?
...You take the easy way out and read this helpful blog post of course! This article will highlight the top e-commerce email service providers and see how they stack up to each other. Let’s dive in!
Founded in 2001 as a side project, MailChimp has grown to be one of the most popular email service providers in the world. It’s easy-to-use interface, drag-and-drop email designer, and easy integration with e-commerce platforms and content management systems has made it a force to be reckoned with in the email service provider industry.
The biggest advantage that MailChimp has to offer is that it offers a variety of very powerful features with an extremely user-friendly interface. From its easy email creator to its seamless integration with WordPress, Magento, Shopify, and more, MailChimp allows marketers to get the job done quickly and easily without any coding or other technical skills.
MailChimp also offers merge tags to personalize emails, autoresponders, segmentation, and even the ability to set up delivery times based on users’ timezones.
MailChimp’s reporting is far superior than other email service providers - even ESPs that cost significantly more and have more powerful segmentation and automation features. You can see individual reports for each email, which includes standard metrics such as click through rates, open rates, revenue generated, and unsubscribes.
However, you can also see other metrics which may be useful to you such as what time emails were opened, demographic data, and more. All email reports are available in a simple, clean dashboard so you can quickly generate insights for use in your next campaign.
MailChimp support is available by email and live chat. So if you prefer to get on the phone and speak with someone, MailChimp may not be for you! However, MailChimp also offers a wealth of knowledge about its platform and email marketing in general with various how-tos, vidoes, and tutorials.
MailChimp is one of the only email service providers to provide a forever free plan, which allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month to a maximum of 2,000 subscribers. This is a great option for small businesses or non-profits with smaller lists.
Paid MailChimp plans start out at $10 per month and can go up to $199 per month depending on how big your email list is.
Drawback: MailChimp uses a two-step opt-in system in order to decrease your bounce rate and keep your list clean. However, this can also prevent your list size from growing as quickly as it could (since people can forget to opt-in a second time).
Founded in 2004 by Ben Richardson and Dave Greiner, Campaign Monitor is one of the most popular email service providers in the world… and for good reason. Featuring rich customer insights and data, top-notch personalization abilities, and great customer service, Campaign Monitor provides marketers with everything they need to run beautiful, professional, and targeted email campaigns.
Where to begin!? When it comes to high-quality, powerful features, Campaign Monitor has it all... and then some! With their easy-to-use drag and drop email builder and their collection of professionally designed templates, designing eye-catching emails that drive revenue has never been easier.
And believe it or not, creating highly segmented and targeted email automations is equally as simple! Using drag and drop visual technology, Campaign Monitor users can build automated customer journeys in order to automatically drive revenue and deliver value in a more personalized way.
Additionally, Campaign Monitor plays nicely with hundreds of other business apps - so you can seamlessly connect your CRM, e-commerce platform, and website for one cohesive online experience.
On their website, Campaign Monitor boasts that their technology is “more than just a tool, it’s a full analytics suite.”
...And they aren’t lying! Campaign Monitor offers powerful insights into individual email campaigns, automation sequences, and more so that you can easily track the performance of your overall email marketing program, draw actionable conclusions, and make any necessary optimizations in order to improve your email strategy.
Campaign Monitor offers 24/7 global customer support via email and various support forums for all customers. However, only Premier customers can speak with a customer service representative via phone. Fortunately, they also provide helpful resources and extensive documentation with step-by-step how to’s that all users can access in case they have a problem.
Campaign Monitor’s most basic plan starts at $9 per month and includes basic email support, all core email marketing features, the insights analytics suite, basic marketing automations, and the ability to send 2,500 emails to 500 people monthly. However, the price can increase drastically based on the size of your list with the basic plan for lists of 50,000 people costing around $299 per month.
Drawback: Campaign Monitor’s key drawback is the fact that it can become quite costly based on the size of your list. This coupled with the fact that you have to pay more for additional features such as phone support may deter some customers from using their platform.
Since it’s humble beginnings in 1999, dotmailer has grown to be the UK’s largest email marketing service provider. And it’s roots extend far beyond the United Kingdom. Some of the largest brands in the world use dotmailer to connect with their customers. These include brands such as Converse, Wine Enthusiast, and 7 for All Mankind.
There are many different features that make dotmailer stand out from the crowd, but there are two that keep customers coming back for more: it’s ease of use and powerful targeting capabilities.
First, let’s talk about ease of use. Practically everything in dotmailer’s platform is easy to use. From their simple drag and drop email designer to the user-friendly and visually-appealing marketing automation builder, dotmailer helps the least tech-savvy marketers to send beautifully designed, highly targeted emails to their lists. Just check it out for yourself! We think you’ll be impressed.
Now onto it’s powerful targeting capabilities. dotmailer uses WebInsight and other tracking tools to allow you to monitor customers’ and prospects’ behavior on your website and on your emails. You can use this data to create smart segments, score your leads, and deliver content based on past order data, browsing history, and more!
Out of all of the email service providers analyzed, I’d have to say that dotmailer has one of the most powerful reporting and analytics dashboards. From real-time reporting that allows you to see important metrics the moment they happen to contact-specific reports that give you insight into individual contacts’ purchase behaviors, dotmailer truly has it all.
One of the most unique features is it’s side-by-side campaign comparison dashboard. This view makes it easy for marketers to draw actionable insights from past emails and make revenue-driving optimizations to future emails. Oh and did I mention that you can filter this dashboard by variable for even more powerful insights?
Each dotmailer customer gets their own dedicated Account Manager who will help onboard them as well as provide any necessary support along the way. However, phone support is only available to those customers using the Professional or Ultimate plans. Fortunately, they do have a vast database of helpful resources for those looking for more help.
dotmailer operates on a sliding scale subscription model and they have three plans available. The Essential Plan starts at $150 per month and includes all basic email marketing features including the automation program builder, advanced reporting, insight data, landing pages, surveys and forms, transactional email capabilities, and external dynamic content.
The Professional Plan is the most popular plan and includes everything that the Essential Plan offers plus web behavior tracking, advanced personalization, and unlimited phone support. This plan starts at $400 per month.
The Ultimate Plan starts at $600 per month and includes everything that the Essential and Professional Plans offer plus lead scoring and channel extensions for an even more powerful email program.
*Each of these plans pricing varies based on the size of your email list.
Drawback: Many current customers complain about their customer support as well as dotmailer’s ability to integrate with other business apps online.
I could go on and on explaining the pros and cons of various email service providers. However, these made the top three on my list after doing some extensive research. There are plenty of ESPs out there that I have yet to explore (Klaviyo is next on my list!) so who knows? This list may need updating soon…
What are your thoughts? Which email service provider is your favorite? Share in the comments below!