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What’s the best Email marketing platform for eCommerce companies?
Klaviyo vs MailChimp vs Omnisend vs Hubspot vs Iterable vs Sendlane vs Drip vs Braze vs Cordial vs Pardot vs Emarsys vs Marketo
Klaviyo is the dominant email marketing platform among eCommerce companies for good reason. Their templates and visual editor are the best in the business, and the flows and triggers are unmatched. The ability to do segmented sends (send to only purchasers of XYZ product who haven’t opened an email in 60 days) is great. We hope a competitor begins to match their features to keep their pricing in check but unfortunately that isn’t the case today. With the launch of Klaviyo One, Klaviyo is directly targeting Enterprise solutions. Like Shopify, we love that Klaviyo can scale from your first dollar in revenue to well beyond.
Klaviyo is the best email marketing platform for most eCommerce businesses.
Email marketing should be the backbone of any strong DTC business. It’s on our list of tools that every DTC should have regardless of their size. This owned marketing channel has the potential to generate huge amounts of sales for brands. Brands we spoke with generated between 20-30% of their last non-direct click (LNDC) revenue from email. Building an email list should be high on the list of priorities for newly launched brands. Whether it's informing customers of a new product launch or sending a triggered email when a customer abandons their cart, an email marketing platform is crucial to the success of your business.
When should you switch from Shopify email to a more robust solution?
Shopify’s email solution is okay for an eCommerce company that is just starting out. It’s free for up to 10,000 email sends per month and has the most seamless integration with Shopify because it’s made by Shopify. It will give you basic templates, flows, and triggers but has some pretty large limitations. Its templates aren’t very flexible, segmenting your audience granularly is difficult, and modifying values (e.g., your business address in the footer of the email) is difficult to do ad-hoc. We think that when your email list scales beyond 1k people, you should seriously consider making a switch. For companies that are confident they are going to hit this amount relatively quickly (*cough* venture funded), we think going with Klaviyo out of the gate makes sense.
Why we like Klaviyo:
Klaviyo is one of the few eCommerce tools that can scale with your business from its first dollar in revenue to $100M+. The only other tool in this category is Shopify (our recommended eCommerce platform). While there is a slightly higher learning curve than other small business email marketing tools, it’s well worth the effort to learn. Even for teams of one. Klaviyo then offers all of the advanced features that businesses will want as they scale. With the launch of Klaviyo One, Klaviyo is going head to head with larger enterprise tools and winning. Many large companies have switched from legacy platforms like Salesforce and SAP and are benefitting. There is not an insignificant switching cost when it comes to email tools so choosing one that can scale with you is important.
Klaviyo offers a huge amount of pre-built email templates for a new brand to leverage. Their drag-and-drop builder allows marketers to quickly design beautiful emails with flexible HTML templates. The templates offer enough flexibility and customization for emails to feel true to a brand without requiring HTML coding expertise.
Automated Flows & Triggers
Klaviyo has built an automation platform that allows marketers to create effective flows and triggers across many use cases.
Useful flows & triggers include:
-Win-back and cross-sell to inactive contacts
-Order and shipping updates
All of these can be tailored and personalized. The welcome flow can be based on acquisition source. The browse abandon trigger can be based on cart value etc.
We recommend new brands focusing on the welcome flow and browse / cart abandon triggers which are the highest converting. If your typical non promotion campaign send email converts at 1-2%, then flows typically convert at 4-5% and triggers at 7-8%. For most brands flows and triggers will represent over two thirds of orders generated from email. Start by testing and optimizing these flows and triggers for maximum impact.
Klaviyo integrates well with many of our recommended tools including Shopify, Shipstation, Gorgias, and Recharge. Don’t worry if you haven’t taken our advice, it also integrates well with 220+ other tools as well. If you’re using the tool, chances are there’s a Klaviyo integration. Shopify has invested $100M into Klaviyo and announced them as a strategic partner. This partnership solidifies the future of Klaviyo’s integration into Shopify, and we think it makes it less likely that Shopify will add email features to truly challenge Klaviyo.
Klaviyo allows you to create rule-based segments that allow you to target customers based on very specific criteria. Version one of this segmentation can use data within Klaviyo (email interactions) to target non responders. More advanced segmentation is possible with the data piped in from the integrations mentioned above. If statements similar to Microsoft Excel create the backbone of the segment creation. E.g., IF a person is signed up for our newsletter AND has not made a purchase within the last 90 days THEN send 15% personalized promotion email.
A/B testing should be part of any well-run Ecommerce brands’ foundation. The best way to learn about what works for your brand is to AB test it. Klaviyo has built in AB testing tools that allow marketers to easily A/B test email elements. Not sure which subject line has the highest open rate for cart abandoners? A/B test it! Not sure which discount amount drives the highest incremental revenue during promotions? A/B test it! Not sure which CTA color drives the highest clickthroughs on evergreen emails? A/B test it! It’s green BTW. Or red. Or orange. Point is you need to test what works for your brand. Klaviyo’s A/B testing tools are user friendly and don’t require a degree in statistics in order to understand the results.
What we don’t like about Klaviyo:
Klaviyo users complained of inconsistent support. They found the Klaviyo support team to be sometimes slow or not helpful. They also reported that the Klaviyo chat help function doesn’t always work.
Integrations Outside Shopify
Companies using Magento and WooCommerce complained that the Klaviyo integrations were weak for these eCommerce platforms. With the strategic investment from Shopify, Klaviyo has implicitly announced its focus on the platform. Stores on other platforms may want to consider Klaviyo’s competitors.
Some eCommerce companies complained that during the Pandemic, when Klaviyo onboarded a huge number of new accounts, the companies weren’t able to get dedicated IPs from Klaviyo. Without dedicated IPs deliverability rates can be negatively impacted. These companies found other solutions that offered dedicated IPs. If you are sending less than 100-200k emails per month this shouldn’t be a concern, but if you are sending more than that amount this could be a deal breaker.
Reporting in Klaviyo is more time consuming than it should be. Like most email platforms it will over attribute orders and sales to email and most brands only rely on Klaviyo for send, open, and click information although with the Apple privacy update, open information reporting has become more difficult (Apples email client automatically opens all emails). Companies typically use Google Analytics (GA) or GA’s competitors for order and revenue data. Reporting often requires downloading large amounts of data from Klaviyo and manually filtering the data in sheets to answer specific questions e.g., the performance of all emails that mention product X.
Klaviyo has an SMS offering, and it would be nice in theory to manage SMS and email on a single platform, but we don’t recommend it. Klaviyo’s main focus is email and SMS has historically been an afterthought and the SMS product has suffered as a result. Customer profiles are built off email addresses in Klaviyo and merging profiles is difficult with Klaviyo SMS, so if someone has signed up for your email list with multiple emails (e.g., work and personal) then you may end up sending duplicate texts to the same person. Segmenting and AB testing is also more difficult with Klaviyo SMS vs point solutions. For these reasons, we don’t recommend Klaviyo SMS and instead recommend a point solution for SMS which we will review in a future guide.
When building segments in Klaviyo, there is no way to see a waterfall contribution of your segment criteria. Users will build a segment in Klaviyo and get fewer people in the segment than they expect and not be able to easily trace why. Other platforms will show the impact each criteria has on the list size.
It’s also not possible to AB test by time zone. For certain sends (promotions) sending at the local time might be very important and it currently isn’t possible to AB test sends that don't go out at a single time.
While this isn’t unique to Klaviyo, its email previews should not be trusted without sending sample emails and QAing across email clients and devices. Emails might look fine in Klaviyo’s email previewer but appear broken on certain devices or with certain email clients (Outlook is notorious for email rendering issues but thankfully is not very popular). Some companies use Litmus to speed up the manual QA process to check emails across 100+ devices and email clients from their browser.
Klaviyo’s pricing is based on the number of active email contacts that are on your email list.
It has a free tier for brands that are just beginning. The free plan supports up to 250 contacts in your email list and up to 500 email sends per month. The free plan has a couple of important limitations: you will have to use double email opt in (a customer must respond to an email that they want to be part of your list), your emails will have Klaviyo branding in the footer, and if you decide to use the Klaviyo email pop ups, your email collection pop ups will have Klaviyo branding.
The next plan up from the free plan is $20 per month and supports 251 to 500 contacts and up to 5,000 email sends. The plans scale up from here based on the number of contacts in your email list.
Enabling SMS (text message marketing) through Klaviyo will be an additional monthly fee starting at $15 per month and scaling up based on the number of texts you send.
The most expensive plan Klaviyo lists is $2,300 per month and is for up to 250k contacts and 2M+ sends per month. For more contacts or sends, a custom contract is required.
Klaviyo also recently began offering reviews for stores using Shopify. Klaviyo Review pricing starts at $25 per month for up to 250 orders per month and scales up from there.
SMB Tools - Small & Medium Size Businesses ($0-$50M+ annual revenue)
Shopify Email – Shopify email is free for up to 10k sends per month, and we recommend this as a good starting point for a newly launched business that is using the Shopify platform. However, its templates aren’t very flexible, segmenting your audience granularly is difficult, and ad hoc modifications are challenging, so we recommend shifting away from Shopify Email when your list reaches ~1k subscribers.
Mailchimp (Intuit) – While we still can’t forget their podcast ad on Serial, if you’re serious about building your business, we recommend Klaviyo. Mailchimp lacks the Shopify integrations that Klaviyo has in addition to segmentation and A/B testing features. Klaviyo has a slightly steeper learning curve but is similarly priced at lower tiers and much more powerful.
Constant Contact – Constant contact is designed for smaller businesses with fewer templates and less customizability and won't scale with your business like Klaviyo will.
Convert Kit – Convert Kit is a beginner friendly tool designed for creators and Influencers, but it isn’t ideal for eCommerce businesses. Convert Kit’s limited email templates and builder leads to emails which look worse than Klaviyo and competitors.
Omnisend – Like Klaviyo, Omnisend was built for eCommerce companies. It’s a solid choice, but Omnisend lacks unlimited segmentation and advanced reporting in their basic tiers, and Omnisend has much more limited A/B testing capabilities (sender name and subject line only).
Sendlane – Sendlane is an up and coming email platform that we are closely watching. Like Klaviyo, it offers SMS and Email in a single offering. It currently trails Klaviyo in a couple of key dimensions: it lacks the complex automation capabilities of Klaviyo, it has fewer integrations, and has fewer pre-built email templates (useful for smaller teams), so we don't recommend it for most businesses, but users mentioned the world-class support of Sendlane. Pricing for Sendlane is based on email sends instead of contacts and will likely be a bit cheaper than Klaviyo. We think once Sendlane reaches feature parity, it could become a true Klaviyo competitor.
Drip – Drip has a great user interface that is dead simple and powerful, however, it isn’t as tailored to the eCommerce use case and lacks features to scale with your business that our recommended tool, Klaviyo, has.
Hubspot – Hubspot is a CRM that was built for B2B marketing, but some eCommerce companies use it as their email platform. It straddles the SMB and Enterprise markets. Hubspot lacks many of the segmenting and automation features of Klaviyo.
Cordial - Cordial is similar to Hubspot in that it straddles the SMB & Enterprise worlds and will help those looking to custom-build a solution. However, it is less user friendly than Klaviyo and will require more custom setup, so we don’t recommend it over Klaviyo.
Customer.io - Customer.io is geared towards developers and has a mix of tech (Segment & Notion) and DTC (billie & Cove) clients. Similar to Cordial, we don’t recommend it over Klaviyo due to the developer time required to set up and optimize.
Enterprise Tools ($50M+ annual revenue)
Note: Don’t consider these options unless you have reached enterprise level sales ($50M+) and have an in-house email team of 4-5+ people. They will come at a significant price premium to the SMB tools and will likely require enterprise-level agencies to support and implement. It will take a huge amount of implementation effort just for these tools to reach feature parity with the more advanced SMB tools. Many enterprise-size companies use or are considering using the SMB tools given the cost and complexity of the enterprise tools that outweigh any marginal benefits. Frankly, many of the enterprise tools don’t have more advanced features than the SMB tools.
Iterable – Iterable is an enterprise-level CRM for an all-in-one solution. It has a client list that's a mix of technology and DTC companies. It has more limited integrations than Klaviyo. Iterable is also less plug and play than Klaviyo and requires more technical support for implementation and ongoing use.
Braze – Braze is similar to Iterable and was one of the first companies to offer SMS, push, and email together in a single offering. It’s a solid enterprise offering, however, the platform is difficult to use, and its visual editor lacks the customization ability of Klaviyo, and it will come at a significant price premium to Klaviyo.
Pardot (Salesforce Marketing Cloud) – Pardot is Salesforce’s email marketing solution primarily geared toward the B2B use case. In order to get the most out of it, you will need deep customization and to be using Salesforce elsewhere in your business. Users complained that it was slow and clunky for eCommerce use cases. This tool is also expensive even relative to other pricey enterprise offerings.
Emarsys (SAP) – Emarsys is SAP’s email marketing solution and suffers from many of the same drawbacks as Pardot.
Marketo (Adobe) & Adobe Campaign – Marketo and Adobe campaign are Adobe’s email marketing platforms. Marketo is more focused on B2B and not tailored to the eCommerce use case. Good if you are a B2B trying to do lead scoring but not built natively for eCommerce. Adobe Campaign is more similar to Iterable and Braze and better for eCommerce.
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