Top 9 Best Email Marketing Software Comparison 2021 (Free & Paid)

Friday, November 5, 2021
Sandra Petrova
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Imagine you're meeting with a person with whom you crave to make a connection for the first time. You introduce each other and say, I'm so happy to make your acquaintance. You observe their behavior, note every word, and remember every gesture. The next time you meet, you'll order an avocado salad for them, saying, I remember it's your favorite, and smile politely. Over time, as you maintain close contact, the two of you will form a long-lasting relationship. 

A similar thing happens when you're using some of the best email marketing software to make a connection with a potential customer. At first, you're complete strangers, but with continuous interaction, a prospect's status transitions from stranger to customer, and eventually, a regular buyer.

Today, email marketing is still a powerful tool that every marketer keeps in their arsenal. 

Here's why:

Nearly 306.4 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2021.

Email has an astounding 3,800% ROI, generating $38 for every $1 spent.

59% of people say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.

The best email marketing tools have powerful marketing features and capabilities that can enhance email communication and help businesses of all sizes and across all industries identify high-quality leads, maintain a relationship with those leads, and close more sales. 

Whether you want to test the free trials these tools offer or are ready to subscribe to a paid monthly plan, this article can help you arrive at the best decision about which tool of the bunch is the best email marketing software tool for your needs. 

 

Email marketing software comparison chart (Top 9 highest rated)

Product

Best for

Pricing

Website

MailChimp

Overall

$9/month

Visit

Drip

Drip campaigns

$19/month

Visit

OptinMonster

Lead generation

$9/month

Visit

ConstantContact

Small business

$20/month

Visit

ActiveCampaign

Automation

$9/month

Visit

Hubspot

Startups

$40/month

Visit

CampaignMonitor

Ease of use

$9/month

Visit

OmniSend

eCommerce businesses

$16/month

Visit

Autopilot

Visual automation

$49/month

Visit

 

What is email marketing software?

Email marketing software is a service-based technology that can help you grow your email subscribers, maintain communication with those subscribers, and increase sales.

In a nutshell, it's a tool for reaching people where they go every day: their inbox. 

The inbox is a fantastic opportunity for your company to send a warm welcome, notify a customer of holiday discounts, and remind them they forgot a few items in their shopping cart. 

But these tools let you do so much more than just send welcome emails. You can do A/B testing to see what type of emails your customers prefer, segregate customers into different subgroups, gain insight into where your subscribers are located in the world, and so much more. 

Long story short, you can move your potential customers through a buyer's journey and maintain strong communication throughout.

At the end of the day, these cost-effective tools remind you that there's a human behind every inbox and then offer you every tool you need to interact with those people in a human way.

Here's a more detailed exploration of some of the top features: 

Building an email newsletter

If a website is a window to your business, the same can be said for your email newsletter. The best email marketing tools let you design an eye-catching and unique newsletter by importing your own HTML, starting from scratch, or using a predesigned template. Most of these tools have a drag-and-drop editor, making it exceptionally easy to create an attractive email newsletter that you can personalize to fit your brand's design.

Automation

The best email marketing services let you set up powerful automation flows. You'll be able to provide an exceptional customer experience by sending out targeted email sequences or perfectly-timed campaigns based on your subscribers' behavior. For example, you can create an automated abandoned cart email sequence that will encourage customers to go back to your online store and complete their purchase and send welcome emails for new subscribers or thank-you emails for recent purchases.

Analytics and Reports

With powerful analytics and reports tools, you'll be able to get detailed insights into how your subscribers are behaving. 

You'll be able to get the answer to questions like:

  • How many subscribers open your emails?

  • Do they delete or forward your emails?

  • How long do they stay on the email page to read the content?

  • Are they clicking on any links inside the email?

  • Is your demographic male or female? 

All of that information will ultimately help you optimize your campaigns and improve your results over time.

Contact segmentation

Sending out bulk emails won't increase your sales. But by using a feature like contact segmentation, you'll manage to divide your subscribers into separate segments or groups and send them personalized emails that will keep them engaged. 

For example, an email marketing tool with an advanced segregation feature will allow you to create subscribers groups based on:

  • Geolocation.

  • Autoresponder engagement.

  • Click-through.

  • Purchase behavior.

  • Browser used.

The possibilities are basically endless.

Integrations

Using an email marketing software as the only tool in your toolbox might bring in some value. However, when you connect your email marketing software with your CRM, blog, or an eCommerce system, what you'll get is a complete marketing solution that drives revenue. 

 

What is the best email marketing software? Here’s our top 9 list:

With so many email marketing tools available on the market, how do you choose the best one? Which tool can best meet your business needs, and which one is the most affordable if you're on a tight budget?

We put together a roundup list of the 9 best email marketing software to help make up your mind. It includes well-known tools like MailChimp and Hubspot and some of the most popular email tools for lead generation and automation. Among the top 9 contenders, you'll also find some of the best free tools, the top picks for small businesses, and our personal favorites for eCommerce businesses.

Let's dive in. 

 

MailChimp (Best email marketing software overall)

Combine a set of powerful features, a lovable brand (Freddie the chimp), and very generous freemium and paid plans, and you've got yourself 62% of the market share!

Yes, that's right!

MailChimp is the giant among the email marketing tools, with almost two thirds of the market share. 

People use the word ‘delightful’ to explain their user experience. The tool is easy, friendly, fun, and you can get some of its features free of charge. 

Mailchimp is the king of the email marketing realm. Its collection of features now also includes a domain and website hosting, landing pages creation, a website builder, seven marketing channels, and CRM features.

MailChimp can be a top pick if you're looking for a service that integrates with your favorite apps and web services. There are 250+ integrations, such as Zapier, WooCommerce, Stripe, and Calendly. 

With the introduction of their all-in-one marketing platform + CRM, you can now set up customer profiles and assign customers a lifetime value. You can easily import all your audience data, segment, get better analytics stats, and set up triggers for automated messages. 

MailChimp offers four pricing plans: Premium, Standard, Essentials, and Free. In addition, there are add-on features that you can use to supplement your plan. The free plan is a top pick for beginners who want to grow their audience while testing some of the app's main features. It includes up to 2,000 contacts and 10,000 email sends per month, and a daily send limit of 2,000. The cheapest paid plan is the Essentials plan, which will cost you $9.99 per month.

MailChimp is best for:

  • Small business.

  • Extensive third-party integration options.

  • All-in-one marketing platform +CRM.

  • Flexible pricing. 

  • Deliverability. 

Visit MailChimp

 

Drip (Top pick for drip campaigns)

Many tools would say that they have the best email automation features for creating effective drip campaigns, but no tool does it better than Drip. After all, it has the word drip in its name. 

The software's features are divided into four categories: customer data, personalization, engagement, and optimization.

Drip's advanced segmentation features let you understand how your customers interact with your business and create insightful profiles based on that data.

Once your database is created, there are plenty of features for increasing customer engagement. For example, the platform's behavior-based automation leverages artificial intelligence to help you engage with customers at the right moment. You can configure the platform to send a reminder email if a customer abandons their cart or a promotional email on a customer's birthday.  

The platform's optimization features enable you to get the most out of your email marketing strategy. For example, with the automatic revenue attribution feature, you can gain insight into which campaigns are successful and which ones are a failure.

The good news is that you can test every customer-focused feature for free for 14 days. The other news is that if you want to continue using the service past those 14 days, you'll have to subscribe to a paid plan. Drip's paid plans start at $19 per month for an account of between 1 and up to 500 customers with unlimited emails. For between 500 and 2,000 customers in your account, you'll pay $29 each month. For databases larger than 200,000, you will need to contact the Drip customer service team to discuss pricing.

Drip is best for:

  • Email marketers. 

  • Small businesses.

  • Marketing automation.

  • Businesses with high levels of traffic.

  • Businesses with many different segments of traffic.

Visit Drip

 

OptinMonster (Best for lead generation services)

Many would agree that the most challenging part of an email marketing campaign is collecting potential customers' email addresses. 

If you're struggling with growing your subscribers' list, then take a look at OptinMonster.

OptinMonster prides itself on being the best conversion and lead generation tool on the market today.

Forget about "traditional" centered lightbox popups. OptinMonster lets you create a range of different types of opt-ins/offers, including popup, floating bar, fullscreen, inline, slide-in, and interactive. The most exciting of the bunch is probably the interactive popup that appears as a "Spin to win" wheel. The popup is quite practical for online stores because it lets you reward customers with discount codes.

Another one of OptinMonster's strong sides is its detailed targeting and trigger rules. In other words, you can configure where your popups appear, who sees them, and when they display. For example, you can trigger your "Spin to win" wheel to popup when a customer is inactive on your site or after the user has scrolled X% of the page. On the other hand, the targeting feature lets you target customers based on the visitor's location, the type of device they're using to access your site, whether they're returning customers, and more. 

OptinMonster gives you all the tools you need to add personalization to your email campaigns. For instance, if a customer has already converted on your "How to Decorate Your Home" blog, you could send them a link to your "How to Decorate Your Balcony" blog that connects with that first offer.

There are four pricing plans. The cheapest one is priced at $9/month and contains all the essential tools you'll need to get more leads from your existing traffic. Their most popular plan costs $29/month and contains everything you need to get huge results, fast.

OptinMonster is best for:

  • Lead generation.

  • Targeting and personalization.

  • eCommerce businesses.

  • Websites with a good deal of traffic. 

Visit OptinMonster.

 

ConstantContact (Good choice for small businesses)

ConstantContact has been in the email marketing game since 1995, and in that time, it has managed to grow its customer base to more than 650,000. 

In a nutshell, the tool promises to help you stand out while you get the word out. Even if you have zero email marketing knowledge, you can quickly get the hang of the software and get started. 

You'll find various functionalities such as marketing automation, list management, segmentation, and personalization in its features basket. You'll also find an extensive templates library with over 160 different templates, in addition to a branded template drag-and-drop email builder that lets you design an email to match your company's design. 

The platform has several integrations, working well with Eventbrite, WordPress, Salesforce, and Shopify, among others.

ConstantContact offers some of the most advanced contact management and reporting features. You can add your contact list to the email marketing platform by manually typing addresses into a form, uploading a file, or importing contacts from other popular email services like Gmail and productivity apps. The reporting features include tracking the performance of the emails you send out, such as bounce rate, clicks, open-rate. You can see all of the metrics in one graph and your progress over time. For instance, if you see that your open-rate has dropped over time, it's a sign that you need to work on optimizing your email campaigns.

There are two paid plans, including Email and Email Plus. The Email plan costs $20/month and is geared towards small businesses looking to create professional emails, build customer relationships, and drive sales. The Email Plus plan is priced at $45/month and is best suited for small businesses that want access to more powerful features that can engage their audience. If you're indecisive, you can give Constant Contact a whirl before committing to a subscription, thanks to a 60-day free trial.

ConstantContact is best for:

  • Small businesses.

  • Businesses with larger budgets. 

  • Social media campaign integration.

  • Contact management and reporting. 

  • Customer support. 

Visit ConstantContact. 

 

ActiveCampaign (One of the best tools for marketing automation)

Building email newsletters, creating campaigns, and sending personalized emails is all possible with a tool like ActiveCampaign. 

There are some great segmentation features that let you divide your subscribers into subgroups and send them customized messages that speak to them. You can even personalize your emails based on any contact information you have. For example, if you know that your contact's name is Dave, you can start addressing him by his name in all of your emails. 

As some of your emails will be successful and others not so much, you can use the platform's powerful reporting features to see which emails are performing well and which ones need some optimization. One way of improving your success rate is by using simple split testing. 

And if you have work spread across multiple tools and software, you'll be happy to hear that ActiveCampaign plays well with some of your favorite apps like Stripe, Shopify, Facebook, and 280+ more apps. 

Apart from email marketing, the platform also offers some of the most powerful marketing automation features in the industry. You can create all types of workflows that can be customized to fit your unique needs. There are 22 different contact triggers that you can apply to your workflows, such as an open email, a subscriber's birthday, a web page visit, etc. 

The best plan for you will depend on the number of subscribers you're looking to reach. Plans start at $9 per month for up to 500 contacts. For 1000 contacts, the cheapest plan jumps to $25 per month. The good thing is that at each subscriber level, you can upgrade to some of the more feature-packed plans, including Plus, Professional, and Enterprise. You can have as many as 100,000 contacts, but if you need more, you'll have to contact ActiveCampaign for a custom plan. There's also a 14-day free trial that you can sign up for without leaving your credit card information.

ActiveCampaign is best for:

  • Third-party integrations.

  • Accomplishing basic and mildly complex goals.

  • Marketing automation.

Visit ActiveCampaign

 

Hubspot Email Marketing Software (Best platform for startups)

Hubspot's Email Marketing software is part of the company's Marketing Hub that integrates a variety of CRM, email marketing, and sales solutions.

The software offers more than 2,000 free and paid templates that can convert your customers. If you need to create your own templates, you can simply drop in your own HTML or use the platform's drag-and-drop editor to design a template that fits your needs.

You can further personalize your emails based on a subscriber's information, such as name, membership, interests, and more to send them the emails with the most relevant subject lines, most dynamic content, clickable links, and compelling call-to-action. 

Through detailed analytics, you can gain insight into which emails are performing well and which aren't, and optimize the less successful ones using a feature like A/B testing. 

Workflows are another great feature the app offers, letting you create three different types: when a contact enrolls or joins a list, on a specific calendar date or holiday, or when a trial expires or renews. You can even have multiple workflows running simultaneously. 

If you need help getting around, there are plenty of resources to get you started, ranging from blogs and ebooks to webinars and courses. 

The good news is that you can use some of the marketing tools for free if your needs are more basic. These features include creating and sending emails and measuring their effectiveness. However, if you want to gain access to some of the more advanced features such as marketing automation, you have to subscribe to some of the paid plans. 

HubSpot offers three paid plans: Starter, Professional, and Enterprise. The cheapest paid plan of the bunch starts at $40 per month and includes features like ad management, signup forms, list segmentation, and ad retargeting.

Hubspot is best for:

  • Small to midsize businesses. 

  • Scaling startups. 

  • End-to-end martech solution.

  • Marketing automation, in combination with email marketing, sales, and CRM.

Visit Hubspot

 

CampaignMonitor (Great for ease of use)

CampaignMonitor is one of the oldest email marketing software out there. Over the years, it managed to accumulate a customer base of more than 250,000 businesses.

But is it the right pick for you and what are its major pros?

It's up to you to decide. The email marketing solution is packed with features aimed at helping businesses grow. Whether you're creating newsletters, announcements, events, or holiday emails, you can design a template from scratch using the platform's drag-and-drop editor or choose from one out of the app's 60+ ready-made email templates. 

Thanks to the platform's email marketing automation features, you can design personalized customer journeys, instead of sending bulk emails, to drive engagement and revenue. For example, you can set up a series of welcome emails every time a new customer signs up for your newsletter. After that, you can set conditions to create a truly unique experience based on how subscribers engage with the initial email.

Sending the right email, to the right person, at the right time is also possible with the app's segmentation tools based on custom data your contacts share with you. 

You won't be disappointed with the platform's analytics capabilities as they are a piece of art. The full analytics suite gives you an aggregate view of the performance of your email marketing program. You can gain access into granular data like subscribes and unsubscribes, types of emails you've sent, how your key metrics are trending, and insight into tactics that are working so that you can improve the very next campaign you send. 

There are three plans to choose from, ranging from $9 to $149 per month. The price tag of each of the paid plans increases as you add more contacts into your account. You can also opt to pay per campaign if you're only sending email campaigns from time to time. 

CampaignMonitor is best for:

  • Small to midsize businesses.

  • Email and newsletter templates.

  • Small business owners who need a helping hand to get started.

  • Companies with basic emails marketing needs. 

Visit CampaignMonitor

 

OmniSend (Top choice for eCommerce businesses)

Once known as Soundest, OmniSend used to be a company that focused mainly on email. However, it has transitioned to become a company that offers omnichannel services, thus the name. 

Apart from email, you can add SMS messaging, web push notifications, Facebook messenger, Viber, and Whatsapp in the automation workflow. 

But sticking to the email marketing side of things, OmniSend offers many useful automation features. You can reach out to customers who have abandoned their carts or viewed products but left your online store without making a purchase. What's more, you can send out order confirmations, shipping confirmations, and suggest recommended products based on your customers' past orders.

Want to know if customers respond better to the phrasing of "50% off" or "Half Price"? You can apply A/B testing and find out. Using the Campaign Booster feature, you can resend those emails to the people who didn't click open the first time.

The Popups feature is a useful way to grow your subscriber's email list. There's a range of designs you can use that can be activated at different points in a customer's journey, for example: upon first visiting your store, after clicking on specific items, or when they're about to leave your store.

And when you'd like to know your campaign's success rate or how many visitors from a specific location opened your email, you can use the platform's reporting features. You can:

  • compare real-time revenue generated from your campaigns

  • see which campaigns and automation workflows are driving you the most sales

  • access comprehensive stand-alone reports and figure out what makes specific campaigns successful

  • identify converting customers

You'll be happy to hear that OmniSend has four pricing plans, one of which is free but comes with a very limited set of features. The cheapest monthly plan will cost you $16 for up to 500 contacts in your account. As the number of your contacts increases, so does your monthly fee. The good news is that each paid plan offers a free trial so you can experiment with the service to decide which plan fits your needs.

OmniSend is best for:

  • Omnichannel functionalities.

  • Intuitive functionality.

  • High-growth eCommerce businesses.

Visit OmniSend

 

AutoPilot (Good for visual marketing automation)

While there are many email marketing automation tools out there, Autopilot has the most visual and straightforward approach. 

In a nutshell, Autopilot is a simple and visual marketing software focused on the customer journey to offer the best possible customer experience.

Everything from the email editor to the automation tool works via a drag-and-drop editor interface that's simple enough for anyone to create all kinds of campaigns. Whether you need to send promotional emails, transactional emails, follow-up emails, or personalized messages, you can simply drag and connect shapes together in just a few minutes.

With AutoPilot's marketing automation software, you can automate your emails to be sent at the right person, at the right time. For example, you can set up automated emails every time a customer abandons a cart or submits a demo request.

"Read our blog" or "Check out our most liked blog posts"? Which CTA resonates more with your customers? You can use A/B Split Testing to change your emails' content, language, and communication style and see what's performing well.

Struggling with a low rate of open rates and clicks? You can use the app's personalization features to tailor your messages based on location, gender, interests, behavior, and more. 

There are three paid plans, ranging from $49 to $249 per month. You can choose whether you want to pay monthly, monthly with an annual commitment, or annually.

AutoPilot is best for:

  • Visual marketing automation.

  • Ease of use. 

  • Powerful automation and integrations. 

Visit AutoPilot

 

Key takeaways

According to some estimations, a marketer who uses marketing automation software can complete a 50-person job. Can you imagine? A single piece of software completing the job of 50 pairs of hands! And brains. A piece of software building unforgettable customer journeys, sending personalized messages, capturing leads, and nurturing customers, day in, day out. 

The email service providers (or ESP) we saw in this post are the best of the bunch. Some of them are more geared towards smaller businesses, while others are more suitable for larger enterprises. There are many others that we didn't get to mention, like:

  • ConvertKit

  • Salesforce Pardot

  • GetResponse

  • Moosend

  • SendInBlue

  • MailerLite

  • Aweber

During the evaluation process, you'll have many things to consider, starting with your budget. Keep in mind that as you're growing your subscribers' list, the paid plans' price will go up as well. Word of the wise: make sure you're successfully monetizing your email campaigns. 

Moreover, think about whether you would prefer the tool to have an easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor, or will you prefer an extensive set of pre-made email templates? Would you prefer a tool with a more basic set of features, or will you be needing more advanced features like A/B testing, split automation, and spam testing? 

Hopefully, we've included something for everyone on the list. Whether you're starting your first online store, switching providers, or looking for a full-service CRM, we'll sleep better at night knowing we helped you make the right choice. 

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