Nuno Sancha
Author: Nuno Sancha  |  

Hipster Marketer with a passion for SaaS. Dreams about becoming a full-stack marketer but for now I just want to test software and write about them.

Read more posts by this author.

Quick Summary:

Mailchimp offers a free plan, but not ActiveCampaign. Mailchimp's paid plans start at $10.19 whereas ActiveCampaign’s paid plans start at $9 for 500 subscribers.

From an automation standpoint, Mailchimp provides you wide range of automation capabilities but ActiveCampaign provides seamless integration with their inbuilt CRM, which enables automation of sales processes such as follow ups as well.

Mailchimp doesn’t let you include contacts on different lists in the same campaigns, but ActiveCampaign lets you send the same campaigns to contacts on different lists.

When it comes to email deliverability, ActiveCampaign is at 95.6% per EmailToolTester, whereas Mailchimp is at 84.9%.

Both have almost the same number of integrations.

Before I start with this ActiveCampaign vs Mailchimp comparison, I want you to picture this scenario: you enter a small local store in your neighborhood, you know the owner, the owner knows you - he even lets you know after greeting you that your favorite brand of chocolate is back to the store, after a few days of absence. "Oh, no ingredients for the afternoon soup today?" and you answer with some justification for why you are not having soup today.

The owner knows you, knows your tastes, and your habits, he evens let you take the products home if you are a few bucks short, and you can pay later, after all, he trusts his clients and his clients’ trust him back.

The modern days, the technology and the big franchises have this type of business going extinct day-by-day, but the same tech gives us the possibility to emulate this kind of business, using email marketing - one of the few channels that allow us to talk on a regular basis with clients, study them, and start delivering value to them, as if we were close neighbors.

Besides that, it is one of the most profitable marketing channels. The 2018 DMA report says that the ROI for email marketing is 41.52 USD for every 1.29 USD you spend. No wonder email marketing platforms are in high demand nowadays.

In this article we will look at Mailchimp versus ActiveCampaign, two well-known email marketing platforms in the market, and see what they have to offer to you as a business owner/freelancer/marketer.

Comparison - ActiveCampaign Vs Mailchimp

ActiveCampaign Mailchimp
Price No free plan available. $99 per month for up to 2500 subscribers. $135 per month for up to 5000 subscribers Free to send emails to 2000 subscribers with limited features. $10.80 per month for up to 500 subscribers. $31.67 per month for up to 2500 subscribers. $53.26 per month for up to 5000 subscribers.
List Management Less rigid. Same campaigns can be sent to contacts on different lists. Offers lead scoring, allowing you to assign scores based on actions taken by subscribers Complicated. Can’t include contacts on different lists in the same campaigns.Charged per subscriber
Automation Seamless integration with their inbuilt CRM, letting sales processes (such as follow-ups) to be automated as well Has a good range of automation capabilities yet the editor is not very flexible
Reporting Provides basic reporting and deal reports, which are the summaries of the deal in CRM One of the best in the industry. Provides basic reports plus advanced stuff like eCommerce reports, geo-tracking reports etc.
Integrations Provides integration with 250 plus apps. Connects with Zapier Has 227 integrations with a limited search functionality making it tedious for you to find what you want
CRM Has purpose-built CRM, which does a much better job of managing deals and opportunities, and linking marketing activities with sales processes Isn’t very effective
Delivery Has a 95.6% overall deliverability rate according to EmailToolTester Has a 84.9% overall deliverability rate according to EmailToolTester

Before you jump right into the comparison, I would like to remind you that here in SendX we give you a 14-day FREE trial - no credit card is required. We are an affordable email marketing solution, that uses clever segmentation, and allows you to do advanced automations. So take us for a spin, with no risk attached.

Overview of ActiveCampaign vs Mailchimp

There is this unspoken rule of Mailchimp that almost everybody knows - as soon as you start using the paying pricing plans, it can turn expensive really quick, and the price has been the Achilles heel for Mailchimp in other comparisons.

With ActiveCampaign things are rather different since it is one of the most expensive Mailchimp Alternative we tested so far.

But we will address the pricing later. For now, more on Mailchimp pricing, and on ActiveCampaign pricing can be found here.

Both tools are pretty fast at giving you access, they don't waste your time, you create an account and that's it, you are ready to start using. A positive note for the smooth way ActiveCampaign does it, my congrats to the designer that set that journey up, really well done.

The first thing that caught my attention about ActiveCampaign was the fact that it is not as straightforward as the other tools we've tested. Not saying that you should be extremely tech-savvy to use it. You will have to take some time to learn the ins and outs of the software in order to master it.

ActiveCampaign software overview

Another particularity from our past comparisons - this time the learning curve required is heavier for ActiveCampaign than for Mailchimp - the yellow monkey feels more straight forward for newbies, but it comes with a cost.

ActiveCampaign feels more complicated because it lays all your options in front of you, and with Mailchimp sometimes you will have a hard time finding the feature you are looking for. Not the end of the world though, just a little bit time consuming at first.

In addition, besides design and user experience, another thing that jumps right in front of you in this ActiveCampaign vs Mailchimp comparison is the weight these tools put into different aspects of email marketing.

While Mailchimp focuses more on the design of your emails, and all the other things like landing pages and forms, ActiveCampaign leans more towards your ability to communicate with your subscribers with the right message at the right time.

Before you dive deeper, you can find a quick reference to some of ActiveCampaign alternatives here.

Now, let's compare the specifics.

1) How is their List Management?

Here we don't have much to talk about Mailchimp that we haven't discussed already here, here and here while comparing Mailchimp with a few others.

Mailchimp's way of charging for subscribers will make the tool charge you twice for the same contact in a different list. If you are an advanced email marketer that is not using the free plan, don't get too excited about the possibility of having more than one Audience in order to duplicate your contacts and keep things separated.

Just use the tags and segmentations like everybody else and watch out for the multiple opt-ins from the same contacts.

Mailchimp Manage contacts

Subscribers at ActiveCampaign can be segmented by using tags and custom fields, and those can be added in email automation as well, in order to organize your subscribers on autopilot mode.

Nothing really different from other tools we've tested so far. Some behave like Mailchimp, charging for duplicate contacts, and even unsubscribers at that month, others behave like SendX, letting you grow your contacts and organize them freely without them costing you extra.

But the thing that it's new to me is this feature that ActiveCampaign calls Lead scoring - this thing is from "another planet". Basically it scores your subscribers accordingly with the way they behave with your messages, your website - your business in general.

And with this kind of information on your hand, you can target your hot leads without the guesswork, you have the numbers.

Ain't that cool?

2) How about Editor and Design?

I said before that Mailchimp is more worried about looks than ActiveCampaign, and that shows clearly on the options they give their users when they are creating an email, a landing page or even a form.

Besides the possibility of creating something from the ground up with their drag-and-drop editor, they have more than one hundred well-designed templates that will help you with your content creation.

ActiveCampaign on the other hand, despite having templates that you can choose from, they are not as much as Mailchimp's and they are not as beautifully designed. Besides, Mailchimp provides a wide range of newsletter templates. But, you can still use the ActiveCampaign drag-and-drop editor to create something well crafted on your own.

Another thing worth noting is that Mailchimp provides access to a third-party tool called as ‘Inbox Preview’. This enables you to know what your email designs will look like on various clients and devices. It comes at an additional charge of $3 for 25 tokens in the Standard and Premium monthly plans only. But Mailchimp does not provide spam-checking.

ActiveCampaign on the other hand provides spam-checking with the help of SpamAssassin, but design preview is only for desktops.

3) How are their Registration Forms?

Active Campaign allows you to create 4 different types of registration forms: Inline, Floating Bar, Modal Popup, and Floating Box.

ActiveCampaign forms
Source: ActiveCampaign

Inline: This is used to collect more than just an email address. You can add as many fields as you want and create an inline form. This form appears as part of your page and can be placed anywhere on it.

Floating Bar: This is a thin bar that stays on top or bottom of your website page. It can collect the subscribers' emails and names. You can choose to show the form after a visitor scrolls through a certain part of your website.

ActiveCampaign floating bar
Source: ActiveCampaign

Modal Pop-up:

This is a pop up that appears on top of the website page. It also provides an additional description box to inform users on why they should sign up or what they are signing up for.

ActiveCampaign Modal pop-up
Source: ActiveCampaign

Floating Box: It is a form that appears at the bottom right or left corner of your website and collects email addresses and names of the visitors.

You can change the background color, text, and confirmation messages in all these forms. You can also put custom CSS to modify the look of the forms. Confirmation opt-in is enabled for every form you create in ActiveCampaign, by default. This is called double-opt-in and ensures that your list is free of any email address typos and bot email addresses. But you can switch this to single-opt in too.

All these forms are mobile responsive.

If you are on the Plus, Professional, or Enterprise plan, you can also get rid of the ActiveCampaign branding display on the form.

Mailchimp also provides the ability to create signup forms using their editors. You can create popup forms or embedded forms. Their embedded forms are of 4 types and they call them: Classic, Condensed, Horizontal, and Unstyled.

Classic forms are like traditional signup forms with various fields that you can add or delete.

Condensed forms are for capturing only email addresses. You can however customize the width of the form. They are great for sidebars on the website.

Horizontal forms are for the top and bottom of the website. They also allow you to capture only the email address.

The one form that you won't find in ActiveCampaign and that's present in Mailchimp is - Unstyled form. This form has no CSS or JavaScript included. You can add your own CSS and this allows for greater control and flexibility.

But Mailchimp has two different editors for popups and embedded forms which makes the UI a little confusing.

So overall, Active Campaign forms provide greater ease of creation and better design flexibility.

4) What Automation Capabilities do they Provide?

We FINALLY arrived on the topic you were expecting. We’ve all heard really good things about ActiveCampaign's automation and I know you must be curious about them.

First, let's talk about Mailchimp though.

A few years ago, Mailchimp used to put more emphasis on automation, but now they are focusing more on other things right now - being a one-stop-shop for marketing.

And when you are trying to be everything, sometimes you end up falling short in some areas. If we are being honest here, Mailchimp doesn't cut it when we talk about automation, and if we compare it to ActiveCampaign things turn even uglier for the yellow monkey.

Don't get me wrong, they have descents and useful pre-made automation that you can use, the problem resides in their automation editor, the thing is confusing and without a workflow, it takes several attempts until you finally get it right.

If Mailchimp's automation editor is the epitome of confusion, then ActiveCampaign's editor is what we can call the closest to the promised land I've ever seen. Other tools that we tested had this workflow editor, but none of them as powerful as this one from ActiveCampaign.

ActiveCampaign Add a New Action

Every step on your automation workflow will give you several options in order to get you as close as possible of an autopilot email marketing experience. Bear in mind that all this power comes with a price tag though. Don't get too excited.

If you want a tool that has an affordable price and powerful segmentation and automation (no workflow, yet), just try SendX, we give you 14-days FREE of charge with no credit card required. But we understand you might also be interested in a comparison like SendX vs Mailchimp.

5) Customer Relationship Management

CRM - both platforms claim to have it. So we had to see for ourselves who truly have it.

Mailchimp has something that resembles a CRM, but is not quite there. They make it possible for you to retrieve contact data, eCommerce integrations, revenue reports and other things like that in one place.

But ActiveCampaign has a real CRM.

If you ever used a stand-alone CRM like Pipedrive, you will know that ActiveCampaign simply nailed it, when compared with Mailchimp. Sales processes and Marketing initiatives will work on point. You can build pipelines, assign deal owners, automate your sales communications and so on, and so on.

CRM capability

Like I said before, it is like they were worried about making your messages reach the right people at the right time - everything in ActiveCampaign is built with that purpose in mind. And like I already warned you, it comes with a price tag associated as well.

6) What Integrations Do They Provide?

Integrations are really important for tech-savvy email marketers, you can achieve more with your email marketing tool if it talks with the other tools from your marketing stack.

Both ActiveCampaign and Mailchimp have above 200 integrations that you can choose from. And besides that, they integrate with Zapier, widening the possibility of integrations for their customers.

ActiveCampaign Integrations
ActiveCampaign Integrations

Here we don't have much to say, both tools do a great job in the integration department.

7) How is their Reporting?

Both tools have these standards reports metrics that you expect from every email marketing tool: open rates, clicks, bounces (soft and hard), unsubscribers, links clicked, eCommerce reports… and the list goes on.

Speaking of eCommerce reports, that would be the differential that both tools have in the market. While most email marketing tools take the content creators’ side - integrating with CMS and making it easier for you to measure how people are interacting with the content on your blog and your lead-magnets content, these two platforms play their hands hard on businesses, integrating with various eCommerce platforms, and make it possible to correlate your email email marketing efforts with your sales.

But they charge for it as well.

Mailchimp Reports overview

8) How is their Email Deliverability?

For this one, I will admit my limitations and say that the deliverability topic goes way beyond the things I could test for myself, so I will rely on third-party research.

But before we advance, I will take a shot at this, and say even without any data yet to show for, that ActiveCampaign has better deliverability than Mailchimp.


Because of the reason I was saying since the beginning of this article. The way it is built gives you the sensation that they work a lot on this topic.

It wouldn’t make any sense to have all this work to make the automation that powerful, the lead score feature and the CRM without worrying about the message arriving at its destiny.

So let's see what the folks from EmailToolTester have to say about the deliverability of these two tools.

Using their test methods this was the result they came up with:

ActiveCampaign vs Mailchimp Email Deliverability

So, in a test that took 3 rounds, we can see that ActiveCampaign had a far better performance than Mailchimp, as I already suspected.

Here at SendX, we’ve done extensive research on Email Deliverability and even wrote a comprehensive guide about it. Feel free to sign up for FREE and experience our Email Deliverability for yourself for 14 days.

9) Which comes at a Better Price?

Here's a quick guide on how email marketing pricing is done.

During the article, I was always talking about the price tag that came with all the cool features I was writing about. Now is the time to analyze it.

Let's compare the prices and see what "damages" to our pockets we are facing for all those features we talked about in this article.

We all know that Mailchimp has a forever free plan that gives you 2000 subscribers and 10000 emails per month. But since ActiveCampaign doesn’t offer a free account, I decided to compare ActiveCampaign's Plus plan and Mailchimp's Standard plan, because they are "equivalents", having all the features we talked about so far.

For 2500 contacts:

Mailchimp charges 49.99 USD/month

ActiveCampaign charges 99 USD/month

For 5000 contacts:

Mailchimp charges 74.99 USD/month

ActiveCampaign charges 135 USD/month

For 10000 contacts:

Mailchimp charges 99.00 USD/month

ActiveCampaign charges 199 USD/month

By now it has become clear that despite being a cool tool to have under your martech stack, you will have to pay to play if you truly want to use ActiveCampaign.

If you are certain that those are indispensable features, go on and create an account and start importing your contacts and creating your automations workflow, but if you looking for a more affordable solution you can always give us (SendX) a try - it is completely risk-FREE.

Mailchimp’s Venture Into eCommerce

One important update for all those looking at Mailchimp as an option is that Mailchimp has also recently launched its own online stores for SMEs, and a new service for booking appointments. The appointment booking service went live on 28th April 2021, and the new eCommerce features are scheduled to become available for the US and UK Mailchimp customers by May 18th 2021.

New ‘Websites and e-commerce’ plans will be introduced (and free-plan users will have to pay 2 percent transaction fee). Transaction fees will be reduced for users of different pricing grades, for example, those who go for a Plus plan at $29, only 0.5 percent transaction fee will be applicable.

Besides, for $10 extra, Mailchimp’s branding will be removed and you will get email and chat support, and you will only have to pay 1.5 percent transaction fees.

All their plans will also include SEO tools and Google Analytics integration. Plus, you can build websites with unlimited pages and without bandwidth restrictions.

And when it comes to the online stores by Mailchimp, you can build your product catalogues, manage your orders, and taxes and shipping configurations.

But if you don’t need all of these additional features and services, you should still proceed with comparing Mailchimp with other email service providers.

ActiveCampaign vs Mailchimp: Which One Should You Choose?

This time we decided to go for a pricey toy and compare it with the premium Mailchimp plan and see how things would go.

In marketing, we have this saying that if your only differential is pricing, you will always find someone to sell cheaper than you.

ActiveCampaign didn't want to compete on price for sure, costing the double of Mailchimp’s standard plan. But it came with so many awesome features that I don't think the price will scare someone that is truly a professional in email marketing with a profitable business.

Mailchimp became an All-in-one Marketing Platform, but ActiveCampaign even without claiming to be that, has more to offer in that field - a true CRM, for example.

My conclusion is: if you’re just getting started with email marketing you will not need all those fancy stuff anyway. Take advantage of the Mailchimp's free plan, or just go with an affordable tool since day one - Mailchimp will become pricier as you get more contacts. If you are already using Mailchimp and looking for a change, then switching from Mailchimp to ActiveCampaign seems like a good idea, but you should probably check out other Mailchimp alternatives as well.

Leave the fancy automations and all those shiny objects for when your business can afford it, if you ever need them.

And if you are still looking for more alternatives to Mailchimp, you might be interested in the full list of our Mailchimp comparisons:


1) I am looking to send a lot of newsletter emails to subscribers, but we don’t want to spend too much. Which is a better option - Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign?

Both Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign have good capabilities to meet your requirements. However, if you are looking for something very affordable and yet provides the capability to send a lot of newsletters, then we would recommend that you go for something like SendX.

2) If I want a forever free plan for my small business, which one is recommended - ActiveCampaign or Mailchimp?

Mailchimp offers a free plan in which you can send emails to up to 2000 contacts per month, whereas ActiveCampaign does not have a free plan. So if your contact list is smaller than 2000, then Mailchimp is a more suitable option.

3) I am worried about email deliverability. What is recommended when I look at Mailchimp vs ActiveCampaign for this?

ActiveCampaign has a deliverability rate of 95.6%, while Mailchimp has 84.9%. So between these two, ActiveCampaign is the obvious choice. But if you are looking for even better deliverability, then SendX is recommended since our email deliverability for best customers is as high 99.4%.

4) Which is a better option between Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign, if I want to make sales processes work really well?

In this case, I would recommend ActiveCampaign since it has a better inbuilt CRM, even though a bit on the pricey side. You can build pipelines, assign deal owners, automate your sales communications and more.

5) Reports are very important for the way we run the marketing team. How good are these tools with that?

Mailchimp is recommended since it has one of the best reporting capabilities in the industry, and it provides basic reports plus advanced ones like eCommerce reports, geo-tracking reports etc. ActiveCampaign on the other hand, provides basic reporting and deal reports, which are the summaries of the deal in CRM.