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

Comparing SendGrid and Mailchimp email tools

If you're looking for a top-performing email marketing tool, particularly for high-volume or transactional sending, you might have heard of SendGrid and Mailchimp.

While Mailchimp is the most popular brand name in email marketing software, SendGrid enables high-volume sending and top deliverability for some of today's biggest brands.

But what's really the difference between the two, and which email tool is better for your business? Here's how Mailchimp versus SendGrid match up in our head-to-head comparison.

 


Introducing Mailchimp and SendGrid

About Mailchimp

Starting as a bootstrapped side project in 2001, Mailchimp has now evolved to service 11 million active customers and a massive total audience of 4 billion users.

Although it's best known as the most popular email marketing platform on the market, in the past couple of years Mailchimp has been expanding to a full marketing platform offering landing pages, automation, social media scheduling and much more.

 

About SendGrid

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.


When to choose SendGrid

1. You're a developer with complex requirements

The main difference between 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 complex requirements plus a desire for great code and flexibility. 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 startups in the early stages of launching a new app and acquiring users, SendGrid's Free plan will come in useful while you're getting up and running. Dev students can also get 15,000 email sends a month for free with SendGrid as part of their GitHub Education program.

SendGrid customizable transactional email solution

 

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 brands 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 ecommerce 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 ecommerce 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, even if Mailchimp has been optimizing their own transactional solution.

SendGrid transactional email

 

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.


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's branding is 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.

Their product has evolved with brand experience top-of-mind, which makes for a user experience that's as fun as their quirky appearance. If you want 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.

Mailchimp great branding

 

3. Only your marketing team is using it

Mailchimp is one of the top software providers for small businesses that want a no-nonsense approach to marketing. If the only emails you need to send are simple marketing ones – and you'd like functionality for simple ad management, social media scheduling, landing pages and more thrown in – Mailchimp is your best choice.

SendGrid offers a huge amount for transactional and technical emails, but it doesn't have the strongest stand-alone marketing suite.

 

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

Mailchimp's most popular plan is their Free plan, which allows you to store up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month. It's 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 you do get a lot for your money – especially considering the other tools you won't need to pay for as Mailchimp is such a well-rounded solution.


Feature comparison

Design and templates

SendGrid and Mailchimp both make designing marketing emails easy. With SendGrid, you can use their email template builder to create a highly customizable design with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) campaign creation.

SendGrid email template builder

 

You also have access to HTML when you need it via SendGrid's code editor that's one of the best on the market. A huge advantage of SendGrid is the choose-your-path editing options, whether you prefer visual design, code, or a blend of both.

By comparison, Mailchimp focuses on offering the most out-of-the-box for code-free design, with 100+ ready-made email templates and layouts to make email campaigns simple for any business. With their Free plan you can preview by device, and with paid plans you can also preview by email client.

Email design templates with mailchimp

 

Landing pages and signup forms

Another strength of Mailchimp is the simplicity of creating and optimizing landing pages to drive conversions and nurture leads to become customers. You can also easily create and embed signup forms on Mailchimp hosted landing pages or on your own website.

Mailchimp landing page template library

 

By contrast, SendGrid has limited form functionality. Their simple forms are a new addition to their product, and you can emded them on a SendGrid hosted page or on your website and also hook them up to your automated workflows.

SendGrid simple signup forms

 

SendGrid's core focus is on email, whereas Mailchimp has expanded to be a full marketing solution. When choosing between Mailchimp and SendGrid, your business needs to ask itself whether highly scalable email or simple all-in-one marketing is most important.

 

List management

Effective contact management is a vital part of successful email marketing. But how do Mailchimp and SendGrid compare for managing contacts and lists?

With SendGrid you can easily add contacts and custom field data via CSV, signup forms, or API integrations. SendGrid organizes contacts by lists and segments, which you can set up manually or make dynamic based on determined criteria.

Mailchimp lists are called 'Audiences' and contacts in different ones are kept fairly siloed from each other. It can be more difficult than SendGrid to manage all of your contacts holistically and create segments that span different lists. You can also sync data from your other apps two ways with Mailchimp using PieSync.

For instance, you might want to keep contacts in your Mailchimp list always up-to-date with your CRM so your sales team can always see the latest data.

To see which platform's contact management functionality is the best fit for your business, it's worth taking advantage of their free plans plus contact syncing to connect data from your other apps.

 

Automation

Mailchimp has an excellent email automation feature set with one-click automations included in the Free plan. 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.

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 functionality in their product in future.

Mailchimp automation functionality

 

SendGrid's automation functionality was until recently in beta, but it's now a fully fledged part of their product. It enables you to deliver welcome emails with an onboarding series, nurture attendees ahead of an event, and follow up with leads who interact with content.

You can send automated emails or time-based drip series using triggers you define based on:

  • The first time a contact is added to a list, or
  • The first time a contact is added to a segment

Here's a preview of SendGrid automation in action:

SendGrid automation workflow

 

One advantage for small businesses using SendGrid is that automation is available with the Free plan. However, this feature strangely isn't included in the Basic 5K plan, which is one step up from Free. This means that if you have more than 2,000 contacts or need to send more than 6,000 emails a month, you'll need to upgrade to the Advanced 10K plan (from $60/month) to access automation features.

SendGrid also has strong integrations with marketing automation pro tools like BlueShift and Simon Data.

 

Reporting and analytics

Mailchimp offers a solid reporting suite that offers more complexity on its upper-tier price plans, including advanced analytics and conversion data to understand the ROI of email marketing throughout the customer journey.

With a Free plan, you can access basic reporting and smart recommendations. In the Essentials plan and above (starting at $9.99/month), you can access A/B testing.

Mailchimp basic reporting suite

 

After sending an email with SendGrid, you can easily access individual campaign statistics (such as opens, clicks, unsubscribes, 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.

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.

 

Deliverability

In research from EmailToolTester in February 2020, Mailchimp had 81.6% deliverability. In their previous tests, Mailchimp reached as high as 90.6% deliverability but often performs below competitors such as ActiveCampaign.

What about 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.

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.

 

Customer support

Mailchimp restricts phone support for lower-tier price plans, but offers email and live chat support for Essentials plan and above. If you're on a free plan, you can't access 1-1 Mailchimp support after the first 30 days, only the user guides in their knowledge bases.

SendGrid offers 24/7 ticket support for all customers, 24/7 chat support for paying customers, and phone support is available for customers with a Pro or higher account between 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM MST, Monday - Friday.

If you're choosing between SendGrid and Mailchimp free plans, SendGrid offers slightly more support, although by a very small margin.

SendGridMailchimp
Email supportIn-app ticket support instead for all plans24/7 with Essentials above, with Free plan for first 30 days only
Phone supportFor Pro plans or higher during working hoursOnly with Premium
Live chat24/7 for paying customers24/7 with Essentials above

 

Pricing and scalability

Out of the two email tools, Mailchimp is the easiest and usually cheapest for small businesses to get started with. It offers four price plans, ranging from Free to Premium (available from $299/month but highly scalable for large contact databases).

Mailchimp pricing depends on the number of email sends and contacts you need, which you can calculate on their pricing page.

Mailchimp price plans August 2020

 

On SendGrid's pricing page, you can choose whether you want their Email API, Marketing Campaigns, or Email API + Marketing Campaigns products. Like Mailchimp, SendGrid pricing also depends on your contacts and sending volume.

With the Email API Plans, you can integrate email into your app or website. You can start with the Free plan with 40,000 emails for your first 30 days, then 100/day forever after that. Most teams sending transactional emails will need at least the SendGrid Essentials 40K plan long-term due to this limit.

SendGrid email api plans pricing August 2020

 

With a Marketing Campaigns plan, you can design and send email marketing campaigns and automations. This is the closest analog to Mailchimp's core email marketing product.

With a Free plan, you can store up to 2,000 contacts and send up to 6,000 emails a month.

SendGrid marketing campaign plans pricing August 2020

 

With SendGrid's Basic 5K plan, you can store up to 5,000 contacts and send 15,000 emails a month before overages apply. With the Advanced 10K plan, this increases to 10,000 contacts and 50,000 emails a month.


Summary: when to choose SendGrid vs. Mailchimp

So which email tool is best: 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 as it thrives doing the automation, nurturing and newsletter campaign work 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 down the line, and whether the tool is for your dev or marketing teams (or both). Then, give each platform's free plan a whirl with other key decision makers from your team.

When to choose SendGridWhen to choose Mailchimp
You're a developer with complex requirementsYou want simplicity
You're operating at scaleYou love a good brand experience
You need an ecommerce or transactional email solutionOnly your marketing team is using it
You want more dataYou're a small business and price is a factor
You want to manage many listsYou want landing pages and signup forms

 

Looking for other email marketing apps to compare with Mailchimp and SendGrid?


Intelligently sync your email marketing tool with your other apps

Whatever email marketing software you choose, make sure it fits seamlessly with the other apps in your business stack by using PieSync for a reliable two-way data sync between your apps.

By bringing all of your tools together and maintaining updated and enriched data in every app – from your email marketing tool to your CRM and customer support software – 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.