Adding a marketing automation system to your eCommerce marketing arsenal is typically a worthwhile high ROI effort and is a mandatory part of Inbound Marketing for eCommerce. But given the fast growing plethora of marketing automation systems available, which is best for your business?
[2014 Marketing Technology Landscape Image by Scott Brinker at Chiefmartec.com]
[2018 Marketing Technology Landscape Image by Scott Brinker at Chiefmartec.com]
To answer that question, there are three key areas of eCommerce marketing automation systems to evaluate: features, integrations and pricing.
Marketo defines marketing automation as “technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.” Within this definition, the types of marketing tasks and complexities of workflows can vary broadly among various tools. When evaluating the features of marketing automation systems, we focus on three areas: publishing, emailing and reporting. Here are some of the features we evaluate as part of each area:
- Social media monitoring and management
- Landing page creation and management
- Website management and personalization
- Email list segmentation
- Automated workflows (replenishment campaigns, cart abandonment campaigns, etc.)
- Testing – ability to test
- Website tracking (ability to tie web activity with specific users)
- Detailed Analytics
- Omni-channel marketing reports
If and how the eCommerce marketing automation system you are considering integrates with your eCommerce platform is critical. Be sure to understand any development tasks or limitations that may occur as a result of choosing a particular system. If you are considering migrating eCommerce or marketing automation platforms, be sure to consider the available integrations. We’ve found Magento, Shopify and Bigcommerce to have the most solid integrations with eCommerce marketing automation systems.
As with anything in business, the price is a definite consideration when choosing a marketing automation system. Pricing can be based on a variety of factors, including “list size,” number of customers, the number of emails sent monthly, integration options and more. Prices for a solid eCommerce marketing automation system vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousands or more per month.
When considering the cost of your system, don’t forget to think about the additional ROI that is possible from the use of a marketing automation system, which should more than cover your costs. Also, if a system is more expensive due to more extensive features, how much more efficient will your work be (saving time and training) with more features in one place? Lastly, the training and support provided by the vendor is an important feature, and some higher priced systems can be more attractive in this area. After all, if you don’t know how to use your system or can’t fix important issues, it isn’t going to contribute nearly the ROI of a fully utilized eCommerce marketing automation system.
Comparing eCommerce Marketing Automation Systems
We’ve analyzed eleven of the top marketing automation systems for eCommerce and are happy to share our findings with you. (Click below to quickly jump to a specific system).
Klaviyo bills itself as email software vs. a full marketing automation solution, which makes sense when you examine the features available in the tool currently. They’ve definitely done email right in this awesome tool. A variety of deep integrations with not just eCommerce platforms, but also other marketing tools like Unbounce, SumoMe, JustUno and more, make up for some of the marketing automation features missing from the platform.
Key or Notable Features
Klaviyo was built to be an eCommerce automated email tool. As such, setting up automated campaigns like replenishment, cross-sell, win-back and cart abandonment is a breeze. You can easily build custom templates, and importing your lists is a snap with their wide variety of integration options. The “Ideas” supplied are sometimes useful to help continue building out automation campaigns in your account. Lastly, the tracking pixel/snippet lets you segment on content viewed by a user – not just products purchased.
Klaviyo Integrates With:
In addition to integrating with several eCommerce platforms, Klaviyo also integrates with many other tools, which allow for good options when taking the “Frankenstein” approach to putting together a complete eCommerce marketing automation system made of many pieces.
Notable integrations include:
Pricing for Klaviyo is based on the number of contacts you are storing in the system. Contacts are not only customers, but also subscribers and lists from other systems like MailChimp, Unbounce, JustUno and more. You can use Klaviyo for free up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends but as your number of contacts increases, so will your costs. Klaviyo does aim to be affordable at just $25/month for up to 500 contacts; $50/month for up to 1,000; $75/month for up to 1,500, and so forth.
Our sales call/demo of Klaviyo was disappointing and short. We’ve also heard from customers on custom platforms that the custom integration option isn’t as easy as it appears. Lastly, for the price of $1,000 per month for 80,000 contacts, it would be nice if Klaviyo had a few more non-email specific features to beef up the offering.
Windsor Circle is a well-funded, fast-growing and talented startup (founded 2011) in the eCommerce marketing automation space. The company bills its solution as a “Customer Retention & Predictive Marketing Automation Platform.” A large number of integrations with eCommerce platforms, a detailed analytics and reporting tool, dedicated customer service and more make Windsor Circle a great choice (plus they’ll send you green pants if you ask).
Key or Notable Features
Windsor Circle is unique in how the solution is architected. For example, even though at least half of Windsor’s features involve email, no emails are actually sent from the tool itself. Instead, the system integrates with many popular email tools that you may already be using, such as MailChimp, iContact, Emma, Constant Contact, What Counts, etc.
Another unique feature Windsor Circle offers is the insightful analytics platform, which lets you examine and segment your eCommerce purchase data for magical insights. For example, you can figure out which products lead to the highest customer lifetime values. Or, you could figure out how long the average customer waits to make their second purchase from your store. Armed with this information, you can develop and execute tactics to improve ROI for your eCommerce store. Recently, Windsor added on-site behavioral tracking, including the ability to segment and target based on behaviors.
Windsor is the leader when it comes to integrations. They claim to be able to integrate with ANY eCommerce platform. Any platform not already supported as “pre-built” is integrated through data feeds and comes with a one-time charge of $2,500. Pre-built platforms come with a five-day integration-to-activation timeframe guarantee.
Pre-built eCommerce Integrations Include:
- Channel Advisor
- Yahoo Stores
- Custom Integrations available via data feeds for $2,500
Out-of-the-box Email System Integrations:
- Constant Contact
- Experian CCMP
- Oracle Marketing Cloud
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud formerly ExactTarget
- WhatCounts (Publicaster and Professional).
Pricing for Windsor Circle is based on the number of customers in your eCommerce platform going back three years (you can’t ask to just go back two years, but of course if you have less than three years of data in your system, it will use what is there). There is also a $1,000 on-boarding fee that covers the set-up and design of email templates in the platform of your choice.
Based on our sales conversations with Windsor Circle, you can expect pricing to look something like (note this pricing was accurate at the time of our initial publication on September 2016, but may no longer be accurate now that Klaviyo focuses only on larger enterprise clients):
Additional service packages are also available for purchase if you or your agency lacks the time or needs to bring in extra expertise.
To get the most accurate pricing from Windsor Circle, you can always reach out to them via their pricing form.
Because Windsor doesn’t actually send any emails itself, there are now two systems to worry about instead of one, as is the case with almost every other marketing automation solution. This is somewhat convenient if you are already using a supported email platform, but otherwise could just be more parts to break.
King of marketing automation for small/medium B2B companies, HubSpot is still interested in becoming a major eCommerce player. While not exactly common in eCommerce, HubSpot is climbing in market share and adoption – especially with brands focused on content marketing and Inbound Marketing for higher consideration eCommerce purchases. Out of the systems we discuss in this post, HubSpot is the most complete eCommerce marketing automation system with features that include publishing, emailing and reporting.
Key or Notable Features
HubSpot is truly a one-stop shop when it comes to eCommerce marketing automation. Features include building and publishing landing pages and forms, publishing a blog, managing social media, running an automated email marketing campaign and even lead scoring (yes, there is a place for lead scoring in eCommerce).
With HubSpot still breaking into the eCommerce marketing automation space, there are only three pre-built integrations with eCommerce platforms. Each integration was developed by a third-party and comes with a nominal fee of $50-$100 per month approximately. Integration options include:
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and with HubSpot you are getting a lot (and paying for it). Deals can usually be negotiated with their eager sales team. However, be prepared to commit to a 12-month contract. The basic package is fairly useless, so expect to pay at least $800 per month or more.
Our main disappointment with HubSpot is the lack of available eCommerce platform integrations. While the most popular platforms are covered, anything beyond those mentioned above are not available without custom programming. In addition, HubSpot’s pricing model is based on their legacy as a B2B tool. Many eCommerce sites tend to be higher in traffic with larger lists than your typical B2B company. Since price is based on list size (contacts), expect to pony up more and more as your list grows.
One way around this is to keep separate lists (leads vs customers) and only use Hubspot to nurture leads into customers. However, this limits your ability to provide a seamless experience and requires additional maintenance. At the very least, when using Hubspot you should be scrubbing your list at every few months.
Kevy is another newer, but fast growing player in the eCommerce marketing automation tool space. One of Founder/CEO Brooke Beach’s goals is to create less fragmentation for eCommerce store owners and managers when it comes to the apps they use to run their business. Another huge focus for Kevy is personalization (of everything).
Kevy starts with all the “standard” features you’d expect out of a marketing automation built from scratch for eCommerce. This includes advanced segmentation capabilities, cart recovery campaign capabilities, email design editor, and reporting. Kevy’s email designer is one of the best in the industry (it even changes an image’s size, not just its dimensions). Reporting is enhanced with a deep Google Analytics integration. In addition, the single-use coupon capability is a nice bonus that helps Kevy take personalization even further. Lastly, the included pop-up capabilities are super strong and convenient with the ability to personalize and target pop-ups as well.
Kevy pricing is based on contacts in your email list. You may send an unlimited amount of emails to the contacts in the system
There wasn’t too much to be disappointed in with Kevy! Their team is small but growing, which could impact new feature releases and potentially customer service.
Omnisend is an ecommerce marketing automation platform designed to help marketers improve their sales by using greater personalization and connecting with their customers on more touch points. Its aim is to help ecommerce marketers get the functionality they need to dramatically increase their sales without having to use many different apps.
Key or Notable Features
Omnisend has quite a lot of features – just what you’d expect for a marketing automation platform designed for ecommerce marketers. It has all the usual bells and whistles—such as a drag-and-drop newsletter builder, popups, and A/B testing. But possibly the best features are related to segmentation and automation. With these features, you can slice and dice your customers any way you like and send them automated emails based on a large number of triggers. Their reports are pretty comprehensive too, allowing you to see not just opens and clicks, but also sales generated by your campaigns or workflows. They’ve recently introduced SMS messages, and will soon roll out the ability to create Facebook Custom Audiences from your lists.
Omnisend has integrations with all of the major ecommerce platforms, including any custom platforms through their API. It also integrates easily with ecommerce apps such as Privy, JustUno, Optimonk and more.
Omnisend’s pricing depends on how many subscribers you have in your list. You can use their pricing calculator to see just how much you’d be paying per month.
They also have a free plan that allows you to send 15,000 emails per month, with a limit of 2,000 emails per day.
Omnisend doesn’t have a lot to be disappointed about. We’re waiting to see what their new omnichannel features will bring to the table and how it can help ecommerce stores reach their sales goals.
Drip is an email automation tool that bills itself as an “E-CRM,” or Ecommerce CRM. Drip integrates out of the box with Shopify, WooCommerce, Stripe, and dozens of other payment processors, and has a visual email workflow builder that lets you build complex automations based on what products people have purchased.
Drip is definitely one of the more powerful email automation tools we’ve looked at. And the fact that they’re focused 100% on B2C ecommerce makes them an intriguing player in the market.
Key or Notable Features
Drip’s visual workflow tool lets you go beyond pre- and post-purchase sequences, and really build entire lifecycle marketing funnels – all mapped out visually.
One of the cooler features that sets Drip apart is Shareable Workflows. Drip users can share and import pre-built automations in 1 click. So if you have a Shopify store, for example, you’re able to install a proven post-purchase email sequence, without having to build everything from scratch.
Another key Drip feature is purchase intent scoring. Similar to lead scoring in B2B, this feature lets you see a “score” that each subscriber has, based on their engagement with your marketing (e.g. opening an email = +1 point, visiting a product page = +3 points, not opening an email for a week = -1 point.)
This lets you segment subscribers by engagement – which is difficult or impossible to pull off with many other ESPs.
Drip integrates out of the box with the following eCommerce platforms and payment processors:
- Shopify Plus
In addition to eCommerce platforms, Drip integrates with dozens of popular marketing tools, including:
- Facebook Lead Ads
- Facebook Custom Audiences
Like most email platforms, Drip charges based on the number of subscribers you have.
With a forever-free plan (under 100 contacts) and a basic plan at $49/mo, Drip is very affordable relative to other marketing automation tools – especially given the features you get.
Here’s how Drip’s pricing breaks down.
If you’re coming from a basic email platform like MailChimp, Drip definitely will take some time to learn. There’s a lot of power in the visual workflow builder, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities if you’ve never mapped out pre- and post-purchase sequences before.
Another disappointment is that Drip doesn’t seem to offer live 1-on-1 demos if you have fewer than 10K subscribers. If you have a decent sized email list, though, Drip will give you a 1-on-1 demo, as well as free migration services to help you bring your list over from another provider.
ActiveCampaign is a good option for small to mid-sized businesses but carries enough features that it can easily grow with you. The service provides CRM, email marketing, and marketing automation all in one place so there’s little need to try and “Frankenstein” a marketing stack that works for you.
Key or Notable Features
One of the most notable features of ActiveCampaign is the inclusion of a variety of pre-built “automation recipes” created just for eCommerce businesses to address a variety of user behaviors, including: cart abandonment, average order size or frequency, multiple visits to specific products, and much more.
ActiveCampaign supports API based integrations with Shopify and BigCommerce but for other platforms such as BigCartel, StoreEnvy or Magento – users would need to use Zapier or Revenue Conduit to pull eCommerce data.
Zapier Supported Integrations:
Integrations via Revenue Conduit:
All of ActiveCampaign’s pricing is based on the number of contacts you have. There is a Lite tier that carries their lowest prices, but be aware that it doesn’t include the CRM or any of their deep data integrations for Shopify for BigCommerce. The Plus and Professional levels are relatively affordable up to 25,000 contacts, but beyond that, you’ll have to contact ActiveCampaign directly to determine pricing. There’s also an Enterprise pricing level that provides users with a dedicated account rep, in-depth onboarding, phone support, and free social data.
The lack of direct integrations with more eCommerce platforms and services could be a dealbreaker for any eCommerce businesses that prefer not to go through (and pay an additional fee for) a third-party app like Zapier. Lastly, the two most common complaints from ActiveCampaign users seems to be regarding the lack of landing pages and the system’s overall learning curve.
A top Email Marketing Provider to the Internet Retailer Top 1000, the Bronto marketing automation platform helps high-growth retailers produce content that is designed to generate engagement. The platform is essentially made up of a handful of services including: email, personalization, automation, and analytics. And with software giant, Oracle’s backing, you know that Bronto’s underlying technology is going to be powerful.
Key or Notable Features
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- Amongst others
- And others
Unfortunately, Bronto doesn’t list pricing information on their site as it ultimately depends on which services are ordered as well as how often you send emails. You can reach out to Bronto in order to get in touch with a member of their sales team and get a quote.
Despite Bronto’s many capabilities, the interface can sometimes be a bit confusing and difficult to use, more effort on Bronto’s part to improve user experience wouldn’t go amiss. Even though Bronto has attempted to make everything simple with drag-and-drop functionality, it does result in limiting the level of customization that can be applied in emails and in workflows.
Additionally, users have said that Bronto can be a bit pricey and if you aren’t well-versed in and utilizing all of Bronto’s features, it can occasionally feel like you’re paying for a handful of things you don’t really need.
A notable favorite amongst smaller to mid-size businesses, MailChimp is a popular email automation platform that offers a little more than your typical ESPs. Including landing pages, display advertising tools, and an easy to use WYSIWYG email builder that produces well-designed emails in less time.
Key or Notable Features
Good reporting is invaluable when it comes to gauging the ROI from your email marketing efforts and that’s one of the areas where MailChimp shines. On top of your typical email reporting elements like click maps and subscriber activity, MailChimp also uses their Analytics360 module to pull data from your web traffic tools so you can see which campaigns resulted in sales and gauge your ROI. You can also review your reporting to see trends in your industry overall so you can see how effective your efforts are compare to your competitors.
Between MailChimp’s popularity amongst users and its robust API, MailChimp carries with it a large library of available integrations. Here are just a few eCommerce integrations available:
- Windsor Circle
If you’re using an existing tool, software, or app and you’re concerned that MailChimp might not play nice – be sure to check out the integration directory. You just might be surprised.
MailChimp’s pricing depends on your list size and the features you’re looking for. The Forever Free option is fantastic if you’re just starting to build your list or testing out MailChimp for the first time but you can quickly find yourself somewhat limited. Once you move into the Growing Business and Pro tiers, you’ll be able to really leverage MailChimp’s best features and increase your ROI. Be sure to use the pricing calculator to get a clearer idea of what pricing will be like for your particular list.
There are a handful of things that can make MailChimp a little annoying to use at times. For example, segmentation is lacking and you can’t send a campaign to multiple email lists. It also doesn’t flag duplicate emails so it’s easy to wind up with a list that is bigger than it actually is (and potentially have to pay more as a result), so you have to make sure that you’re manually scrubbing your lists on a regular basis.
Lastly, even though MailChimp offers some nice templates, when it comes to customization, you can often find yourself fighting with the editor to get changes to stick or preview correctly.
Although Drift sells itself as a conversational marketing tool primarily for B2B, it can be just as beneficial to eCommerce businesses looking for ways to engage customers just when they’re looking at your products. With well-timed pop-up chats, you can offer your customers opportunities to ask questions, prevent cart abandonment by providing coupon codes, and help customers make decisions about what to purchase.
Key or Notable Features
Conversational marketing is still so new that Drift’s primary function, in and of itself, feels pretty notable. Being able to “talk” to customers virtually, 24/7 is a potential game changer. Other key features that strike us as being particularly interesting are the conversation reports and the ability to see a live view of customers as they engage with your site’s chat bot. This allows you to get a clearer idea of the questions your customers are asking as they make purchasing decisions.
- Stripe (via Zapier)
- ZenDesk (via Zapier)
- Google Analytics
- And many others
If you sell products that include customizations, Drift can be an affordable way to help your customers through the purchase process.
There’s a free, basic version available but if you want to utilize any of the additional integrations, save replies, see a live view of visitors on your site, or reach out to 1,000 or more contacts; then you’ll want to consider going with the Standard or Pro offerings.
While the tool is very useful overall, it often feels as if some of the features available at higher subscription levels should really be standard elements of the tool, just in the interest of good UX. For example, custom branding is only available at the $500/month Pro level, which is why you’ll often notice that sites using Drift have a small notice at the bottom of their chat boxes that says “We’re ⚡ by Drift.”
Bluecore is a retail marketing platform that allows eCommerce marketers create and distribute personalized, triggered emails. The platform is popular among a variety of retail brands such as Steve Madden, Starbucks, and Crocs. It’s site isn’t quite as informative as it could be so to really get a feel for it, we recommend reaching out to Bluecore for a free demo!
Key or Notable Features
Bluecore offers the typical email marketing tools that you would expect from a full email marketing platform, however, there’s definitely a strong vein of data-reliance that results in a few other features designed to really drive sales and increase revenue. For example, Bluecore allows users to setup predictive audiences based on pre-built, retail specific predictive models that utilize your data to create segments based on product affinity, likelihood to take actions, lifecycle stage and lifetime value.
Bluecore also allows users to build out personalized marketing campaigns with multiple, cross-channel touches – all within a single campaign workflow so you can guide your customers towards purchase across various channels.
- Google Adwords
- Oracle Commerce Cloud
Unfortunately, Bluecore’s pricing isn’t listed on their website, however you can contact them to get a quote.
We will note that some customers have mentioned that prices can run a little high.
We weren’t terribly impressed by the small list of integrations available with Bluecore and customers sometimes reported having issues with the email reporting feature (however, the dashboard is useful for providing accurate data at a glance). Others have also said that they weren’t as impressed by the limited amount of features available for such a pricey platform.
So Which System is Right For You?
Of course, every eCommerce business has different wants and needs when it comes to selecting an eCommerce marketing automation system. Of the eleven systems we reviewed, each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and were built to help solve different problems for different businesses. When it comes to making your selection, think carefully about what features you’ll most likely use and what will do the most to increase your business’ overall efficiency and, ultimately, your revenue.
If you need help or have questions about selecting an eCommerce marketing automation system for your business, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch via phone or email. We’d love to help.