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.
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 6 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
- 25,000+ subscribers: call Aweber for 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"
The key differences between the Mailchimp tiers involve access to autoresponders (not available on "Starting up" but available on the other two plans) and advanced multivariate testing (not available on "Growing Business" but available on "Pro Marketer").
The Mailchimp ‘Starting up’ plan is free and allows you to host an email database of up to 2,000 records and send up to 12,000 e-newsletters per month to it. This is handy for ad hoc broadcasts and for users on a tight budget - but it doesn’t let you use autoresponders, which as discussed above constitute one of the main advantages of using tools like Mailchimp or Aweber. Other key features you won’t be able to avail of on a free Mailchimp plan include segmentation and split testing.
Aweber doesn't offer a free plan but does allow you to try out the product for 30 days free of charge: one annoying aspect of this however is that you have to enter your credit card details first in order to avail of this free trial. 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 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. This 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 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 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 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, as things stand, Mailchimp offers significantly more functionality when it comes to autoresponders (this might, to a degree, explain why things are slightly more complicated to set up). In Mailchimp 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. An 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.
At the moment Aweber’s autoresponder functionality is quite basic - you can just use it to send e-newsletters x days after somebody joins a list, or apply tags to them at various points in the autoresponder cycle. The tags are useful, because they allow you to switch users on to different lists depending on the context - using a combination of Aweber’s automation rules and third-party integrations (for example, a Shopify one), it’s possible to make Aweber behave in a similar fashion to the Mailchimp examples described above. My hunch however is that most users will have to work a bit harder to get Aweber to work in this way. Mailchimp’s autoresponder functionality is considerably more advanced, straight out of the box.
That said, Aweber have plans for their autoresponder functionality - they promise that their new ‘Campaigns’ tool is going to introduce more advanced types of workflow in the near future (see video below). But overall I’d say in a Mailchimp vs Aweber autoresponder shootout, Mailchimp is currently the winner.
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 considerably more templates than Mailchimp: around 700 to 100 respectively.
That said - and this is a pretty subjective area - I think the Mailchimp templates that are provided are a bit stronger than the Aweber ones. However, 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. 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).
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 - with Mailchimp there is arguably quite a bit more clicking around the place to do.
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.
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).
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. Aweber allows you to run a split test using four versions. So a bit of a win for Aweber here.
That said, more sophisticated split testing options are available with Mailchimp - if you're prepared to pay for them. Subscribers to the '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.
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 - however, in Mailchimp, you can use any template to do so. 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.
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 the only ‘works out of the box’ e-marketing option. That said, it’s often possible to use a workaround to get Aweber to work with a third party application - just do your research first.
Send time optimisation
One feature that Mailchimp includes which is sadly not present in Aweber is ‘Send Time Optimisation’. This 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 but also using data from campaigns sent by other Mailchimp users involving 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.
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 a Stevie award 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.
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, will 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 100+).
- Although Aweber's user interface is more ‘old-school’ and not as pretty as Mailchimp's, it’s 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.
- Aweber offers more extensive split testing options than Mailchimp (unless you are prepared to fork out $199 extra a month on Mailchimp to unlock better split testing functionality).
- 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 free plan - albeit a basic one - is available with Mailchimp.
- If you have a small list (less than 1,500 records), you can host it more cheaply with Mailchimp.
- Autoresponder functionality is more comprehensive.
- The templates that are provided are arguably a bit more attractive than the Aweber equivalents (that said, however, there are far fewer of them available).
- It’s easier to preview what your email will look like on a mobile device.
- The reporting features are better.
- RSS to email functionality is much 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.
Alternatives to Mailchimp and Aweber
For me, the obvious alternative to 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 and webinars in addition to the features outlined above). You can read our full Getresponse review here, and we've also got a full Aweber review for you to look at too.
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.