Mailchimp vs. SendGrid: which is the best email tool for your business?


SendGrid and Mailchimp are email tools with comparably high ratings on review platforms, but Mailchimp has a considerable number more of them. That doesn't matter much here though. While they’re often the two biggest email platforms for higher volume senders, SendGrid and Mailchimp are designed with different types of businesses in mind.

Founded in 2009 and acquired by Twilio in 2018 for $3 billion, SendGrid is a leader in trusted email delivery for over 80,000 paying customers. These include Spotify, Uber and Airbnb, who use SendGrid to send over 50 billion emails every month. Meanwhile, Mailchimp has 11 million active customers with a total audience of 4 billion users (wow!) and is on track for $700 million in revenue in 2019. To put things into perspective, Slack's previous quarter was at $133 million and it's operating at a loss.

Both Mailchimp and SendGrid are wildly successful, but which email tool is better for your business? Here's how they match up in our head-to-head comparison.

When to choose SendGrid

1. You're a developer with complex requirements

The main difference when comparing SendGrid and Mailchimp is that SendGrid thrives in more technical use cases. While Mailchimp is the most mainstream email marketing provider, SendGrid is the best email tool for developers with both complex requirements and a desire for great code and docs. It's built by developers, for developers – no question about it.

If you're looking for a transactional email provider to help you send password recovery emails or notifications to users from your website, SendGrid is one of the best choices out there. They pioneered the API-driven transactional email market in 2009, so you'll be in good hands. To link up SendGrid with your app, they have a well-documented API or you can use SMTP. You can also choose a plan that comes with a dedicated IP if that’s important to you.

For people just starting out with a new app and acquiring users, their Free plan will come in useful. When you have enough users, you can then easily upgrade. Dev students can also get 15,000 email sends a month for free with SendGrid as part of their GitHub Education program.

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2. You're operating at scale

SendGrid won't blink an eye if you need to send a million emails – their technology can handle it without a hitch. As the largest cloud sender, they have designed their email delivery platform for lightning-fast speed, scalability and reliability for users that can't afford mistakes. SendGrid also has a vast amount of data at its fingertips to predict trends and vulnerabilities like no one else can.

3. You need an e-commerce or transactional email solution

SendGrid's email services are a brilliant choice to drive retail purchases, confirm bookings, promote sales and manage subscriptions. It was built to be reliable and infinitely scalable for sending both transactional emails and marketing emails, although we feel that their strength is definitely on the transactional and technical side.

Overall, the tool has a ton of perks for e-commerce businesses, and it's no surprise that SendGrid is trusted by brands as big as eBay. This is one of the ways that SendGrid really stands out in a comparison with Mailchimp.

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4. You want more data

SendGrid knows that tracking and evaluating email marketing statistics is essential to the success of any campaign, and many SendGrid users love their reporting and statistics suite. Mailchimp’s analytics are great, but SendGrid’s stand out in a comparison of the two.

After sending a campaign with SendGrid, you can easily access individual campaign statistics (such as opens, blocks, clicks, or which emails went to spam) plus geography, device, and ISP stats. You can also make use of their A/B testing tool, or separate different email types into custom categories to make your performance evaluation even more insightful.

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A nifty feature in SendGrid is their Reputation Monitoring indicator. On the left of your dashboard you can find your IP reputation score, which will be somewhere from 0% to 100%. This will fluctuate based on your bounce, block, spam and invalid rates. It gives you a clear look at how SendGrid views your email sending practices, and gives you a vital insight into how to boost your deliverability and sender reputation.

5. You need stellar deliverability

According to Return Path’s 2018 Deliverability Benchmark Report, 85% of global recipient mail is delivered to the inbox, while only 83% of mail from the United States makes it into inboxes. This means that 15% of global email, and 17% of United States email isn’t delivered. SendGrid is designed to solve this issue, both for small businesses and at scale.

What are SendGrid's deliverability statistics? There hasn't been much impartial testing, but SendGrid shares that customers who use their Expert Services have a 97% average delivery rate, compared to the 85% industry average. For comparison, Mailchimp’s deliverability tends to be between 81-88% in impartial tests.

SendGrid also reports a 6% increase in open rates on average after engaging with their Expert Services team. Their delivery stats are impressive, even if you need to spend a few hundred dollars – or more – on consulting. For a big brand that's serious about getting emails delivered, finding that budget likely won't be an issue.

You can try the SendGrid Email Marketing ROI Calculator to see what results you might get with their tool:

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When to choose Mailchimp

1. You want simplicity

If you don't need to think about APIs, transactions or password reset emails, stick with Mailchimp. The simplest choice is often the best one, including when it comes to your email marketing tool. Mailchimp is incredibly user-friendly, has a crystal-clear onboarding process, and is often cited as the easiest email marketing tool to get started with.

2. You love a good brand experience

Mailchimp has built a culture and brand experience that's nothing short of incredible. There's a reason why so many startups look up to them... and why so many consumers name them when asked to think of an email tool. Mailchimp is designed with their brand always in mind, which makes for a user experience that's as fun as their quirky appearance. If you want a reason to watch and learn from Mailchimp's brand evolution and have a trusty email tool with you along the way, you'll likely be a happy Mailchimp customer.

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3. You only need an email solution for marketing

If you're just here to work out how to send your marketing newsletter, Mailchimp's probably the better choice for you. It's one of the top market-leading email providers for small businesses that want a no-nonsense approach to marketing. SendGrid offers a huge amount for transactional and technical emails, but it doesn't have the strongest stand-alone marketing email suite.

4. You want great automation features

Mailchimp has a superb email automation feature set. What's more, it's totally free. With all of the data they're collecting from their huge number of automation users, it's likely that Mailchimp will be able to use it to power more machine learning advances in their product in future. For automation power users, you can choose a more powerful tool than Mailchimp (such as HubSpot's Marketing Hub, or a dedicated automation tool), but Mailchimp will tick all the boxes for a lot of users.

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SendGrid's automation feature set is currently in beta, but it's looking promising. Their landing page promises an effective way to implement intuitive workflows that leverage the automation triggers you already have in place. SendGrid also has strong integrations with marketing automation pro tools like BlueShift and Simon Data, or you can set up a powerful two-way sync using PieSync and your preferred tools.

5. You're a small business and price is a factor

Mailchimp's most popular plan is unsurprisingly their Free plan, which allows you to store up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month. They're probably the best free email marketing service on the market, and it's understandable why they have such a huge user base. Mailchimp does get a lot more expensive as you scale, but for most businesses, you get a lot for your money – especially considering the other automation tools you won't need to pay for.

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With SendGrid's pricing plans, you can choose whether you want their Email API, Marketing Campaigns, or Email API + Marketing Campaigns. Across these three options, there's a Free plan with 40,000 emails for your first 30 days, then you can send 100/day, forever. Sending just 100 emails will be very difficult for most teams, and you'd be better off using Mailchimp up until 2,000 contacts.

With SendGrid's Essentials plan, you can send up to 100,000 emails/month starting at $14.95/month. With the Pro plan, you can send between 100,000 to 1.5 million emails/month from $79.95/month. Both Mailchimp and SendGrid have high-end premier plans, too.

Out of the two email tools, Mailchimp is the easiest and usually cheapest for small businesses to get started with.

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So which is better out of Mailchimp vs. SendGrid? SendGrid is built by developers for developers, and your tech team will probably love it. Your marketing team, however, may well prefer Mailchimp: it thrives doing the automation, nurturing and newsletter campaign work that they're hired for.

When comparing Mailchimp and SendGrid, it comes down to what you need to get out of your email platform. To find the best email tool for you, think about your business size, what's important now and in the near future, and whether the tool is for your dev or marketing teams (or both). Then, give the tools a try with a few other people from your team.

The recap – comparing SendGrid vs. Mailchimp and when to choose which email marketing tool for your business

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To help Mailchimp or SendGrid fit into your wider marketing and business tech stacks, use PieSync for reliable two-way syncs between your favourite tools. By bringing all of your tools together and maintaining updated data in every app, you can build the strongest ecosystem to power your business.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.