The 5 top email marketing platforms—and why they might be right for your business

Profile photo of author Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
9min read
Email marketing
April 18th 2023
Featured image

In an economically challenged, post-iOS 14.5 world, where paid targeting is getting less precise and consumers are getting more selective about which brands they deem worthy of their money, email marketing is one of the best ways to connect with your audience.

Whereas paid and social media rely on complex algorithms that may prevent accurate targeting and make it difficult for you to get your content in front of the right people, email marketing is one of the few channels you own—meaning you have complete control over what you send, when you send it, and who has the opportunity to see it.

Building strong relationships with loyal customers now depends on your ability to communicate with them in an engaging, relevant, and meaningful way.

Your email list and SMS list—as well as how you collect, organize, and use your customer data—are where that work begins.

And your marketing platform is what powers it all. Here, we cover:

  1. What is an email marketing service provider?
  2. The 5 best email marketing platforms
  3. Additional email marketing solutions for your online store
  4. How to choose the best email marketing software for your ecommerce store

What is an email marketing service provider?

An email marketing platform—sometimes referred to as an email marketing service or email service provider (ESP)—refers to the technology a business uses to create and send emails to a specified list of email addresses.

Whether they’re built on Shopify, Adobe Commerce (Magento), BigCommerce, WooCommerce, or another ecommerce platform, ecommerce businesses use ESPs to send anything from monthly email newsletters and email marketing campaigns to automated communications like shipping confirmation emails, back-in-stock emails, and abandoned cart emails.

Email marketing platforms have come a long way since the early days of the internet. As email providers like Gmail have become more advanced, email marketing tools have followed suit, adapting to offer cutting-edge technology that keeps up with the changes.

Most of today’s ESPs come with built-in marketing features such as:

  • Email templates
  • Integrations with third-party tech solutions
  • Audience segmentation and personalization tools
  • Reporting and analytics dashboards
  • A/B testing

The 5 best email marketing platforms

Below is our list of the top 5 email marketing platforms for delivering experiences today’s consumers demand. It’s not a comprehensive list, and of course we’re a little biased. But we’ve tried to select a list of marketing platforms that encompasses a wide range of different business sizes and use cases.

Here, we break down why you might want to use each platform—and why you might not.

1. Klaviyo

Audience: any growing ecommerce business, from solopreneurs to small businesses to large enterprise companies

Year launched: 2012

Why you might want to use Klaviyo

  • All-in-one platform for:
    • Email marketing
    • SMS marketing
    • Mobile app push notifications
    • On-site sign-up forms, including pop-ups, fly-outs, and forms embedded in landing pages
    • Micro-targeted email and SMS marketing campaigns
    • Omnichannel automations triggered by customer behavior
    • Collecting, unifying, storing, and activating customer data across your tech stack (reviews, UGC, loyalty, order, shipping, payments, etc)
    • Paid targeting via lookalike segments and retargeting through Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram, and Criteo
    • AI tools like peer benchmarking, content generators, and predictive analytics
  • Unaggregated and unfiltered event and profile data, stored indefinitely
    • Real-time behavior tracking, reporting, and modeling stored at the profile level
    • Ability to ingest and index any data volume and format without pre-configuring data schema
    • No data retention limits, with quick access to all real-time and historical data
    • Massive allowance of data fields and custom properties
  • Deep ecommerce focus
    • Built-in ecomm functionality, including back-in-stock communications, dynamic coupons, and product recommendations
    • Revenue reporting goes beyond sends, opens, and clicks to provide detailed ecomm insights such as revenue per campaign/flow, benchmarks vs. peers, funnel data, and more
    • Built-in and customizable templates for abandoned cart emails, follow-up emails, transactional emails, welcome emails, and more—so you can set new automations live in hours, not weeks
    • Peer benchmarking against 100K+ other ecommerce brands
  • Advanced segmentation and personalization functionality
    • Segment on any piece of customer profile or event data from 300+ pre-built integrations, including metadata, all-time historical data, and predictive analytics
    • Unlimited “AND/OR” statements
    • Personalized product feeds
    • Dozens of pre-built SMS and email automations based on real-time individual profile actions
    • Predictive analytics include a spectrum of historic and predictive lifetime value, including returns and churn risk
  • Advanced features for A/B testing
    • Up to 7 email variations
    • A/B test multiple elements, including sender name, subject line, send time, content, and CTA
    • Winning variation is auto-selected based on statistical significance
  • Ease of use—no developer work required for:
    • Connecting your tech stack with 300+ pre-built integrations
    • Building customer segments, no matter how granular
    • Building new automations triggered by customer behavior
    • Building the automation trigger, branches within the automation, or personalized content
    • Personalizing email and SMS content

Why you might not want to use Klaviyo

  • Your email strategy relies on the old-school batch-and-blast method, rather than segmentation and personalization.
  • You need an email marketing provider that can handle advanced B2B use cases, such as lead scoring.

2. Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Target audience: large to enterprise businesses

Year launched: 2000, under the name ExactTarget

Why you might want to use Salesforce Marketing Cloud

  • Every feature and use case is possible, as long as you’re willing to pay for it—both financially but also in terms of marketer, developer, and system integrator lift
  • Other Salesforce softwares, such as Salesforce Einstein AI, are already a crucial part of your tech stack
  • Professional in-house services available for an additional cost
  • Global enterprise features
    • Multi-language and multi-currency functionality
    • Template translation
    • Advanced HTML tools
  • Advanced AI capabilities
    • AI-recommended next best action for each customer
    • AI insights from data
    • AI segmentation

Why you might not want to use Salesforce Marketing Cloud

  • High cost for implementation and maintenance
  • Requires heavy developmental support to:
    • Maintain integrations
    • Create segments (must have knowledge of SQL)
    • Build common ecommerce flows, such as abandoned cart or back-in-stock
  • Limited data model
    • Need to define every event in advance and configure every attribute of the event in the user interface
    • Data is not unified but rather stored in separate data extensions
    • Requires separate Salesforce products, CDP and Genie, in order to use real-time data for triggered messages
  • Limited integrations, even with other Salesforce products
    • Salesforce owns software for every use case, but all are built separately and must be integrated with Salesforce Marketing Cloud

3. Omnisend

Target audience: ecommerce marketers

Year launched: 2014, under the name Soundest

Why you might want to use Omnisend

  • Multi-account support
  • Your marketing strategy requires:
    • Global SMS
    • Web push notifications
    • Wheel of fortune-style forms
  • Low pricing
  • Built-in, guided prompts throughout the platform

Why you might not want to use Omnisend

  • Minimal onboarding and customer support
  • Limited data access
    • No access to nested event data, beyond variant details like brand and color
    • Limited pre-built ecommerce data integrations (around 70)
    • No storage for data older than 18 months
  • Limited segmentation functionality
    • Segmentation is limited to 3 categories
    • No predictive capabilities
  • A/B testing is limited to subject line and sender name

4. Listrak

Target audience: large retailers

Year launched: 1999

Why you might want to use Listrak

  • GXP identity graph: identity resolution for anonymous traffic and cross-device tracking (note that due to data privacy changes from Apple, Google, and government regulations, the long-term viability of this product is unclear)
  • Professional in-house services available for an additional cost
  • Listrak claims their proprietary MTA infrastructure translates to higher email deliverability
  • Sophisticated predictive analytics
    • Discount affinity
    • Product affinity

Why you might not want to use Listrak

  • You need a unified platform for email, SMS, and mobile app push notifications
  • Limited ecommerce functionality
    • Integrations with ecommerce platforms lack depth
    • Limited pre-built ecommerce data integrations (around 60)
    • Real-time data is lacking
  • Restrictive data model
    • Data is not unified between email and SMS products
    • Pre-defined, inflexible order schema requires data mapping
    • Requires list identification before gathering event data from customers
    • APIs only give limited access to product’s surface area
  • Many of the following need to be built from scratch:
    • Integrations
    • Templates
    • Automations
    • Reports
  • Listrak’s team must set up every new automation—and they charge for each one

5. Mailchimp

Year launched: 2001

Target audience: entrepreneurs, beginners, and new brands

Why you might want to use Mailchimp

  • User-friendly
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Free plan available
  • Low pricing on paid plans

Why you might not want to use Mailchimp

  • Limited ecommerce functionality
    • Revenue reporting only contains surface-level data like sends, opens, and clicks
    • Back-in-stock communications and coupons are handled through third parties
  • Limited data model
    • Limits on data retention, including the ability to store no more than 80 custom properties
    • No real-time behavior tracking, and limited nested event tracking (only offers surface-level data like product/order info and price vs. nested event data like categories, coupons, variants, tags, etc.)
  • Limited segmentation and personalization functionality
    • Segments are limited to 5 total predefined metrics, rather than making all customer data available for segmentation
    • Segmentation is list-based rather than profile-based, meaning Mailchimp counts subscribers that appear on multiple lists as two separate contacts
    • Product feeds are basic and can’t pull specific categories or collections
    • Minimal predictive analytics for future purchases and lifetime value
  • A/B testing is limited to 3 email variations

Additional email marketing solutions for your online store

Other email marketing providers that didn’t make our list include:

How to choose the best email marketing software for your ecommerce store

Email marketing trends have changed a lot over the last decade and software needs to keep up. But just like your business isn’t the same as anyone else’s, not all ESPs are created equal—and not all will serve the needs of your unique businesses equally, either.

Keep in mind that each email marketing platform has its own strengths and weaknesses. Selecting the one that’s best for your brand is a daunting process, and a lot of it comes down to asking the right questions.

Need help moving things in the right direction? Check out Klaviyo’s free RFP template for 122 questions to ask of each ESP vendor you’re considering—even if you don’t end up running an RFP, the questions will still be useful as you narrow down your options.

Learn why Klaviyo is the top email software provider on this list.
Get a free trial
Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
Lead editor
Jax Connelly (they/she), lead editor at Klaviyo, started their career doing SEO at a small digital ad agency and spent most of their twenties managing a financial magazine for a trade association based in Washington, DC. Most recently, she studied and taught writing at Columbia College Chicago during the peak years of the pandemic. Outside of their day job, Jax is an award-winning creative writer who has received honors including 3 Notables in the Best American Essays series, contest awards from publications like Nowhere Magazine and Prairie Schooner, and a residency from the Ragdale Foundation. Jax lives in Chicago a block away from Lake Michigan with her elderly Jack Russell Terrier, Cloo.