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ActiveCampaign vs Drip: Equally Matched in Marketing Automation?

Author

May 29, 2019

Inka Wibowo

ActiveCampaign vs Drip

In the small-to-medium business space, two big names often come up in conversations around the best email marketing automation software: ActiveCampaign and Drip.

ActiveCampaign has steadily built a reputation for itself as a marketing automation leader over the last 15 years, serving over 70,000 businesses worldwide. Core offerings include its powerful workflow editor and integrated CRM.

Drip, which was launched in 2013, is the relative newcomer of the two. However, that hasn’t stopped it from quickly gaining traction with businesses looking to take advantage of its ‘ecommerce CRM’ features and intuitive automations.

But if you’re trying to choose between ActiveCampaign vs Drip, which one should you go for? I’ve tested both email marketing services out, and have identified the one I think would be better suited to most (but perhaps not all) users.

The answer might surprise you, so keep reading to find out which one takes the marketing automation crown!

ActiveCampaign vs Drip: Which is better?

While both are powerful marketing automation platforms, Drip’s integrations and automations are particularly suited to ecommerce, while ActiveCampaign’s inbuilt CRM allows for better integrated sales and marketing automation for businesses who have more complex sales processes.

Ease of navigation & email editor

Let’s kick off by taking a look at how easy it is to get up and running with each tool.

Drip has a vibrant and modern interface, with just a handful of top menu options that are easy to familiarize with.

drip dashboard

In my opinion, though, the difference between ‘Campaigns’ vs ‘Broadcasts’ and ‘Automation Rules’ vs ‘Workflows’ isn’t immediately apparent. In fact, I had to do some digging around in their Knowledge Base to get my head around it all. The good news is that their documentation is pretty comprehensive, so it doesn’t take long for it to all make sense.

The process of building emails (sorry, ‘broadcasts’) is a little unconventional when compared to other tools’ visual editors. Rather than a pure drag-and-drop builder where you can build emails by placing elements wherever you like, Drip takes a section-based approach, where you first need to select the section you want to edit, then choose what content you want to insert (and then, for some reason, choose the section you want to add it to once again).

drip email editor

The editor is zippy and dynamic, but perhaps not the most intuitive one out there, or the most efficient.

ActiveCampaign’s interface isn’t quite as colorful or exciting as Drip’s – it really feels like a more business-oriented tool. That being said, I did think the menu options made more sense (to me at least) – you have your standard ‘Contacts’, ‘Campaigns’, ‘Automations’, ‘Lists’ and so on. And while the Dashboard can look a little overwhelming, you can actually customize it to show a more simplified view, with only the data you need.

activecampaign dashboard

I find building emails a lot easier to do with ActiveCampaign. Their drag-and-drop editor gave me more flexibility over the layout, and to insert a wider variety of content elements (social links, RSS, video links, etc). It’s also possible to insert conditional email content – so, for example, different product offers depending on whether a contact has shown interest in those products previously.

activecampaign email builder

Winner: At first glance, you’d think Drip would be the easier of the two tools to get familiar with, due to its more simplified interface. In actual fact though, I found ActiveCampaign to be more intuitive – so point goes to ActiveCampaign.

Email designs

What about email templates? Does Drip or ActiveCampaign offer better email designs?

In this case, it comes down to variety, and one of the two offers that little bit more.

Drip has just 6 email templates, which are more similar to basic layouts – you need to apply your own styling, colors, backgrounds, etc. Of course, you can import your own HTML (pretty much every email marketing service lets you do this), but if you were hoping to be able to find a nice range of ready-to-go templates, you might be disappointed.

drip email templates

ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, offers around 30 fully-designed responsive email templates. They vary in quality – some are basic, while others are pretty modern.

ActiveCampaign templates

Winner: I wouldn’t say that either of the tools places a huge emphasis on providing email designs that wow, but ActiveCampaign definitely offers more variety – so it’s 2:0 in their favor.

List management

I have to say, Drip’s list management and segmentation features are impressive. You can create segments by combining all kinds of criteria, including event-based data. So, for example, you could create a segment of people who have (or haven’t) clicked an email in a specific automation, people who haven’t clicked the last few emails they received, customers who have placed a certain number of orders, and more.

drip segments

You also have the ability to apply tags to contacts to help categorize them, using characteristics such as source, whether or not they’re a customer, or if they’ve visited a specific page on your site. Tags can be applied through both Drip’s universal ‘Rules’ function, or in an automation workflow (more on that in the ‘Automation’ section below).

drip tags

Other than that, Drip also lets you segment using custom fields, and to set up lead scoring to identify hot prospects.

ActiveCampaign isn’t actually too different to Drip in what it offers. Like Drip, it also allows you to create segments out of tags, custom fields, contact actions, event data and other criteria (or a combination of these). These can be created manually within lists, or using automations if you want to create cross-list segments.

Lead scoring is also available, allowing you to set up some quite complex scoring based on a long list of criteria/actions.

activecampaign leadscoring criteria

Winner: I’d say that both ActiveCampaign and Drip are equally as powerful when it comes to list management, but Drip nudges ahead on ease of use – their simplified interface definitely has the one-up here over ActiveCampaign’s slightly more cluttered set-up.

Marketing automation

Of course, this is the question we all came here to get answered – which of these two marketing automation powerhouses actually does a better job of automation?

Let’s start with Drip, which I personally think has the cooler automation workflow editor of the two. It’s easy to use, well-designed, flexible, and actually kind of fun to use. You have a heap of automation triggers to choose from (link clicks, page views, tags assigned, or even actions in integrated tools, such as a purchase in your Shopify store). From there, you can add workflow steps such as sending campaigns, moving contacts into other campaigns, or even splitting contacts down multiple paths.

drip automation paths

Basically, Drip’s workflow editor lets you build out any kind of automation you want, in a very intuitive way (and we all know that building automations can get very complex!).

drip automation workflow

On top of this, you can also set up Automation Rules, which are universal actions that get applied whenever a contact performs a specific action, regardless of whatever campaigns they might have been sent or tags that might be applied to them (although you can set up restrictions to exclude certain contacts). So, for example, if anyone views a particular webpage on your site, you can set up a rule to send them a campaign, without having to build out a full workflow in the automation editor.

drip automation rules

As you can imagine, such powerful automation features can be hard to beat – but amazingly, ActiveCampaign matches up pretty evenly here. It too offers a visual editor for building automations, and comes with a decent library of pre-built templates to get you started (think abandoned cart campaigns, post-purchase upsells, tagging contacts who’ve visited a webpage, and more).

activecampaign automation templates

Granted, the visual experience isn’t as dazzling as Drip’s, but it’s intuitive enough to use and equally as flexible, with a long list of triggers and actions to choose from. These can be combined to build complex workflows for sending emails, lead scoring, data segmentation, and more.

activecampaign automation workflow

Thanks to its integrated CRM, you can also automate a lot of sales processes too. So, for example, if you wanted any leads generated from your marketing campaigns to automatically enter your pipeline as a deal, you can set up automations to do exactly that. You can also automate any follow-up sales emails to be sent, too.

ActiveCampaign workflow

Winner: Both Drip and ActiveCampaign do a fabulous job of marketing automation. Drip is perhaps the easier of the two to master, and is excellent for ecommerce automations. But ActiveCampaign is the better choice if you have a more complex sales process and want to automate a lot of the back and forth between your marketing and sales team. So point to both, bringing us to 2:3!

Registration forms

Drip lets you create a handful of different form types, including widget (popup), embedded and hosted forms (meaning the form sits on its own page within Drip).

Within the visual form editor, you get control over customizing form fields (with a few caveats, which I’ll get to in a minute), some basic design elements, confirmation messages and so on. Form submissions can trigger a long list of different actions, including adding a tag to a contact, flagging as a prospect, moving/removing them from a campaign or workflow, or recording a conversion.

drip form editor

But, be aware – if you’re using a widget/popup form, you won’t be able to add dropdown, radio button, or checkbox fields. And if you’re creating an embedded form, you can only add these field types by customizing the HTML.

It’s not ideal, especially not for beginners. Here, ActiveCampaign’s visual form builder works a lot better.

ActiveCampaign also allows you to build different kinds of forms (inline, floating bar, floating box, and pop-up – however, the last three aren’t available if you’re on the Lite plan). You get more control over the design of your form, but most importantly, are easily able to add different types of form fields (text, dropdown, radio buttons, checkboxes, and even hidden fields). No fiddling around with HTML required here!

activecampaign forms

Like with Drip, you can also trigger a number of different actions after a contact submits a form, including adding them to lists, tags, or even deals (and subsequently, to any associated automations).

Winner: ActiveCampaign’s form editor provides a little more flexibility, and is generally easier to use too – another point to them!

Ecommerce integration

Both offer powerful integrations with the biggest ecommerce platforms, allowing you to import store/customer data, and to track revenue generated by emails and campaigns. So if you’re running an online store, which one is better for you?

Let’s take a look at ActiveCampaign first. ActiveCampaign has deep data integrations with three platforms – BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Shopify.

What does this mean? Basically, that ActiveCampaign can pull in customer data from your online store – data such as total revenue, orders, and products purchased – and use these to build segments, campaigns and automations (like abandoned cart campaigns or re-purchase reminders).

activecampaign deepdata workflow

In addition, third-party integration apps like Revenue Conduit and Zapier also let you import data from other ecommerce platforms, such as Magento and PrestaShop.

Sounds great, but how does it compare to Drip – the platform that describes itself as a ‘the world’s first eCRM’ (ecommerce customer relationship manager)?

I have to say, I think Drip comes out on top here. It offers direct integrations to a lot of the same platforms as ActiveCampaign (Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento etc), and third-party integrations with the likes of BigCommerce and SamCart. There’s also a Shopper Activity API if you don’t mind setting this up on your own.

But it goes a little further in a few different areas. Firstly, Drip lets you trigger automations around even the most minute of customer actions – if they viewed a product page, for example, or created a checkout (without necessarily completing it). These are available by default within Drip’s automations editor, so there’s no need to create special ‘events’ or API callbacks to be able to set these up. (Note that webpage tracking is also available with ActiveCampaign, although it requires you to insert some tracking code into your Shopify store. This process is much more straightforward with Drip, which does it automatically when you integrate the two tools).

drip ecommerce automations

Drip also lets you dynamically add product information into emails, in a couple of different ways. For example, you can send order confirmation emails with information about what products were ordered, and how many items were in the checkout, using a simple system of shortcodes.

But what really gives it the edge over ActiveCampaign is that you can automatically add content like product recommendations and top-selling products straight to your newsletters, using the Visual Email Builder. drip product recommendations

Winner: Both are ideal solutions if you’re looking to amp up your online store’s email marketing, but Drip feels more like it’s been purpose-built for ecommerce – so this round goes to them! And with the current tally at 4:3 (with ActiveCampaign in the lead), it’s looking very close!

Spam & design testing

If it’s important for you to be able to test your emails before you send them, be aware that Drip doesn’t offer any kind of spam or design testing, beyond your standard email previews. So, you’ll need to run your emails through other tools to check the likelihood of them being flagged as spam, or how they’ll render in various email clients/devices (GlockApps and Litmus are good tools for spam and design testing, respectively).

ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, offers spam testing by way of a SpamAssassin check that will automatically test each email before sending. While email client previews (e.g. viewing how emails would look in Gmail vs Apple Mail) aren’t free, you can purchase email credits to be able to access these via ActiveCampaign.

Winner: This is an easy one – ActiveCampaign wins for offering spam testing for free, and email client previews at an extra cost. Neither of these options is available through Drip.

Reporting

Drip offers a good range of report types. You get some standard overall reports in their Analytics section – subscriber growth reports, unsubscribes, and bounces, just to name a few.

However you also get some really useful events-based reports, which show you whenever contacts had a tag applied, became prospects, visited a webpage or completed a campaign (among many other available events). You’ll get both a graph as well as a list of the contacts that performed these actions. You can also set up custom conversion tracking for events such as ebook downloads or demo requests.

Drip events report

 

Ecommerce dashboards are available if you integrate Drip with your online store (either on Shopify, Magento, or using Drip’s API). You can track how much revenue was generated by individual campaigns or automation workflows, as well as seeing revenue per subscriber and average order value per email.

drip revenue reports

For individual emails (whether sent as a broadcast, in a campaign, or in an automation), you get opens, clicks, and unsubscribes – although not too much more, unfortunately. So, no click heat maps or geolocation reports, for example.

Also missing are reports showing how each automation performed overall, as well as social engagement stats.

ActiveCampaign’s reports are a little more comprehensive. The individual campaign reports are excellent, with opens, clicks, unsubscribes, bounces and forwards. You also get read reports, geolocation, social mentions/shares and which email clients were used (although they lack a visual heat map).

activecampaign campaign report

Beyond that, they also have automation reports, contact trend metrics, conversation reports (around ActiveCampaign’s add-on live chat and email support feature), and goal-based reports that you can set up yourself. Ecommerce reports are available if you have a Deep Data Integration set up with either Shopify, BigCommerce or WooCommerce.

Plus, if your plan gives you access to ActiveCampaign’s CRM, you’ll also get their deal reports, giving you funnel overviews, and detailed deal reports.

Deal funnel

Winner: While I really like Drip’s event-based reports, ActiveCampaign offers a greater variety of reports, with more comprehensive data. ActiveCampaign takes a solid 6:3 lead!

Integrations

We’ve talked about ecommerce integrations, but what about integrations with other key tools?

It all comes down to the numbers. ActiveCampaign provides direct integrations with over 250 applications, including the most popular CRMs, analytics tools, CMS/website builders, and social media networks.

Drip offers fewer integrations – around 100 in total, although you’ll still be able to integrate directly with apps like Shopify, Paypal, Facebook, Leadpages and more. Curiously, they didn’t seem to have any direct integrations under their CRM category, although these can be set up using a third-party integrator like Zapier.

Winner: No surprises here – with a wider range of integrations, ActiveCampaign takes out this round.

Support

Both ActiveCampaign and Drip provide email and live chat for one-on-one support, and detailed knowledge bases, and community forums (Drip’s is on Facebook). Both also offer the option to contract one-on-one training, and ActiveCampaign also makes tutorials and webinars available online.

We’ve had good experiences with the live support offered by both providers, which we found to be fast, responsive and friendly. However, Drip (amazingly!) offers 24/7 live support, while ActiveCampaign’s is limited to business hours (US Central time).

Winner: It’s close, but having 24/7 support makes a huge difference, especially when you’re located in a non-US timezone – so Drip has the one-up when it comes to support! Let’s see who takes out the final round…

Pricing

ActiveCampaign and Drip aren’t your average email marketing services, so it comes as no surprise that they’d charge a little extra for their premium features (neither offers a free plan, either, although free trials are available). But which one provides better value? Both charge based on number of contacts, but there are a few key differences to note.

For one thing, ActiveCampaign allows you to choose from four different plans: Lite, Plus, Professional and Enterprise. While Lite starts at $15/month and gives you all the basics plus marketing automation, you’ll need at least the Plus plan to take advantage of the CRM and the Deep Data Integrations with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Square. Plus starts at $70/month for 500 contacts.

Drip gives you access to all features, regardless of the plan you’re on. Their lowest plan starts at $49/month for 2,500 contacts, which is a pretty big commitment to start off with compared to ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan.

But to give you a better idea of how the two really compare, let’s take a look at the monthly pricing of Drip vs ActiveCampaign’s Plus plan, which is the most similarly-featured plan:

ActiveCampaign Plus Plan Drip
2,500 contacts $125 (discounted yearly plan: $99) $49*
5,000 contacts $169 (discounted yearly plan: $135) $122*
10,000 contacts $249 (discounted yearly plan: $199) $184*

*Annual plans with Drip are also available, which work on a credit system and provide you with two months' worth of credits for free.

When you’re comparing these two plans, ActiveCampaign is the more expensive of the two, although you do get more for the Plus plan than you do with Drip (CRM and SMS marketing, for example). So it’s a little hard to do a straight comparison. Plus, you’ll find that ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan is significantly cheaper than Drip, although you do miss out on features such as deep ecommerce integrations and CRM.

Winner: This one had me a little stumped! Both ActiveCampaign and Drip require a fair bit of monthly investment, but if you’re choosing based on price, you need to consider what features you need:

  • If you just need automations, ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan is the way to go
  • Drip is the more affordable option if you need automations plus ecommerce integrations
  • However, it’s worth opting for ActiveCampaign if you need the inbuilt CRM too (which Drip doesn’t offer)

So, the final round is a tie. However, if you’ve been keeping score, you’ll know that we have a clear winner…

ActiveCampaign vs Drip: Final thoughts

When it comes to marketing automation, it’s hard to go past either ActiveCampaign or Drip. Both offer intuitive yet powerful workflow editors to let you build virtually any kind of automation you want.

But while Drip is particularly strong in ecommerce, ActiveCampaign (who also have solid ecommerce features) goes that little bit further, with a decent CRM and some useful extra features – email templates, spam testing, comprehensive reports, and more.

ActiveCampaign has long been a favorite of ours on EmailToolTester, and though Drip is a strong contender, I really feel that ActiveCampaign is the better all-in-one solution – especially if you want to integrate your sales and marketing processes, and have them managed out of a single platform.

That being said, if you’re evaluating different email marketing services, I wouldn’t rule out Drip completely – it might be the better solution for you if you run an online store, for example, or want a simpler way to manage your lists and contacts.

If you’re interested in trying either solution out, both offer a free 14-day trial – you can try ActiveCampaign out here, and Drip here.

 

Had experience with either ActiveCampaign or Drip? Good or bad, let us know about it in the comments below!