Top brands know that personalized, engaging messaging is the key to winning and retaining customers. But getting the right message to the right person at the right time — at scale! — typically requires a marketing automation platform (MAP). MAPs help you target precise audience segments, automate workflows that match your customer journey, and leverage your data. When you research MAP options, you might be considering two well-known platforms: ActiveCampaign vs. Mailchimp. Read on for a deep dive into how the two platforms compare and why it may be worthwhile to also consider Customer.io to enable your marketing strategy.
Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
ActiveCampaign is a customer experience automation tool that combines transactional email, email marketing, marketing automation, sales automation, and CRM. It allows you to send personalized emails and SMS messages, automate marketing with audience segmentation and workflows, and organize customer data in one location to enable sales engagement and automation. Its typical users are small to mid-sized businesses in sectors like technology, bloggers/influencers, education, agencies, entertainment and events, travel and hospitality, nonprofits, healthcare, real estate, and fitness and nutrition.
Top ActiveCampaign features
Mailchimp is a marketing automation and email marketing platform. Like ActiveCampaign, it includes a marketing automation platform and a CRM. It also offers a website builder with hosting, custom domains, e-commerce, and appointment scheduling. The platform is aimed at smaller businesses and nonprofits, and it’s also commonly used in the marketing,, information technology, software, and academic sectors.
Top Mailchimp features
While both ActiveCampaign and Mailchimp offer marketing automation and a CRM, Mailchimp’s website hosting features bring more tools under one umbrella. Mailchimp’s all-in-one model and ease of use allow users to get up and running quickly, but its simplicity comes at the expense of flexibility. ActiveCampaign has a somewhat more robust data model, but comes with some limitations on how you can put your data to use.
ActiveCampaign allows you to segment audiences based on attributes (like tags or stored demographic information), behavior (like when a customer visits your website, clicks a link, or makes a payment), lead scoring (like a contact or deal score), and more. Each segment is limited to 20 conditions and can include no more than five behavior-based conditions and three conditions using a “contains” operator. Users can create segments while building campaigns. Manual segmentation, however, is not possible.
Mailchimp offers segmentation as well, and users can segment audiences based on up to five conditions, including demographic and behavioral data. It also offers several pre-built segments and the option to use tags to keep track of customers.
Data and integrations
In addition to standard objects and arrays, ActiveCampaign allows users in the Enterprise tier to import custom objects or create them in the platform; some custom objects can be used to trigger automations or customize automated emails. It also has integrations with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, Square, and Stripe, plus 800+ other apps. You can import data via its API, integrations, CSV file, or database sync. Webhooks are also supported.
Mailchimp, in comparison, has a rather more limited data model, which does not support arrays. The platform offers 300+ integrations to apps and web services, including Shopify, Quickbooks, Stripe, and Yelp. You can bring data into the platform via an integration, Mailchimp’s API, a CSV file, or by copy-pasting from a spreadsheet.
ActiveCampaign supports automated workflows that can include conditional logic and “wait” conditions, though their documentation cautions against creating large, complex workflows. Users can also use pre-built and generic workflows for common use cases. Campaigns can be triggered by events, but there are only 30 event triggers available, which may not meet the needs of all users.
Mailchimp’s Customer Journey Builder also enables automated workflows that are fairly similar to ActiveCampaign. Each workflow can include up to three initial triggers and up to 100 actions or rules. The tool includes pre-built Journeys for common marketing needs. One limitation, however, is that you cannot edit active automations.
Neither ActiveCampaign nor Mailchimp support anonymous event tracking. Anonymous events help you personalize your campaigns based on things people did before they provided their email address or phone number; once a customer provides that identifying information, their anonymous activity can be merged into their profile to support deeper personalization.
The lack of this feature in ActiveCampaign and Mailchimp means that you have less rich customer profiles and fewer data points for personalizing messages. If you fill the gap with a different tool for anonymous event tracking, the only way to associate the data with known customers is through labor-intensive backfilling of data.
A/B testing and experimentation
ActiveCampaign offers split-action testing on email subject lines, to/from information, and message content, as well as variables like wait times and email vs. SMS messages. Users can create up to five versions of each message within a campaign to test. You can also test the performance of an entire campaign against another.
Mailchimp provides options for both A/B and multivariate testing. Users can test subject lines, message content, send time, and “from” name. The platform also offers some AI-assisted testing recommendations.
ActiveCamaign primarily supports email and SMS. Push notifications may be available through integrations, but in-app messaging is not supported, nor are one-off sends of SMS or email. Mailchimp primarily supports email, but SMS is available for appointment messaging and store transactions.
Metrics and analytics
ActiveCampaign offers automation, campaign, and store reports, plus aggregated reporting like trends in opens, clicks, and other engagement on a per-user basis. CRM and sales analytics are also available. You can use template reports or create your own. Mailchimp has a suite of analytics tools as well, including a dashboard, reports, AI-driven campaign improvement recommendations, and surveys.
ActiveCampaign offers email, live chat, and phone support, as well as a knowledge base and a community forum. Email and live chat include some after-hours support. G2 reviews report above-average user satisfaction with customer support.
Mailchimp’s support options vary significantly by plan tier. All users can access an AI chatbot and email support (although free users lose access to email support after 30 days). Paid plans get 24/7 chat support and weekday phone support in English.
Tiers, bundles and limits
ActiveCampaign’s pricing system is fairly complex:
Mailchimp’s tiers are simpler, but each includes caps and overage fees:
Mailchimp’s formula for calculating overages is complicated. If your contacts or sends exceed your allowance, you’ll be charged for additional contact blocks. Pricing varies by plan tier, and you could pay anywhere from a few dollars to over $100 in any given month. That could happen unexpectedly if you have automated workflows and get an influx of new customers. Mailchimp has also unexpectedly increased their prices a couple times in the past few years, including changes to caps on messages and contacts at various tiers, which has been especially challenging for smaller businesses.
Just like ActiveCampaign, Mailchimp’s features vary significantly with each tier, sometimes in unexpected ways. For instance, while the Essentials plan offers access to automated workflows, you can only include four actions or rules in a workflow, as opposed to 100 in the Standard and Premium plans.
Both tools offer nonprofit discounts: ActiveCampaign offers 20% off and Mailchimp offers 15% off. Mailchimp also offers a 10% discount for one month when you enable two-factor authentication.
ActiveCampaign has a free 14-day trial with limited feature access. Mailchimp offers a free 30-day trial on its Essentials and Standard tiers, but not for its Premium tier.
Customer.io is an omnichannel MAP built to scale with your business at every stage of growth. It allows marketers to consolidate all messaging channels — including email, SMS, push, and in-app — into a single integrated platform, build precise manual and data-driven segments, and design complex automated workflows with unlimited event triggers. Customer.io gives you the power to craft an optimal experience with personalized messaging at every moment in a customer’s journey, including both transactional and marketing messages.
Top Customer.io features
Customer.io vs. ActiveCampaign
Customer.io and ActiveCampaign have similar aims when it comes to marketing automation: enabling personalization at scale with automation. But rather than combining CRM and MAP features like ActiveCampaign, Customer.io focuses on maximizing flexibility and ease of use for cross-channel marketing automation and integration with other tools in your martech stack.
Customer.io vs. Mailchimp
Mailchimp can be a solid entry-level product for small businesses that just want to send emails or consolidate several marketing functions under one roof, but its trademark simplicity limits both scalability and flexibility. Customer.io, on the other hand, is built to scale with you, with a robust feature set for businesses at every stage of growth. The platform gives you tons of flexibility, precise control over your data and campaigns, and multiple channels for reaching your customers.
Finding the MAP that’s best aligned with your marketing strategy and business needs can be a challenging task. When considering your options, you might think through the following questions:
Customer.io was built to give you more control, more capabilities, and more possibilities for your campaigns. It’s a blank canvas for you to design an omnichannel messaging strategy that aligns to your business goals and the unique needs of your customers. We’d love to show you how you can build your ideal messaging workflows with Customer.io and get you started with a free 14-day trial so you can see it in action yourself. Book your demo to get started!