Shopify vs Volusion (2018) | Comparison of Two Leading Online Store Builders
Shopify vs Volusion - image of a shopping cart beside the two company logos.

In this Shopify vs Volusion comparison review, we pit two very well-known online store builders against each other.

Read on for an overview of their pricing and key features, and find out which of these well-known e-commerce platforms is best for your business.


About Shopify and Volusion

Shopify and Volusion are platforms which allow you to create an online store. They work in a similar way, in that they are hosted solutions - they run in a browser and there is no software for you to install locally. This means that you can build and manage your store from anywhere, so long as you have an internet connection.

Both are 'software as a service' (SaaS) solutions - you pay a monthly fee to use them,  and this gives you the tools to create and maintain your store: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce functionality and support.

The fundamental idea behind both tools is that even if you don't have coding or design skills, you can create an online store easily enough using them.

Let's find out how the two products compare.


Pricing

Shopify pricing

Shopify offers 5 pricing plans:

  • Lite: $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify: $29 per month
  • Shopify: $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify: $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus: pricing varies depending on requirements (but is usually priced at around $2000 per month).
Shopify pricing table highlighting the fees for its three most popular plans. 'Lite' and 'Plus' plans cater for users with more basic and advanced requirements respectively.  (Prices are correct at time of writing in February 2018).

Shopify pricing table highlighting the fees for its three most popular plans. 'Lite' and 'Plus' plans cater for users with more basic and advanced requirements respectively.  (Prices are correct at time of writing in February 2018).

Volusion pricing

With Volusion, there are 4 plans to choose from:

  • Volusion Mini: $15 per month
  • Volusion Plus: $35 per month
  • Volusion Pro: $75 per month
  • Volusion Premium: $135 per month
Volusion pricing table (correct at time of writing in February 2018)

 

A comparison of the Shopify vs Volusion entry level plans

Shopify can get you selling online cheaper via its $9 'Lite' plan; this is $6 cheaper than the $15 'Volusion Mini' plan.

However, the Shopify plan doesn't allow you to actually set up a fully functional online store but rather allows you to:

  • sell on Facebook
  • use Shopify's back end in conjunction with a Shopify 'Buy' button which you can embed on your website (this works in a similar way to a Paypal button)
  • make use of the Shopify point of sale kit (more on that anon).

Volusion's Mini plan, by contrast, allows you to create a fully-fledged online store for $15 per month - but there are limits on

  • the number of products you can sell (100)
  • the bandwidth available (1GB)
  • the type of support you receive (with the Volusion Mini plan, no phone support is available).

No product or bandwith limits apply on any of the Shopify plans (the Shopify Lite plan does however restrict support to email or live chat only however).

Transaction fees

In addition to charging you a monthly fee to use their software, some online store solutions take a cut of each of your transactions. One key advantage of using Volusion over Shopify is the complete lack of transaction fees on any of its plans.

With Shopify, you can also avoid transaction fees on all its plans - but only if you are happy to use Shopify's own payment processing option, Shopify Payments.

There is a bit of a problem with this, because it is only available to users selling from certain territories: the United States of America, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Other Shopify users can make use of a wide range of third-party payment gateway processors - but if you use one, transaction fees will apply (2% on 'Lite' and 'Basic' plans, 1% on 'Shopify' and 0.5% on 'Advanced').

Key things to watch out for with Volusion and Shopify pricing plans

The key things to look out watch out for when comparing Shopify's pricing to Volusion's are probably the following:

  • Product limits: no limits apply on any Shopify plan, whereas Volusion limit the product numbers to 100, 1000 and 10,000 on its Mini, Plus and Pro plans respectively. No product limits apply on its 'Pro' plan.
  • Bandwidth: if you are selling digital goods or expecting a high level of traffic to your store, bear in mind that Volusion limits bandwidth: you are restricted to 1GB on the 'Mini' plan; 3GB on the 'Plus' plan; 10GB on the 'Pro' plan and 35GB on the 'Premium' plan.
  • Abandoned cart reports: you can't access these in Shopify unless you are on the $79 'Shopify' plan, whereas Volusion give you access to this data on their $35 'Plus' plan.
  • Manual order creation: Shopify allow you to create manual orders on all plans, but Volusion only allows you to do this if you are on their $75+ plans.

Core features

Shopify and Volusion offer a similar set of key features out of the box, and allow you to:

  • design your store using a range of pre-existing templates
  • create catalogues of products
  • manage your store using a CMS
  • optimise your products for search
  • accept online payments via a range of payment gateways

Let's zoom in on a few key features, and see how they stack up against each other.


Templates

Both Shopify and Volusion offer a wide range of templates, all very professional in appearance. They are responsive too, meaning that they will automatically resize themselves to suit the device your store is being viewed on. You can choose either a free theme or a paid-for one.

In terms of quality, both the Volusion and Shopify themes are of a high quality and I wouldn't have any particular reservations about using any of the themes I've encountered from both companies as a starting point when designing an online store. 

Shopify's free 'Minimal' template ('Vintage' version)

Shopify's free 'Minimal' template ('Vintage' version)

Let's look at quantity though - this is where Shopify has a bit of an edge.

Free templates from Shopify and Volusion

At first glance Volusion seems to offer slightly more choice in the free template department - there are 11 free templates to Shopify's 10. However, most of the free Shopify templates come in 2 or 3 variations, so there's actually a fair bit more choice available from Shopify. 

Paid-for templates from Shopify and Volusion

Both Volusion and Shopify offer a wide range of paid-for templates, but again Shopify provides more options: there are 51 paid-for themes available from Shopify to Volusion's 35.

You can also pick up a Shopify paid-for theme slightly cheaper: they range in price from $140 to $180, whereas all the Volusion themes all cost $180. (Volusion themes used to be incredibly expensive, so this reduction in cost to $180 per theme is a welcome development.)

And finally, the Shopify premium themes are generally slicker, featuring contemporary design features like video backgrounds and parallax scrolling.

Finding the right template

Finally, the Shopify theme store is set up in a way which makes it easier to find the right template for your online store: you can browse using a wide range of filters, including price, style, industry and more; by contrast, Volusion doesn't provide any filters (other than 'free' or 'premium').

Overall, when it comes to templates, it's hard not to conclude that Shopify's offering is significantly better than the Volusion equivalent.

A Volusion paid-for theme


Payment gateways

Both Shopify and Volusion integrate with a large number of 'payment gateways' - third party tools that process credit cards on your behalf. However, you can use more payment gateways with Shopify - over 100 to Volusion's 37.

It's important to note that the number of available payment gateways available for use in Volusion varies significantly depending on what part of the world you're operating in - in the US, for example, you can make use of around 30 Volusion payment gateways, whereas in Europe, this number drops to just 8.

Both tools come with an 'out of the box' payments solution too: 'Shopify Payments' and 'Volusion Payments'. Shopify Payments, as mentioned above, can only be used by merchants based in the United States of America, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Volusion Payments is only available to merchants in the US, and unlike Shopify Payments you'll have to pay a monthly fee to use it. You also have to go through an application process which takes 5-7 days.

All this means that Shopify is a hands down-winner in both the third-party payment gateway department, and its out-of-the-box option is more attractive than Volusion's too.


Apps

Apps allow you to bolt on a lot of additional functionality to an online store, and integrate third party web applications with it. 

Both Volusion and Shopify have app stores, but Shopify users can benefit from a much wider range of apps than Volusion users: there around 2000 Shopify apps you can integrate with your store, but only around 70 Volusion ones.

Although Volusion's apps do cover the basics, the reality is that Shopify users will benefit from a significantly larger number of options when it comes to apps (and these cater for major third party apps like Xero and Freshbooks). There are also hundreds of free apps available for Shopify...but only ten free apps for Volusion.


Dropshipping in Volusion vs Shopify

Many potential users of Volusion and Shopify will want to know how well it handles dropshipping

Dropshipping is a way of selling products where you don't keep the actual products in stock. Instead, you take an order, redirect it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your customer. A lot of people are attracted to this way of selling products because you don't need much capital to start up your business (the down side is that competition in the dropshipping marketplace is fierce).

If dropshipping is what you want to do then - as with much else discussed in this review - you'll find that the options are considerably more extensive in Shopify. There are tons of apps available for Shopify to facilitate it, but with Volusion, you're limited to just two dropshipping apps / suppliers: Doba and Kole Import.

For more information on dropshipping as a business model, I'd suggest you check out Shopify's free webinar on dropshipping.


Point of Sale options

Both Shopify and Volusion facilitate Point of Sale transactions - in other words, you can do business in the real world (selling goods in a retail outlet, pop-up store or event) use these platforms to both accept payment and sync inventory.

You can buy hardware directly from Shopify to faciliate point of sale transactions - this includes a barcode scanner, a receipt printer, a till and a label printer. All these allow your Shopify store to become more than just an 'virtual' entity; it can double up as a tool for running a business in the 'real' world too. All your customer and order data is synced with Shopify, so everything to do with sales and inventory is kept neat and tidy. 

Shopify's point of sale options are very comprehensive

POS functionality is available in Volusion too - you can use a variety of UPC scanners, card readers and receipt printers with it, so you will be able to use the platform in much the same way as Shopify's.

The key difference between Shopify and Volusion when it comes to POS applications however is that whereas Shopify make it a key part of the offering, and more of an 'out of the box' feature, it's more of an 'add on' service for Volusion which will require you to give more thought to the third party hardware you use (and possibly spend more time on making this hardware work with Volusion).


Adding a blog to a Volusion or Shopify store

Shopify offers an extremely important feature out of the box that is missing from Volusion: a blogging tool.

You might not immediately think that a blog is a key part of an online store - but in this day and age of content and inbound marketing, regular posting of quality blog content is absolutely essential to generating traffic to a site – and by extension to generating product sales.

It is possible to link a third-party blog (i.e., a Wordpress blog) to your Volusion store and mess around with DNS settings so that everything works neatly enough and your blog lives on a nice-looking subdomain…but it is a headache and probably one that a less experienced user will want to avoid. Shopify’s built-in blogging tool is a much better solution - you simply get a blog on your store that very easy to update.

That said, the Shopify blog is fairly basic - if you want to do advanced post categorisation and tagging you would be better off with a third-party blogging platform such as Wordpress. The majority of users will be able to make do perfectly well with a Shopify blog however, so for me this gives Shopify another edge over Volusion. 


Ease-of-use

Shopify has got a considerably better user interface, and when testing these two products against each other, I've always found that putting a simple store together is much, much quicker in Shopify than in Volusion.

Volusion now provides you with a step-by-step wizard to help you get started with your store - this is a welcome improvement - older incarnations of the Volusion back end sort of threw you in at the deep end.

The new Volusion interface

The new Volusion interface

However, if you follow the Volusion wizard process to the end, it concludes by asking you for your credit card details. This is extremely annoying and goes against the spirit of offering a free trial! It is possible to get around this by clicking a back button...but it's not ideal and some users will find the whole thing irritating or confusing.

Once you've gone past the wizard stage, you'll find it oddly difficult to do some very simple things with the Volusion interface – like reorder the navigation or add a simple ‘About Us’ web page.

I've used many a site / store builder in my time, but with Volusion I've had to resort to Google searches to work out how these simple tasks are performed – instant proof that this system is not, shall we say, all that intuitive. The same tasks did not present any problems at all in Shopify, which comes with a much more straightforward CMS and WYSIWYG editor.

Finally, both products allow you to tweak CSS and HTML, so if you are a relatively experienced web developer, you’ll be able to configure your store extensively.

Overall verdict on user friendliness: Shopify is way, way easier to use than Volusion. (The below vlog-style video gives a walkthrough of the Shopify interface - unfortunately I can't source a similar video for the new version of Volusion).


Marketing features

Volusion offers some rather interesting marketing features out of the box, notably a tool that allows you to create your own affiliate programs, a CRM system and a basic email marketing tool that allows you to send newsletters to your contacts directly from within Volusion.

The affiliate program could be useful for some users, but I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to the CRM side of things, because it doesn't support email systems that require SSL integration (with Gmail, used by millions of businesses worldwide, being an obvious casualty).

Volusion's email marketing tool is also quite a useful feature to have built into an online store solution - but there are limits on how many e-newsletters you can send out per month:

  • Mini Plan: newsletter emails not included
  • Plus Plan: 200 emails / month
  • Pro Plan: 1000 emails / month
  • Premium Plan: 2000 emails / month 

Given that these limits are not overly generous, this feature is probably only going to be of use to merchants who are starting out on their e-commerce journey; successful merchants will have larger lists and will most likely make use of a dedicated email marketing tool like Getresponse or Aweber.

Comparable marketing functionality is not really available out of the box with Shopify, but you can integrate it easily with a wide range of third-party CRM and email marketing tools by using an app from Shopify's app store. You can also use an affiliate app like Tapfiliate to  create an affiliate program for a Shopify store.

All in all Volusion's idea of providing marketing tools that let you operate your store and marketing campaigns using one platform is a nice one - but the tools themselves feel rather underpowered and you'd in all probability have a better experience (and gain more functinality) using dedicated third-party ones.


Userbases and history

There are two important 'due dilligence' questions to ask yourself when investing in any hosted e-commerce or website building solutions:

  • How many people actually use this product?
  • How long has it been about?

The answers to these questions are important, because they let you know how much you can 'trust' the solution you're considering using - for example, a relatively new company with only a few users on their books is more likely to go bust or shut down their service, with serious consequences for your online store.

User figures / revenue

In terms of userbases, we can only go on the numbers provided by Shopify and Volusion. Shopify states that there have been 500,000 stores built with their platform; Volusion states that 185,000 stores have been built with theirs.

Volusion claim that there are currently 40,000 active Volusion users. This is dwarfed by the figure provided by Shopify, who claim to have over 1,000,000 active users.

According to Shopify, their product has been responsible for $46bn in sales; Volusion's claim is $28bn. 

Company histories

Shopify is a somewhat newer kid on the block than Volusion; whereas Volusion has been around since 1999, Shopify opened its doors for business in 2006.

This puts the userbase and sales figures into context: Shopify has grown its business more quickly in a significantly shorter period of time, to the point where its userbase and sales have considerably eclipsed the corresponding Volusion figures.

Ultimately you'll need to draw your own conclusions from these figures, but they probably point to Shopify being a safer bet than Volusion over the next few years. 


Support

Volusion offers online support on all plans, but phone support is only available on their $35 'Plus' plan and up. Shopify's phone support is available on the slightly cheaper $29 'Basic' plan and up.

My hunch is that if you're a Volusion user, you are more likely to require phone support than if you're a Shopify user, simply because the Volusion interface is way less user-friendly.

Unlike with some competing products, it's easy enough to find a phone number for Volusion - you can either call a number listed on the home page of their site or you can use a 'schedule call' option (you can access this when logged into your Volusion Dashboard by clicking the 'Get Help' link at the top right of the screen).

Accessing phone numbers for Shopify involves a slightly fiddly process - you have to search for a solution to your problem and fail to find one before you can see any phone numbers. When you do get to see them, you'll note that numbers are only provided for a few countries - North America, New Zealand, UK, Australia and Singapore...it's not entirely clear what number you need to ring if you live outside of these territories. I'm guessing it's the US one.


Which is better then, Shopify or Volusion?

So which is better, Shopify or Volusion? Well, as you’ve probably guessed as this post has developed, I'd argue that Shopify is the hands-down winner.

There are six main reasons why I think it's a better product:

  • its user interface / CMS is much easier to use
  • it provides a wider range of free templates
  • there are no limits on bandwidth or products to worry about
  • it allows you to integrate a significantly larger number of apps into your store than Volusion does
  • it's a better bet for dropshipping
  • it allows you to blog ‘out of the box’

All this, I feel, makes Shopify far more suitable for use by people who want to set up an online store, but have little or no experience of building a website.

And speaking of building a website, Shopify generally makes it easy to do just that – you could, if you really wanted, ignore the online store aspect of things altogether and build a whole website fairly easily using Shopify.

It would be a pretty silly thing to do, as there are more comprehensive, cost-effective options out there for building a site without e-commerce functionality (see our Squarespace review or our Squarespace vs Wordpress comparison for some ideas), but the point is that with Shopify you get a very complete, generally easy-to-use package which allows you to build an entire website that is simple to maintain and comes with a fully-featured online store and a blog.

Volusion’s offering is more exclusively about the online store side of things and as such it comes with more online store-related functionality out of the box; this is fine, but many people who want an online store also need it to double up as an informational website (and blog) too. 

I guess my main issue with Volusion though is that it feels more like a tool for web developers rather than 'normal people' (!) who simply want to get a store off the ground quickly - and my feeling is that people who want to say, sell pottery online are too busy making and selling pottery to take a night class in web development.

For me, any system which presents a user with information about CSS files when he/she tries to create a simple navigation menu (as Volusion does) screams “hi developers!” rather than “hi novice”.

Any ‘techy’ stuff like that in Shopify (and there is plenty of that if you need it) is kept largely out of the way in the back end – it’s accessible alright, but not shoved in your face. This is far less intimidating for anyone who doesn't know what an ASP file is (the majority of people on this planet, I suspect).

That’s not to say that Volusion is an entirely bad product. If you are technically savvy, or a web developer, you should find it relatively straightforward to set up and use, and you may find that it has a bit more online store functionality (though not content management features) than Shopify.

Additionally, it can work out a bit cheaper to run a Volusion store, because (payment gateway provision aside), no transaction fees are charged on each purchase. If, however, you are a small business owner without any web skills, and you want to get a simple online store off the ground yourself with a minimum of fuss, Shopify is a much better, easier option.

Reasons to use Shopify over Volusion

  • It's significantly easier to use than Volusion.
  • There are more themes to choose from, and its paid-for themes are cheaper than the Volusion equivalents.
  • Unlimited storage and bandwidth come with all plans.
  • Blogging functionality is built in.
  • A wider selection of payment gateways is available.
  • A significantly wider selection of apps and integrations is available.
  • Point-of-sale functionality is more comprehensive and 'built in'.
  • Its own payment system, Shopify Payments, does not involve transaction or monthly fees.
  • It has a larger userbase - which arguably makes it a safer bet.

Free Shopify trial

Reasons to use Volusion over Shopify

  • Its entry level plan - the $15 per month 'Mini' option - allows you to create a fully-functional online store, whereas you can't do this with Shopify unless you are on a $29+ per month plan.
  • There are no transaction fees on any plans.
  • Some users may find its marketing features (CRM, affiliate program and email marketing tools) useful.

Free Volusion trial

Free trials of Shopify and Volusion

As I always say at the end of these sort of comparison reviews, it’s usually a good idea to try both products out yourself before committing to one of them, and fortunately both come with a free trial.


Any thoughts on Shopify vs Volusion?

If you've used both Shopify or Volusion (or both!) in the past, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both systems - feel free to add comment below (note, if you're viewing this on a smartphone and can't see the comments section, you may be reading an Accelerated Mobile Pages version of the page - if so, click here to view the regular mobile version, where you'll be able to view and add comments. Thanks!). 

Bigcommerce vs Volusion (2018) - Comparison Review
Bigcommerce vs Volusion

In this Bigcommerce vs Volusion review, we compare two leading online store building tools to see which comes out tops - and which is right for your type of business.

Bigcommerce pricing vs Volusion pricing...

Volusion and Bigcommerce both offer four plans.

Volusion's plans are as follows:

  • Mini - $15 per month
  • Plus - $35 per month
  • Pro - $75 per month
  • Premium - $135 per month

Bigcommerce's plans are:

  • Bigcommerce Standard: $29.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Plus: $79.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Pro: $249.95 per month
  • Bigcommerce Enterprise: pricing varies depending on requirements

The most obvious thing you'll notice from the above is that Volusion lets you start selling more cheaply, with the cheapest Volusion plan ('Mini') costing just $15 compared to Bigcommerce's $29.95 entry plan ('Standard'). 

The main differences in terms of features to watch out for between the two sets of plans are:

  • The number of products you can sell: Bigcommerce allows you to sell an unlimited number of products on all their plans; Volusion only facilitates this on the most expensive 'Premium' plan.
  • Abandoned cart reports: with Volusion, you can access this information on their $35 ('Plus') plan and up - with Bigcommerce, you need to be on a $75.95 ('Plus') plan to avail of this functionality (but as will be explained below, the Bigcommerce abandoned cart functionality is significantly better)
  • Bandwidth: this is unlimited on all Bigcommerce plans, whereas Volusion limits it to varying degrees on all their plans (at the starter end of the spectrum, on Volusion's 'Mini' plan, you can expect a limit of 1GB per month; even on their premium plan a bandwidth cap also applies, of 35GB per month).
  • Sales limits: Bigcommerce applies sales limits to each of its plans (for example, you can sell up to $50k worth of products on its 'Standard' plan, $150k on its 'Plus' plan and $400k on its Pro plan) - exceed these and you'll have to upgrade to a more expensive monthly plan.

It's worth remembering too of course is that with either a Bigcommerce or a Volusion plan, you will need to factor in the costs associated with using a ‘payment gateway’ - the software that allows you to process credit card payments.

Templates

The free templates that Volusion and Bigcommerce provide are solid, professional offerings - but Volusion offers more free templates than Bigcommerce: 11 vs 7 respectively. 

Additionally, the Volusion free themes are more distinct from each other; some of the Bigcommerce templates are so similar in appearance that it's probably a bit cheeky to label them as individual templates - it's more a case of different colours being applied to the same template. 

 

With the introduction of 'Bigcommerce Next', Bigcommerce themes have become attractive and contemporary

 

Both companies also provide a  range of fancier-looking, paid-for templates.

Volusion offers 35 paid themes - all priced at $180 each.

Bigcommerce offer 120, and and these range in price from $145 to $235. However, as with Bigcommerce's free themes, many of these are so similar in appearance to each other to the point where this number is a bit misleading. 

Overall, I'd say it's a bit of a win for Volusion in the template department, certainly as far as the free template offering goes. But there is enough choice on offer from both companies to allow you to create a very attractive storefront (so long as your product images are up to scratch).

Mobile storefronts and smartphone apps

Both Volusion and Bigcommerce can automatically create a mobile and tablet friendly version of your store, via responsive templates.

Volusion also provides iOS and Android apps for managing aspects of your store on the go. No user rating is currently available for the iOS version, but Android users seem to like the Volusion app, giving it an average of 4 out of 5 stars.

Bigcommerce used to provide apps to manage your store too, but they are no longer available. The company does state that their control panel may be accessible by some versions of Android - so you may be able to access the Bigcommerce back end on the go via your smartphone - but is not supported by the BigCommerce technical support and product teams.

So all in all, it's probably fair to say that Volusion has an edge over Bigcommerce in this area.

Features

Basic features

Both Bigcommerce and Volusion allow you to do all the basics when it comes to setting up an online store:

  • stock a wide range of products (digital and physical)
  • accept a wide range of payments (via a selection of payment gateways)
  • add new pages to your site and edit them
  • capture customer data and access analytics on your store visits / sales.

Let's delve into a few more features in depth.

Marketing

Both products offer a good range of marketing features including discount coupons, gift cards, Facebook storefronts and banners.

Volusion goes further with marketing features, in that it offers a CRM tool on the Pro and Premium plans (note however, that this CRM functionality doesn't currently integrate with Gmail accounts or any email system requiring SSL integration - thus ruling out a hell of a lot of users - and can't be tested in trial account mode).

Volusion also allows you to set up your own affiliate program, which might be genuinely useful to some users (those with very popular stores / high levels of traffic in particular).

You can also send e-newsletters with Volusion, but fairly ungenerous limits apply - on the Plus Plan you can send 200 e-newsletters per month; 1000 on the Pro plan and 2000 on the Premium Plan.

Whilst the idea of being able to use Volusion for both running your online store and marketing it, the functionality provided is not necessarily up to the job of doing the marketing bit (it feels like a 'jack of all trades, master of none' scenario). If you do decide to use Volusion as your online store builder, you'll probably find that dedicated CRM and email marketing apps will beat the in-built marketing tools hands down (and help you grow your business faster).

Abandoned carts

Abandoned cart savers let you identify the visitors to your store who add something to their cart only to leave your site without making a purchase.

This is very useful because you can then email these visitors encouraging them to reconsider this decision, offer them a discount code to tempt them back and so on.

This functionality is available from both Bigcommerce and Volusion, but is offered at a cheaper price by Volusion – it’s included with their $35 plan, whereas you need to be on a $79.95 + plan with Bigcommerce to get abandoned cart reports.

However, the abandoned cart functionality that comes with Bigcommerce is much, much better than Volusion’s – with Bigcommerce, you can predefine what you’d like to happen when somebody abandons their cart (i.e., send them a series of pre-written emails automatically); with Volusion, you get access to a list of users that have abandoned their carts, but you will have to email them manually (using Volusion's 'send retention email' option).

An automated setup like the one used by Bigcommerce is much better - it's a 'set and forget' process which will save users a lot of time.

That said, there are some third party tools available which can help Volusion users with automation – such as Autoresponder Max – but they tend to come at a price (Autoresponder Max costs $99 per month).

Integrating Volusion and Bigcommerce with Ebay and Amazon

Both Bigcommerce and Volusion allow you to integrate your store with Ebay and Amazon – but Bigcommerce allow you to do this more cheaply - you'll get this functionality on their $29.95 plan, whereas with Volusion you'll need to take out a $75 'Pro' plan to avail of it.

Disclaimer: I've not yet put both integrations to the test, so if selling on Ebay or Amazon is important for your business, I'd definitely road-test both products yourself first.

Ease of use

User-friendliness is the area where in a Bigcommerce vs Volusion shootout, Bigcommerce is a hands-down winner (in fact it’s one of the easiest-to-use store builders to use that I’ve tested to date).

Bigcommerce's interface works in a similar way to many contemporary CMS platforms - such as those used by Wordpress, Shopify and Squarespace. There's a vertical menu on the left which allows you to choose what you'd like to do with your site (add a product, view a report, edit a page, write a blog post etc.) and once you've done so you'll be able to view/edit content or reports on the right hand side of the screen.

Put simply, its interface is contemporary, easy to use and intuitive; unfortunately the same cannot be said for Volusion’s, which makes doing basic things like creating a simple ‘about us’ HTML page bizarrely difficult.

The Volusion CMS is unnecessarily complicated. The above screen - click to enlarge - is what the user sees when they try to edit the content on their site. ASP file anyone?

I've worked with a lot of site builders and CMS systems in my time and I am really struck by how unintuitive the Volusion interface is - with rivals Bigcommerce, Shopify or Squarespace, getting a simple site / store off the ground (and editing its content) can be done with a minimum of fuss; the same simply cannot be said for Volusion, which I have not found at all easy to use.

Core tasks like creating a navigation or editing pages are unnecessarily confusing and this will put many users off the product - particularly those relatively new to building websites - before they have a chance to explore Volusion's selling and marketing functionality, a lot of which is quite good.

A lot of support materials - including several 'getting started' videos - are provided by Volusion, and there is always phone and chat support to help you if you get stuck; but my hunch is that with the Volusion CMS, many people will get stuck rather too quickly.

Ultimately, I feel that experienced web developers would not have a huge amount of difficulty using Volusion; but anyone new to putting a site together could struggle with it. The novice user would find things much more straightforward with Bigcommerce.

Blogging in Bigcommerce and Volusion

Bigcommerce offers an important feature out of the box that is missing from Volusion: a blogging tool.

In this era of inbound marketing, creating quality blog content is absolutely essential to generating traffic to a site – and by extension to generating sales.

It is possible to link a third-party blog (i.e., a Wordpress blog) to your Volusion store and edit the DNS settings so that it appears on a subdomain on your Volusion-powered site - but this is something that a less experienced user will want to avoid. These sorts of users will appreciate Bigcommerce's built-in blogging tool - you simply get a blog on your store that very easy to update.

That said, the Bigcommerce blog is fairly basic - if you want to do advanced post categorisation and tagging you would be better off with integrating a third-party blogging platform such as Wordpress (again, using the subdomain approach). And if RSS feeds are important to you, you'll be disappointed with the built-in Bigcommerce blog: it doesn't support them.

Support

With Bigcommerce, you get 24-hour 'live agent' support. It's not particularly clear on their site what channels this covers - phone, chat or email - and before you get access to actual contact details you have to try to resolve the issue by searching their help pages first. There is also a large range of video and text resources available from Bigcommerce, and a community forum.

With Volusion, support comes in three varieties, depending on what plan you're one: online, phone and priority. This does not appear to be 24/7, but at least accessing the relevant phone numbers on the Volusion site is very easy. 

Which is better, Bigcommerce or Volusion?

Bigcommerce and Volusion are both very fully-featured online store builders. There are however, quite a few differences in what they offer, and before you decide upon which tool to use, it’s a good idea to make a list of your ‘core requirements’ for your store so that you can identify which product (and plan) matches your business needs best: don’t pick a plan based on price alone.

Here are a few key reasons why one of these platforms might be more suited to your needs than the other:

Reasons to pick Bigcommerce over Volusion

  • Bigcommerce is much easier to use – if you are a novice at putting together a website, you will find it a lot easier to get to grips with than Volusion.
  • Its abandoned cart functionality is better: being able to pre-program a series of automated follow up emails to users who abandon their carts has the potential to save you a lot of time – and money.
  • All Bigcommerce plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products.
  • You can sell on Ebay and Amazon on the cheapest Bigcommerce plans - Volusion restricts this functionality to its more expensive $75+ plans.
  • You can sell an unlimited number of products on any Bigcommerce plan; you'll have to be on the most expensive Volusion plan to do this.
  • Unlike Volusion, Bigcommerce does not have any limitations on bandwidth.
  • Bigcommerce provides built-in blogging functionality (albeit of a basic variety).
  • All plans include phone support - this is not the case with Volusion's.

You can get a free trial of Bigcommerce here.

Reasons to pick Volusion over Bigcommerce

  • Volusion's cheapest plan is half the price of the Bigcommerce equivalent.
  • There are no sales caps - Bigcommerce limits these to $50k, $150k and $400k on their 'Standard', 'Plus' and 'Pro' plans respectively.
  • Volusion has a more extensive selection of free templates.
  • Some of the Volusion marketing features - such as the affiliate program and the CRM tool - may prove useful to some users (the CRM program will not work with many popular email systems however, including Gmail).

You can get a free trial of Volusion here.

As ever it's a case of defining your requirements well, trying both products out via a free trial and working out which tool meets your needs better before signing up to a paid plan.

Free trials

You’ll find links to the Bigcommerce and Volusion free trials below.

Feel free to add your own thoughts on Bigcommerce vs Volusion below, and if you enjoyed this article, it'd be great if you could share it or post a link to it on your site.

Alternatives to Bigcommerce and Volusion

For me one of the best alternatives to Bigcommerce and Volusion is Shopify - you can read our Shopify review here. If you already have a site and you wish to add e-commerce functionality to it, you might also want to check out Ecwid.

See also

Six Simple Ways to Make your Site More Visible in Google Search Results
Ways to make your website more visible on Google (image of a magnifying glass)

Getting a good placement in Google search results may seem tough, but you can make life a lot easier for yourself and your website by taking some simple, Google-recommended, steps to help the search engine giant know you’re there.

In this article, we give you some key tips to make Google sit up and notice your site. 


1. Register your site with Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a free service from Google that allows you to submit your website (and its sitemap) to Google for indexing.

That’s not all though: you can use the tool to do a lot of other useful things including:

  • check important backlinks to your site
  • ensure that Google is not experiencing any crawl errors with your site
  • let Google know if different versions of your websites exist for different countries
  • view the kinds of search queries that are driving traffic to your site.

Most importantly, by submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console you are telling the search giant that your website exists. Which of course is the starting point to appearing in search results.

As soon as you register your site with Search Console, Google will send you an email with several tips about how to use the tool to maximise your visibility in results. Make sure you follow them!


2. Link your site to Google MyBusiness, and start using Google+ properly

Google My Business

Registering your business on Google My Business (essentially the successor to Google Places) can help it appear in relevant geographic search results.

When you do this, Google will send a postcard containing a pin to your business address – you can use this to ‘verify’ your business with Google.

This verification lets Google know that your business operates in the physical location you stated, meaning that you have a stronger chance of appearing in search results – and on Google Maps – for people who are searching for a business like yours in the area in which you operate.

If, for example, you run a web design business in Hackney, London and somebody with a Hackney IP whacks ‘web design Hackney’ or even ‘web design’ into Google, you may surprise yourself by popping up in a higher-than-expected position in search.

Google+

When you register your business with Google MyBusiness, you will be provided with a Google+ page (if you don’t already have one). Use it! When you post links to your site on your Google+ page, these get indexed by Google (and, some say, pretty quickly).

Furthermore, Google are increasingly showing business’ Google+ pages in search results when people search for that that business' name (usually in a big, hard-to-avoid box on the right-hand side of the results).

This means that potential customers are now quite likely to see the Google+ information before they encounter your website – so if your Google+ page isn’t updated or contains incorrect information (like an old telephone number), then this is going to work against you.

There is a debate to be had as to whether the number of Google 'plus ones' has any bearing on search results (Google says not, but some Moz data suggests otherwise) - but either way it’s a good idea to let people +1 your content easily (at the very least it will raise its visibility on Google+).

You can make it easy for people to +1 your content by adding sharing icons on your website (via a service like Addthis), or simply by grabbing a plus one button from Google direct (they give you a snippet of code you can add to your site’s HTML).


3. Make your site load as fast as it can, particularly on mobile

Google has been using 'site speed' as a ranking signal since 2010 - and as such it's important to ensure that your site is loading as fast as possible.

This means that you should

  • minimise the number of HTTPS requests on your site (to do this, keep use of scripts to a minimum and use images only when they are genuinely beneficial to your content)
  • ensure your image file sizes are as small as they can be (you can use tools like Tiny Png to help you compress them with minimal loss of picture quality)
  • use fast hosting

For a more comprehensive run down of the things you can do to speed up your site, I'd advise using Google's Page Speed Insights tool (screenshot below).

Not only will this help you to you to test how fast your site is loading (on both mobile and desktop), it will provide you with a report containing a checklist of things that you need to do to help you speed up your website's performance.

Google's PageSpeed Tools can help you find ways to improve the loading times of your website.

Google's PageSpeed Tools can help you find ways to improve the loading times of your website.

It's particularly important to ensure that your website is blazingly fast on a mobile, and that the user experience for people viewing it on smartphones is as good as possible.

Studies show that 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site if they are not satisfied with how your site performs; as such Google places a strong emphasis on rewarding sites that load quickly on mobile devices with higher positions in search.

You can view Google's mobile SEO overview guide here, which outlines how you can maximise your mobile site's visibility in search results.


4. Use relevant keywords in your page titles, meta descriptions and URLs

Ensure that your page titles and meta descriptions contain

  • accurate, concise descriptions of your page content
  • keywords that you are hoping to perform well for you in search
  • some location details if relevant.

Google often shows snippets of your meta descriptions in search results, and can use them to decide how relevant your site is to particular searches (by monitoring the clickthrough rates they generate in search results, with higher clickthrough rates indicating that a page answers a particular search query well).

In the above example of a search result, you can see that in addition to including the business name in the page title, the site owner has included some information about the type of food served, along with some geographical information.

In the above example of a search result, you can see that in addition to including the business name in the page title, the site owner has included some information about the type of food served, along with some geographical information.

Avoid being spammy though by stuffing titles and meta descriptions with too many 'catch all' keywords however, because this can:

  • actively damage your chances of appearing high in search results (Google's algorithms are, to say the least, pretty good at spotting spam)
  • make your site appear appear off-putting or 'cheap looking' to users who come across it during searches.

In addition to focusing on creating well-optimised page titles and meta descriptions, you should try to ensure that your site URLs also include keywords that you are focusing on for search purposes.

This makes it easier for users to spot relevant pages in search results, and also means that if somebody creates a link to your site from theirs, but only copies the URL, the keywords in the URL would become the anchor text. As Google looks at what words are in the anchor text when indexing content, accurate ones can help you rank better. 

As a very simple example, if you are trying to sell guitars on your website, a 'clean URL' of www.mysite.com/guitars would be more likely to help your search engine cause than a more generic www.mysite.com/instruments. 


5. Create backlinks to your site

Even if you've got fantastically well-constructed page titles, meta descriptions and URLs, they're usually fairly useless unless you've got 'backlinks' pointing to your website too.

Backlinks are essentially links from other sites to your site, and in a very simple sense Google counts them as 'votes' for your content.

There are two main ways to generate backlinks: 

  • via outreach, by asking other site / blog owners to feature links to your content on their sites
  • by creating long, keyword-rich blog posts that are extremely relevant to your business niche (if they are REALLY interesting / helpful articles about your area of business, they are more likely to attract a relevant audience, a proportion of which will create backlinks to them).

Avoid using companies that promise to create thousands of backlinks for you however - Google can and will penalise your site if it thinks there is spammy activity going on in this regard.


6. Follow Google's advice

Google are actually pretty helpful when it comes to advising you how to improve your site’s performance in search results – so helpful in fact, that they provide a free guide to optimising your site for Google search.

Read it cover to cover and make sure you are following all their advice. The guide can be found here and deals with the nuts and bolts of SEO – how to use headers, meta data and keyword-rich content appropriately.

As mentioned earlier, it's worth checking out Google's mobile SEO overview document too.

You might also find Google's guide to page titles and snippets handy too (you'll find a video below, and an article on the topic here).

If you're a Google+ user, you might want to stay posted to the Google Webmasters page - where you'll regularly get tips on SEO and other Google-related issues straight from the horse's mouth.


Finally, if you'd like some more advice on how to improve your site's general visibility in search, make sure you join our mailing list (we send out regular tips on SEO and inbound marketing).



Any thoughts?

Got any search tips of your own? Feel free to share in the comments section below (note: if you're viewing this on a mobile device, you may be reading our accelerated AMP version, which doesn't currently show them. You can view and leave comments by visiting the regular version of this page.


Mailchimp vs Aweber (2018) - Comparison Review
Mailchimp vs Aweber comparison (image of an envelope showing both products' logos).

In this Mailchimp vs Aweber comparison review, we’re going to look at two of the best-known e-marketing solutions currently available and see which one is the best fit for your business.

Read on to get a full overview of both Mailchimp and Aweber’s feature set and why you might decide to use one of these tools over the other.

Let's start off by taking a look at the main things that Aweber and Mailchimp let you do.


What do Aweber and Mailchimp actually do?

Aweber and Mailchimp are tools that allow you to:

  • import and host a mailing list and capture data onto it using sign-up forms
  • create e-newsletters (both HTML and plain text) which can be sent to your subscribers
  • automate your emails to subscribers via use of ‘autoresponders’ (see below for more information)
  • review statistics related to your email marketing campaigns – open rate, click through, forwards etc.

What are autoresponders?

Before progressing with this comparison review, it’s worth zooming in on something very important offered by both Mailchimp and Aweber: autoresponders. What are they?

Autoresponders are e-newsletters that are sent to your mailing list subscribers at pre-defined intervals – for example, you can set them up so that straight after somebody signs up to your list, they receive a welcome or ‘onboarding’ message from your business; a week later they could receive a promo code for specific products; two weeks later they could receive an encouragement to follow you on social media. And so on!

The idea behind autoresponders is that much of your email marketing gets automated – it’s a sort of ‘set and forget’ scenario that saves you the bother sending out e-newsletters manually (although you can still of course do this as and when required). Regardless of whether you plump for Aweber or Mailchimp, it’s well worth investing some time in understanding autoresponders and using them effectively.

We’ll dig into autoresponder features a bit more comprehensively below. But before we do that, let’s take a look at pricing.


Pricing

Aweber pricing

Pricing options in Aweber are fairly straightforward - there are 5 plans available. All have the same features, with the number of subscribers on your mailing list determining the cost.

The prices of these plans are as follows:

  • Hosting and emailing a list containing up to 500 subscribers: $19 per month
  • 501 to 2,500 subscribers: $29 per month
  • 2,501 to 5,000 subscribers: $49 per month
  • 5,001 to 10,000 subscribers: $69 per month
  • 10,001 to 25,000 subscribers: $149 per month

If your list contains over 25,000 subscribers, you will need to call Aweber for a quotation.

Mailchimp pricing

With Mailchimp, things are a little bit more complicated - there are three tiers of plan available, each with multiple pricing sub-tiers, which all depend on list size:

  • "Starting up" (a free plan)
  • "Growing Business"
  • "Pro Marketer"

Some of the key differences between the Mailchimp tiers involve

  • subscriber count - the free plan limits the number of subscribers to 2000
  • send limits - you can only send up to 12,000 emails per month on the free plan
  • support - you can only avail of this on paid plans
  • advanced segmentation - this is only available on the 'Pro Marketer' plan
  • reporting - the most advanced reporting features are only available on the 'Pro Marketer' plan
  • advanced multivariate testing - this is not available on the "Starting Up" or "Growing Business" but available on "Pro Marketer".

Free plans / trials

The Mailchimp ‘Starting Up’ plan - which is completely free - is arguably the strongest reason why you might want to choose Mailchimp as an email marketing solution.

Although this plan limits the number of subscribers you can send e-newsletters to 2,000 records, and the total number of sendable emails per month to 12,000, many of the other features you'll find in Mailchimp are actually present in this plan for free. As such it's a good option for any business starting their list entirely from scratch, so long as support is not an issue (you won't get any on the free plan).

Aweber doesn't offer a free plan, but does allow you to try out the product for 30 days free of charge - you can sign up for the free Aweber trial here.

On the plus side, the Aweber free trial is fully functional; this will help you get a good sense of the product. On the down side, to access the free trial you have to enter your credit card details first. This contrasts negatively with Mailchimp (and indeed similar free trials offered by competing products such as Getresponse).

I suspect that the Mailchimp plan which is most relevant to readers comparing Aweber to Mailchimp would be the ‘Growing Business’ plan - this allows you to make use of most of the main features of Mailchimp.

Like Aweber, how much a plan costs depends on your list size, but unlike Aweber the pricing bands are much narrower, i.e.,

  • 0 to 500 subscribers: $10 per month
  • 501 to 1000 subscribers: $15 per month
  • 1001 to 1500 subscribers: $20 per month

...and so on, with the pricing bands becoming even narrower for list sizes over 2,500 records (where going up 100 records increases the price by $5 until you hit 2,800 records).

It’s all a bit confusing to be honest - but generally speaking, Mailchimp and Aweber are fairly similarly priced (up to 25k records at least), with Mailchimp definitely being cheaper for users with databases containing less than 1,501 records.

Pay as you go

An interesting option for users who mail their databases relatively infrequently is Mailchimp's 'Pay as You Go' plan, where you pay a set fee per email sent. This varies according to the size of your mailouts - for example, if you send an e-newsletter to 1,000 recipients the price per email is 0.03c; at the other end of the spectrum if you email 50,000 the cost per email drops to 0.01c.

The pay-as-you-go payment model won't be for everyone, but it's potentially useful for users who are not interested in making use of autoresponders and only wish to send ad hoc, one-off blasts.

Finally, there’s the Mailchimp ‘Pro Marketer’ plan to consider. This plan is considerably more expensive than anything Aweber (and indeed competing products like Getresponse, Campaign Monitor and Mad Mimi) have to offer: on this plan, on top of the standard ‘Growing Business’ costs referred to above, you have to pay $199 per month.

For this, you get better segmentation, more split testing options (more on these below), access to additional API related functionality and other advanced features.

But as ever, price is not the only thing to bear in mind. Let’s look at some features.


Autoresponders and marketing automation in Mailchimp and Aweber

Both Mailchimp and Aweber allow you to create simple ‘time-based’ autoresponders - a series of emails based on time intervals (as discussed above).

I’d argue that for this kind of autoresponder, Aweber makes things a bit easier - setting up automation in Mailchimp is a bit fiddly whereas Aweber’s ‘Campaigns’ tool, which is used to create your autoresponder workflow, is very easy to use.

However, to properly compare Mailchimp and Aweber's autoresponder functionality, we need to look beyond traditional 'drip' style autoresponders and look more closely at the idea of marketing automation, something which has been introduced into many email marketing solutions over the past couple of years.

Marketing automation works in a similar way to autoresponders, in that emails are automatically sent to a mailing list according to a predefined sequence. But instead of time intervals, user behaviour is used to determine what should emails should be sent next - opens, clicks, goal completions, purchases, abandoned carts and more can all be used to trigger the next e-newsletter. 

As things stand, Mailchimp offers significantly more functionality when it comes to marketing automation: you can choose from a wide range of pre-defined workflows - ‘e-commerce’, ‘education’, ‘non-profit’ amongst others - or create your own using goals you define yourself. 

A simple example of a Mailchimp goal completion might be a purchase: you can add a Mailchimp script to a post-purchase page on your site, meaning that if a user arrives on that page after clicking on a link in one of your e-newsletters, Mailchimp is notified and the user is automatically sent a specific follow up communication.

Aweber's marketing automation is currently a bit more on the basic side - you can only use tags and clicks to create automated user journeys. That said, from chatting to Aweber's marketing team I know that they are working hard to add more functionality in this area.


Templates

Both Aweber and Mailchimp offer a wide range of e-newsletter templates, which are designed to suit many different applications and organisation types - e-commerce, events, sports, education and so on. Aweber offers far more templates than Mailchimp: around 700 to 90 respectively.

With both systems you can tweak the templates extensively, and indeed code your own, so users of both platforms should be able to settle on a template which works for their business without too much difficulty.

The other good news about both products is that all the email templates provided are responsive, meaning that they will automatically resize themselves to suit the device your e-newsletter is being viewed on.

One of Aweber's more contemporary templates.

One of Aweber's more contemporary templates.

Mailchimp makes it easier, however, to preview the mobile version of your e-newsletter - there's a preview option you can use as you build it. By contrast, with Aweber, you'll have to send yourself a test email and open it on a smartphone to see what your e-newsletter looks like on a mobile device.

(As an aside, neither tool is as good as Getresponse when it comes to previewing the responsive versions of your messages - in Getresponse, when you build your e-newsletter you see both the full version and the mobile preview on screen at the same time).

Mailchimp has a slight edge over Aweber when it comes to fonts - you can use web fonts in your templates (albeit a small selection), which can improve the look and feel of them considerably. Aweber by contrast limits font usage to 'web safe' ones - the boring but admittedly reliable Arial, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Georgia etc.

However, the web fonts that you can use in Mailchimp are exceptionally dull - so dull in fact that you might be better off using the web safe ones - they'll load more reliably and your e-newsletters will appear more consistently across email clients / devices. I love web fonts, but the Mailchimp offering is so boring that there is currently little point to using them.


The Aweber and Mailchimp interfaces

When it comes to interfaces, Aweber and Mailchimp take quite different approaches.

Aweber’s interface is quite traditional in nature - when you log in you encounter a horizontal primary navigation containing key options such as ‘messages’, ‘subscribers’ and ‘reports’; hovering over menu items reveals sub-menus that let you ‘get at’ important secondary options (for example, email templates, import options and statistics).

Mailchimp on the other hand offers a very minimal interface - there is a smaller primary navigation to contend with, and no drop down menus are involved.

Whilst this makes for an initially 'cleaner' user experience, it also means that you have to click through to a second screen and then locate the option you’re looking for from another set of options (which are presented in the main page copy).

So despite the fact that the Mailchimp interface is undoubtedly easier on the eye, I find that actually locating key functionality with it is harder to do.

With Aweber, all the important options are easily located from the moment you log in - but with Mailchimp there is quite a bit more clicking around the place to do.


Editing e-newsletters

Both Aweber and Mailchimp take a ‘drag and drop’ approach to editing e-newsletters. You can add, move and edit elements such as text, images, logos and so on easily with both products.

One aspect of Aweber’s builder which I prefer over Mailchimp’s is the way that you can 'type onto' your e-newsletter - you just point at the copy on the e-newsletter you want to tweak and you can edit it there and then, in situ.

By contrast, with Mailchimp, you have to select the component you want to edit, and then make your changes in a separate box. Not a showstopper really, but it can occasionally slow you down a bit.

However, and as discussed above, it’s much easier with Mailchimp to see what your email will look like on different devices.


Opt-in processes in Aweber and Mailchimp

There are two ways you can add subscribers to a mailing list: using a 'single opt-in' or a 'double opt-in' process.

When you use a single opt-in process, the person completing your sign-up form is added to your mailing list immediately. With a double opt-in process, the person signing up to your list is sent an email containing a confirmation link that he or she must click before they are subscribed.

The main benefits of a single opt-in process are that

  • it makes it easy for users to subscribe
  • it generally improves conversion rates and leads to more people joining your list

 A double opt-in process is better for

  • keeping 'spam' and 'fake' email addresses to a minimum (because everybody on the list effectively has to prove that their email addresses are real)
  • improving the accuracy of reports (because open rates are based on the actions of subscribers with real email addresses, not a bunch of fake emails).

For some time, Aweber had a huge edge over Mailchimp in this area, because it allowed users to make use of either a single or a double opt-in approach. Mailchimp recently changed its tune however,  allowing its customers to use a single opt-in approach.

So a thumbs up to both products in this department.


Data segmentation

A key part of managing a mailing list involves creating segments and sending e-newsletters to them. Both Mailchimp and Aweber allow you to create segments based on your preferred criteria - but what they don't do is let you send to multiple segments at once.

For example, say you're a Volkswagen dealer with a mailing list containing a field called 'car model.' You've used field this to segment your mailing list neatly into the owners of VW Polos, Golfs, Passats, Tiguans etc. You have a special offer which is relevant to Polo and Golf owners, and you want to send this message to those two segments in one go.

But with Mailchimp's entry level plan and Aweber...you can't. You'll have to go and create a brand new segment for people who own Polos OR Golfs. Now, this might not seem like a serious problem, but if you regularly need to send mailouts to multiple (and varying) segments of subscribers then you will potentially have more work to do than you might like.

If segmentation is a key aspect of how you manage your mailouts, then I'd probably look elsewhere for an email marketing solution. The two products I've come across which cater best for emailing multiple segments (and indeed lists) are Getresponse (note: its segments are called 'saved searches') and Campaign Monitor (which offers extremely good segmentation functionality, but at a pretty high price).

To be fair, you can get some advanced segmentation functionality with Mailchimp - but at a price (you'll need to add $199 to your Mailchimp bill). You can find out more about advanced segmentation in Mailchimp here


A nice touch in Aweber: stock images

One nice feature in Aweber which isn’t currently available in Mailchimp is a free stock images library.

You can use this to insert royalty-free photography into your e-newsletters - this is handy for all those times you need a generic looking picture of a computer keyboard to use as a thumbnail…


Split testing

An important feature of email marketing tools like Aweber and Mailchimp is split (or 'multivariate') testing.

Split testing allows you to try out different subject headers or content on sample data to see which works best. For example, you could send two versions of your e-newsletter to 10% of your subscribers, analyse the results (i.e., open / clickthrough rates) and send out the best-performing version to the remainder of people on your list. If you have a large mailing list, use of split testing can lead to significant improvements to your open and clickthrough rates, so sany emarketing tools automate the process for you.

On the cheaper ‘Growing Business’ Mailchimp plans - the ones that are broadly comparable to Aweber in price - you can test three different versions of your email against each other. More sophisticated split testing options are available if you're prepared to pay for them - subscribers to Mailchimp's 'Pro Marketer' plan can test 8 variants of e-newsletters against each other; useful, but as this will cost you $199 per month on top of whatever you are paying to host your list, it's probably going to be a feature that only large organisations will avail of.

Up until recently Aweber trumped the standard Mailchimp offering on split testing, by allowing users to split test 4 different emails against each other.

Unforutnately however, Aweber's split testing feature is currently in the process of being designed, and as such has been disabled. I'm assured by Aweber that it will be back soon and better than before, but I'm not sure how long it's going to be unavailable for. So if you think that you're going to need to do a lot of split testing in the immediate future, you will probably need to look elsewhere for your email marketing solution for now.


RSS to e-newsletter

One thing that is definitely better in Mailchimp than in Aweber is the way that you can use an RSS feed (typically from a blog) to create e-newsletters.

Both platforms allow you to send out e-newsletters automatically based on an updated RSS feed. In Mailchimp, you can use any template to do so, but in Aweber, you're restricted to using a set of very dated, hard-to-edit templates. This has negative implications for the consistency of your branding across your communications - you might spend some time, for example, creating a slick template in Aweber for your e-newsletters only to find that you can't use it for broadcasting blog posts.

If RSS-to-email is an important feature for you, Mailchimp is definitely preferable to Aweber.


Reporting

Both Aweber and Mailchimp provide you with detailed statistics on the performance of your mailouts, with, in my view, Mailchimp having the better reporting interface and one that is more feature packed. It’s laid out in a way that makes drilling down into particular bits of data very straightforward - you can view e-newsletter results by activity (opens and clicks etc.), URLs clicked, social activity, e-commerce, conversations and Google Analytics.

There are two particularly nifty features in Mailchimp that are worth singling out for attention:

  • a ‘member rating’ system - Mailchimp reviews how engaged each member of your mailing list is (based on opens, clicks and purchases) and assigns them a member rating (using a five point scale). This allows you to identify particularly ‘good’ members of your mailing list easily and craft specific communications for them.

  • the option to compare your list’s performance against industry standards (i.e., you tell Mailchimp what sort of business you’re operating and it will compare your stats against campaigns by similar businesses).

Aweber is not without its strong features when it comes to reporting either however, and I particularly like the way that you can create segments directly from reports (i.e., you can look at a report for a particular e-newsletter broadcast, go to a list of people who’ve opened that email, and target them with a new communication on the spot). This is not easily doable in Mailchimp: to create a segment of subscribers based on clickthroughs or open rates, you need to open your report, export a list of the relevant subscribers, and then re-import it (making sure that there is a field which flags the fact that these subscribers have engaged with the mailout). Messy!


Integrations

Aweber and Mailchimp both integrate with important e-commerce and social platforms - key examples include Shopify, Bigcommerce, Paypal and Facebook.

However, Mailchimp offers a much bigger selection of integrations. It’s seen, for whatever reason, as more of an industry standard tool than Aweber, so some web applications - key examples being Squarespace and Shopify - will offer Mailchimp as a default ‘works out of the box’ e-marketing option. That's not to say that you can't use Aweber with these products, but there will be more configuration required.

Additionally, Mailchimp is more tightly integrated with Facebook ads. You can connect a Mailchimp list to Facebook, which will then examine its addresses and show ads to anybody on your list who also has a Facebook account (this is called a 'custom audience'). Your Mailchimp list is synced with your Facebook account, meaning that Facebook will automatically start showing the ads to any new subscribers (i.e., in addition to the people who were on your list when you connected your accounts).

Now, you can do this with a Aweber list too, but you will have to upload your list manually periodically to ensure that new subscribers continue to see your ads.

On top of this, you can actually run Facebook ad campaigns (and indeed Google ad campaigns) from within your Mailchimp account, so if you're the kind of user who wants to manage everything in one place, you may find this useful.


Send time optimisation

A strong feature that is included in Mailchimp which is unfortunately not present in Aweber is ‘Send Time Optimisation’.

Send time optimisation is a sophisticated feature which automatically sends your e-newsletter at the time at which it is most likely to be opened. This time is calculated by Mailchimp based on looking at when the subscribers on your list have previously opened mail - it can work this out based on looking at the campaigns you’ve previously sent and also by using data from campaigns sent by other Mailchimp users which feature email addresses that are also present on your list.

As Mailchimp explains:

Since MailChimp has 4+ million users, we look globally at each email address’ engagement in deciding the best time to send to your list. Chances are the email addresses on your list receive email from other MailChimp users. That means that even if you’ve never sent to your list or only sent a few times, we can still provide a recommendation.

It’d be great if Aweber could consider adding this functionality, as it has the potential to significantly increase open rates.


Using different languages in Mailchimp and Aweber

For users wishing to provide versions of their confirmation emails and thank-you pages in different langauges, Mailchimp is a better choice than Aweber, as it provides this functionality out of the box.

Setting this up is a bit fiddly however and generally relies on the language of the web browser being automatically identified and used to display content in a local language, rather than users being sent to a particular URL based on the version of the website they have signed up on.

Autotranslate in Mailchimp (click to enlarge)


Support

It’s a clear win for Aweber when it comes to support: you can get phone support, live chat and email support whereas Mailchimp only provides email support (and only after you’ve been forced to search their website for an answer to your query first).

Aweber have won Stevie awards in both 2016 and 2017 for their customer service too, which speaks well for the quality of their support. If you are a complete novice to e-marketing but don't have the resource to hire somebody in to set your e-newsletter campaigns up, the availability of phone support for Aweber is something bear strongly in mind as an important advantage of using the platform.

If you are a novice to email marketing, and think you'd benefit from phone support, then Aweber is a very attractive option - it's something of a USP for the product, given that none of its leading competitors - Getresponse, Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor - offer it.


Alternatives to Mailchimp and Aweber

Before deciding conclusively on Mailchimp and Aweber, it's worth taking a quick look at some alternatives:

Getresponse

For me, an obvious alternative to both Mailchimp and Aweber is Getresponse. Depending on your list size, it will usually come in cheaper than both Mailchimp and Aweber (particularly if you pay upfront for a year or two years), and it’s feature packed (offering landing pages, webinars and a CRM tool in addition to the features outlined above). And it is much more flexible than either Mailchimp or Aweber when it comes to emailing segmented data and managing multiple lists. 

You can read our full Getresponse review here.

Campaign Monitor

Another option is Campaign Monitor - this is a feature-rich tool which provides some very attractive templates, along with strong functionality in the segmentation department, but it's extremely expensive by comparison to any of the other products under discussion here. Read our Campaign Monitor review for more information.

Mad Mimi

Mad Mimi is one of the cheapest email marketing tools available - but also one of the most basic. It's good for users who just want to send very simple e-newsletters or run basic drip campaigns. But it's not in the same league as the other products under discussion in this comparison.


Aweber vs Mailchimp: the summary

So which is better, Aweber or Mailchimp?

Well, overall, both products are solid, well-established tools that you can use to create and send professional e-newsletters with. Either, used correctly, can help you grow your email database and contribute the success of your business. 

But there are key plus and minus points to consider with each, and here are the reasons you might want to use one over the other:

Reasons to use Aweber over Mailchimp

  • Autoresponders are a bit easier to set up (but are currently more basic in nature than the Mailchimp offering).
  • There are significantly more templates available in Aweber (700+ to Mailchimp’s 90).
  • Although Aweber's user interface is more ‘old-school’ and not as pretty as Mailchimp's, it’s arguably a bit easier to use and key features are more readily accessible.
  • The e-newsletter builder makes editing text slightly easier than in Mailchimp.
  • You get access to a library of stock images with Aweber that you can use in your mailouts for free.
  • The Aweber support options are much more extensive - phone support and live chat are available; Mailchimp offers neither of these.

A free trial of Aweber is available here

Reasons to use Mailchimp over Aweber

  • A functional - and rather generous - free plan is available with Mailchimp.
  • If you have a small list (less than 1,500 records), you can host it more cheaply with Mailchimp.
  • Autoresponder and marketing automation functionality is more comprehensive.
  • You can use web fonts in your emails (albeit a small selection).
  • It’s easier to preview what your email will look like on a mobile device with Mailchimp.
  • Mailchimp's reporting features are better.
  • RSS to email functionality is significantly better than Aweber's.
  • A much wider range of integrations with third party apps is available.
  • Send time optimisation functionality is available.
  • Using different languages for thank-you and confirmation pages is more doable out-of-the-box.

A free trial of Mailchimp is available here


Got any thoughts or questions on Mailchimp and Aweber?

If you’ve got any thoughts or queries on Mailchimp vs Aweber, I’d love to hear them - just use the comments section below. (Note: if you're reading this on a mobile device, you may be viewing the AMP (accelerated mobile pages) version, which doesn't currently permit commenting. You can view the regular mobile version here if you'd like to view and leave comments).

You may also be interested in reading our full Aweber review.


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Aweber vs Getresponse (2018) - A Detailed Comparison of Two Leading E-newsletter Creation Tools
Aweber vs Getresponse (image of the two companies' logos on a piece of paper)

In this post we take an in-depth look at Aweber vs Getresponse, so that you can make an informed decision on which of these email creation and sending tools is best for your business.

Below you'll find an overview of their pricing, a discussion about their key features and a summary of why you might choose one over the other.

But first: what do Aweber and Getresponse actually do?


What do Aweber and Getresponse do?

Aweber and Getresponse are tools for hosting your mailing list, creating attractive e-newsletter templates and sending e-newsletters out to your subscribers. They also allow you automate your communications to subscribers via ‘autoresponders’.

Autoresponders are used to provide subscribers with e-newsletters from you at pre-defined intervals – for example, immediately after they sign up, a subscriber might receive a simple welcome message from your business; a week later they could receive a discount voucher for some of your goods; three weeks later they could receive an encouragement to follow you on social media etc. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg though: e-newsletter tools like these allow you to do a lot of other funky stuff, which we discuss below. Before that though, a quick look at pricing.


Getresponse pricing vs Aweber pricing

Getresponse pricing

It can be a little bit confusing working out which Getresponse plan to pick, as there are three tiers of plans - "Email", "Pro" and "Max" - and within each tier,  several different plans to choose from. 

  • Up to 1,000 subscribers: $15 ('Email') / $49 ('Pro') / $165 ('Max') 
  • 1,001 to 2,500: $25 ('Email')  / $49 ('Pro') / $165 ('Max') 
  • 2,501 to 5,000: $45 ('Email') / $49 ('Pro') / $165 ('Max') 
  • 5,001 to 10,000: $65 ('Email')/ $75 ('Pro') / $ 165 ('Max')
  • 10,001 to 25,000: $145 ('Email') / $165 ('Pro') / $255 ('Max')
  • 25,001 to 50,000: $250 ('Email') / $280 ('Pro') / $370 ('Max')
  • 50,001 to 100,000: $450 ('Email') / $490 ('Pro') / $580 ('Max')

If you have a list larger than 100,000 subscribers, there's an 'Enterprise' plan you can use, which starts from $1199 per month (exact pricing will depend on your requirements - you'll need to negotiate these rates with Getresponse).

There are also separate pricing plans available for not-for-profit organisations, but you will need to contact Getresponse directly about those.

The key differences between the Getresponse plans involve the addition of landing pages, webinars and CRM as you go up the pricing ladder (more on both anon).

When comparing Aweber vs Getresponse, the Getresponse 'Email' plans are the ones to focus on as they are similar, feature wise, to all the Aweber plans.

Aweber pricing

There are 5 Aweber plans to choose from:

  • Up to 500 subscribers: $19 per month
  • 501 to 2,500 subscribers: $29 per month
  • 2,501 to 5,000 subscribers: $49 per month
  • 5,001 to 10,000 subscribers: $69 per month
  • 10,001 to 25,000 subscribers: $149 per month

If you have a list larger than 25,000 subscribers, you will need to get a quote from Aweber regarding your requirements. 

There is no difference in features between each Aweber plan - the functionality of each plan is the same, regardless of payment.

Discounted plans are available for non-profits (3 months free, 25% off after that) and students (20% off) too. 

Who wins on price?

Well, at the starter end of things, Getresponse is definitely the most cost-effective solution: if you have a list with 500 to 1,000 subscribers on it, you're looking at a not-inconsiderable $14 per month ($168 per year) saving by using the Getresponse 'Email' plan instead of Aweber's equivalent.

For lists over 1,000 subscribers in size, each Getresponse 'Email' plan effectively comes in $4 per month cheaper than the equivalent Aweber plan (an annual saving of $48).

Additionally, Getresponse offers a sizeable discount - 18% - if you pay upfront for a year, and 30% if you pay upfront for 2 years.

There are discounting options available with Aweber too, but they are not as generous - if you pay quarterly, Aweber will discount your plan by 14%, and if you pay annually, the saving will be 14.9%.

Overall, I'd say that Getresponse is the overall winner on pricing, but as we shall see below, this is not the only thing you should base your decision on here.

Now let's take a look at features.


Overview of core Aweber and Getresponse features

Similarities between Aweber and Getresponse

Getresponse and Aweber offer many similar features, the key ones being:

  • Ability to capture data and host mailing lists (you get a little bit of HTML code that you can insert on your site or social media profiles to capture email addresses)
  • A wide range of pre-designed e-newsletter templates
  • Autoresponder functionality which allows you to send automated e-newsletters at pre-defined intervals to subscribers after they sign up
  • Statistics on the percentage of subscribers that are opening your emails, clicking links or unsubscribing
  • RSS to e-newsletter functionality (useful for automatically sending your blog posts to subscribers on your mailing list)
  • Message builders that allow you to create and edit e-newsletters without coding
  • Integration with various third-party sites/tools (for example, online shopping services such as Amazon Payments, Paypal and Google Checkout or CRM tools like Capsule and Salesforce) - this allows you to add customers to mailing lists at the point of sale, for example, or use Aweber and Getresponse to send e-newsletters to customers on your CRM system.
  • Responsive email templates.

Key differences between Aweber and Getresponse

There are some Getresponse features which are not available in Aweber:

  • Webinars
  • CRM functionality
  • More advanced marketing automation
  • A landing page builder

We'll discuss these in more depth later, but first, let's take a look at something very important in email marketing: visuals.


Templates

Both Aweber and Getresponse provide a wider selection of templates than their major competitors.

This is a pretty subjective area, but for me Aweber’s templates look a little bit better than Getresponse’s. And there are more of them (about 700 vs 500 respectively).

Getresponse’s templates look fine – and are fairly easily editable – but they’re just, well, a bit boring and slightly dated-looking; Aweber’s templates are slightly more visually appealing and, for my money, usable for a wider range of marketing applications.

All that said, the gap in quality is by no means huge and unless there is an Aweber template that you are mad about, you should be able to find something similar enough in Getresponse’s arsenal which you can then tweak to bring it up to date a bit. 

Example of an Aweber template - they are arguably slightly more elegant than the Getresponse equivalents, but there is not a huge amount in it.

Responsive templates

The email templates provided by both Getresponse and Aweber are now all responsive - this means that they will automatically adjust the layout of your e-newsletter to suit the device it's being viewed on (mobile, tablet, desktop etc.).

However, Getresponse is significantly better than Aweber when it comes to previewing what your email will look like on a smartphone. As you build your email using the drag-and-drop builder provided, you see a real-time preview of what it will look like on a mobile device on the right hand side of the editor. This is great, because you can simultaneously see the desktop and mobile versions of your e-newsletter - as you build it. Not only this, but you can flip the orientation of your e-newsletter around to see how it looks in both portrait and landscape mode on a smartphone.

With Aweber, I couldn't see an easy way to preview the mobile version of my email at all - I may be missing something, but I ended up having to send myself a test email and open it on a phone to view the mobile version. So a win for Getresponse here.

Web fonts in Aweber and Getresponse

Major clients such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo are increasingly supporting the use of web fonts - and accordingly, some leading e-marketing apps are starting to include them in their email editors.

Sadly, Getresponse and Aweber have yet to follow suit and only offer the 8 standard 'web safe fonts' for use (such as Times New Roman, Arial, Trebuchet etc.) - which is a shame really, because web fonts can make e-newsletters look considerably slicker.

If web fonts are an absolute show stopper for you then you'll find them available in Campaign Monitor and Mailchimp - however, it's important to note that (1) only a small selection of web fonts are available in these two apps and (2) in Mailchimp, the web fonts offered are particularly boring, to the point where there's not a huge aesthetic benefit in using them. (Campaign Monitor's font offering is better, but you'll pay through the nose to use this product!)

I wouldn't view web fonts as being a show-stopping issue at all, but it would be nice to see their inclusion soon in Aweber and Getresponse.


Autoresponders

Autoresponders are emails that are sent automatically to your subscribers at intervals that you define – for example, you could create  a programme of autoresponders so that 10 minutes after somebody signs up to your list, they receive a welcome message; exactly one week later they receive a discount code; three weeks later they receive an email showcasing a particular product – and so on. This type of email marketing is often referred to as a 'drip' campaign.

Both Aweber and Getresponse provide good basic autoresponder functionality, allowing you to automatically send particular e-newsletters based on time intervals (as in the example above) or trigger them based on user actions (joining a particular list, making a purchase etc.). Aweber's is particularly easy to use.

For me, Getresponse's autoresponder functionality is considerably stronger however, because the range of actions you can use to trigger the sending of a particular e-newsletter is more comprehensive, and it's easier to set up these action-based triggers in the first place. 

As such Getresponse's autoresponder functionality now goes well beyond traditional 'drip' style campaigns and forms part of its 'marketing automation' feature. And speaking of which....


Marketing automation

Getresponse recently introduced a new feature called 'Marketing Automation' which takes autoresponders to a much more sophisticated level. This allows you to create sophisticated automation workflows using a drag and drop builder - you basically set up an 'automation flowchart' that tells Getresponse what to do if a user takes a specific action.

There are a large number of triggers you can use to shape your automation workflow in Getresponse, but key ones include:

  • Email opens
  • Link clicks
  • Product purchase
  • Abandoned carts
  • URLs visited
  • A change in a subscriber's custom field data

This means you can extensively customise your subscribers' user journeys based on how they interact with your emails.

The video below gives you an idea of how it works.

Aweber offer something similar with their 'Campaigns' tool - but at the moment it's a much more basic affair, which essentially allows you to tag subscribers and send particular follow-up emails based on the links that they click.

So for now, Getresponse is significantly ahead in the area of workflow based automation.

Marketing automation in Getresponse is significantly more sophisticated than in Aweber

Marketing automation in Getresponse is significantly more sophisticated than in Aweber


Importing data

Getresponse was traditionally a much better option for those wishing to create email marketing campaigns using an existing list, because when you imported your own mailing list to Aweber, your subscribers could not join a list without reconfirming their subscription – with predictably awful results.

Thankfully they've now changed their approach and Aweber customers can import their own data (albeit after they've answered quite a lot of questions about its source).

In terms of the types of files that Aweber lets you import, you can bring in data from the following types of files:

  • XLS
  • XLSX
  • TSV
  • CSV
  • TXT

Getresponse lets you import from the following file types:

  • CSV
  • TXT
  • VCF
  • XLS
  • ODS

In addition to allowing you to import the above file types, Getresponse also allows you to import from various third-party services.

Both platforms also let you add contacts manually - either by adding individual contacts or by copying and pasting rows of contacts.

Finally Aweber and Getresponse allow you to add users to a particular autoresponder cycle when you import them, which is not the case with all competing systems.

So a thumbs up for both platforms here when it comes to imports.


Single opt-in and double opt-in

There's two ways to run a mailing list: using a 'single opt-in' or a 'double opt-in' approach to subscriptions.

When you use a single opt-in method, the person who completes your sign-up form is added to your mailing list there and then. With a double (or 'confirmed') opt-in process, the person signing up to your mailing list is sent a confirmation email containing a link that they have to click before they are subscribed.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. The main benefit of a single opt-in process is that it makes it easy for users to subscribe and maximises conversion rates; a double opt-in process is better for verifying that the people subscribing to your list are using real email addresses and leads to cleaner data and more accurate stats.

I'd argue that both single opt-in and double opt-in processes have their place in email marketing and it's vital for your chosen solution to facilitate both processes. And the good news is that both Aweber and Getresponse allow you to choose your preferred opt-in method easily.


Integration with other systems

Both Aweber and Getresponse offer a wide range of integrations with other sites and apps. These include integrations with very-well known services such as Amazon, Paypal, Salesforce, Facebook and Twitter. There are around 250 Aweber integrations available, to Getresponse's 213.

However it should be noted that some of the integrations for both products - particularly those for less well-known services - involve setting up a connection between your accounts using the third-party sync tool Zapier. This is not madly complicated, but it can take a little trial and error to sort out. (And whilst I love Zapier, sync errors can occasionally occur.)


Split testing

Split tests allow you to try out different versions of your emails on segments of your data and send the best performing one out to the rest of your database. This can be done by testing different subject headers, different e-newsletter copy or even different templates against each other.

Getresponse allows you to test up to 5 variants of e-newsletters against each other, which makes it better in this area than its key competitors (Mailchimp's entry-level plans facilitate split testing of 3 variants; Campaign Monitor's just 2).

Aweber used to offer split testing functionality (allowing you to split test 4 variants), but at time of writing they've disabled this feature. Their sales team have told me that this functionality will return over the next few months. As things stand however, this is a pretty big omission from Aweber's feature set - it reduces open rates and makes other products more attractive in this department.


Data segmentation

A key reason why I generally prefer Getresponse to Aweber involves data segmentation.

Both Getresponse and Aweber allow you to create data segments easily enough - you can use a variety of filters to identify subscribers based on particular criteria and save them.

However, Getresponse beats Aweber when it comes to sending e-newsletters to your segments. This is because Aweber only allows you to send e-newsletters to one segment at a time.

For example, if you had a mailing list of car owners with three pre-existing segments in it, 'red car owners', 'blue car owners' and 'green car owners', and you wanted to send an e-newsletter to the red guitar and blue car owners in one go, you could do this in Getresponse really easily - you'd just tick the relevant segments and hit send. 

But in Aweber to do the same thing you'd have to create an entirely new segment containing red car owners OR blue car owners. This leads to more manual effort and a bigger list of segments to trawl through.

Similarly, excluding segments from a mailout is much easier in Getresponse than in Aweber - once you've picked your list of recipients, you can just tick the relevant segments or lists that you want to exclude from the mailout. 


Landing page creation

Another area where Getresponse currently has an edge over Aweber (and indeed most other email marketing apps) involves landing pages.

Landing pages or 'squeeze pages' are web pages that are designed with one thing in mind: data capture. They typically contain a form, some attractive images and a small amount of text spelling out the benefit of submitting your email address - it's generally better to use landing pages for online ad campaigns over a form that sits on your website, simply because they are optimised for capturing data (as they contain less content to distract users).

With Getresponse, you get a landing page creator out of the box, which allows you to make use of various templates and a drag and drop editor to create a strong landing page.

By default each type of Getresponse account ('Email' / 'Pro' / 'Max' / 'Enterprise') has the landing page editor available, but unless you pay for a Pro, Max or Enterprise account you get limited functionality: you can only create one landing page, it doesn't provide A/B testing and only 1000 views per month of it are permitted.

Getresponse's Landing Page Creator - a drag and drop editor for creating 'squeeze pages'

Purchasing a plan featuring the fully-featured Getresponse landing page creator however allows you to create an unlimited number of landing pages, display them to an unlimited number of viewers and crucially, do A/B testing too, where you can try out up to 10 different versions of your landing page - with the system automatically rolling out the best performing one to the majority of your site visitors (thus maximising the number of signups).

Landing pages are available on the Pro plan (and up), which means the cost of obtaining this functionality looks at first inspection to be pretty high for some users. For example, if you plan to host a list with 1000 contacts on Getresponse, it will cost you an additional $34 per month to avail of the landing page functionality (because you'll need to upgrade from an 'Email' plan to a 'Pro' one). Users planning to host 5,000 records on Getresponse however will be faced with a difference of just $4 between the 'Email' and 'Pro' plans.

You can also purchase a Getresponse add-on for $15 per month which provides landing pages functionality - but this doesn't provide A/B testing, so it's not necessarily that useful.

You can also make use of landing pages with Aweber, using a variety of third party integrations / apps or by manually coding your landing page and inserting an Aweber form. You can also split test individual Aweber sign-up forms, so that may provide some sort of a workaround too. 

Ultimately however, using landing pages in Aweber is not as straightforward as Getresponse, and if you rely on third party software, it can all get rather expensive (for example, using landing page creators Unbounce or Instapage to create your landing pages for Aweber can set you back anything from $69 to $399 per month). 


Getresponse Webinars

A new feature of Getresponse is 'Getresponse Webinars', and this is something you're not going to find as a feature of any of Getresponse's major competitors - Aweber, Mailchimp, Mad Mimi et al. are all yet to offer this service. 

By purchasing a Getresponse plan (Pro or higher) you gain the ability to run webinars directly from within your Getresponse account. Since webinars are typically used as a lead generation tool, integrating them closely with your email marketing application is potentially a very good idea.

I have yet to try out this functionality in depth, but I like the idea of keeping everything in one place - see the 'Getresponse Webinars' video on this page for more details (which of course being a promotional video will portray it in as good a light as possible, but does spell out the basic features clearly).

In terms of attendee limits, the 'Pro' plan allows you to host a webinar with up to 100 participants; the 'Max' plan's cap is 500. You can also buy the webinars functionality as an add-on: $40 per month buys you a 100 attendees limit, $99 per month buys you a 500 attendees limit.

It's not entirely clear what happens if you need to host webinars to over 500 people - I'd suggest dropping Getresponse support a line about that - but I suspect those limits will work fine for most SMEs.

If you wanted to run webinars with Aweber, you'd need to use a third party tool such as Gotowebinar. This can work out expensive.


Send time optimisation

There's a really interesting Getresponse feature called 'send time optimisation', which is not yet available in Aweber.

Send time optimisation automatically sends your email at the time at which it's most likely to be opened - Getresponse looks at your subscriber list and their email-checking habits and makes this call on your behalf.

If you can live with using this big-brother sort of technology then according to Getresponse, you can expect a 23% median improvement in open rates and a 20% median improvement in click-through rates.

Aweber do offer a feature called 'send windows' which allows you to limit the time you send your automated emails out to a particular time slot - but it's not as sophisticated as send time optimisation, and also requires you to do a bit of legwork and stats-eyeballing in finding out when the best time (in general) is to send emails to your list.


CRM in Getresponse

Getresponse recently made beta version of their new interface available to some users and having had a play with it recently, I noticed that it includes a new feature that may eventually prove extremely tempting to small businesses: a CRM tool. 

Typically, unless you're paying for an expensive tool like Salesforce or Infusionsoft (both of which integrate CRM and mass mailouts) you end up having to import and export data both ways from your email marketing tool and CRM in order to run and analyse digital marketing campaigns. 

Getresponse's CRM tool as it stands in beta mode is very basic - you can basically create sales pipelines, add contacts to them and move these contacts through the pipeline (adding / ticking off contact-specific tasks as you do so).

However, I've been informed by Getresponse's support team that more sophisticated functionality is on the way - it looks as though users will soon be able to do lots of exciting things with triggers, and send messages to your leads directly from within the CRM tool.

If Getresponse get this functionality right, I think it will make the product a very useful 'all-in-one' style marketing tool to rival more established CRM platforms (it's hard to think of too many products, certainly at the Getresponse price point, that offer email marketing, webinars, landing pages, marketing automation and CRM all in one box).


Support

Support is an area where Aweber is better than Getresponse (or at least more comprehensive).

Unlike Getresponse - and indeed - competitors Mailchimp, Mad Mimi and Campaign Monitor - the company offers phone support (and toll-free to boot, if you live in the US). Email and live chat support channels are also available. On top of this, Aweber have won 'Stevie' awards in both 2016 and 2017 for customer service, which obviously says good things about the quality of support it provides.

Getresponse used to offer phone support, but now offers live chat and email support only. This is a shame as when it comes to tech support, there are times in life when only a real conversation with a real human will do!

So all in all Aweber's support offering is better than the Getresponse equivalent - if you think you're the kind of customer that is definitely going to require phone support, then it's worth giving Aweber some consideration over Getresponse.


Free trials

Both Aweber and Getresponse offer a fully functional free one-month trial. Aweber's trial doesn't limit the number of subscribers you can broadcast messages to; Getresponse's does however (to 1000).

    If you want a free trial of Aweber, you should note however that you'll need to enter credit card details before you can avail of it.

    The free trial of Getresponse, on the other hand, doesn't require your card details in advance (I much prefer the latter approach because the risk of getting charged for a product you don't want after a free trial expires is much lower). 

    The links for each free trial are below:


    Which is better, Aweber or Getresponse?

    Both Aweber and Getresponse offer a good range of tools to help you create, maintain and communicate with an email database; even if you’re not all that technically minded, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty using either to manage your e-communications. However, I think that on balance, Getresponse is the better value product - it's much more of an 'all-in-one' solution than Aweber, and it's a bit cheaper too.

    Here's a lowdown of why you might pick one over the other. 

    Reasons to pick Getresponse over Aweber

    • You can sign up to a free trial without entering credit card details.
    • Getresponse is slightly more competitively priced (particularly if your subscriber list contains between 500 and 1000 records).
    • An 18% discount is available if you pay for the product on an annual rather than monthly basis, and a 30% discount is available if you pay for two years upfront. These discounts are more generous than the Awber equivalents.
    • Getresponse offers more comprehensive split testing options.
    • Getresponse comes with a built-in landing page creator, albeit one you have to pay extra for to unlock. The pricing plan is confusing and could be improved, but it's still cheaper to use the Getresponse option than combining Aweber with a tool like Instapage or Unbounce.
    • Getresponse's 'Marketing Automation' features currently trounce similar workflow-based automation tools offered by Aweber.
    • Getresponse's 'send time optimisation' feature has the potential to significantly improve your open and clickthrough rates - there's no equivalent functionality in Aweber.
    • The new webinars functionality is potentially fantastic for any business that uses webinars for lead generation.
    • You get basic CRM functionality in Getresponse - if the functionality for this is beefed up, this could prove to be an incredibly helpful feature for SMEs.

    Reasons to pick Aweber over Getresponse

    • The Aweber templates are a little bit more attractive than the Getresponse equivalents, and there is a greater selection of them available.
    • Phone support is available.

    Finally, with all my comparison reviews, I always advise potential users to try both products before they buy, simply because free trials of the products under discussion are readily available and you may find that one tool has particular features that suit your business needs which you can’t find in the other. You'll find links to the Getresponse and Aweber free trials below.


    Alternatives to Aweber and Getresponse

    There are quite a few alternatives to Aweber and Getresponse out there, including Campaign Monitor, Mad Mimi and Mailchimp. You may find some of the below reviews helpful:

    Additionally, you may wish to read our full Getresponse review or our full Aweber review.


    Any thoughts?

    Finally, if you've got any thoughts on the Aweber vs Getresponse debate, do feel free to share! Just leave a comment below (note: if you're reading this on a mobile device, you may be seeing an accelerated 'AMP' version of the page, which doesn't include comments. You can switch to the regular version here if you'd like to read or post a comment).


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