The Best Email Marketing Service Providers for Ecommerce
Email has certainly evolved over time, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that it is the core of every Ecommerce business.
From basic newsletter blasting and automations to more advanced AI-powered marketing and personalization, email marketing is the central channel.
By 2022 over 347.3 billion daily emails will be sent per day throughout the world [Statista, 2020]. Email also continues to have a massive return on investment, where $1 spent on email marketing can generate an average return of $42 [DMA, 2019].
It’s no surprise that with email marketing on the rise, dozens of Email Service Providers (ESP) have sprung up to serve the market needs, typically with a unique differentiator.
The one thing that I think is most important for you, is that it was built with Ecommerce in mind, because that makes your automations and campaigns that much more powerful, and easy to implement.
And, to add to the convolution of the industry, it's worth mentioning there are other types of tools, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRMs) and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) that may encompass email marketing in their tools.
As a store owner, your time and resources are limited. And choosing the right email marketing provider is a big decision. You should expect to dedicate at least 5 hours to researching, vetting, demo’ing, and selecting the right provider for you. And I’ve seen this go up to 40+ hours of time for larger Ecommerce merchants.
To help cut down that time, and get you closer to the end goal - making money with email marketing - we’re sharing our list of best email marketing service providers specifically for Ecommerce businesses.
Starting store vs Mid-Market vs Enterprise
We breakdown better fit solutions based on the size of your store from a revenue standpoint, as your revenue will indicate about how many contacts you have, and how many hours of resource time you can dedicate to the tool.
Your needs change as you grow… Whether you’re a brand new store - sub $1 mil revenue, in growth mode, mid-market ($5-$100 mil), or enterprise level.
A few key differences I’ve noticed are:
- Small stores just need anything and they need it for cheap.
- Mid-stage stores are looking more towards optimization, squeezing the juice from their more successful campaigns, growing the list, and keeping engagement high. Often they benefit from native integrations, such as with loyalty tools or other channel tools (SMS, Messenger, etc.)
- Enterprise stores typically need integrations, the data needs to be piped into lots of places, their working on segmenting users and really want to use the CRM or CDP aspects to the fullest - meaning they want to analyze their customers and use the strength of a large list to segment, automate, and send. Smart segments and Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning (AI/ML) become important here.
At all stages of your store, the bottom line with email is revenue, whether that is in the form of increasing:
- Average order value (AOV)
- Lifetime value (LTV)
- Or conversion rate
CRM vs. CDP vs. ESP: Which is What?
With so many different tools (and acronyms), choosing one can be a daunting and difficult task.
Although each platform offers different functionalities, the main goal is to choose one that integrates seamlessly with your Ecommerce platform to pull metrics such as purchase data, customer tags, as well as shopping behavior. These metrics provide valuable insight to your business at large and will ultimately determine the performance and growth of your email marketing campaigns.
Let’s briefly explore the difference between these three technologies.
What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
A CRM is used to track new leads, sales, manage contacts, and support and sales teams. By effectively managing all communication and interactions with customers and potential customers throughout their life cycle, businesses are able to streamline their processes, as well as improve profitability.
The real value in a CRM is in the flexibility of the data you can bring in for each contact. CRMs make it easier to manipulate customer data, create automations and segments, and view customer journey’s.
In all honesty, most ESPs are CRMs at some level, since you can see the email address and some basic customer information. You could even say that Shopify has a CRM in their “customers” tab in the backend. But you’ll notice limitations with the simpler ESPs at some point and will generally want to sacrifice some ease of use for customization, as you grow.
What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?
A CDP creates unified customer profiles with data gathered across online and offline channels. By collecting primary data, they can streamline customer experiences and messaging across platforms, as well as understand customer behavior.
The main difference here is that this may be used across product and marketing, and typically requires a network of integrations and possibly manual APIs.
Put more simply, you could say a CDP is a more advanced CRM, but is typically removed from the act of marketing - taking action with the information.
CDPs are more commonly used by enterprise retail and Ecommerce businesses because their capabilities of gathering consumer data points across multiple channels / sources helps unify what is often a fragmented view of the customer profile. However, a CDP does not convert this data automatically into marketing campaigns.
What is an Email Service Provider (ESP)?
An ESP creates marketing campaigns in the forms of emails. These providers offer email design tools for newsletters and automations, as well as segmentation, personalization, triggers, email optimization tools and more.
Although CRMs and CDPs are nice-to-haves for exploring customer touchpoints, they are not needed for every Ecommerce business. But you absolutely must have an ESP that sends emails, as well as starts the most basic version of your CRM by collecting and storing customer data.
We divided this article into 4 sections based on stage of your store:
- Small Ecommerce Stores
- Growth Stage Ecommerce Stores
- Mid-Market and Enterprise Ecommerce Stores
- Abandoned Cart and Retention Related Tools
The Best Email Service Providers for Small Ecommerce Stores
So you’ve just started out, maybe you are on Shopify, and you’re looking for something that does the trick, but will keep your app costs relatively low.
As a small business, you’re going to need a tool that provides contact management, a strong email editor and automated email responders to keep in touch with your growing database.
Although there are dozens of ESPs for startups and small businesses, we wanted to focus on four that also excelled at providing:
- An easy interface for first time users or novice players
- Pre-built templates and campaigns geared towards Ecommerce
- Ex. Abandon cart sequence
- Seamless integration with your Ecommerce platform
I’m sure you have too many things to do and not enough time. Between wearing the email marketing hat, you’re also juggling logistics, customer service, and supply chain management.
Opting for a tool that can be easily set up within a few hours with as little distraction as possible will be key here.
Let’s take a look at four starting tools that will save you time and come in at the low end of the market ( keeping your costs low):
And I do also believe many of the tools in the “scale” section, a little bit lower, could be a great fit for you too. They are simply in a different section because they offer a bit more “upper mobility” than these three.
In-App Email Marketing Platform
As a small business, you might not have time or the patience to log in into various apps and keep multiple passwords. Seguno is made with the simple small business in mind, but also has a good deal of automation components, and dynamic discount codes. If you need basic functionality and don’t have the time to invest heavily in email, this may be a good fit.
- Built directly into the Shopify app and can be managed from desktop or mobile
- One-click automations
- Unique coupon codes
- Basic segmentation and reporting
Seguno is free for businesses who have 250 or less subscribers, while its month-to-month plan begins at $10USD per month for up to 1000 subscribers. Offers billing through Shopify.
All-in-One Marketing Platform
As a leader in the email marketing provider market, Mailchimp was once the most popular app for email marketing.
In March 2019, Mailchimp announced that it had removed its Mailchimp for Shopify integration from Shopify’s marketplace. With hundreds of Shopify users already using the app, many began migrating their lists to alternative providers. Others relied on third-party apps like Zapier, Automate.io and ShopSync to link both apps together.
Mailchimp continues to be a contender for the Ecommerce community including Shopify for a variety of reasons.
- Flexible template library
- User-friendly drag and drop builder
- Advanced reporting and analytics
- Small business marketing tools like snail postcards, landing pages, and social media advertising.
Opting for a tool that provides an all-in-one marketing platform can lend small businesses the opportunity to grow regardless of their resources or budget.
Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 contacts and includes segmentation, behavioral retargeting, as well as 7 different marketing channels like Facebook and Instagram advertising, postcards, social posting and more.
For a detailed explanation, check out this extremely detailed article from SendX called "MailChimp Pricing".
Automated Platform Based on Real-Time Data
For more advanced segmentation and personalization, Sendlane can allow you to keep tabs on your entire customer’s journey.
- Beacon: Integrated website and event tracking to help track subscribers’ online activity and help micro-target and segment your audience
- AI-optimized send timing to track open habits of current subscribers and deliver emails at the best times to individual contacts
- Deep integration with 1400 apps such as lead capture and membership platforms
- Custom pop-ups
- Multivariate testing
Sendlane provides a 14 day free trial, while their most basic plan Growth offers all features for up to 5,000 contacts at $79USD/month.
Emails "Done for you"
This tool literally writes your emails for you, using your product feed, images, brand voice, and a few questions you answer for them. Great for a small store or small team that perhaps isn't so focused or experienced in email marketing.
- Abandon Cart Sequences automatically created for you.
- Suggestions for new campaigns or sequences.
- Advanced store profiling.
- Automatic campaign A/B split testing.
- Advanced segmentation.
Starts at $38/month (billed annually, or $45/month billed monthly), for 1,000 contacts, and going up from there. Right now, when you sign up, you can get an extended 60 day free trial (subject to change in the future, check their site for any changes/updates).
The Best Email Service Providers to Scale Your Ecommerce Store
As your business scales and your email marketing list grows, your data will understandably become more complex, you’re going to want to start segmenting, and you may need some advanced automation.
Opting for a platform that provides powerful segmentation will be key here, as you’ll begin to build unique newsletters and automations based on your audience and behavioral data.
Here are some key features to look out for when choosing the best ESP to scale your business:
- Simple migration services or support in order to transition from one ESP to another
- Dynamic and advanced segmentation that is updated automatically
- Predictive analytics and advanced reporting
- Omni-channel marketing functionalities or integrations
Although there are a variety of tools that can help you scale your email marketing game, here are our top suggestions:
Data-Driven Email Platform
A leader in ESP for Ecommerce due to its advanced customer data capabilities and deep integrations, Klaviyo is a top tool for both small and large stores. Klaviyo considers itself primarily a data science company with email as its main marketing channel.
- Real-time behavior analysis through integration with leading Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and more
- Predictive data and advanced reporting
- Advanced and dynamic segmentation
- Flexible template library
- User-friendly drag and drop building for newsletters and automations
- Facebook and Instagram integration to deliver personalized social media ads
- SMS marketing for targeted and personalized automation messages
Klaviyo offers free plans to businesses with a list of up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends. At 3000 subscribers, you can expect to pay $80 per month with your subscription changing every 1000 subscribers.