ActiveCampaign vs. Mailchimp: Which is the Better Email Marketing Tool?

ActiveCampaign and MailChimp are on the battlefield today.

MailChimp has long been the king of email marketing, and for a good reason. It’s one of the oldest & most reliable email platforms out there.

However, it is not the only game in town anymore.

Now, there are numerous MailChimp alternatives out there with compelling features. And they actually hold their own against MailChimp – with specific features even surpassing MailChimp’s.

ActiveCampaign is one of the biggest contenders against MailChimp.

So, MailChimp vs. ActiveCampaign, which one should you choose?

This detailed comparison of the top email marketing software will help you decide which solution to go with.

So let’s get right into it.

ActiveCampaign vs. MailChimp: Overview.

ActiveCampaign:

ActiveCampaign is a full-service email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM tool all-in-one. It allows you to build and send triggered emails, automate follow-ups, scheduled emails, and more.

The tool comes with over 270 automated workflows to help you guide your leads and acquire them through a predefined path.

MailChimp:

MailChimp is a great email marketing platform that helps marketers and business owners easily design, send, track emails and even manage mailing lists.

It’s one of those tools that have become indispensable for many businesses going online.

It has an eye-catching design, and it’s very easy to use. Moreover, there are hundreds of email templates available on its website for boosting the productivity of the users.

ActiveCampaign vs. MailChimp: Comparison Table.

Before the detailed comparison, here’s a quick comparison table to identify which email marketing platform makes more sense for your business.

ACTIVECAMPAIGN MAILCHIMP
G2 Score 4.6 4.3
What I Liked
  • 270+ automation workflows – to which you can add numerous actions and conditions.
  • Flexible segmentation and list management options.
  • A robust CRM tool.
  • Attractive email templates and a straightforward campaign builder.
  • Advanced reporting, along with competitor analysis.
  • Personalized in-app tips and subject line helper.
Cons
  • There’s no freemium plan, making it expensive for startups and small businesses.
  • You can’t preview your email campaigns on mobile devices.
  • The CRM tool is inadequate and doesn’t allow you to assign leads to sales reps.
  • You can’t combine two lists for a single campaign.
  • The prices can jump exponentially – as they charge every time you add a subscriber to a different list.
Email Limit With Free Plan There’s no free plan. 10,000/month
Transactional Emails No (Native integration with Mandrill) Paid add-on
Segmentation Yes (both AND & OR conditions) Yes (only AND condition)
Dynamic Content Yes Yes
Customer Workflow Yes (with plans above $49/mo) Yes (with paid plans)
Social Sharing Yes Yes
Subject Line Helper No Yes
Send Time Optimization Yes Yes
CRM Yes (full-scale built-in CRM) Yes (only for basic contact management)
SMS Marketing Yes No (although, integrates with SimpleTexting)
Live Chat Yes No
Website Tracking Yes Yes
Retargeting Ad Campaigns Only Facebook campaigns Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads
A/B Testing Split automation Yes
Signup Forms Both embedded & popup forms Both embedded & popup forms
Landing Pages Only with plans above $129/mo Yes (even with the free plan)
Competitor Analysis No Yes
Customer Support Free live chat and phone support Via email, live chat, and phone support (only with paid plans)
Third-Party Integrations Over 860 native integrations Over 200 native integrations

ActiveCampaign vs. MailChimp: Detailed Comparison.

1. Email Builder and Templates.

When you custom-build your marketing emails from the ground up, it’s like getting to create your own, one-of-a-kind LEGO kit.

And beautiful templates and a straightforward builder are the two integral elements that will help you along the way.

Both ActiveCampaign and MailChimp have brandable, ready-to-go templates, the ability to create your own templates, and an intuitive drag-and-drop builder to help you create marketing emails quickly and easily – without the need for design expertise.

ActiveCampaign:

As soon as you log in to your ActiveCampaign dashboard and click on the “Campaign” button from the leftmost panel, you’ll get directed to the editor.

But there are some steps before that.

For starters, you’ll have to enter your campaign name and select a campaign type.

Here are the Campaign Types you can choose from:

  • A regular one-time email
  • Automated sequences – complete with actions and conditions
  • Auto Responder that gets triggered every time a user subscribes
  • Compare multiple emails using split testing
  • RSS triggered emails
  • Date-based emails (sent on contacts’ birthdays and anniversaries)

Let’s say, for example, you want to create a standard email.

Next, select the email list to send your campaigns.

Now comes my favorite – selecting a template/theme for the campaign.

ActiveCampaign boasts of 125+ mobile-optimized email templates – that are also B2B and B2C friendly and work with HTML.

You can choose from the following templates (based on your goals, requirements, design, industry, etc.):

  • Basic templates
  • Designed templates
  • Or create your own custom design

I wish the templates would have sorted them better. For instance, “Designed Templates” come with two categories only – announcements and newsletters. What type of announcements? For what occasion?

Otherwise, the templates are sleek, modern, and beautifully designed.

In addition, you can choose a specific layout for your campaign’s template.

Finally, you’ll get directed to a simple drag-and-drop builder:

As you can see, you can add different blocks – simply by dragging and placing them wherever you want in your campaign. There are options to edit each block separately (their color, size, alignment, text, font, etc.).

The best part? You can view your revision history and even switch to an earlier version.

The entire email campaign building process – starting from selecting the campaign type to the templates and the builder – reminded me a bit of MailChimp. You’ll see what I’m talking about when we peruse MailChimp’s builder next.

Finally, you can schedule your email and send it whenever you want. There are also plenty of tracking options, including read/open tracking, link tracking, reply tracking, and integration with Google Analytics.

You can also start by sending a test email and even preview it for your client’s browser and a regular desktop. There’s no mobile preview, unfortunately.

In addition, they specify potential issues they found with your campaign.

MailChimp:

MailChimp is already famed for its multiple design templates and the easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder.

You’ll start by choosing between Regular, Automated, or Plain-text Email.

If you choose to create a regular campaign, you can directly head to the next step after entering your campaign name.

For automated campaigns, there are numerous scenarios to select from. (More on this later).

Next, MailChimp takes you to their step-by-step checklist involved in email campaign building. You can also use the subject line helper to craft a subject line that will get you maximum traction when sending emails.

Further down, you can also configure social media options, along with tracking options.

Coming to the templates, they come complete with everything you’d expect from MailChimp, such as clean, modern layouts and mobile-friendly designs. What’s more, you get to choose from about 100 templates.

And unlike ActiveCampaign, they are appropriately categorized (holiday, events, integrations, ecommerce, etc.) – making it easy to find the most appropriate options for your campaigns.

In addition, you can choose from 14 different layouts based on your requirement, situation, and business goals.

Next, you’ll get directed to the classic drag-and-drop builder – which is easy to use and has a clean interface. They also offer a Comments area that allows your team to leave feedback on the campaign you are creating.

Once you’re ready, you can preview your campaign in desktop, mobile, and client’s inbox. The builder also allows you to test-send the campaign, check whether all the links are working or not, and configure your social cards.

Finally, you can either – schedule the campaign, send it right away, or sit back and let MailChimp send it at the best time for maximum engagement. You can even send it according to the recipients’ time zone.

Winner: MailChimp.

When it comes to templates and the campaign builder, both ActiveCampaign and MailChimp are more or less the same.

However, MailChimp has an edge due to its additional features like send-time optimization, social media posts, and sending email based on recipients’ time zone.

2. List Management and Segmentation.

ActiveCampaign:

ActiveCampaign lets you combine the use of your email list, tags, and custom fields.

And there’s a lot of pre-built segments (or global data) stored in ActiveCampaign that you can use right away.

You can segment your list by:

  • Contact details (date subscribed, full name, last name, organization, etc.)
  • Actions taken (or not taken by your subscribers)
  • Geography
  • Site & event data
  • And more

Or you can add a custom field of your own.

You can further add several branches to a single segment – along with both AND/OR conditions.

And there’s more!

As an ActiveCampaign subscriber, you have access to data captured from your web assets and other analytics tools. This can help you achieve more targeted segmentation based on your user behavior.

One of the other things I liked the best about ActiveCampaign is that their segmentation function can be found floating everywhere (making it accessible from different areas in your dashboard) – unlike other email marketing tools where it’s relegated to a separate space.

With ActiveCampaign, you can create segments:

  • From your lists
  • In contacts
  • In email campaigns

The segmentation above is from the “Contacts” section.

Creating segments while building your email campaign is even easier – since it’s the second step in the process.

In addition, ActiveCampaign boasts of advanced list management features like lead scoring to keep track of top leads and adding tags automatically. This means your subscribers or contacts get tagged right after they take any specific action.

Now you can send even more targeted content based on customer behavior and preference.

MailChimp:

MailChimp, surprisingly, appeared underwhelming in this department.

I’d give it to MailChimp – you start to like the segmentation, tags, and overall list management function as soon as you hit the “Audience” tab.

Right away, you’ll get some already segmented lists based on customer interaction and the location your subscribers are coming from.

For advanced segmentation, you can either use pre-built segments or create custom fields.

So far, MailChimp’s list management function seems to be doing just fine.

Yet, it has its flaws.

If you’re planning on using segmentation in MailChimp, you should know that not all is well.

Here are the three essential things you should know about MailChimp’s segmentation:

  • You can’t use subscribers from two different lists in the same campaign. You either use entire lists or make do with a single one.
  • Since MailChimp charges based on the number of subscribers, you might end up paying twice if you’re adding the same subscriber in two different lists.
  • There’s no way to add the “OR” condition while adding more branches to the segments.

These are unavoidable problems and something you wouldn’t expect from a tool of MailChimp’s caliber.

Winner: ActiveCampaign.

3. Marketing Automation.

Both MailChimp and ActiveCampaign let you map and automate how you want a subscriber to engage with your business – as they move along their personalized journey.

Let’s review their automation features in detail.

ActiveCampaign:

I didn’t think I’d ever come across an email marketing platform that would offer more automation workflow and scenario options than MailChimp.

And then I came across ActiveCampaign.

Trust me when I say ActiveCampaign offers more automation pipelines/series (or recipes, as they call them) than you could possibly ever need.

You can actually access over 270 automation workflows.

The workflows are sorted by different industries (blogging, non-profit, real-estate, ecommerce, etc.) and your goals and situation (abandoned cart recovery, conversions, link tracking, etc.).

Or you can even start from scratch with a fresh, clean slate – and add your own triggers and actions.

Whatever you choose, they’ll guide you through the process.

Here, I chose the Abandoned Cart Reminder workflow. Note that it’s only available for Shopify and WooCommerce Deep Data integrations.

As you can see, you can combine multiple triggers, actions, conditions, and more from the rightmost panel.

The visual builder even allows you to add a new trigger – that is, a new way to start this automation.

You can, again, choose from multiple trigger categories, such as behaviors & actions, ecommerce, sales & CRM, and more.

Next, you can drag and drop any block, element, condition, trigger, etc., you want to the multiple-branched workflow.

If you don’t want to follow this drag-and-drop approach, you can also click on the “+” icon after every branch to add more actions.

If you look at the Conditions and Workflow options, ActiveCampaign provides multiple conditions to create segmented, hence more personalized, automation flows.

Another factor that sold me on the prowess of ActiveCampaign’s automation builder is integration with their built-in CRM. This allows you to automate even processes like following up, updating subscribers’ status, adding a deal, etc.

And if all of it isn’t enough – they let you add many more actions by syncing natively with multiple customer experience apps.

For instance, I want to send an SMS via BulkSMS if the contact doesn’t match the conditions.

If contacts match the conditions, they receive an “Abandoned Cart Reminder.”

It’s safe to say that ActiveCampaign’s automation features are in a class of their own.

MailChimp:

MailChimp also comes powered with initial starting points grouped by industries and goals, a visual automation builder, and workflows.

Pick one starting point to start building your journey.

The automation builder is visual and simple to use – something you would already expect from a tool like MailChimp.

You can even add up to filters/segments to narrow down your starting point(s) for higher personalization.

They also let you add three rules (If/else, Wait, Delay) and actions like add to or remove from a group, add or remove a tag, send an email, or unsubscribe contact.

MailChimp evidently doesn’t offer as many actions to add as ActiveCampaign by a long shot. It’s quick and straightforward nonetheless.

Winner: ActiveCampaign.

If you want to automate your email marketing journeys, there’s no comparison: ActiveCampaign is far better.

4. CRM.

ActiveCampaign:

ActiveCampaign has a robust set of built-in CRM features that you can use to organize your contacts.

From automating lead prioritization to contact management – it does everything you would expect from a full-scale CRM.

Since it is streamlined with your automation system, you can add tasks, update deals, automate the follow-up processes, notify your sales team, and nurture leads automatically.

For example, you can choose to notify your sales team after sending a welcome email or create a task: call the customer after a deal exceeds a specific amount.

And there’s more.

ActiveCampaign’s CRM allows you to manage all your contacts on a central platform. You get a view of the complete sales cycle/pipeline and automatically update and view your contacts’ history.

(Image)

ActiveCampaign’s CRM also lets you:

  • Automate task assignments to sales reps.
  • Create notes within each deal and contact record.
  • Track interaction at every stage of the sales funnel.
  • Identify highest priority leads.
  • Connect with Gmail, Outlook, among other email providers.
  • Integrate your CRM with third-party sales tools like Calendly, Zendesk, Unbounce, etc.

By now, it’s evident that ActiveCampaign does nothing by half measures.

MailChimp:

MailChimp claims to offer a CRM tool – but I wouldn’t exactly go so far as to call it a CRM tool.

Their CRM is only sufficient to understand your contacts. You can use the “Audience Dashboard” to view pre-built segments, common tags, and even customer lifetime value (CLV).

In addition, MailChimp provides access to Contact Profiles – that help you analyze how each contact interacts with your campaigns.

Contact Profiles also let you:

  • Add notes directly to each contact profile.
  • Check out their purchase history.
  • Reach out to them directly via email, text, or call.

However, it can’t do much beyond that.

There are no fundamental CRM features here. Management of contacts, task assignment, and lead management are significant missing features.

Without mincing any words, it won’t be wrong to say that MailChimp’s CRM is sorely disappointing.

Winner: ActiveCampaign.

I love MailChimp for its ease of use and clean design. Its customer relationship management features are lackluster, though.

5. Email Deliverability.

Email deliverability is a mystery. An enigma. A thing beyond our control, or so we are made to believe.

It’s the fickle mistress of our campaigns, but what if it didn’t have to be?

The right email marketing tool can solve the issue of low email deliverability and high spam rates to a large extent.

Now let’s take a look at the email deliverability metrics for the two platforms (as per Email Deliverability Report):

ACTIVECAMPAIGN MAILCHIMP
Primary Inbox 72.80% 67.60%
Spam 25.27% 29.58%
Undelivered 1.72% 2.82%

Winner: ActiveCampaign.

ActiveCampaign has better deliverability than MailChimp, making it the obvious winner.

6. Registration Forms and Landing Pages.

ActiveCampaign:

ActiveCampaign’s registration form builder makes it easy to create and customize all of your forms in one interface.

It lets you add forms to your page as an embedded opt-in form, a floating bar, a floating box, or even as a popup.

In addition, ActiveCampaign also has a visual landing page builder that allows you to modify every part of your page.

They also offer 47 attractive landing page templates to attract your target audience and capture emails to grow your list. The only downside is that it comes with a hefty price – since the landing page builder is only available with plans that are $129 per month and above.

MailChimp:

MailChimp lets you create pop-ups, floating bars, and embeddable sign-up forms with its straightforward builder.

You’ll be able to add multiple opt-in fields and modify the font, color, size, etc.

That’s about it! Nothing too elaborate.

However, note that the popup (including floating bars) builder is separate from a simple embeddable sign-up form builder.

If you’re anything like me, you might find this annoying. I’d rather not go back and forth to create a couple of simple forms.

If this is something you can overlook, then it’s all well and good.

Coming to landing pages, MailChimp has a simple landing page builder and 10 attractive landing page templates.

The best part?

The landing page builder is even available with the free plan – which means no dent in your pocket.

Winner: MailChimp.

MailChimp is the winner since they let you create landing pages even with the free plan.

7. Reporting and Analytics.

Both MailChimp and ActiveCampaign offer detailed reporting, allowing you to track:

  • Your automation performance.
  • Essential engagement metrics (click rate, bounce rate, unsubscribes, etc.)
  • Links clicked.
  • Location of the subscribers.
  • Sales reports.

ActiveCampaign even provides deal reports – summarizing the deals in the CRM and giving an overview of funnels.

Coming to MailChimp, it has a lot more to offer.

For instance, you can even analyze your open, click and unsubscribe rates against your peers.

MailChimp also provides smart, predictive recommendations to help you make the most out of your email campaigns, workflows, registration forms, and landing pages.

Winner: MailChimp.

8. Pricing Plans.

ActiveCampaign offers four flexible pricing plans – based on the number of contacts. All the plans provide numerous features for B2C marketing, B2B marketing, and ecommerce businesses.

MailChimp also offers four plans based on the number of contacts – including three paid plans and one forever free plan.

However, while ActiveCampaign allows unlimited email sending – MailChimp puts a limit on email sending as well, which varies with plans.

Another downside with MailChimp’s pricing structure is that it’s going to charge you every time you add a subscriber to a different list.

Let’s have a look at the quick breakdown of ActiveCampaign’s and MailChimp’s pricing structure:

ActiveCampaign Pricing MailChimp Pricing
Lite – Starts at $9/mo paid annually

unlimited email sends, 500 contacts

Free Plan

10,000 emails/month, up to 2,000 contacts

Plus – Starts at $49/mo paid annually

unlimited email sends, 500 contacts

Essentials – Starts at $10.46/mo

For up to 5,000 emails/mo, 500 contacts

Professional – Starts at $129/mo paid annually

unlimited email sends, 500 contacts

Standard – Starts at $15.62/mo

For up to 6,000 emails/mo, 500 contacts

Enterprise – Starts at $229/mo paid annually

unlimited email sends, 500 contacts

Premium – Starts at $312.37/mo

For up to 150,000 emails/mo, 10,000 contacts

ActiveCampaign, with their unlimited email sends and plans that start for as low as $9/month, does seem like a better option.

However, if you’re a startup or a freelancer who only has up to 2,000 subscribers and needs to send only up to 10,000 emails/month – MailChimp wouldn’t cost you a single penny.

Final Verdict.

At a glance – who am I kidding, even at a detailed perusal – ActiveCampaign appears as the ultimate winner.

It provides better automation features.

Their segmentation functions are more flexible.

Even their CRM is unbeatable.

They don’t cut any corners when it comes to template design and reporting either.

MailChimp also holds its own in several departments like templates, ease of use, campaign builder, landing page builder, and reporting. The freemium plan also gives it a point.

However, overall, my vote goes to ActiveCampaign.

Nonetheless, the decision lies in your requirements.

Use ActiveCampaign if you need:

  • A full-fledged CRM system.
  • Near-unlimited automation actions and pre-built workflows.
  • Flexible segmentation and list management options.
  • Attractive email templates.

Use MailChimp if you need:

  • Competitor analysis.
  • Attractive email templates.
  • To build attractive landing pages for free.
  • To send up to 10,000 emails/month for free to a small email list.

If you’re still proactively searching for a MailChimp alternative or a suitable email marketing tool, read my other comprehensive comparisons: Sendinblue vs. MailChimp and MailerLite vs. MailChimp.

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Deepti Jain

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