So many clients come to me asking what is the best email marketing app and what should they choose to use in their business.

Everyone is aware that not all email marketing programs are created equal, but with the ENORMOUS variety of choice available on the market now, it’s no wonder that most new business owners (or new to email marketing) end up with the same program their friend uses.

For many, it’s too hard to evaluate the plethora of options when you don’t really know how you should be using email marketing properly.

That is – most small business owners start with the basic assumption that they will send out email newsletters (or eDMs) to their entire email list.

Read on for my advice on the best email marketing app

How to choose the right email marketing app

The core difference between email marketing and marketing automation is this:

>> Email marketing is mass marketing – it’s one-to-many, such as a newsletter, whereas

>> Marketing automation and sales automation are both highly targeted and personalised emails sent one-to-one or one-to-few on an automated basis.

Both are important to small and medium businesses, but each serve different purposes.

Email newsletters are primarily used for customer education, brand awareness, and content marketing (for example, promoting a new special or launching a new product to your entire list). Effectiveness of email newsletters are measured using open rates and click through rates (CTRs).

Marketing automation, or a sequence of emails that automatically send at pre-set time intervals. I like to use this function to welcome new email subscribers and send them a sequence of emails containing information designed to walk them through their purchase decision-making journey.

The goal of marketing automation is to convert a new subscriber into a buyer. It can also be tremendously effective when running big pre-planned promotions or new product launches.

Then there’s the holy grail of eCommerce email marketing – sales automation. Sales automation is a sequence of targeted emails, sent automatically when a specific rule or trigger is met. For example, when someone abandons their shopping cart without completing a purchase.

This sort of email marketing is designed specifically to convert into new and repeat sales, and therefore the effectiveness of your targeted emails is measured using purchase rate and order value.

So let me educate you a little on the key differences between these options, why and when you would choose one over the other.

And let me quickly preface this with a reminder that my approach to email marketing is from the perspective of selling online in an eCommerce environment. Those of you who sell products and want to sell more of them have different needs to a service-based business.

Email marketing features and capabilities required to sell products online:

Bulk Newsletters:

What this is: the ability to send out an email communication to your entire list.

When you’d use this: to send out new and valuable content to your audience, such as a new blog post or demonstration video, or to launch a new product.

When not to use this: when a contact is already in your automated welcome email sequence. Rather than bombard new email subscribers with too much information all at once, add them to your newsletter list once the welcome sequence is complete.

Targeted Newsletters:

What this is: the ability to send out an email communication to a SEGMENT of your entire list, such as only people who purchased in the last 30 days, or only people who purchased a specific product, or only people who have purchased one product but not another product.

When you’d use this: to send out new and valuable content to your audience that is RELEVANT to that specific segment of your email list, but not others. So you might want to launch a new product only to people who are recent customers, or who have bought a product in a related category before.

When not to use this: again, I probably would not use this when a contact is in your automated welcome email sequence. Add them to your newsletter list once the welcome sequence is complete.

Automated, New Subscriber Emails:

What this is: the ability to send out a specific sequence of emails to individuals who subscribe to your list.

When you’d use this: As the name suggests, this strategy is employed for new email list subscribers. The purpose is to welcome the new subscriber to your brand and educate them about your product benefits. The end goal is to help the subscriber make a purchase decision with you, and to convert them from a subscriber into a buyer.

When not to use this: As an eCommerce business, your sales growth relies on constantly building your audience of potential customers and working to convert them into buyers. Therefore, I cannot think of a reason why you would NOT employ this strategy.

Automated, Behaviour-Triggered Emails:

What this is: the ability to send out a specific email sequence to individuals that is triggered by customer behaviour. For example, specific post-purchase follow-up campaigns or abandon cart campaigns.

When you’d use this: I can’t think of a single reason why anyone selling products online would not want to use this sort of functionality. These sorts of emails are much more relevant and tailored to the specific interests and needs of the individual – you can never achieve the same level of personalisation with an email newsletter broadcast to your entire list.

When not to use this: ditto ^^ !!

Product Recommendations:

What this is: the ability to send out a specific cross- or up-sell email campaigns to individuals that is triggered by specific product purchases. Further to this – being able to include product recommendations that are personalised to the customer are incredibly effective!

When you’d use this: For example, if you know that a customer who buys one product is likely to be interested in another related product, you can send them an offer around that.

When not to use this: Some brands only sell one or two unique products within their range, whilst some eCommerce retailers (particularly those in the fashion industry) sell a constantly changing range of products. In these tow situations, it’s difficult to make specific product recommendations, because of the lack of products OR the fast-changing nature of the range. In these cases I recommend offering a financial incentive of some kind instead of a product up- or cross-sell offer.

Where you sell a range of products that doesn’t really change, and where there’s a logical buyer journey from one product to the next, it becomes easy to make cross- and up-sell product recommendations.

Purchase Rate Reporting:

What this is: the ability to track and report on the ROI of each emails – specifically, how many people purchased as a result of each email and what was the $ value.

When you’d use this: I am a big fan of making metrics-based decisions – using past results to make decisions on where to invest your time and money. Calculating the exact dollar value of each campaign helps you to allocate your resources effectively and basically allows you to focus only on the activities that are making a difference!

When not to use this: when selling products online, you would never NOT want to have this capability!

Which platform is which?

* Email newsletter platforms include:

MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, GetResponse and Campaign Monitor. (This is by no means an exhaustive list!)

Of these, the one most of my clients commonly start with is MailChimp.

Marketing automation platforms include:

MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Klaviyo, ConvertKit and Hubspot. (Again, this is most definitely not an exhaustive list, but rather a list of the most commonly mentioned options, and does not include the biggest systems that are aimed at big enterprise-sized organisations.)

Of these, the programs most suited to eCommerce include MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft and Klaviyo.

(Ontraport, ConvertKit and Hubspot are better options for service businesses or those selling coaching packages or information products. They are not as robust for eCommerce purposes.)

Sales automation platforms include:

MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, and Klaviyo. (Again, this is most definitely not an exhaustive list.)

All of these are suitable options for an eCommerce business.


The most affordable options include MailChimp and ActiveCampaign. Given cost is a big factor for most of you, I’ll recommend one of these two options.

What’s the difference?

Mailchimp offers very simple integrations with pretty much every website platform on the planet. Mailchimp also makes it very easy to set up automated campaigns, including abandoned cart and post-purchase campaigns. Plus, the reporting is fantastic, even including how much revenue you’ve made from each campaign.

On the con-side – it’s not easy to stop an automated campaign in Mailchimp when a purchase is made. Ideally, if a contact makes a purchase off the first or second email in an automated sequence, you don’t really want to continue emailing them about the offer!

ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, is still very easy to use although doesn’t integrate with nearly as many website platforms as Mailchimp. It’s pretty simple to set up automated campaigns using a drag and drop user interface.

A big plus about ActiveCampaign is the goal feature. For instance, if the goal of the campaign is to get the purchase, ActiveCampaign can automatically stop the sequence of emails being sent once that purchase goal has been met.

On the con-side – the reporting inside the ActiveCampaign platform isn’t fantastic and it’s not easy to see how much revenue you’ve made from each campaign. I end up using Google Analytics to track campaign effectiveness.

Which one to choose?

Both of these programs have a native integration into the most popular eCommerce shopping cart platforms, including Shopify and WooCommerce.

I recommend a beginner starting out with MailChimp, because of the simplicity of their automated campaign ‘recipes’.

And as you get more advanced with your marketing and want to build out more sophisticated automations, plus start using the purchase goals, then it’s time to move to ActiveCampaign.

Grab my FREE campaign template

Want to double the number of new email subscribers who go on to become buyers?

Download this free guide, which includes a template for the exact new subscriber email sequence that I use for all my eCommerce clients.

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