Smart Retailer conducted a survey recently asking our retailers to evaluate the email-marketing services they’ve used. We received dozens of responses, but in fairness to the companies for which we didn’t get enough responses on which to base an analysis, we’re going to concentrate on the results for the top two most-used email services, Constant Contact vs. MailChimp.

Constant Contact vs. MailChimp for Small Businesses

Results of our survey can be summarized like this: Constant Contact has better customer service but costs slightly more, while MailChimp’s price can’t be beaten (Free is pretty affordable) so long as you have enough skills to manage it yourself.

Constant Contact Rated by Gift Retailers

Overall Rating 3.8 out of 5.

The summary: Retailers like it well enough and find it easy to use, they just wish it was free. Several said “too expensive” even though overall it’s not exactly expensive (see Constant Contact’s pricing table at the bottom of this page) at $40-$65 per month (depending on your list size).

Quotes (we’ll leave out names here).

“I like their customer service and multitude of templates available. I like that they integrate with the Quickbooks POS that I use. They now allow for social posting which I have been playing with successfully.”

“I like just about everything. I wish it was less expensive though.”

“Constant Contact does what it needs to do for us and I stay with them because I’ve invested too much time learning how to make it work the way I want it to. Otherwise, I would explore other services because they lack in useful templates, easily customizable options, and valuable reports.”

“I used Constant Contact several years ago. I found it to be difficult to navigate and too expensive for a small retail boutique.”
“Easy to use; good templates, stores large library of our past images; portable to tablets, phones, etc.”
“Easy format; does not take a lot of time to put together a quick newsletter announcement; con is lack of variety in templates and specific ones targeted to retailers.”

The references to “templates” in those quotes refer to that fact that for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Valentine’s Day and similar special days, Constant Contact will create a template for you to use.

MailChimp Rated by Gift Retailers

Overall Rating 4.0 out of 5.

The summary: Retailers like its price — if you have 2,000 or fewer email addresses and send out 12,000 or fewer total emails per month, it’s free, and almost all smaller gift shops can stay under those thresholds. MailChimp is also famously easy to use … for people who are at least moderately familiar with it, anyway. As with any system, there’s a learning curve. And at the cost level of Free, you’re not going to get personal help, only online FAQs.

Quotes from retailers followed a theme.

“Not as intuitive or versatile as Constant Contact, but hey — it’s free!”

“I love using MailChimp! Quick, easy and priced right.”

“I find MailChimp pretty easy to navigate. It can be confusing choosing and creating a campaign but there is a learning curve. I have a free account and it suits the needs of my small business.”

Our Analysis: Constant Contact vs. MailChimp

If you have been working in one or the other, and know how to use it, or if you have a mentor or friend who uses one of the two services and can support you, just use that platform. Switching from one to the other would take more time than it’s worth.

If you’re just getting started … Constant Contact has more and better templates and better customer support. MailChimp is easy to use (after a brief learning curve) and free. Our suggestion is you wait for Smart Retailer’s full analysis of email vendors, coming in the next few weeks and including Snap Retail, Square (yes, that Square, which offers email newsletter services), GoDaddy and more. We’ll also be inviting the services themselves to tell retailers why they should be used.

If you can’t wait that long, easy to use and free is usually a pretty good option.