For the past 14 years, I've been working in the email marketing industry. First for a digital marketing agency and then I set up EmailToolTester. My goal with this website was to make this powerful technology accessible to marketers who don't want to invest hours and hours combing through the forest of newsletter services.
Tons of price plans, complex-looking email automation, differences in deliverability rates… It can be hard to select the best newsletter tool. This is why our team has put together a selection of the best solutions currently available, all meticulously tested and organized by ranking.
Hopefully, you’ll come out with a clear idea of which email marketing service to choose next!
Table of Contents
|Use Case||Email Provider||Free plan||Paid plans|
|Best tool for marketing automation||ActiveCampaign||No||From $15/mo|
|Most intuitive tool||MailerLite||Yes||From $15/mo|
|Great value for money||Sendinblue||Yes||From $25/mo|
|Best range of advanced features||GetResponse||No||From $15/mo|
|Most generous freemium plan||Mailchimp||Yes||From $9.99/mo|
|Great ecommerce automations||Omnisend||Yes||From $16/mo|
|Pay as you go users||Moosend||Yes||From $10/mo|
|Great ecommerce CRM features||Drip||No||From $19/mo|
|Good transactional service||Mailjet||Yes||From $9.65/mo|
Find out more about the pros and cons of the top 4 in this video review:
Aside from helping marketers send out email newsletters to their subscribers, email marketing services and software can cover everything from automation and segmentation to contact relationship management (CRM) and reporting. These tools exist to make our lives easier, so it's important to find one that's easy to use and has the functionality you require. Some may prefer to go for an all-in-one email marketing service with all of the features formerly mentioned, others might prefer to keep it simple with an easy-to-use email newsletter service. We'll introduce you to various options below so you can make an informed decision. But first…
It is indeed old, but it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. In fact, its maturity can be a strong indication that it’s here to stay, especially when you consider its excellent ROI of 44%. Look at the following pros:
As you can see, email marketing is still a robust and reliable workhorse. And as we mentioned in the last point above, the platforms are increasingly easy to use for complete beginners. Best of all, many of them come with free plans, so you can test the waters before spending money on the solution.
Tip #1: Want a quick way to find the right email marketing service for you? Try out our Smart Finder – you’ll have your personalized recommendation in less than a minute!
So which are the best email marketing services? Take a look at our ranking table below to find out.
|#||Email marketing service||Pricing||Comments|
The Automation Champs
|500 contacts: $15/mo
|+ Extremely powerful automation
+ Thorough reporting
+ Usually very good deliverability
+ Free migrations
– Features can be overwhelming
Simplicity and Design
|1,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Free plan
+ Landing page editor
+ Great deliverability
– Missing some pro features
Bang For Your Buck
|Free Plan: $0/mo
40,000 emails: $25/mo
|+ Low-cost plans
+ Solid automation and deliverability
+ SMS marketing tool
– Editor and general usability
– Poor selection of email templates
The Swiss Army Knife
|1,000 cont: $15/mo
|+ Intelligent list automation
+ Conversion funnel feature
+ Design and spam testing
800 Pound Gorilla
|2,000 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Thorough reporting
+ Generous freemium plan
+ Great template editor
– Expensive paid plans
– No support on free plan
|15,000 emails: $0
|+ Unique ecommerce features
+ Excellent automations
+ Live website tracking
+ Landing pages
– Limited features on free plan
Free and pay as you go plan
|1,000 cont: $0/mo
|+ Tons of workflow templates
+ Generous free and pay as you go plan
+ Unlimited emails on all plans
– Small UX issues
– Custom reporting reserved for Enterprise plan
|500 cont: $19
1,000 cont: $29/mo
|+ Ecommerce CRM features
+ Excellent automations
+ Contact tagging
– No spam or design testing
– On the pricey side
Transactional Email Specialists
|6,000 emails: $0/mo
|+ Free plan
+ Transactional emails
+ Drag and drop editor
+ High deliverability rates
– Premium features cost extra
Some Good Pro Features
|250 contacts: $0/mo
|+ Use your own domain name for links
– Forms are not responsive
– Not the cheapest option
The Expensive Choice
|500 contacts: $20/mo
|+ Good deliverability rates
– Very poor price to performance ratio
– Limited automation
|1,000 cont.: $0/mo
|+ Landing page editor
+ Flexible subscriber management
+ Responsive support
– It's pricey
– Poor design options
– Reports are lacking in depth
|Up to 250 emails: $0
500 cont.: $15/mo
|+ Easy-to-use editor
+ Flexible templates
+ Marketing automation
– Deliverability issues
– File storage charges
For Stunning Emails
|5,000 emails: $69/mo
|+ Unlimited contacts
+ Keep data in-house
– Form/contact fields
Email Marketing Old-Timer
|500 contacts: $0/mo
500 contacts: $19/mo
|+ List management tools
+ Sales tracking
– High price and unfair subscriber count
– Editor bugs
Tip #2: Want to be able to compare two or more email marketing services side-by-side? Use our comparison tool.
Nowadays, most email marketing software is designed to perform a range of functions beyond simply sending emails and newsletters. Which features are an absolute must? Here’s our list of the key things you should be looking for:
Tip #3: You can also compare the prices of different email marketing companies using our Newsletter Cost Calculator.
At EmailToolTester, we only review cloud-based email marketing software. They have a couple of advantages over packaged software which is installed locally on your computer:
However, there are some disadvantages too:
In general, we’ve noticed that cloud-based email marketing software is coming out on top. Smaller and medium-sized companies, in particular, benefit from having no IT maintenance to worry about. Never underestimate the amount of time and money that this costs. For smaller companies, it’s almost impossible to run an email server for newsletters that isn’t blocked by services such as AOL or Gmail at some point.
And then there’s the security aspect: many companies don’t like hosting their recipient lists off-site. The email marketing companies themselves will obviously be very careful to fix any security issues as quickly as possible – after all, it’s their reputation on the line. However, there will always be some residual risk.
Cloud-based software is usually available for a monthly subscription fee. There’s no upfront cost, and you’ll often get the chance to pay month by month, or opt for discounted yearly plans. You can expect the following to be included within your monthly fee:
Tip #4: We often hear from people who are worried about not having many contacts to write to. If that’s the case for you, consider setting up a welcome email series as an autoresponder. This way, everyone who signs up starts receiving emails from you right away without the need for you to publish on a regular schedule (just yet).
A great way to encourage sign-ups is a free checklist, ebook or other exclusive content.
Here’s a more detailed look at the email marketing services in our ranking table. Each profile also contains a link to the full review, in case you need more information.
ActiveCampaign’s main goal is to help you send fewer emails with better results. To that end, the American provider clearly focuses on automations. Though other tools we’ve tested are working to improve their automations, ActiveCampaign continues to rein in that field. With ActiveCampaign, you can automate everything based on your website visitors’ behavior with complex if/when/then logic. The CRM also makes it easy to manage sales directly from the backend and target ‘at risk' or ‘hot' leads.
What we like: Great design with clean, responsive templates. The automations, as mentioned above, are absolutely some of the best around. The prices are reasonable considering all that you get, and support is excellent. Plus, you can add live chat to your site and build landing pages. Also, it has good deliverability rates.
Where they can improve: The amount and complexity of the features can be a bit overwhelming for complete beginners. Some might also find it slightly expensive if they're just starting out.
Who ActiveCampaign is for: Power users who need complete control over their automations. Small businesses have a lot to gain by turning their email communications into sales channels with ActiveCampaign.
Based in Lithuania, MailerLite has a young and dynamic team (averaging 25 years of age) that has created a modern and simple email marketing platform. Their focus is international: both the support and interface are available in multiple languages. And in spite of basic appearances, MailerLite offers well-developed features, a robust editor and a “free for life” plan. Too good to be true? Apparently not, as you’ll see in the pros and cons.
What we like: General ease of use. Clean and intuitive interface with a fast editor. The templates are well-designed and flexible, plus you get the most important marketing features, like landing pages, sign-up forms and reports. Good deliverability rates, too.
Where they can improve: We'd like to see more advanced automation options and email analytics features. Email templates are sadly not included in the free plan.
Who MailerLite is for: Small businesses and freelancers who want an affordable solution with an easy learning curve and good features.
Launched in 2012, Sendinblue is a young Parisian platform that used to focus on transactional emails (for invoices, subscriptions, etc…). They have since pivoted and now provide mass email services with their own newsletter platform. The bet seems to have paid off. They now send around 30 million emails and SMS daily in more than 14 countries.
What we like: Good ease of use. Very appealing prices and a generous free plan. List management, automations and reporting are all good. They also offer advanced features, such as their CRM software and live chat functionality.
Where they can improve: The user experience could be a little smoother, as could the email editor. We'd also like to see their email templates updated for something more modern.
Who Sendinblue is for: Users who want a good budget solution with decent features and unlimited contacts.
With 350,000 users in 182 countries and more than a billion messages sent monthly, the numbers look good for GetResponse. We particularly like two unique features of theirs: a landing page editor and the ability to create webinars, both of which come under their popular Conversion Funnel feature. Moreover, GetResponse offers excellent automation functions and we like their free access to 1000 iStock photos.
What we like: Ability to easily create landing pages, automation workflows, their selection of responsive templates and the webinar feature.
Where they can improve: Deliverability isn’t fantastic. It's also on the pricey side for those who want to benefit from the automations.
Who GetResponse is for: Marketers looking for a solid, versatile tool with the latest features. If you're looking for a sales funnel tool then GetResponse is worth checking out.
Mailchimp is now one of the world-leading solutions in email marketing. Maybe it’s thanks to their generous free offer, which includes up to 10,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers, with only a small footer ad. Features on the free plan include a landing page builder, single-step automations, ecommerce builder and a CRM. The premium plans, on the other hand, come with advanced marketing features such as multi-step automations, social post scheduling and time zone delivery.
What we like: They regularly add new features to the platform, for example, you can now sell your products and book meetings through Mailchimp. Social media features are great, and so is the quality of the support (though this is reserved only for paid subscriptions). You can easily customize the email templates and subscription forms.
Where they can improve: The interface can be confusing as they change the design layout more than you'd expect. Even if the free plan is generous, premium prices are fairly steep compared to the competition, and support on the freemium plan is non-existent after the first month, which is incredibly frustrating. Also, the fact that you get charged per contact, as opposed to just subscribed contacts means you have to really stay on top of list hygiene. Find out more in our Mailchimp alternatives post.
Who Mailchimp is for: Users who want a great free and easy way to use email marketing service.
Omnisend’s mission is to give marketers ‘the power to rise above the promotional noise and get better results than ever.’ Sounds pretty appealing, right?
Due to its many automations, including browse abandonment and cart recovery, Omnisend is a great choice for online store owners.
What we like: As well as its excellent automations, it also has some pretty unique features like ‘wheel of fortune’ incentives for sign-ups, interactive gift boxes, automated product recommendations, and even ‘live view’ website tracking. You’ll also be able to set up landing pages, add your products directly in the email editor and segment lists based on specific details, for example, customers who purchased a specific product.
We’re also big fans of their free plan, which comes with 15,000 emails p/m.
Where they can improve: Unfortunately, automation and segmentation aren’t included on the free plan. Creating advanced non-ecommerce automations can get a little fiddly if you don’t have much experience.
Who Omnisend is for: Omnisend includes an impressive amount of features designed to help maximize conversions, so it’s a great choice for those who have an online store on platforms like Shopify.
Moosend isn’t perhaps the most well-known email marketing platform out there, but, in light of its affordable prices and feature-rich service, we feel the tool deserves a place on this list.
Plus, it’s a great option for those looking for a free or pay as you go service.
What we like:
Its Free Forever plan includes access to almost all their pro features, 1,000 subscribers and unlimited ad-free emails – that’s not bad at all! You’ve also got a nice selection of around 40 email templates to choose from, spam testing, A/B testing and automations.
We like that they offer a pay as you go plan, which, we might add, is significantly cheaper than Mailchimp’s.
If you’re going to be automating emails such as abandoned cart and upselling emails, or perhaps the more basic anniversary emails, this platform is definitely worth checking out – the workflow options are endless.
Where they can improve:
We found a few small UX issues with the editor, for example, in setting up your email for scheduling.
Who Moosend is for:
Those looking for a free or pay-as-you-go plan, or generally looking for a feature-rich, affordable email marketing solution.
Drip was launched in 2013 and has since become a popular email marketing service due to its ecommerce CRM features and intuitive automations. Though there is no free plan on offer, you will have access to all features on all paid plans. Their lowest plan starts at $19month for 500 contacts.
What we like: Their automation workflow editor is easy to use, well-designed and flexible, plus their icons and bright colors make it quite fun to use. There are a range of automation triggers to choose from including links clicked, page views, tags assigned, a purchase in your online store, etc. Another great feature is that you can automatically tag users if they carry out a certain action, like visit a particular page.
Where they can improve: Surprisingly, Drip doesn’t offer any kind of spam or design testing and the email editor isn’t the most efficient or intuitive. You’ll also only have 6 email templates to choose from, though you can upload your own HTML templates.
Who Drip is for: Drip is a great all-in-one solution for ecommerce businesses. Their sophisticated automations and CRM features will help you save time and better organize your leads.
Like the aforementioned Sendinblue, Mailjet is based in Paris, France, and also used to focus on transactional emails. Their recent foray into the world of email marketing seems logical enough, and the editor works great for such a relatively new product. You can still send transactional emails, as well as SMS. Plus features such as autoresponders, A/B testing, sub-accounts (e.g. for agencies) and team collaboration are all included.
What we like: Very affordable plans, and the free offer is generous too. Drag and drop editor works well, and the automations are decent. Mailjet also have very good deliverability rates according to our tests.
What they should improve: It’s a shame you can’t trial features like automations, segmentation or A/B testing on the free plan. In fact, to access these, you need to upgrade to one of their higher-level plans (Premium or Enterprise).
Who is Mailjet for: For beginners looking for something simple and affordable, it’s a great tool. Being able to manage multiple sub-accounts also makes it interesting for agencies too.
CleverReach's free plan has a decent email allowance (10,000), but with an allowance of 250 subscribers, you'll quickly outgrow it. Plus, you can only use it if you are from the US, Canada, India, New Zealand or Australia.
They do offer a lot of different pricing options, which may seem overwhelming at first, but they give you a lot of flexibility. Among them are flat-rate, pay as you go and high-volume options. Then there are pro features such as their content segmentation that allows you to customize content blocks to your reader's preferences.
What we like: Their above-average deliverability. They feature a decent automation center and let you set up your own tracking domain for outgoing links.
Where they can improve: It's a pity that registration forms aren't responsive. The editor has its quirks but nothing too bad.
Who CleverReach is for: Senders who require a newsletter tool with a broad range of features.
Maybe because Constant Contact have been doing email marketing since 1995, they managed to find new avenues that no other providers had touched. For instance, they were the only solution to offer event management tools, surveys or social campaigns. Unfortunately, they recently removed the event management tool, instead offering an integration with Eventbrite.
They now have around 650,000 users worldwide, and 270+ apps for integrating extra services to their platform. Is it still enough to make them relevant?
What we like: Consistently good deliverability results.
What they should improve: Expensive and relatively basic automation. In general, Constant Contact lacks basic functions that you find elsewhere. It's a shame they removed the events feature.
Who is Constant Contact for: We used to recommend them for their event management tool, but now that it's been removed, we see Constant Contact as too expensive for what it offers. You’d get more for your buck with ActiveCampaign or MailerLite.
Another young player in the bulk email service space, ConvertKit is taking an interesting approach by focusing on creators. That means Vloggers, YouTubers and bloggers, amongst others.
It’s a strange angle, especially since the features are basically the same as with other providers (for example, MailerLite). On the plus side, you get all the features, even on the cheaper plan. The landing page editor is useful and the tools are decent.
What we like: The landing page editor (for instance, you could just integrate email marketing with social media even if you haven't got a website yet). Good subscriber management features. Tags let you create advanced segmentation. Helpful support.
What they should improve: Plans are pricey, especially when compared to more advanced tools like MailerLite. Not many design options (only 3 templates available). Reports could have more options – they do not even show bounce rates. Their free plan is very limited, not even including reports.
Who ConvertKit is for: Individuals or small-teams of digital marketers with a budget who are only looking to send plain text newsletters. Good enough for small companies without complex email marketing workflows.
Present in 15 countries around the world, Benchmark prides itself on its international service. We’ve spoken with numerous members of their support team (in different languages) and the service was friendly, fast and gave good answers.
We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how easy and intuitive the platform is, while offering powerful tools. This is particularly impressive when you can access many of the features without spending a dime.
What we like: Intuitive editor. A great choice of flexible and varied templates. The support is top notch.
Where they can improve: The automations are lacking. Storage space is limited, and you have to pay extra if you run out. Also, they have consistently performed badly in our deliverability tests.
Who Benchmark is for: Multilingual teams looking for an affordable and intuitive tool.
This French email marketing service recently revamped its desktop software with a smart new design, and a web-based version of their tool. It’s packed with new features, too, including automations, landing pages, and SMS. They offer a great selection of modern-looking email templates, and an email editor that’s easy to use.
Bonus feature – if you’d prefer your data to stay offline, Mailify’s desktop version will actually let you keep your data hosted locally.
What we like: Great user interface, and some very fresh email designs. The editor is fast and easy to use, giving you plenty of flexibility to edit emails.
Where they can improve: List management and automations are quite simple – would be great if you could do more with them. As they charge based on email sends, the service can also get a little pricey. Deliverability rates could also be better.
Who is Mailify for: If ease of use and good email designs are important to you, Mailify could be well-suited to your needs. We’d also recommend it for anyone wanting to keep their data offline.
AWeber claims to have invented the autoresponder. With over 20 years of operations, it’s entirely possible they did. However, we would have hoped these years of experience would deliver a better tool – more on that below.
On the plus side, all price plans offer the same features. You get things like A/B testing, email analytics and conversion tracking. They also have a mobile app, so you can send emails on-the-go.
What we like: Good features for list management and decent support.
What they should improve: AWeber is pretty expensive, which would be fine if the editor wasn’t buggy (after 20 years!). The automations are a bit basic.
Tip #5: Most newsletter services allow you to A/B test your subject lines. If you have a significant number of subscribers (2000+) you should start doing regular tests to get a feel for your subscribers’ preferences.
Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all piece of advice, as the best newsletter software for you may be completely different to the one I’d recommend for the next person browsing this page. That’s why I created a few categories to help you navigate.
If, on the other hand, you want a CRM and are also keen on getting your automation close to perfection, check out ActiveCampaign or Drip. Of course, that means spending a little more, but hey, with all that automation you’ll either increase your sales or save time which you can invest elsewhere.
As an online merchant, you have very specific needs: Sales data should find its way into the newsletter software so you can use it to create segments and launch triggered campaigns (like abandoned cart emails). We’ve compiled a list of the top Shopify newsletter tools here.
Omnisend is fully focused on ecommerce and offers deep integrations with Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce. Using their product picker you can drag and drop your items very easily into your campaigns.
If automation is important for you, check out ActiveCampaign or Drip. Use their free Deep Data Integrations for Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and Square to pull in revenue, order numbers, order status, etc.
There are a number of free email marketing services to choose from. The most infamous is Mailchimp, which allows for up to 10,000 emails to up to 2,000 subscribers. The only issue is that once you go over these limits and move on to a paid plan, you’ll see quite a jump.
The best free email newsletter service is MailerLite. The free plan includes 12,000 emails and up to 1,000 subscribers, automations and an excellent landing page editor. What’s more, you won’t get a shock once you move onto the paid plan, as prices start from just $10/month, and you’ll pay $30/month for up to 5000 subscribers.
Sendinblue also offers a free plan, which comes with unlimited subscribers and 9,000 emails a month, just be aware of the daily cap of 300 emails. In terms of paid plans, even if you’ve got a bit of email volume they are very affordable. 40,000 emails per month go for only $25/mo.
Let me start by telling you which one you should avoid: Mailchimp doesn’t like their tool being used for affiliate marketing. Countless accounts have been closed because of this violation of their terms of service.
Instead, you should probably look at GetResponse. They recently introduced a sales funnel feature, which is particularly useful if you run lead generation campaigns via paid ads or webinars. We also have a much more detailed article on the best sales funnel builders here.
Now one more thing before we finish up – let’s just recap the basic email-marketing lexicon.
Autoresponder: A series of automated emails sent in sequence. Usually start as soon as a user subscribes to one of your forms. They can range from tips and tricks to sales funnels designed to convert clicks into sales. Learn more.
Bounced email: Undelivered email, because the address is invalid or deleted. Email marketing providers usually deactivate these users for you.
Deliverability: Not all emails reach users’ inboxes, for a number of reasons. The success rate is called deliverability, and it’s worth considering when settling on a provider.
Email automations: Slightly more complex and flexible than autoresponders, as they don’t need to be on a time schedule. You can tag a user depending on the page they visit on your site and send them customized automated emails. Or you can trigger an email based on behavior (for example when they click a link). Some of these automations can go really far with site-tracking and complex logic trees.
GIF: It's a graphic file that can be animated. Why is this important? It's essentially impossible to embed a video in a newsletter that works across all email clients – most of the time it would be blocked. That's why animated GIFs are a popular way to add moving images. Services like Mailerlite and Mailchimp even automatically create a GIF animation by simply adding a video link (e.g. YouTube) to the template.
Pay as you go and subscription models: Pretty self-explanatory. It’s like for a mobile phone plan. You can credit a certain amount of emails to your account. Or you can pay monthly, which seems to be the most popular solution, especially for businesses. This usually means unlimited campaigns, with price variations based on your amount of subscribers. Check out our newsletter cost calculator to see the pricing offered by each provider.
Responsive email: Like for a website, the email adapts to the screen size. It means your newsletter should look good on desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.
Template: A predefined style for your newsletter. The design styles might be basic or very fancy, with different fonts, colors and buttons. Using the built-in template-editors, you can easily create nice looking emails that contain images and rich-formatting. We have a list of free responsive templates that you can download, and that will work with any newsletter tool. You might also like to take a look at these newsletter examples for inspiration.
Transactional emails: Some providers also offer the ability to send triggered, business-related emails on mass – e.g. order confirmations, password resets, and renewal reminders.
Tip #6: If you are still new to all of this you should check out our Email Marketing Crash Course. It's a compact (and free!) ebook for beginners that will get you up to speed in very little time: Download it here
Prices vary a lot between different email marketing platforms. And more expensive doesn’t always mean better. For instance, Sendinblue and MailerLite have very good cheap plans. AWeber is on the pricier end, and you don’t even get better automations than with GetResponse or ActiveCampaign (nobody does better automations than ActiveCampaign).
Choosing a free plan to start with seems relatively risk-free. Do keep in mind that your emails will show a small ad (unless you go with Moosend) and you'll only have limited support.
In any case, we hope this guide gives you a good primer on the pros and cons of each service, so you can make your decision today.
Questions? Feedback? We answer all comments below.
09 Jun 2021 – Infographic added
08 Jun 2021 – New video added
20 May 2021 – Updated Mailchimp section
26 Apr 2021 – General update
10 Feb 2021 – Added Moosend
22 Dec, 2020 – Added Omnisend and Drip
05 Oct, 2020 – Added ‘What is an Email Marketing Service?' section
21 Sept, 2020 – Added ‘Quick Breakdown' table
28 Apr, 2020 – Added updated MailerLite video
22 Apr, 2020 – ConvertKit added a free plan
22 Apr, 2020 – Benchmark made changes to their free plan and pricing
3 Feb, 2020 – Ranking changed based on new deliverability scores