Mailchimp vs Aweber (2017) - Comparison Review
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?
- 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?
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 options in Aweber are fairly straightforward - there are 5 plans available:
- 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.
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".
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 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.
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.
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 80 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.
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
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.
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 recently.
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.
Except 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 need to regularly send mailouts to multiple (and varying) segments of subscribers then you will have a headache.
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…
An important feature of email marketing tools like Aweber and Mailchimp is split (or 'multivariate') testing. This allows you to try out a different subject headers or content on some sample data - for example, 10% of your list - with the best-performing version being sent automatically to the remainder of your list (‘best performing’ generally means the version of the email that generated the most opens or clickthroughs). If you have a large mailing list, use of split testing can lead to significant improvements to your open rates.
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. 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.
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).
But overall, I’d argue that Mailchimp has the better reporting options.
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 said, it’s more often than not possible to use a workaround to get Aweber to work with a third party application - just do your research first.
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 explain:
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 drastically 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.
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:
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, and it’s feature packed (offering landing pages, webinars and a CRM tool in addition to the features outlined above). Arguably most importantly, it is much more flexible than either Mailchimp or Aweber when it comes to emailing segmented data.
Another option is Campaign Monitor - this is a feature-rich tool which also provides strong functionality in the segmentation department, but it's very expensive by comparison to any of the other products under discussion here. Read our Campaign Monitor review for more information.
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
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 80+).
- 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.
Reasons to use Mailchimp over Aweber
- A functional - and pretty 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.
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).