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While the high street is fast becoming a ghost town, ecommerce is booming. More people are buying online than ever before. It’s also never been easier to start selling online. Whereas the #1 question for small businesses used to be “how the hell can I afford to get into ecommerce?” now it’s “which ecom platform would work best for me?” You just need to choose one and away you go, sometimes in as little as a few hours. But how do you decide which one to choose? Which platform can help you take your business to the next level?
If you’re struggling with these questions, fear not. We’ve put together this article to help you “figure it out.” How? Well, we talked to the people that really know about this stuff. We reached out and spoke to 78 ecommerce experts, asking each one a very simple yet crucial question: “In your professional experience, what have you found to be the best ecommerce platform for small business?” We let each expert put forward their top 3, and we’ve posted the results below, as well as what each expert had to say. Warning: Some real knowledge bombs were dropped in the making of this article.
So whether you’re just getting into the world of ecommerce or you run an established small business that is looking to increase its revenues by reaching more customers online, this article should help you to hone in one or two options that are worthy of further investigation.
***Who knew that definitions for “small business” vary so wildly?! For the purpose of this article we defined a small business as “any business that has an annual turnover of $0 – $1.5 million and 1-25 employees.”
Top Ecommerce Solutions for Small Business: How Our Experts Voted
|Platform||# of Votes|
|#1. Shopify||69 Votes|
|#2. Magento||37 Votes|
|#3. WooCommerce||33 Votes|
|#4. BigCommerce||19 Votes|
|#5. Wix||10 Votes|
|#=6. PrestaShop||4 Votes|
|#=6. Miva||4 Votes|
|#7. Squarespace||3 Votes|
|#=8. EKM||2 Votes|
|#=8. Volusion||2 Votes|
|#=9. Shopware||1 Vote|
|#=9. SAP||1 Vote|
|#=9. SuiteSommerce||1 Vote|
|#=9. Adrecom eSuite||1 Vote|
|#=9. ShopyGen||1 Vote|
|#=9. iPage||1 Vote|
|#=9. blueCommerce||1 Vote|
|#=9. Weebly||1 Vote|
|#=9. Bespoke||1 Vote|
|#=9. VTEX||1 Vote|
|#=9. Neto||1 Vote|
|#=9. Kooomo||1 Vote|
|#=9. Brightpearl||1 Vote|
So there you have it! There were 23 different platforms recommended for small business ecommerce during the course of our survey, but as you’ve probably already seen from the table above, there were a small group that kept cropping up time and time again.
No other ecommerce solution was recommended more than Shopify – it was the runaway winner. In fact, it’s hard to have a conversation about selling online these days without mentioning Shopify. They just make ecommerce so accessible, and easy. You don’t need to be a programming whizz or spend thousands of dollars upfront any more. You can have a store set up and running in just a few days, sometimes even in just a few hours. Crazy, right?!
BigCommerce was another solution that was spoken very highly of by our experts and shares many similarities with Shopify, with some suggesting they feel it offers more “out of the box” functionality. And Wix was the other hosted platform that scored well, with its drag and drop interface, user friendliness and ulta-affordable subscription plans making it a great place to get acquainted with ecommerce or use as a testing ground with very little risk.
So in terms of hosted options, Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix are the best ecommerce sites for small business according to our survey and three solid contenders to check out. These are all rather good if you don’t want to get bogged down with the technical side of things yourself.
If you’re looking for a self-hosted ecommerce platform, which generally offer a lot more flexibility and control over both the design elements of your store plus its features, then our poll also turned up a couple of results worthy of your consideration. At #2 on our list, Magento was only beaten on recommendations by Shopify, and ecom pros consistently referred to it as being an extremely powerful platform that has the ability to scale from startup store to an online business turning over millions in revenue per year. It’s feature rich (there’s virtually no functionality you can’t achieve), great for SEO, and very robust. You will likely have to hire a developer though, unless you possess decent programming skills.
The other option if you want to go down the self-hosted route is WooCommerce, which was the 3rd most recommended ecommerce solution overall in our survey. This converts any WordPress site into a fully functioning, very versatile ecommerce platform, and there are thousands of themes and plugins available, making it easier to ensure your store stands out from the crowd and has all of the functionality that you need it to have. It may not be as powerful as Magento overall, but the learning curve isn’t as steep and you only require some basic technical skills to get a standard store set up.
1) If you’re not particularly technically minded and don’t have a developer on staff, you want to get up and running quickly, but you want a platform that offers the features and capability to grow with you, have a look at these:
3) If you want to make something that looks completely unique, need some custom functionality, and have some technical/programming skills or the budget to hire a developer, then these two platforms are likely your best bet:
Read What The Experts Said
Below you can sift through and benefit from the contributions of each expert that collaborated on this article and made it possible (huge thanks to you all!). There is tons of insightful knowledge in there that should go a long way in helping you land on the best ecommerce solution for your small business.
And if you’ve already got a platform in mind and want to see what established industry professionals have to say about it, use the filter to sort the contributions. We hope you find this information of some help!
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great platform for SMEs for a number of reasons. Firstly you do not need much money to set it up or manage it, and in terms of order processing/handling it’s very simple to manage. There are lots of great themes to use plus there is a great network of Shopify developers should you want to customise.
Shopify also supports all of the major payment gateways and is very easy to setup. There are lots of free apps to use and it’s simple to set up. For a simple platform which is easy to manage and customise, Shopify is the one.”
- PrestaShop - “PrestaShop is also a good platform for small businesses and similar to Shopify, but is suited perhaps for larger turnover sites with bigger product catalogs. PrestaShop also enables you to expand in a multitude of languages whereas Shopify does not have this functionality. PrestaShop is open source meaning you can access the source code should you wish, plus it has a large community of developers.
PrestaShop is fairly easy to use and has a wealth of add-ons and plugins, which can be easily switched on and off – plus is fully customizable.”
- Wix - “For simplicity and ease of setup, I would look at an affordable Store Builder solution such as Wix. Very easy to set up and great range of templates, WIX websites can look very good indeed! A simple drag and drop set up means any one can set up in no time and it also has a range of add ons.
WIX is not that great in terms of SEO and is not that customizable without the plugins it comes with, plus it is not a powerful ecommerce solution (eg if you have hundreds of product to manage).”
- Shopify - “There is no denying the popularity of Shopify, and it is for good reason. If you are just starting out in eCommerce you can be up and running with Shopify within days - even if you have limited or zero html, design or code experience. It is literally as easy as choosing a theme, adding some products and linking up your PayPal details - and away you go.
Shopify has also done a lot of work recently on its more advanced eCommerce solution - Shopify Plus. So it is possible to start off at very limited cost to get your business up and running and then as you become successful you have the options of upgrading and adding more features. With Shopify you also have the added benefit that it is a SaaS product, so all hosting is taken care of as part of the cost, which is one less thing to deal with, especially when your website is growing and increasing in traffic.”
- WooCommerce - “While Shopify is great for regular ‘shopkeepers’ just looking to sell, WooCommerce is a great option for people who are planning to create lots of content. WordPress is well known for being one of the easiest and most widely accepted platforms for bloggers - mainly because of how easy it is to create pages, drag and drop content and insert various templates and add-on’s with relative ease. So for anyone who either has a blog already and is looking to monetise it by selling product, or for people who plan on creating lots of content alongside their shop, WooCommerce could be the perfect fit. Unlike Shopify, you would be required to host the website yourself. However there are plenty of great services on the market for hosting WordPress, which are inexpensive in the early days when you have low amounts of traffic.”
- Magento - “Now for the third option it was quite hard to decide. I could have easily gone for BigCommerce, WIX, Squarespace or OpenCart - as all have their pros. But I wanted to put a bit of a wildcard out there. Magento historically would not have been a platform I would suggest to a small business - because it was complicated and had lots of hidden costs. However, with the launch of Magento2 and its acquisition by Adobe, I think we will see a much clearer divide between the free version (open source) and the paid version (Commerce) and with this a simplification of the open source version to make it easier for smaller business to utilise the power that the platform has. I would also recommend Magento for any small businesses with ‘big’ ambitions, as if you invest well early on then Magento can easily sustain your business up to £30m turnover and beyond. Like WooCommerce/WordPress, you would be required to host Magento yourself, and because it is a bigger, complex system it will require more sophisticated and powerful hosting than WordPress, so I'd recommend finding a Magento hosting specialist and expect to pay more per month than the other 2 options.”
Choosing an ecommerce platform is one of the most critical decisions a small business can make. Picking the wrong platform can be a costly mistake, severely limiting your ability to grow and scale your business. It’s something I’ve seen repeatedly in my consulting career and can be difficult for a company to recover from. Companies often weigh ease of use, name recognition, or a flashy UI over capabilities, which is a huge mistake.
Making the right choice requires careful planning and detailed requirements gathering. While it’s nice to have a visually pleasing interface with drag-and-drop functionality, there are several factors that are far more important to consider if you’re serious about building a successful e-commerce business. Some of the most critical are scalability, compatibility/integrations with other platforms, and standard features vs. those requiring custom development.
There are a large number of platforms to choose from, but the three that I most often recommend to small business clients are Miva Merchant, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
All three are solid platforms, and you can run a successful ecommerce business on any of the three, but each has strengths and weaknesses that should be considered before choosing the one that most closely aligns to the specific needs of your business.
- Miva - “My top pick. I have built two successful ecommerce businesses and managed the development of several others on the Miva Merchant platform. Miva is an incredibly powerful, flexible platform, and is easily one of the most highly underrated platforms out there.
One of Miva’s key differentiators is a robust set of standard, built-in features included in the base package. Basic features like wish lists, saved baskets, abandoned cart campaigns, and automated order tracking require costly upgrades or custom integrations to build on some of the more popular platforms.
Miva’s base package also includes inventory monitoring, real-time shipping calculations, workflow automation, revenue tracking, reporting/analytics and pre-built integrations with popular third party platforms.
At just $79/month, Miva’s feature-rich base plan is hard to beat, and the platform easily scales up to handle everything from high-volume drop shippers that require complex shipping/tax calculations, to the largest Enterprise accounts.
o Highly customizable
o Well-designed starter themes
o Large, experienced developer network
o Highly Scalable
o Excellent user interface
o Great SEO features
o Pre-built integrations with popular external tools and platforms
o Non-standard functionality can get quite expensive to develop, especially if custom integrations are required.
o Not open-source. If you can't find a module that does what you need, you'll need to hire a developer or learn Miva Script.
o Miva Script- Steep learning curve, but once you get it, you get it.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce combines all the benefits of the WordPress platform with excellent e-commerce capabilities. WooCommerce is not a stand-alone platform. Rather, it is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress, which happens to be both its greatest strength and weakness.
WordPress isn’t just for blogging anymore. It has become one of the most robust and well-supported web development platforms, with a large developer network and thousands of beautifully designed themes to use as a framework for building your site. There are countless plugins available, allowing you to extend the functionality of your site to meet business needs.
The WooCommerce plugin allows you to turn just about any WordPress site into a fully functional e-commerce business.
It’s easy to find well-qualified developers to build just about any feature you can imagine - which is important, because doing it internally can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience. If your business doesn’t have internal resources with the expertise to build or support a WordPress site, you’ll have to hire that work out, and that can get quite expensive.
• Built on the WordPress platform
• Large developer network
• Thousands of well-designed themes
• Excellent SEO capabilities
• Highly Scalable
• Easy pre-built integrations with popular CRM, Analytics/BI, and Marketing tools
• Steep learning curve to master both WordPress and WooCommerce
• May require numerous plugins, which can quickly become quite expensive
• Large number of plugins can become cumbersome to manage”
- Shopify - “Shopify is among the most user-friendly e-commerce platforms. If you’re looking for turn-key functionality, and are comfortable with a more basic feature set, Shopify is an excellent solution. Pricing plans to accommodate businesses of all sizes. Plans geared toward small businesses start at $29/month, making it easy to start small and scale up with minimal effort.
The Basic plan allows you to sell across multiple channels, create an unlimited number of products, and offers basic marketing features like abandoned cart campaigns. More advanced features require an upgrade to a more expensive plan, but the process is instantaneous. Shopify does offers an Enterprise-level option called Shopify Plus, which is ideal for high-volume businesses, but quite expensive.
While Shopify is an excellent solution for many small businesses, it's far from perfect and has some significant limitations. There are some very basic features that will require an upgrade to the advanced plan - like the ability to display calculated shipping rates from UPS/Fedex at checkout, or choose a less expensive credit card processor.
o User friendly
o Beautifully designed themes make it easy to design your site
o Respectable set of e-commerce features
o Expensive credit card processing
o Some very basic features require a costly upgrade.
o Can get frustrating trying to tease out what should be standard functionality.
o The themes are well designed, but everyone uses the same ones, which makes it hard for your site to stand out.”
- WooCommerce - “If you already have a website running on WordPress, Woo Commerce could possibly be the right choice to power your e-commerce site. This free, intuitive plugin integrates very nicely with WordPress, and the plethora of themes available make it an easy and rapid route to a sleek and efficient site to sell your wares. It has become somewhat of a standard, and support is widely available from freelancers who can provide help from installing and configuring the plugin to developing custom code to meet more complex requirements.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is an e-commerce solution provided as Software as a Service; simply choose the plan that is right for you (ranging from 29 USD/month to 299 USD/month depending on the service level) and you’ll be up and running in minutes. Shopify is possibly the easiest platform to learn and it takes much of the complexity of managing e-commerce away. All major platforms are supported and the clear and simple user interface make it easy to learn. Don’t want to configure and manage it yourself? No sweat; help is readily available online on your regular freelancer site. Be aware that Shopify will take a cut between 0.5% and 2% of all of your sales as well as the monthly fee.”
- PrestaShop - “Prestashop is one of the reference e-commerce frameworks which has been out there for more than 10 years now. In a way, PrestaShop is to e-commerce what WordPress is to content management! Like its CMS counterpart, Prestashop benefits from the support of a very wide community and can be enhanced by an impressive number of standardized plugins to do anything from connecting to your warehouse software, managing a specific type of product or boosting your e-commerce SEO. Although the Prestashop code base is free (Open Software Licence), you’ll need to anticipate integration and hosting costs to get your site up running.”
- Shopify - “I work with many entrepreneurs on this platform. It is a hosted solution, so you don’t need to worry about external hosting, uptime is reliable, and they use a CDN for media files, so the speed can be pretty good too.
It is a simple platform, you could open a Shopify store without a developer if you needed. I don’t like the simplicity in the products and product management, they only allow for single products with a max of 2 product options natively and making bulk updates is difficult and time consuming without an app or the API.
Shopify has great documentation, they make it fairly easy to add tracking pixels for Google (and to setup enhanced ecommerce) as well as the Facebook pixel with shopping cart events by default.
I also appreciate the deeper level of integration offered with other platforms like Klaviyo for example. All of this comes at a premium, Shopify is known for being the most expensive and many of the apps actually scale in price depending on your Shopify level.”
- Magento - “Magento is open source, so it is fully customizable and there’s a free version. One of the advantages of Magento is that they support various product configurations, so if you want to create groups or bundles or products with complex options, Magento can do this natively. I also like the filtering functionality for product sorting and organization on the front-end, I think they do a good job of this. They also have upselling and cross selling features that require adding on for most other platforms. In general, Magento is known for being more robust and better with SEO, so if you plan on having a large store with high sales volume, Magento might be a good fit.
However, the complexity creates a steeper learning curve and I’ve found it requires more planning and organization to launch. I’d recommend taking a training course before you dive in.”
- WooCommerce - “In my opinion, the clear benefit of WooCommerce is that it’s a free add on to WordPress. So, if you’re already running on this platform or you’re familiar with the functionality of the platform, you can fairly seamlessly add a shopping cart. Another bonus in doing this, is that you won’t have to migrate your content over which can drop your rankings and cause issues with SEO.
Wordpress is also open source, and there are endless options for plugins which make it very easy to add on the functionality you need.
If you’re not comfortable with WordPress, you should plan to have a developer help you with the setup and management. I see many WordPress sites go unmanaged and often end up with viruses or other issues. Consider a hosted solution if this sounds like you.”
- Miva - “I've worked with this platform since version 1. It has constantly grown with advances in technology and security. As a SaaS shopping cart, both green and experienced store owners and developers can get up and running quickly. It's chock full of key features, like inventory control to the attribute/option level, synchronization with popular payment and shipping gateways, and integration with third-party tools. A great benefit, though, is Miva's open-style environment. If a module or plug-in for a necessary feature or connection doesn't exist, developers have the ability to "hook into" Miva to make it happen. So long as the script doesn't compromise security or privacy, any functionality - especially unique ones - can be incorporated into one's store.”
- WooCommerce - “WordPress, and of course Woo-Commerce, cover almost every scenario, present and future…and this is why we like it. You’re practically future proofing your business! Unless you’re going truly Global with franchise stores then WordPress & Woo-Commerce will have you covered. You may argue WordPress is better suited to businesses that are no longer start-ups, and are in the SME arena. This is because it will be more expensive to set up and a little more complex, but that’s the price you pay for future proofing your business.
Ideally you’ll set up a bespoke solution. This will make your website more secure and less likely to crash, but even more important than that is you will spend less time and money on needing to update templates etc
Here’s some other good reasons to use WordPress:
• Easy to use and navigate through the Content Management System (CMS)
• Bespoke can mean both beautiful and unique designs
• Arguably the best Search Engine Optimisable (SEO) CMS out there
• Open Source and you own all the code
• Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
Here’s the downsides:
• If it’s not a bespoke design, then you will need to keep on top of updates
• It will take more development time and therefore cost then the Shopify or Big Commerce solutions
If you have a little more budget and you’re certain of success then a bespoke WordPress & Woo-Commerce is a no brainer.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great option for ‘start-ups’ for a number of reasons which include;
• It’s very easy to use, not just in setting up but also for processing orders and the day-to-day running of a website
• Cost effective
• Looks professional and very smart
• Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
There are more plus sides than noted above, but these are the key factors you should take in to consideration. However, with all the plus sides there’s also some downsides too:
• Shopify is not open source and as a result you don’t have complete freedom to do what you want. Ultimately, the site doesn’t truly belong to you
• For products and main pages SEO is okay but you will have to deal with added terms being added to some URL’s, which limits some of your SEO
I almost always recommend Shopify for ‘start-ups’ because you can build out a really beautiful online shop with ease. It’s easy to use from a back-end point of view as well. It will last you for quite a few years and depending on your business aspirations you may never need to change CMS. In the future you may feel you need to move to another platform like WordPress or even Magento.”
- BigCommerce - “Now I have a confession, we mostly work with Shopify, which would be BigCommerce’s direct competitor. There’s not much between them so I’ll not go in to too much detail here. BigCommerce is a solid and simple platform, just like Shopify and you can have more Staff Accounts.
However, Pricing is almost identical as are many other features. BigCommerce does not have a proposition to match Shopify’s cheapest offering ‘Shopify Lite’, but then if you’re serious about your e-commerce offering, you would not use Shopify Lite anyway - it’s too basic.
Design options, User Experience and Extensions on both platforms are very good and in equal measure. Shopify’s just been around longer and is used by online retailers ‘considerably’ more often. These are the only real reasons why we lean towards Shopify over BigCommerce, but you won’t go far wrong with BigCommerce. We believe it comes down to a personal preference.”
- Shopify - “This is an obvious choice. It’s the easiest platform to use and the cost of ownership is low because it’s a SaaS product that anyone can learn without a lot of technical knowledge. It is now being used on bigger and bigger sites and is a great fit for most small companies looking to grow with eCommerce. My recommendation is to use a theme and identify the apps you need and you should be able to get started easily even without a lot of third party help.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is a slightly more enterprise product than Shopify, but is still great for small companies. It also has a low cost of ownership because it’s a SaaS product that anyone can learn without a lot of technical knowledge. This is a great fit for smaller B2B companies and companies that want to scale on a SaaS platform without having to re-platform as they grow. It has a lot of built in features that make it more powerful than Shopify out of the box and apps to grow with.”
- Magento - “I would certainly not suggest a small company to pay for an expensive enterprise license. However, the Magento Open Source edition is designed for smaller companies looking to grow with the power of a leading eCommerce platform without the heavy license cost. I suggest Magento here because it’s actually a good eCommerce platform as opposed to the popular open source alternative, WooCommerce, because it has proven to scale. This is certainly a fit for more technical companies, but I feel it is a better fit than the alternatives, that although might be cheaper, will not get you very far. I see many business struggling with WooCommerce because it’s not really an eCommerce platform first and the plugins can be crippling. If you want to go open source eCommerce, I suggest Magento.”
- SAP - “I would have to recommend that any business consider what I’ll call the big 4 of eCommerce platforms such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce. They have a long heratige in the eCommerce space and have very well developed features and functions with a long list of additional features that can be added via integrations / plugins to other packages. Originally these platforms were only accessible to large businesses, but they have all worked hard to start supporting the SME market with pay as you grow type revenue share models, as well as offering cloud based hosting and support. Don’t just assume they will be too expensive and be careful to evaluate these against the full cost of seemingly cheaper solutions. These platforms tend to leapfrog each other, but all have an unrivalled set of feature and functions which continue to be improved on and added to.”
- BigCommerce - “I’d also recommend looking at the new breed of fully hosted platforms such as BigCommerce and Shopify, which have historically been aimed at very small businesses, but are now capable of supporting larger businesses. They also have the reputation for faster set-up and configuration times than the Big 4, while still offering a feature rich set of functions that can be expanded on using their app store.”
- Magento - “No list would be complete without Magento (now part of Adobe). Magento was the original disruptor with an extensive and expandable feature list and very competitive pricing.”
There are plenty of reviews available for ecommerce platforms comparing functionality in detail. Whilst this is informative, it’s important to understand your own requirements before getting sucked into features. Whenever I’m asked by small businesses for recommendations, I tend to put forward the following considerations:
1. How specific is your business model and operational processes? This will indicate the level of customisation and integrations required for your site.
2. How aggressive is your projected growth trajectory? Scalability for your future success is crucial, both in terms of traffic and new functionality requirements.
3. How digitally mature are you or your team? A realistic plan of how and who is going to manage your site once it is operational is important for gauging the usability.
- Magento - “Magento has to be the top consideration for me given its maturity in the market coupled with rapid delivery on its development roadmap, vital in the constantly evolving landscape of digital commerce. With an open source architecture since its introduction over 10 years ago, and a re-engineered codebase (version 2) 3 years ago, it has the best of both worlds in market ubiquity among web developers and agencies the world over, along with a modern technology stack. What this means for the small business is a marketplace of (approved) extensions larger than other platforms, greater breadth of choice in developers who can build and maintain your site and a greater performance, usability and functionality, as well as experience for your customer.
Magento really stands out for flexibility and customisation and this is the reason that creative brands and businesses with specific requirements favour this platform. It pays to select a developer that understands Magento well to ensure your site is built for performance and with the future in mind, but with a large developer network, there is plenty of choice.
Pricing wise, Magento continues to offer their ‘Open Source’ edition which is free to download and use. This is ideal if you are a lean startup and it can be migrated to the ‘Commerce’ edition later when you need the support and additional functionality.
I’m excited by the acquisition from Adobe earlier this year and looking forward to seeing this market leading commerce platform integrated with best-of-breed marketing and advertising suites for a true customer lifecycle digital experience. I would consider Magento in the majority of instances for my business and particularly if I wanted to stand out from competitors with a compelling experience.”
- BigCommerce - “I like how BC have progressed recently. As a private company with the last of several funding rounds in the bank from earlier this year, they are building out their partner network globally and rapidly enhancing the platform. One of the leading SaaS platforms, they provide the full service with hosting included, and usability is a key strength. They have an open architecture philosophy and growing their integrations with other platforms including CMS platforms, Wordpress and Acquia in recent months, which means you can develop your site with both content and commerce.
Where SaaS platforms lack the customisation of Magento, they generally provide a speedy site setup and ease of use. I would consider BigCommerce if my business required little customisation and I wanted as little technical input on decisions as possible.”
- Shopify - “Shopify has had tremendous growth over the last few years, building out their suite of platforms and services, integrations with 3rd parties and a very solid marketing campaign. As another SaaS platform, it has a similar offering to BigCommerce but focuses more on an extended suite of proprietary services (e.g. payment gateway and POS solution). Shopify also has an extensive list of plugins to enhance the functionality, however these can add to the fees considerably so it pays to be aware of the total costs.
Shopify is promoted as a side hustle and I would consider it personally if I had a simple side project to set up with little time available.”
- Shopify - “Having worked closely with hundreds of retailers, I’ve had the unique opportunity to make recommendations in various capacities including ecommerce. The needs of the smaller retailer generally differ greatly from those larger retailers, mainly because there is not always a dedicated team to handle all the different facets ecommerce demands. Given that, Shopify is an easy recommendation that provides for most ecommerce needs and doesn’t require smaller business owners a huge upfront investment of time or money. Shopify provides hosted carts that are designed to work out of the box. There is not a need to have a dedicated developer on staff to set up and maintain the cart experience. The templated approach allows for easy plug and play and allows the retailer to be up and running quickly (within a few hours). If a retailer is concerned about outgrowing the solution, no worries as Shopify also provides ShopifyPlus - a more robust option for a more sophisticated retailer.
If you are a new retailer, just entering the ecommerce space, Shopify invests a lot of time and money to support you as well. Shopify works to build an ecosystem of experts and encourages such experts (currently near 570,000) to share their pearls of wisdom in their forums as well as Facebook group. Shopify also invests money in annual shows and regular meet ups to further encourage the open communication. One of the major differences I’ve seen at this trade show versus others in the space is that the founder and current CEO, Tobi Lütke is very visible, accessible and open to discussions. This is quite refreshing to me as he candidly shares future plans with the group, making all feel included in the wave. This is one example of the little things that go a long way with Shopify.
One of Shopify’s greatest assets is the marketplace which allows developers and experts to create plug-ins, or extensions that provide additional customizations to meet the ecommerce needs that go beyond the already-robust Shopify solution. Shopify also supports Point of Sale (POS) transaction functionality for those who need to sell in a brick and mortar situation, tying all sales functionality into a single source. There are multiple reporting tools to pull reports and information from the system so that a smaller retailer doesn’t need to invest in additional analytics tools to assess sales trends. All of these details can be pulled from the retailer’s personal phone allowing access anywhere. Shopify truly is an ecommerce solution that provides instant turnkey functionality to a retailer without requiring expertise in multiple areas for deployment. Because of this there are numerous success stories and a network of thriving merchants, developers and consultants all working because of the Shopify ecosystem.”
Jeroen van Eck
- Shopify - “What I love about Shopify is its simplicity. Everyone can start selling online within seconds. Managing a store-front is easy with a smooth design and user-friendly interface. Setting up and running a store-front doesn’t require any coding. There’s a marketplace available with lots of extensions and integrations with third-party marketing tools to boost your reach, user engagement and performance. But you’ll do fine at first with everything that comes out of the box with Shopify.
Shopify’s target audience are small business owners that are looking for an e-commerce solution that just works. ”
- Magento - “If you’re looking for something that’s more customizable to your specific needs, Magento is probably the go-to e-commerce solution. The platform is available in various configurations, so it facilitates growth. Magento is highly customizable through its development partners all over the world. Some of the largest shops run on Magento, and it’s amazing that as a small business owner you can tap into the same box of e-commerce power.”
- Magento - “If you are technically minded or have someone on your team, I recommend Magento Opensource. Magento has been on the scene for a long time and has developed into a very mature and stable product. Recently bought by Adobe, they are continuing to maintain the opensource version of the product.
A lot of big and small ecommerce shops run on Magento, including tech company www.hpe.com, Gardening Centre chain www.gardeningexpress.co.uk and fashion brand www.hellyhansen.com.
You will need to host and set up the product yourself, but you get complete control over all elements of the system and you can customise it to your needs. A healthy development community and ecosystem means you can get plugins and extensions to integrate with almost any system you need. While totally free, you will need some beefy hosting power to run the system efficiently.”
- Kooomo - “Powering online brands like www.missbikini.com and www.butlerschocolates.com, Kooomo is a completely managed platform for ecommerce sites.
Kooomo work with you to get you set-up and running, build your online brand and most importantly get you connected to over 60 global marketplaces so you can start selling around the world. It is obviously a more expensive system than Magento, however it sets up and manages the platform for you, freeing you up to focus on sales and growth.”
- Brightpearl - “If you achieve any kind of scale, the back-office quickly becomes unmanageable. Shipping, returns, customer service, inventory, purchasing, and accounting begin to take over and limit your growth. This is where Brightpearl steps in. It improves your efficiency in your ecommerce business with back office automation and connects your systems. Of course, this is one of those nice problems to have. At which point you will have no problem investing in a system like this.”
- WooCommerce - “This is THE combination I would recommend. I’ve been creating eCommerce websites since 1996. I’ve worked for tremendously successful web agencies and over the 22 years I’ve seen some sharp practices.
Agencies using their own bespoke, hand-written code to create an eCommerce CMS will boast about quality, speed, reliability, but in actuality, the customer is heavily played: paying much more for a website than needs be, needing to wait for new features, and each time an idea is needed to be implemented by the client, then barriers are hit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of quality coding, but not at the expense of the client, and certainly not when there are perfectly respectable alternatives.
The combination of WordPress and the shopping cart WooCommerce has proven (for my business and my clients) an excellent tool. If one knows what they are doing, then one can create an effective Roadmap to help clients plan, design, launch, promote, and manage an eCommerce website. Choosing carefully which plugins to use, being extremely careful with the hosting platform, then a client simply won’t see ANY disadvantages from using this platform.
With WordPress, one can easily create stunning designs, implement great CSS, create bespoke designs and user experiences. Websites can be made to work brilliantly on mobiles, tablets, and desktops (remember the difficulties posed by bespoke CMS frameworks in trying to get sites to work well on mobiles – how slow, how costly!).
WordPress and WooCommerce are updated regularly. If an agency knows what it’s doing then ‘off the shelf’ tools can be used to achieve astonishingly complex tasks.
Scalability is not a problem either. If you’re an SME with between £500,000 and £10,000,000 of revenue then this is the solution for you. It’s easy to use and can provide everything needed to make online sales. For example, we’ve recently launched a WordPress eCommerce website with over 90,000 products, from multiple suppliers, with bespoke customer tiered pricing, full stock-control and more.
With Magento this would have cost in excess of £20,000, with a bespoke solution… well, much, much more. But with WordPress, well, let’s just say the client got the deal of the century.
WordPress allows the web agency to use its skills and experience to help get an eCommerce website up and running quickly and to help clients start selling quickly… rather than being stuck in the quagmire of waiting for coders, CSSers, designers, and digital marketers to all complete their work first (and then more than likely be stuck with an out of date platform)!
I cannot shout from the rooftops loudly enough just how effective WordPress is for an SME. Often SME’s don’t have the staff to learn about websites and eCommerce, but they can be taught to manage a website, especially if it’s been built with WordPress. Furthermore, if they get stuck then there’s a plethora of help and advice on the web (the same can’t be said for custom CMS’s can it?).
Finally, if the client gets fed-up with the agency, as WordPress and WooCommerce is Open Source, then the core of the website is Open and GPL Licenced, meaning the website can be zipped up and given to another web agency, instead of being stuck in the hands of a web agency who can all too easily hold a website to ransom.
I fully support the WordPress & WooCommerce combination.”
- Magento - “Magento is good. But boy is it bloated. It takes quite some server resource to run it (it has so many modules, which requires better hosting and that of course means passing on the cost to the client).
It also takes a long time to configure… it’s just not as flexible as WordPress. Yes WordPress isn’t as well thought out when it comes to the database structure, but does this truly matter to the client or their visitors? Certainly not! If the web agency knows what it’s doing then WordPress will beat Magento hands down. Some say Magento is great for reports, this is true, but we’ve managed to arm ourselves with a wide range of tools to help clients drill down through tonnes of data to understand what’s happening on their website(s)… whether it’s connecting to an older Sage Line 50 software, or to a modern Cloud based accounts package, WordPress handles this all too easily.
Bottom line: Magento is good. But, the client will need to be charged more and it will take more time to complete. Why would anyone do that? Probably because they’ve been told that WordPress is the poor relation, but often I find that these comments come from coders who are effectively protecting their own jobs, their own purpose in the world. After-all, if WordPress gets any more popular then these very same coders (if they wish to stay in low-to-mid-level eCommerce development) will need to join the ranks of WordPress proponents or go and work for WordPress themselves!”
- Shopify - “What I like about Shopify is that they are a solid and stable template solution with an ever increasing network of plug-ins for best in class features and functionality. It’s a great low cost platform, particularly for the smaller online businesses.”
- Magento - “I have found Magento to be the ideal stepping stone platform for smaller online businesses before they can make the leap to the more robust and costly Demandware (Salesforce Commerce Cloud) solution. It is highly customizable with development resources, otherwise it can be overwhelming to manage. It’s great for flexibility but, must have both budget and talent for developer support.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is my recommended e-comm platform for small businesses, especially those with lean teams and limited development resources. If you haven’t used Shopify before, don’t worry – this platform is super streamlined and user friendly, with helpful recommendations and analytics pre-built into it.
As a small but fast-growing company, Shopify helps us increase efficiency and reduce our reliance on developers while allowing us to remain agile with our site and site features. The Shopify app store offers hundreds of useful plugins (many of which have free versions or trials) designed to work right out-of-the-box – in fact, we recently launched our auto-replenishment service using just a few hours of front-end dev work to install an app and make design customizations.
If you have in-house development or custom development isn’t of concern, Magento is a great open source platform where you can build out features exactly per your own specs.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is by far the best platform for SMBs in my opinion for the reasons below:
• It incorporates a website CMS and Shopping cart capabilities into a single platform, that way you only have one platform to work with, which makes the learning curve much easier
• It has an intuitive product catalogue and provides nice search capabilities
• It has a strong reporting & insights capability, reports are shown in a dashboard like view and are easy to understand and take action
• It has an easy to use user interface (UI) that anyone, without any technical experience can use
• It has flexible, and customizable designs that you can pick from so your store can look as sharp as you want it
• You can launch your website and ecommerce store in a few weeks, provided you are just starting and don’t need have a product catalogue that is too large.
• It is affordable with plans starting at $10 a month and the ability to upgrade anytime as your store grows
• Best part is that they offer a free trial, so you can take it for a test drive before you commit to using this platform”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is my second pick for SMBs who are currently using WordPress for their website for the following reasons:
• It integrates with WordPress which makes managing your store easy, as you are accessing the admin interface from within your WordPress website
• It’s easy to use and create your online store, from the design to building out the product catalogue
• You can customize your theme (design and layout) of your store and are not stuck with the themes they provide
• It has several payment integrations so you can choose any of the payment options from PayPal to Stripe and anything in between
• It is an open source system so you can modify and customize everything, add as many products and users and process unlimited orders”
- Wix - “WiX is another great platform for SMBs for the reasons below:
• You can customize your store’s look and feel, by either choosing the available templates and customizing to what works for you
• Its easy to use for anyone without any technical experience, they have a drag and drop interface which makes building your store very intuitive
• They offer multiple payment options such as credit cards or PayPal and the best part is that they don’t charge you for your sales (no commissions)
• You can use the same platform for building your website and your online store making it more efficient for you”
- Magento - “Magento for quite some time has been the open source platform that allows you to build your own local hosted ecommerce sites, as well as managed cloud deployment. One of the reasons I like Magento is the wide range of free and paid design templates, as well as many plugins to expand the core platform’s features & functionality. It's a great choice for any business dipping their toes for the first time in ecommerce through to large well-known companies who are looking at open source options and fast turnaround deployments.”
- Shopify - “Shopify – is another great, easy to setup, easy to use platform that will help you grow your business. Shopify is an out-of-the-box ecommerce solution for both small and medium/large online businesses, again with some great selections in template and plugins. It’s great for someone without development or design experience, who wants an intuitive user interface as well as a good selection of marketing assistance including Google Smart shopping and Facebook ads within the Shopify platform.”
- Wix - “WIX is an ecommerce platform which again is very popular within the SME community. I think is great for a small to medium size business looking to have a professional store representation online. The drag and drop option makes WIX pretty easy and enjoyable to use. The features and functionalities are quite rich and should be adequate for most businesses starting off and growing their online revenue.”
WooCommerce on WordPress if you only have a few products to sell.
Shopify for do-it-yourself ecommerce stores.
Magento if you are an established ecommerce business who can afford a developer.
- WooCommerce - “If you have a blog or content site and want to expand by selling a few products, all you need is WooCommerce. It is a lightweight WordPress plugin that is free, easy to use, and scales to thousands of products. Research shows that some stores with millions of page views a month and 4000+ products are successfully running on WooCommerce.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great choice for starting a do-it-yourself ecommerce site that isn’t being installed on an existing WordPress site. You can get started inexpensively, and then keep adding features from Shopify Addons that will increase conversions such as cross-selling, upselling, and enhanced descriptions and images as you can afford them.”
- Magento - “When a store owner I know switched to Magento, their sales doubled almost overnight. That is reason alone to consider this option; however, only if you can afford to hire a developer. I would only recommend this option as a migration for stores with sufficient existing profits to make paying a developer financially feasible.”
Honorable mention goes to BigCommerce. If we were listing the top 4, they would be included. And you’ll see them mentioned in many comparisons as another that can be SEO-optimized.
- Shopify - “Shopify is the platform with the most momentum at the moment and is certainly the cool kid on the block in the small business market. Shopify is focused on a lot of small businesses’ biggest challenges through solid offerings in product databases and inventory management system functionality; this gives ease in building channels across multiple websites and marketplaces.
If you’re a business that has lots of inventory (congratulations!) you need a robust platform and Shopify delivers in spades. Consumers spend their time on the front end, but small business operators are in the backend and Shopify excels on the administration front.
Unlike other platforms, Shopify handles payment gateways much more efficiently baking them into the offer without messing around with additional apps. And unlike open-source competitors, Shopify has a dedicated support team that can handle all aspects of the platform.”
- Magento - “Magento has long been the leader in eCommerce platforms built off the open-source nature of the software appealing to developers across the globe. After the recent acquisition by Adobe, Magento now has endless riches sitting in the coffers to stave of competitors who have made up ground in recent years by focusing on user experience.
A big selling point is the Magento Community version that is free and gives small business owners a chance to get their business live and trading at minimal cost compared to many other platforms. As your business grows it is not difficult to upgrade, although you will be needing to shift onto a payment tier and will need to employ a decent agency to assist with the build.
Not that it will be hard to find someone to assist, as Magento has a village of capable partners that will help small businesses grow technically and connect you to a marketplace of third-party integrations that will handle most of what you could ever need.
Magento has a plethora of built-in eCommerce features such as promotional pricing, newsletter management, multi-language support, virtual products, layered navigation, personalized products, etc. that essentially just leaves open source competitors for dead.
Finally, Magento was the first platform to embrace the logistics market partnering with companies such as DHL and FedEx to deliver Magento Shipping, which takes away the pain of shipping for small businesses.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is competitive with leading enterprise eCommerce applications, but because it’s free, any small business can take advantage of this platform without fear of expensive support contracts or proprietary software licenses.
The modular nature is attractive for any business and especially small businesses where you are learning who you are and may need to pivot at any time. Commitment is hard when you are growing, so knowing that WooCommerce has a raft of developers in the background to dig you out of any situation is comforting.
Plugins can be your friend and WooCommerce has more than you’ll ever need. WooCommerce has WordPress as a parent so you know flexibility and functionality is at the heart of the platform. More than other platforms, WooCommerce has digital sales in its toolbox, so small businesses can theoretically sell anything from Jordan sneakers to digital games and everything in-between.
WooCommerce is made for selling and will give you heaps of advantages. With over a 100 payment gateways that can be setup, shipping capabilities and inventory management, this platform will save you a heap on ‘additional’ requirements that you so often get hit with when you start a business.”
For small businesses, I would always opt for the solutions that require the least manpower and costs to run. That means choosing a hosted solution (SaaS). Thankfully there are many to choose from, however the 3 top recommendations in my opinion would be:
Each provides similar capabilities and will get you off the ground quickly and cost effectively.
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is the lesser known of the two platforms (vs Shopify) and has fewer businesses running their software. However, this could be an advantage as a challenger brand always works harder to keep customers happy.
In terms of features and functions, you get pretty much everything out of the box with a lot of features and functions to help you grow your business.”
- Shopify - “My second choice is Shopify. By far the most prevalent ecommerce platform on the market, and used by 100’s of thousands of merchants both big and small.
The 2 main advantages with Shopify are:
a. There are a lot of 3d party agencies and developers who are well versed in the platform and can help you build and scale your business
b. There are a lot of creative templates on the market you can choose from to suit your needs.”
- Squarespace - “The other option I would suggest exploring is Squarespace. This solution may not be a dedicated Ecommerce platform, but it does have some nifty features and designs you can use to launch and grow your store.
It’s by far the easiest one of the 3 to get started on, with little to no 3rd party support needed to get your businesses selling. There are also some really great looking themes to choose from.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is probably your best option if you want to get online quickly, but don’t have the expertise to either handle everything inhouse or manage external parties to build something for you. It’s a hosted solution, which means you pay a monthly subscription fee to have Shopify handle the server, security and various other technical aspects for you. There is a wide range of themes available, and the platform is generally well optimised for SEO.
The only real downsides in my opinion is flexibility/customisation, and the fact you are tied into a monthly subscription model. Over time, this cost builds up, but even if you are selling in relatively low volumes, it’s a low cost to account for each month.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce bolts beautifully into WordPress, allowing you to combine the most popular CMS system in the world, with a powerful, opensource eCommerce platform. Whilst there are many benefits to WooCommerce, I would highlight a few main elements:
1. The core platform is completely free to use, so no ongoing subscription fee to stay operational.
2. The ability to customize the design and functionality is significant, so it’s far easier to produce something truly unique and connected to your brand identity.
3. There is a massive pool of development talent and ‘plug and play’ addons that will enable you to extend functionality with minimum effort and cost.
If you are happy to handle some basic set-up elements and/or manage internal or external developers to help customize and deploy for you, then this is a fantastic option for any small business looking to jump online.”
- Wix - “In a distant 3rd position, and purely for very small operations, you could also consider Wix for handling your eCommerce store. Like Shopify, it’s a hosted solution that offers a cheap monthly subscription package to help you get up and running quickly, but for the price difference, I would really recommend you to pay slightly more and leverage Shopify if you wish to have a hosted solution.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform, because it is relatively easy to use. There are a ton of plugins to enhance the user experience and upsells.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce works on WordPress which is another popular platform. Many people are familiar with it and also has a lot of flexibility and customizations.”
- Magento - “While Magento is a well-established platform and is very flexible and scalable, the reason it is not higher on my list because it’s expensive. Also, over the years support has lacked and is nowhere near the level of support that Shopify offers. ”
- Shopify - “Over the past few years I've seen Shopify gain enormous traction. If getting set up quickly is the name of the game there is very little out there to compete with its base feature set. It’s not for everybody though, if there are complex requirements involving lots of plugins it can become an expensive beast to work with and if you are a retailer with low margins it might not be the choice for you.”
- Magento - “A long heritage and a better starting point for complex project requirements. If you have something that’s a little more non-standard in terms of your requirement then Magento is normally our platform of choice. The fact that there are no built in fees means that there will generally be a better case for Magento with low margin products.”
- Bespoke - “Sometimes only a bespoke build will do. At this point there are some great frameworks to choose from but we normally plump for a Laravelle & Vue/React setup.”
- Shopify - “Perfect for the needs of most small businesses, micro-businesses or individual traders. It's fuss-free and easy-to-use, which is a key factor for small businesses. No need to spend hours trying to configure a platform or manage complex settings, when you just want to get on with the job. Customisation of the look-and-feel may not be as good as some other platforms, but it's a small compromise. The Shopify app store is also a great bonus for extending the functionality without breaking the bank.”
- WooCommerce - “Integrates seamlessly with WordPress, so if you're amongst the millions of WP users, you don't need to learn a whole new interface. It's mostly quick and easy to configure, although some elements such as shipping options can be a little head-scratching at times. It's also easy to customise quite extensively if you have a web developer or know your CSS well. It has many of the features found in much larger eCommerce platforms, without the hefty price tag or the need for an IT team to manage it.”
I am a visual person and have used analogies for simplicity all of my life. In the discussion around website platforms, I think that it is much clearer to use the analogy of building a house.
A website is just like a house – it has a foundation (the platform), it has walls (the structure), it has rooms (the pages and categories) and it is fully furnished (with your content and / or products). A little more on that later.
I started my first eCommerce business is 2010 and although it was such a short time ago, it may as well be in the Neolithic Age as far as the resources that were available then to small business.
My initial website cost me north of $20,000, was clunky, was run by a website design agency who were only interested in their monthly proprietary fees and had absolutely no interest in my business, its strategies or its growth. The initial build took me 5 months, I was overwhelmed with “geek-speak”, I couldn’t customise anything as I wished without outlaying literally thousands of dollars more and I had virtually no control over my own website back-end.
This eCommerce startup ended in tears (mine) and I put the whole concept to bed.
Fast forward a couple of years and I began another eCommerce business with the welcome knowledge that a new breed of website templates had been developed by genius techs who understood the pain points of small business – enter BigCommerce and later, Shopify. Both have their subtle differences and I will outline them a little later.
My second, and subsequent eCommerce sites have all cost me less than $80.00 per month, have taken only days from set up to launch, are highly customisable, easy to operate, change and manipulate and I have full control over my own website.
In terms of our house build analogy, these eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms are similar to a kit home building company who is happy to provide excellent customisation and support for you as the DIY website builder or your own contract builder and also continue to enhance and develop their systems to ensure your kit home was constantly modernised and up-to-date.
• Made with the DIY business owner in mind
• Can eliminate the need for an external developer or designer
• An all in one eCommerce and shopping cart solution offering seamless integration with inbuilt applications
• Upgrades and changes to the platform are generally included in a monthly fee
• Although not designed by a community, there are many users and developers equipped to expertly use the platforms and therefore help is never far away
• If required, changing from one developer to another is quite seamless
• SEO friendly
• Easily scalable
• Designed for seamless import and export to and from commonly used payment (e.g. PayPal), accounting (e.g. MYOB), newsletter (e.g. Mail Chimp) and database (e.g. excel) programs
• Information on eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms and their capabilities is readily and publicly available
• Sophisticated in-built FAQ, reference and help sections
• Assumes a robust level of web savvy for DIY (although there are many companies / developers who can do the work on your behalf)
• Customisation is limited to the applications within the platform (although, in general, these are vast and cover the needs of most website owners)
• Not designed for highly customised websites
Best suited to
• eCommerce businesses on a budget
• Business owners who prefer to control the project and DIY
• Businesses with quantities of physical products
• Depending on the size and scope of your inventory and customer base, fixed monthly charges for eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms will generally range from $49.00 to $199.00 +
- BigCommerce - “I love using BigCommerce – the customer service is fantastic, the choice of templates is robust, the BigCommerce community support is incredible and best of all – the fixed monthly fees are just that – fixed; they are not pegged to revenue so I feel completely in control.
The integrations, APIs and the available applications that link with BigCommerce have grown exponentially over the past 2 years especially and many of the “cool kids” are adopting the platform – check out Skull Candy’s website for some inspiration!
When you have a large inventory or number of options and SKUs, I believe that BigCommerce handle the categorisation of products better than any other DIY eCommerce platform. I also believe that their categorisation and optimisation of a combination of retail and wholesale sales on the one site is second to none.
Although, like previously stated, DIY customisation definitely requires some web nous, the platform is relatively easy and user friendly to work with.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a beautiful eCommerce platform. Although, in my opinion, not as ideal as BigCommerce, it runs a very close second.
I don’t like that monthly fees are pegged to revenue (unless you utilise their comparatively expensive payment gateway) and I don’t like their simplistic treatment of product categories. Of course, high level customisation would circumvent the latter issue but it is simply too complex for my liking.
Other than those two gripes, the Shopify customer service is excellent and their available basic templates are arguable more attractive at first glance than those of BigCommerce”
- WooCommerce - “Wordpress is a common platform, currently powering around a quarter of the internet, so familiar to a lot of people both operationally and for other elements such as SEO. Woo is a bolt on plug in that offers some really good e-commerce functionality and therefore is quite good for those businesses that are just starting out, perhaps with a high street presence and want to bring e-commerce in at a later date. That said, Wordpress overall can be a bit annoying to use, and is probably now being left behind in terms of the ease of use of it’s CMS.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a really easy to use platform built around e-commerce. It integrates with payment providers, email platforms and has a good range of add ons. Like Wordpress and Magento it’s built using PHP, so a decent developer should be able to get under the skin if needs be. The other advantage is you don’t have to worry about your own hosting, and all the templates (at least the ones I’ve seen) look really good and are fully responsive. On the flip side, there is a small monthly cost - but this isn’t too much and will pay back over Wordpress for the ease of use.”
- Magento - “Magento is really the next level up. I’d suggest this for businesses who have ambitions to grow beyond £1.5M. Also if you have back office systems they want to integrate with to send product and stock data into the website, and orders and customer data out. The old v1.9 is due to come to its end of life mid 2020 (a date that has moved previously) and there’s a big push for businesses who need to plan a move to V2. Due to the advances in M2, this isn’t just an upgrade, but effectively a re-platforming project. M2 has loads of cool new features, is easier to use (M1 wasn’t great), and the higher level M2 Commerce and Cloud versions have some good B2B features built in.”
- Shopify - “Shopify Plus is packed with a ton of features that help an online business grow fast in months. It’s affordable and doesn’t require any coding or tech savvy skills to get the ball rolling. The live chat feature is spot on and their customer service is on point.”
- Magento - “Magento is the best open source ecommerce platform around. The flexibility and openness of the system is basically the result of this philosophy. When it comes to features for hotairtools.com, we customized nearly everything, and it’s showed in our increase in conversions. It’s no issue if you are not an expert web designer; since Magento offers thousands of freely customizable templates. With a huge community of dedicated volunteers and members they offer expert webinars monthly, hands on customer service and even supports SEO like a champ.”
- Miva - “There are so many variables attached to an E-commerce website and Miva addresses most of them. You can design your platform architecture the way you want. This platform is scalable to any business size making it useful for large enterprises as well as growing businesses. It’s cost effective and offer useful community forums.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the market leader which makes it easy to get up and running quickly if you’re new to the world of Ecommerce. They are the fastest to get up and running and operate on a SAAS model (Software As A Service). They have a huge variety of options to choose from and there is a big community of users out there to help. And also a large number of partners who can help with creating the store and integrating it into your business.”
- Magento - “Magento is free but you have to host it and build it, which is not what most people want to do so many Magento solutions are built by partners who will build it as per your requirements. This can be what many people are looking for to have some experts to hold your hand as you build out the ecommerce business line within your business. Magento does give a bigger range of options and may be better if your requirements are more complex.”
- EKM - “EKM Powershop is a British company that powers over 50,000 shops in the UK and has dedicated UK account managers that can help you. As well as all the features you would expect the functionality is all built natively, so there are no issues with compatibility as you some time get with 3rd party developed apps as platforms change.”
- Shopify - “For any small ecommerce brand I would always suggest starting on Shopify. The easy to use platform makes it suitable for complete beginners and depending on your requirements, you can be up and running very quickly. It integrates with the major CRM platforms, payment gateways and marketing channels and is a cost effective solution to get started. Over the past few years it’s really come a long way.”
- Magento - “If a brand has the funds to implement Magento correctly and has the growth plans to support this type of platform, then Magento is a great solution. I would opt for Magento for clients that have global plans, as the platform is set up to cater for this. Magento 2 is also a vast improvement on Magento 1 in terms of usability and features.”
- WooCommerce - “For content led brands I would suggest using WooCommerce. The easy to use ecommerce channel means you have access to the extensive range of WordPress plugins and large range of themes that are easy to customise. The only downside to WordPress / WooCommerce is that you will need to find your own hosting provider too.”
- Neto - “Recently awarded as “Best eCommerce Solution in Australia”, and backed by Australia’s largest telecommunications company Telstra, Neto is a full-featured and robust ecommerce solution for online retailers of all sizes.
Unlike Shopify and Magento, there is no need for 3rd party apps. All the functions needed to run a website are built into Neto. Customer pricing groups, custom fields, multiple invoices and pick slips, multi-tier pricing, SEO, cross-promotion, fully customisable shipping rates and rules, plus a bunch of other features are all included.
Neto includes powerful functionality for advanced inventory management, shipping consignment creation and label printing, mobile pick & pack, analytics, plus seamless integration with Google Shopping, Facebook, accounting software and popular marketplaces including eBay and Amazon. But Neto goes a step further with its built-in Point-of-Sale (POS) function. This means Neto is truly an all-in-one 360O commerce solution.
Neto is a fully hosted solution, meaning you’ll never need to worry about hosting yourself, updating modules or forward compatibility. Whilst the basics of an ecommerce website are all taken care of by Neto’s built-in functions, the front-end website can easily be customised by a knowledgeable web developer.
One of my favourite features of Neto is its data import and export function which allows efficient modifications of data in a spreadsheet, or uploading new products and categories in bulk.
Whilst Neto is a true all-in-one commerce solution, its inventory, order processing, fulfilment and analytics features make it a powerful back-end solution for existing websites. Neto integrates with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Magento for those who might not want to change their front-end website, but would benefit from the powerful back-end functions of Neto.
Neto can also connect multiple websites and marketplaces together so all inventory and order processing is done centrally in a single flow. That makes Neto a super efficient way to structure complex and large businesses.”
- Adrecom eSuite - “Adrecom is an aggregation of the American Dream Company because its founder always had the dream of moving to the USA. The system has been around for more than 15 years. The reason it’s called an eSuite is because it is far more than a mobile responsive, shopping cart system. It is a complete all-in-1 search engine optimized solution that includes the catalog, blog, events calendar, news archive, digital media gallery and a host of other built-in modules. The system is not a do-it-yourself product like Wix. The expert team at Adrecom becomes your online consigliere so that while they manage your website, you get to run your business. You have access to most everything under the hood but instead of spending $80-100k on a webmaster to tinker with your website, you spend a lot less partnering with the Adrecom team.”
- Wix - “Differently, from Shopify (who provides, both for small scale and big scale e-shops), WIX is only serving small scale business purposes, and is even more user friendly. It also has hundreds of free themes and templates for you to use, so you can build your simple website very quickly. Other than that, WIX is super affordable, as their highest monthly price is $25. WIX offers a very convenient set of SEO tools - including alt texts, descriptions and customizable page titles, which will help your e-shop rank high in the Google search results. All in all, although WIX does not have as many apps and functions as let’s say Shopify and is more simple in the most ways, if you need something specific that WIX doesn’t provide you can always use a third - party app to compensate.”
- WooCommerce - “Since WOO commerce is built on one of the most popular content management systems - WordPress - WOO powers around 40% of all the shops of the world and it’s no wonder, since with a free plug in you can transform any WordPress page into a fully functioning commerce store, and then build any type of website you wish. WOO is very flexible design wise, and super functional; it beats Shopify and Wix in these categories. It is also easy to use for most of the people who have used and worked with WordPress. Although if you are new to online store setup, it will take some time to master WordPress and WOO plug-in features, as it is not as user -friendly as the two other mentioned sites. WOO also suggests lots of free themes and plug ins, and also is very flexible in expanding and extending functionality, although It is more time consuming updating all the plug -ins than it would be in Shopify, where you have it already fully-managed. However, if and when you have big amounts of products to manage, I’d prefer Shopify over Woo. That’s why overall I grade it my #2.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is one of the most popular business e-commerce sites and rightly so. No wonder it’s also my number 2 recommendation. Its highly user-friendly interface helps small business owners with little skill to build their own trendy and cool online stores. As stated I would not directly recommend it for single product or smaller shops. WOO Commerce is often more suitable for that because of its open structure and plugin functionality options. But when things get big and product collection matters get to be a thing I’d go for Shopify. It is a common step for e-commerce shop owners. You can generate your domain name with Shopify’s tool, design your business logo on their site, use the free library of stock photos or even buy an existing online store, it also provides top-notch themes (most of them are not free though). Shopify also offers 24/7 customer support and a mobile app to track your business, which makes it super convenient. All that said, it delivers the most complete, all-in-one online and multichannel sales solution, with an affordable price.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a cloud-based ecommerce platform that can scale with your business. It’s also a great way to test out a business idea before adding the risk of significant investment.
It has a number of free and paid-for themes giving your store a basic look and feel, which can then be customised. Themes are responsive and optimised for tablets and mobile making it easy to get a good-looking and functional store launched quickly.
The Admin tools are pretty straightforward and one of the best things about the platform; together with site configuration these include basic catalogue, product and content management and reporting as well as promotional tools, such as discount vouchers, as standard. There’s also an Admin app which allows you to manage your store from your phone.
In general, Shopify is fairly easy to customise for technically-minded non-developers. There are lots good apps available to extend the functionality of the core platform. Many are free, some requirement a one-off payment or a monthly fee that scales as your demand grows. Even the most expensive are significantly cheaper than paying for the development of new features on other platforms.
Shopify allows you to manage multiple channels from one place including Facebook stores, online marketplaces and provides a POS solution. But if you have multiple online stores selling across a similar catalogue this might not be the best solution.
The platform is pretty fast with a mature CDN solution providing speedy page loads. Many order management systems and helpdesk solutions now come with plugins for Shopify.
Shopify does have limitations. If you have a complex product type it may be tricky to work out the best way to structure these products and having complete control over the customer journey requires more technical knowledge and investment.
For the basic package there are significant limitations on the customisations you can make to the checkout journey. However you can add some branding and configure delivery and payment methods, even adding new payment methods like Amazon Pay, very easily. Shopify handles all security including Level 1 PCI compliance meaning you don’t have to worry about the safety of your customers’ payment data.
The community of store owners and app developers is global and large, which means that new features and apps are in demand and there’s often someone with experience who can help if you get stuck!”
- Magento - “Magento 2 is a flexible platform which comes in many forms. I have only worked on a self-hosted implementation of the Community edition. There are options for cloud-hosting and a more feature-rich Enterprise edition available.
There is a large collection of themes which can be used to provide the framework for your storefront which range in price. These can then be customised to achieve your desired store. Be sure to check the theme is fully responsive and has as many of the features you need as possible.
The Magento platform allows you to control the entire customer experience. It can handle large catalogues and be extended to handle complex product types.
Magento also allows you to easily manage multiple online stores from one place. If you plan to have multiple brands or specific international sites selling similar products this can save you a lot of time.
The admin tools are very powerful and certainly the standard catalogue, product and campaign management tools are pretty advanced. There is basic content management and merchandising management but I’d recommend looking for addons if your site is content-rich and you have non-technical people running it.
There is a large marketplace of addons which allows you to extend the core functionality of the platform. These range significantly in both price and quality so it’s worth doing your homework first. In my experience some addons can be installed by admin users and some need technical support to get running.
The platform uses the PHP framework making it easy to build your own features and integrations if you have a couple of PHP developers to hand, but obviously this is generally more costly, both at implementation and for ongoing maintenance, than purchasing an addon from the marketplace. You should also be careful about how customisations are implemented to ensure that both the platform and theme upgrades can be done without major rework.
I did find site speed performance an issue, but it’s difficult to know if this was down to hosting, configuration or the core platform, so I would definitely look at cloud-hosting for any new stores.”
Mark A. Ramdial
- Shopify - “Absolutely love this platform! This is perfect for small business and even larger businesses. There is virtually no learning curve, if you’ve created an Ebay or Amazon listing before you have the ability to open up your own ecommerce website. There are no hidden costs! No Hosting Fees (usually a separate cost when having an ecommerce website i.e. rackspace) and no development cost – I call Shopify the great equalizer in an ecommerce world dominated by larger solutions like Magento and Demandware. Now a fashion designer can become an ecommerce manager, with their 24/7 customer support (they had support on Christmas day for me!!) to their robust app store – this honestly is your one stop shop for scalability. Clients include MVMT Watches and Kylie Cosmetics.”
- Squarespace - “I would not call Squarespace an E-commerce powerhouse in the space, however their capabilities are solid (depending on what your industry is) if you’re a photographer that is looking to sell some of their art while showcasing your portfolio. I would not recommend Square Space for a high volume store – however, if you some higher value product and you want to show it off with a clean aesthetic and easy to use backend tools, you honestly can’t go wrong with Squarespace. The cost is similar to Shopify too.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is a solid option as well if you are looking for inexpensive and easy to use ecommerce solutions. The Aesthetic of the B.C. Ecommerce sites defer from the previous 2 that were mentioned and offers a more “traditional” ecommerce experience. Usability is also very easy and it virtually does not have a learning curve. Costs are also in line with Shopify as well. Clients include Camelpak and Skullcandy.”
1. Ease of use for non-technical users
2. 24/7 support
3. Great App Store for any ecommerce needs you have, just download and done!
4. Cost Effective Pricing and no hidden fees
5. Extremely scalable
6. The themes already have a mobile optimized feel to them, and since most online traffic comes from mobile devices this is a nice feature to have.
1. The App Store could use some stronger players – some of the App Selection is limited.
2. There is virtually no support for a custom theme (a theme that is not available in the Shopify menu of themes – typically created by an agency or developer) so you will always have to go back to your developer or agency in the event you would like to make changes. Also, some apps are a mess to uninstall from the custom theme which could mess up things like checkout.
Another tip for the small business owner. Just remember, that even though you may have the premier E-commerce platform in the industry and you have a kick-@ss website, marketing will always be the biggest expense you will potentially run into. So, be savvy with how you market and drive traffic to your website and the rest should be taken care of.
- Shopify - “For consumer products Shopify offers the most flexibility, helpful 3rd party integrations, ease of use, and ability to scale with tiered pricing. Don’t make the mistake of building your site with custom code only your developer can change. Keep control and use templates. Think about it. Is it better to use a template that is proven to be effective or trust a developer who claims only they know the secret sauce that will produce a great site?”
- Wix - “For B2B and brochure type websites Wix offers the best combination of customization and ease of use. Their GSuite integration makes it easy to manage your team and tools, and the UX is user friendly. Keep image sizes reasonable to keep page load times under four seconds.”
- WooCommerce - “If you are 0.01% of the population that needs total flexibility, then WooCommerce/WordPress can fit your needs. But I would only recommend WooCommerce if you are doing the development yourself, never want to delegate that work to another party, and will stay on top of the plugins and inevitable conflicts that will arise. Stick to Shopify and Wix. You’ll thank me later.”
- Magento - “Great all-around ecommerce PaaS with perhaps one of the strongest ecosystems of solution and industry partners, which means a lot of support options and quite flexible and customizable. The platform can grow with your business and is scalable. Recently acquired by Adobe.”
- BigCommerce - “Strong ecommerce solution and penetration is growing steadily. CPO is ex Magento. They have interesting offerings for SMB and MM with affordable monthly rates and can scale up with the business over time.”
- Wix - “For people who have a worthy idea but know nothing about eCommerce and have zero development skills, and a tiny budget. Likely can’t scale with limited capabilities as it stands, but good testing ground.”
- BigCommerce - “I believe that BigCommerce would make an excellent choice as an eCommerce platform for your new online business. It has all the functionality you need to run a successful online business and BigCommerce offers subscription plans to grow with you as your business grows. It is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that is hosted by the vendor, so no upgrades, hosting, security, PCI compliance or other hassles to worry about.
It also offers robust enterprise functionality like vaulted (saved credit card) payment gateways, store credit support and wide support for 3rd party systems via the BigCommerce app marketplace and API suite for custom integrations to other systems you may have.
Recently BigCommerce has started rolling out native integrations with the likes of Instagram and Amazon that make selling on these platforms seamless and easy.
Finally there is a wide range of off the shelf, 3rd party and custom themes/designs to choose from to get you up and running quickly.”
- Shopify - “Shopify would also make a good choice of eCommerce platform for your new online business. Shopify also offers plans to grow with you as your business grows and it’s also a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that is hosted by the vendor.
Shopify does not support vaulted (saved) credit cards or store credits, but it does offer a very mature, stable, robust & feature rich platform to build your site on. As one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in use today, it also has one of the largest offerings of 3rd party tools and services with native integrations through the Shopify App Store.
Finally, Shopify has an even wider variety of themes and designs available for it than BigCommerce does.”
- Shopify - “I’ve had clients on Big Commerce and Magento (free version) and Shopify is easier to use and allows for more functionality at less cost. BigCommerce requires work to enable common ecommerce functionality (e.g. controlling sort order of products on a category page). Magento requires significant custom code.
With Shopify I was able to transition an ecommerce client with significant SKUs to the platform in less than 3 months. There are great plug ins for Shopify that are free. In addition, many of these free plug ins allow start ups and small businesses to execute sophisticated functionality that previously was only available to enterprise companies with enterprise-size budgets.”
- Shopify - “I highly recommend the Shopify platform for anyone looking to start a new eCommerce venture. Although the back end is not particularly intuitive for updating the site, there is a lot of help available, some great add-ons to unlock additional long term value of customers and it is extremely easy to setup payment methods, fulfill orders and update customers. There is also an app that can be downloaded from the Play Store/App Store that is a great tool for modifying inventory, order fulfilment, basic analytics and more. I only wish there was such a low-cost platform available when I started my first venture back in 2007 because an entry point of only $30 USD is affordable and appealing because you aren’t handing all of your client information and business being potentially shut down with little explanation with the likes of being just on a platform like Amazon.”
- Shopify - “Most small businesses can do well with Shopify. An ecommerce website can be set up easily, and the back office functionality is intuitive and well-documented. Apps to integrate with other platforms and to expand website functionality are generally easy to install and have low up-front costs. Where Shopify fails is with highly configurable products, where you’re limited in the total number of combinations of size, color, and other attributes. As it is a hosted platform, you’ll need to host your Wordpress blog on a subdomain if you want more functionality than the very basic built-in blogging software. If you do go with Shopify, be sure to pay a little extra for abandoned cart recovery; it’s a nice feature. You’ll also need a quality developer who understands how to code in Liquid, and they’re a bit harder to find than most.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is an excellent ecommerce platform for small businesses that want a bit more flexibility in building their websites than Shopify will allow for, and you get more functionality out of the box. It’s a little less intuitive, but you can get an end result that’s closer to exactly what you want, particularly when it comes to configurable products and SEO. BigCommerce does have a much smaller variety of apps available, partly because so much functionality is already built into the platform.”
- WooCommerce - “Believe it or not, I would choose WordPress, enabled with WooCommerce over a more robust platform like Magento Community, when it comes to small businesses. Although the original intent for WordPress was as a blogging platform, it’s highly customizable both as a CMS and as an ecommerce platform. The back end isn’t what you’d expect with a traditional shopping cart, but WooCommerce is a breeze to learn, particularly if you already know how to navigate the WordPress back end. Unlike Magento, upgrades and bug fixes are relatively easy to perform and don’t always require the touch of a skilled developer. The one drawback to self-hosted WordPress websites is that you will be more responsible for maintaining website security than with a hosted platform like Shopify. If you have the means and discipline to keep your website updated and backed up, then it’s more than compensated for by the SEO benefits and other flexibility you get with hosting your own website.”
Worldwide ecommerce sales are expected to grow to 4.88 trillion US dollars by 2021. As more consumers turn to online shopping, launching your own ecommerce store can be an effective growth strategy for your business.
Though it might seem daunting to enter the world of ecommerce, there are many easy-to-use ecommerce platforms that can help you create your own store.
I strongly recommend that small business owners leverage the following ecommerce platforms to grow their businesses.
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce caters to the needs of both small and large businesses with a plethora of ecommerce tools. It helps you create and customize your online store, manage shipping and payments, and list your products on Amazon, eBay, and Facebook. This platform helps you deliver the ultimate shopping experience to increase engagement and sales.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is another popular all-in-one ecommerce platform that comes with a plethora of built-in features to help you start, run, grow, and market your online store. You can build beautiful, easy-to-use, customized online stores using their 100+ shop themes. Their built-in tools can also help you run and optimize effective marketing campaigns on Facebook and Google.”
- Wix - “Wix is an easy-to-use ecommerce platform that allows people with no coding experience to create impressive online stores. You can easily showcase products, track orders, receive payments, share coupons, and manage shipping and taxes. Wix automatically optimizes your ecommerce stores for mobile devices for good customer experience.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great tool for small businesses. It’s easy to use and doesn't require any coding or tech skills to get started, and the software can grow as your business grows. Shopify is a highly optimized solution (mobile and desktop) with minimal effort on set up. Shopify also offers small businesses loans through their Shopify Capital program to help entrepreneurs get the funds they need to grow their business. Hosting with Shopify does give them control of your store data.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a plugin used for WordPress sites. It requires hosting and a working WordPress installation to run. WooCommerce/WordPress gives you access to thousands of site designs and plugins that will enable you to extend the functionality of your store. You’re in full control of your eCommerce store but it does require a little more set up”
- Magento - “Magento is a great eCommerce platform for small business due to the fact that they have more features than many other platforms. It allows for more customization for companies selling B2B. Magento Community edition is free as well as open source, which makes it very accessible to anyone. Another great feature is that it is optimized for SEO by default. It is a little more technical than the other two options and requires a little more customization and set up.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a extremely good start for small businesses. Especially for those who have little or no technical proficiency. It allows you to start an online business in a very short amount of time and keep your thought focused on merchandising and marketing. It has a lot of apps and themes that you can use to extend the functionality at will. Prices are very affordable. I love it and usually suggest it as the first move in the world of ecommerce.”
- WooCommerce - “Woocommerce has the great value to be free and open source. If you or your team has some php programming skills, WooCommerce it is definitely a choice to take into consideration. It has an incredible number of commercial themes and plugins that can be used to customize it as much as you like. Given the fact that it is based on the well renowned Wordpress platform, it is also quite simple to find support from the community for any eventual need.”
- Magento - “Magento has been and still is my preferred choice when the business starts to grow and there is the need to scale rapidly. The only thing to take into consideration is that with this power comes the ownership cost. The platform is extremely powerful and to fully use it, good programmers are needed.”
Maria Luisa D’Uros
- Shopify - “Shopify is a cloud based solution designed specifically for online commerce and is optimized to allow you to progress easily during your experience; in this way you will not have to worry about anything because you can start with little improvements over time, without incurring wrong choices or annoying additional costs; at the beginning a free 14-day trial is available.
By opening an account with Shopify, you will have integrated SEO functions and your marketing activities will always be managed automatically, allowing you to find a greater number of customers that are anything but random, but really interested in buying. Shopify unlike Ebay and Amazon, allows you to customize the graphics of your online store, being able to change various parameters with the drag-and-drop system without any technical or computer skills.
The portal also allows the generation of shops dedicated to drop-shipping, that is, the sale on behalf of other activities, which allows you to earn a percentage only for generating a transaction; the warehouse and shipping remain at the expense of the upstream store.
Opening an online store with Shopify costs a minimum of $ 29 a month, plus 2% on the sale of each product. There are more generous and expensive tariff plans, but if you sell less than 50 products per month the basic account should be sufficient for you.”
- PrestaShop - “PrestaShop, on the other hand, is an eCommerce solution created in 2005 in France and used by more than 250 thousand online stores.
The platform is free (the modules you can install to implement specific additional features are not) and the interface is also quite intuitive. The first difference between the two eCommerce platforms is their different nature: PrestaShop is a software that requires external hosting and for you to install it, which translates into greater operational freedom (which is a positive and negative thing at the same time, depending on your experience), while Shopify is a platform that can be used immediately online by simply entering your credentials.
Of course if you decide to install the PrestaShop solution you will need a developer, but the use of the platform for eCommerce management and content management is really easy. It could be the best solution if you need to start a small business that needs more customization. It is one of the most used platforms in Italy and in Europe. It also has a large community of developers and users, from whom you can easily ask for advice.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that you (or your developer) can download directly from the official WordPress directory and install on your website. Alternatively you can download and install it directly from the plugin site or in the backend of your WordPress website. It can be customized and integrated with other platforms in many ways. Integrations can be created with MailChimp, vTiger, sugarCRM, Salesforce CRM, SAP, management, ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM software, HR software, Zucchetti Software, GymGest, Magician and much more …
It’s easy to manage if you have a small catalogue, and is perfect if your first goal is to communicate. I suggest WooCommerce for clients who are not focused on eCommerce, but eCommerce is an additional arm of their business. For example, if you have a blog and you want to sell your lastest book, or your merchandising. Or if you have a winery and you want to share the history of your vineyard and the beauty of the terrain, and at the same time sell your wine.”
- Magento - “I have been managing eCommerce sites for over 14 Years and the majority of that time has been spend working with Magento. Why I like Magento the most is because it has the widest range of entry into the ecommerce space with the Community Edition (which is free) to an enterprise solution that at one time was owned by eBay and now is owned by Adobe, one of the top software companies in the world. Also, Magento has a wide range of professionals around the world that are available to help implement customizations within your eCommerce business. Additionally there are lots of plugins that can add a lot of great extra functionalities to your ecommerce website, even integrating with a lot of popular business software including QuickBooks. To be honest though, in spite of the robust functionality there are issues with Magento as it is a heavy eCommerce platform that can slow load speeds for the end users (you and your customers). Also it does get a lot of patch updates which is a mixed blessing.”
- Shopify - “Another recommendation if you have limited resources is Shopify; a very popular platform with great features, although you are stuck with their hosting and it’s really hard to transfer the data if you move to more robust solutions.”
- PrestaShop - “If you do want to enter at a lower level with a lot of flexibility, I would suggest PrestaShop. PrestaShop has great plugins and themes, but very limited and the only place I know that really backs their plugins is Presto-Changeo.”
There is not one-size-fits-all eCommerce software platform yet, but WooCommerce and Shopify certainly are the closest thing to that. At ON.marketing we have been involved in hundreds of eCommerce projects for SEO and performance marketing and we had the chance to evaluate each one of them in terms of:
• user interface
• technical requirements
• preinstalled functionality
• how easy is it to expand features using plugins
• maintenance effort.
With these factors in mind and depending the business’s size we recommend the following eCommerce platforms:
1. Shopify: Start selling in 5 minutes! Do not spend time dealing with technical details, just sell now!
2. WooCommerce: The next step after Shopify. You need to grow capabilities, expand, do more things, get better control of everything. Move from Shopify to WooCommerce.
3. Magento: This is when you feel ready to grow from a small business and take everything to the next level. It is an investment into your future.
- Shopify - “This is the easiest way to get started with an eCommerce business, the cost is very small and overall the time to market is very quick. All you need is to create an account, select one of the available themes and start marketing your products. Overall, my experience says that it is 10 times more important to start selling immediately and invest your time, focus, energy and budget in marketing your new business than investing the same resources in the website development. Start working on the product-market fit as soon as possible and ignore all the technical details that just withhold resources from your potential success. It is easier to learn than anything else and support is always available from the platform, you don’t have to go out look for developers and work a business relationship with them (often the biggest, overlooked challenge).”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a great eCommerce software platform for small businesses ranging from solopreneurs that want to sell their very first product online up to very fast growing eCommerce startups that sell millions of dollars every month, as long as they are comfortable with some technical work. Self-hosting is not easy or that fast or for the faint hearted so it comes into eCommerce business’s life sometime after they get some traction and when they have solid proof that they need to move to the next level.
The first big difference when you move from Shopify to WooCommerce is hosting. Hosting all by itself is a major challenge, you had better expect to pay at least $50 per month for half-decent hosting, and still you will have to worry about uptime, backups and speed (or even more if you really want to invest in speed for SEO & CRO purposes). In order to get things moving, you need to look into payment gateways and how they integrate with WooCommerce, you will soon notice that things are not always that straightforward. The biggest challenge that you have to face before you actually launch: finding the right software development team to help you with all of these tasks and then some more like installing the right plugins, configuring them and then configuring a custom-made theme for your exact requirements. This takes time, cost and does not always work as you would expect, as it involves the most complicated part of business: People.
WooCommerce gives you all the freedom that you need to do proper SEO in your website and you need to do a lot of detailed technical and on-site SEO if you plan to sell more than 5000 products, something that you will find probably impossible to do with Shopify.”
- Magento - “Magento is the next step after WooCommerce, but it is not a necessary step. It is a choice for only very few, those that are happy to invest heavily in technical development for their eCommerce business. It has increased hosting requirements when compared to WooCommerce and it does not benefit from such a large plugin and developer marketplace.
Magento’s biggest benefit is that it allows for even more customizations, more accurate and detailed code implementations that will fit exactly your business model. If you want to have very fine-grained access rights for your team members and integrate your database with other systems such as enterprise ERPs then Magento might be the right solution for you.”
- WooCommerce - “The architecture is extremely scalable and flexible. You can self-host, which at scale, can save you a lot of money.”
- BigCommerce - “This is a VERY affordable hosted ecommerce solution. Also quite flexible and open, and has nice designs you can implement out of the gate without hard work.”
- Shopify - “This is the Apple of ecommerce SaaS solutions. While not super expensive upfront, costs add up at scale, and limitations start becoming obvious. However, with that said, their designs out of the gate are highly conversion optimized, and their eco-system of apps are unrivalled in the ecommerce world.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the number one ecommerce platform we recommend to all ecommerce business owners because it just works, no matter what type of products you sell, what type of business model you use, or what kind of volume you sell at. For most ecommerce entrepreneurs, it will always be the right choice.
Why we recommend Shopify as the ecommerce platform for small businesses is threefold
• Ease of use
• Integrations and apps
• Scalability & flexibility
First off, Shopify is super user-friendly and easy to get started with. You can set up a great-looking and highly-functional store without having to piece it together with code, which means you can get up and running faster and without any technical skills. Shopify is also a hosted platform which is especially ideal for entrepreneurs and small businesses who don’t have the people-power to constantly be keeping an eye on the backend of things to make sure everything is secure and running smoothly. Shopify handles all of that so you can focus on your store.
Secondly, because Shopify is a top player in the industry, it integrates with almost all other relevant tools and services and nearly every app is made for Shopify first before any other ecommerce platform. It’s a priority, so when you sell on Shopify’s platform you have access to all the tools, services, and apps in the industry because everything's made to be compatible with it.
Finally, Shopify is capable of scaling with your store as you grow and their platform is flexible enough to work with your business no matter what you sell or how you sell it. Even if you’re just starting out and have less than 10 orders per month, Shopify is a great option for you, and if you’re scaling your store and growing to a million orders per month, Shopify can still stick with you every step of the way. They’re built for stores of any size, so you’ll never have to switch to another ecommerce platform. As for flexibility, they offer so many options so you can sell physical products, digital products, product subscriptions, or any combination in between and you can sell on your own store and on social media platforms, in-person, on Amazon, eBay, and more, all through your one Shopify dashboard. This gives you the means to be where your customers are so you’re never limited by what your ecommerce platform is capable of.
In addition to these reasons, Shopify is also very accessible to get started with, price-wise. Back in the day, entrepreneurs had to shell out huge amounts of money to pay for their business venture which, if they financed through a bank, they were taking a huge personal risk. With Shopify, you can start your own small business right here, right now, for monthly payments that are probably lower than your cell phone bill.”
- Shopify - “Shopify, as the name suggests was designed to enable you to easily and cheaply create an online shop. There’s even an option to support real-world sales.
Shopify commands an impressive 500,000+ websites on their hosted (or cloud) platform, claiming over a million active users and $62Bn of transactions.
As a platform it is easy to use, even for novice users, with a vast resource of help and plug-ins to deliver almost any ecommerce experience. With extensive configuration options, plus a choice of off-the-shelf or custom themes and integration plug-ins to scalable pricing and a partner network, Shopify really can grow with your business needs. Notably there are no limits to the number of products or customers it supports.
Marketing integrations support almost any channel you wish, with tools for search, social media and even Amazon. Inventory management, blogging and reporting are built-in and they can even manage your payments and send automated fulfilment instructions for you.
It’s worth investigation which version of the software will meet your needs as certain features are only available in the more expensive pricing plans. However with plans starting at just $29 per month, you get a lot of value compared to getting a site custom built. The range of plug-ins provides an easy and cheap way to deal with dynamic business requirements, although you may have to compromise when is comes to the exact functionality you require.
For these reasons, Shopify is my cloud based ecommerce platform of choice. They even offer a 14 day free trial!”
- Magento - “Magento, now owned by Adobe, is the world’s #1 ecommerce platform in terms of revenue with over $100Bn in annual sales. It’s an ideal platform for the more technical business and capable of being customized to individual requirements. Magento is available in both cloud based and self hosted varieties, notably the core open source software itself is freely available. This community option has been a significant contributor to the wide adoption and range of resources for Magento. Support is abundant from self-help online to over 200,000 developers worldwide. There is also an academic version that is suitable for businesses with less than $500,000 in sales.
As their website states, it offers flexibility that many hosted platforms can’t compete with, so if you want custom content, tools or integration, especially with back-office systems, then this may be a better choice for your business. It tends to be the preferred choice for B2B ecommerce.
If you’re hosting the site yourself, you may need to find a development partner unless you have experience in coding already, and although plug in themes and tools are available for most common requirements, it’s advisable to get help with payment solutions from a reputable source if you’ve not done this before.
Due to its PHP heritage, Magento opens up a world of possibilities and enables you to only include the elements you need. This helps to keep your website lean compared to off-the-shelf solutions that may include unwanted capabilities that complicate the configuration or operation of your site.
It’s worth noting that self-hosted platforms can potentially be more expensive to maintain despite the free access to the code. As with most things, if you’re buying in development skills, quality can vary widely, as can hourly rates. By planning your needs carefully you can avoid ad-hoc costs in future, and as a result Magento is a good platform for businesses whose ecommerce requirements are unlikely to change often.
For these reasons Magento is my self-hosted ecommerce platform of choice.”
- Wix - “Don’t get me wrong, Wix has its place as a website tool and many businesses run successfully on this platform. However, Wix is not built for ecommerce, integration with Google merchant center and other marketing platforms is complex or expensive. A modern ecommerce site needs to leverage the key marketing tools that enable businesses to find shoppers.
Its primary focus is to provide a cheap, easy to use environment to build a good looking website, which it does, but since there’s so much more to digital marketing than that, I have to rule it out of my ecommerce options. Interestingly the word marketing only appears on their homepage & feature list for email!
Although on the surface Wix may seem like a simple, cheap option, unfortunately the lack of scalability and integration options mean that Wix is not the right solution for most small business ecommerce needs.”
- Wix - “They’ve really gone above and beyond with the latest website and eCommerce offering. Even an eCommerce novice can create a slick mobile friendly site using their drag and drop service. It’s great knowing you’re not held at gunpoint by an eCommerce agency when you’re just a small business or a startup. You can now cut out the developers and bring in a digital content creator as a permanent fixture in your team to maintain and style your site. If you outgrow this model and need to bring in a developer for more custom modules/functionality on your site then you’ve at least got an idea of what works and doesn’t before you spend the big bucks.”
- bluCommerce - “They’re a little more costly than a typical startup website, but blubolt (the agency that manages bluCommerce) will manage every aspect of your site… hosting, design, maintenance, support etc so all you have to do is manage the product catalog and content creation moving forward.
They also have some amazing modules for customer retention, personalization, promotions and managing seasonal changes with ease. All can be included in your initial start-up cost or bolted on as your business grows.
They also won’t shy away from unusual/unique warehouse integrations and proactively seek new ways to improve their platform and keep it current. This is all included in your standard monthly retainer! Because they own all aspects of the software they’re completely accountable for when something goes wrong so will deal with it swiftly…. Unlike the Magento’s of the world.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the absolute best for small businesses, whether just starting out, or a growing business. I’ve personally used Shopify for one of my past businesses and I chose them for these reasons:
Most importantly, Shopify is a platform that’s built for eCommerce. It has plenty of features an eCommerce store owner would need, and it’s ready-to-go. This means you don’t have to waste time and money building a store from scratch like the old days. But you can (and should) get a designer to customise the look and feel according to your brand and shop requirements (this applies whether or not you use Shopify). This doesn’t have to be expensive either - I paid a designer about £300 for excellent work.
Getting started often means being on a budget. I started on the Shopify platform for under $30 per month (plus a small percentage of sales revenue). Pretty much anyone can access it at that price! Bear in mind that their cheapest plan requires your own hosting (which it did not when I started my store), but if you’re one of those that expects everything for free (or very little), then it’s going to have a negative impact on your business. They’re a business too! Also note, the commission you pay to Shopify depends on which plan you have. But as you grow, you can always upgrade your plan to get more features, which you’ll need as you scale. This gave me the confidence to focus on growing my business without worrying about outgrowing the Shopify platform.
Small businesses often require the flexibility of being on the move a lot of the time. What I loved was the mobile app, enabling me to check on my sales and stats at any time and from anywhere. This meant I could focus on my marketing and use the app to keep tabs on effectiveness.
Lastly, the support experience was important to me. Even on their lowest plan, I experienced a level of support I was happy with. If I were to launch another eCommerce shop, I would go right back to Shopify.”
- Shopify - “50% of our clients are on Shopify. I feel Shopify offers one of the lowest barriers to entry for small businesses who are ready get their feet wet in eCommerce. They take complicated things like analytics tracking pixels and integrate it directly into their platform. While there are endless customization options an experienced Shopify programmer can expand on, there’s no need for a small business owner to know how to write code to launch an eCommerce store. I really love the flexibility Shopify has to offer from launch to scale.
In addition to Shopify’s friendly UI, there are 1,200+ apps for practically any eCommerce function you need to integrate with to run your ecommerce store. With a few clicks, you can connect your email software, social pages, and more.”
- SuiteCommerce - “SuiteCommerce is not a platform that is listed on many recommendation lists for whatever reason. It might be due to its enterprise ties with NetSuite or implementation complexity.
SuiteCommerce is ideal for small businesses of $5M and up because it consolidates all core business components under the same roof like order management, customer service, marketing, merchandising, and more – with the additional benefit of automatically integrating Bronto to deliver timely data-driven marketing in the customers’ lifecycle.
We have a client who just migrated from WooCommerce to SuiteCommerce in July 2018 and the transition was seamless, thanks to the SuiteCommerce migration team.
If you decide to migrate to SuiteCommerce, they have a team that handles the migration for you, which makes things a lot easier.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is the close cousin of Shopify. With some light coding, small businesses could afford a developer to customize their website. BigCommerce has the ability to handle scale with their enterprise package – which adds more bells and whistles for any business that needs it.
For the cost and features, BigCommerce does prove itself to be a viable competitor to Shopify. At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of preference and comfort level with the platform.”
- WooCommerce - “For businesses that are just starting out or want to try to sell products on their existing site, our go-to solution is WooCommerce. Built for WordPress, this is a very popular and easy-to-use free plugin. Store designs are available through WordPress and number in the thousands. There’s no limit to the number of products you can sell, and the software provides reporting ability and support for multiple languages through third-party plugins. There’s also a great support system in place, with ticketed support, forums, and plenty of blogs. What’s more, WooCommerce supports hundreds of payment gateways, so you won’t be locked into one because of the platform. Before getting started, you’ll need to obtain a domain name, sign up for hosting, and pick a WordPress theme. Using WooCommerce may be more of a hands-on-approach, but you’ll benefit by choosing from thousands of designs and plugins to help extend control of your eCommerce store.”
- Shopify - “If you outgrow Woocommerce, or simply don’t mind paying a fee to avoid dealing with setup, then our 2nd choice is Shopify. Shopify is an easy to use subscription-based service that has a similar set of features, although modifications to the store are limited by the platform. Setting up Shopify is a snap compared with WooCommerce, as the subscription already comes with hosting, a free subdomain, SSL certificate, and unlimited file storage. Shopify provides high-quality 24/7 support, with access to a customer adviser, and an extensive knowledge base. Expect pages to load rapidly on this hosted platform. What you give up with Shopify is the extreme customization that is possible with WooCommerce. But then again, you gain a LOT by using a stable platform that is supported well. For those of you looking for peace of mind on a budget, Shopify is a no-brainer.”
- Magento - “Our 3rd choice is Magento. Magento 2 is a powerful and scalable eCommerce solution that offers both open source and an enterprise commerce cloud option. As your business and client demands grow, you may have a number of complex requirements that require custom solutions. Magento offers more features and advanced solutions than either WooCommerce or Shopify, however, the learning curve is steeper. Extensions are often an additional cost. There exists a large community of Magento developers who can provide solutions, but expect to spend more on developer costs. Magento is for the enterprise level store that needs a lot of options. That said, it is well worth the price.”
J. Andrew Keeler
- Shopify - “For launching a single product and testing it, Shopify is still your best bet. The ease of set up and getting to market quickly to test can’t be beat. Again, this is for TESTING a SINGLE product only. I would not use your preferred/primary domain for this. Again, ease of set-up, payment gateway integration and getting to market quick is ideal.”
- WooCommerce - “Once you have identified a winner, I would move to WooCommerce via WordPress for a full product line roll-out. There are great store experiences already made out-of-the-box with only slight modifications needed. There are fantastic plugins ready and waiting for one page checkouts, cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, email marketing integration and even membership or community management. The universe of freelance support for all things WP is also quite large, and relatively cost-efficient as well if you can’t afford full-time in-house support.”
When we are working with small businesses, three main marketplaces we recommend are Magento, Big Commerce and Shopify. The rationale for all three are quite different - though some can make a huge difference in the long term.
- Shopify - “The entry level platform that we tend to look at is Shopify - you may have heard about them through brands like GymShark and HERA that have rapidly grown on the platform.
Shopify is great for startups as with a low monthly fee; no need for updates and you have fewer unexpected surprises than with other platforms. A lot of fast fashion startups use the platform as it has the right level of customisation, and you can easily extend the functionality.
Where you do need to be careful is with two main areas - there are fewer customisation options with Shopify compared to other platforms such as Woo Commerce and Magento and this can limit creativity.
The other thing to properly work out are the fees and charges you will pay. Starting at $29 a month, the costs may sound reasonable but the charges from ShopifyPay start at 2.2 percent - and if you want to use an alternative payment provider, you’ll be charged for this too.
In addition to these fees, also consider how much plug-ins will cost you that help extend the functionality of the software. Often costing under $10 a month they do sound attractive, but this all adds up.”
- BigCommerce - “Big Commerce is very similar to Shopify - in fact, you could probably copy and paste the benefits that I have written above and just switched the name - they also have a very similar pricing strategy.
We tend to suggest Big Commerce over Shopify as it offers better flexibility with features such as being able to install WordPress to run your blog, which has benefits in terms of the different page layouts your agency can design for you.
The next area is looking at the cost side of things - Big Commerce don’t charge you a fee for using your own choice of payment provider and this can bring huge savings as your business grows.
Big Commerce isn’t as well known in Europe as it is in the US, but don’t overlook it - the platform is cost effective, very powerful and will continue to grow with your digital sales.”
- Magento - “One of the best-known eCommerce platforms is Magento - it is used by many of the largest retailers in the country, and brands such as Ford, Nespresso and Samsung are examples of recent businesses using the platform.
The biggest difference between Magento and the platforms I’ve spoken about earlier is that Magento is hosted separately, so whilst the software starts with a free version, you will have to pay a reputable hosting company to host the website. This gives you some independence - but it can become very costly.
Because you host Magento yourself, you also need to keep on top of installing security patches - if you don’t and your website gets hacked, you could have a GDPR nightmare on your hands!
That said, Magento continues to be a clear favourite by agencies and retailers because of the levels of customisation you can undertake with the site - both creatively and technically. It is often the case that you can achieve things with Magento that other platforms simply can’t.”
- Shopify - “I’d recommend Shopify as the best e-commerce platform for small businesses. I think for some smaller brands, the idea of setting up an online retail store can be quite daunting, but Shopify is an affordable, easy to use option that can scale with your business. It’s also really user friendly, which I think is important as many small businesses don’t have a dedicated marketing team or web developer to build a site for them. Shopify invest a lot into their development – if there’s a new app or technology trend that you want for your site, it’s almost certain that Shopify will have it. I also really like the fact that there are so many themes and options available, so you can easily customise your site to suit your brand.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is by far the best solution for SMB. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, you are not only managing customers’ expectations but also your employees’ expectations. Shopify is a platform that offers a user-friendly interface that only requires basic skills when it comes to creating and designing your website template, integrating your payment solutions or adding any of their hundreds of plug-ins options, which allows you to connect your Google Analytics account and Merchant account or even just to add a promotion planner. Their CMS is simplistic and their customer support is very pro-active. The only downfall is the limitations of working with their own unique code “liquid” which may irritate some programmers along the way. The pricing structure makes it affordable and scalable when your business is growing to the next level.”
- WooCommerce - “For a SMB, WooCommerce would be an interesting solution to look into. They provide great options and features, however, I find their user interface not so friendly. The same goes for their website design tools, which may require a basic understanding of WordPress coding in order to design your website to your taste, although they do have ready-to-go templates. The main difference from Shopify is that WooCommerce is an open source plug-in and every additional option/feature you wish to add has a cost. In the end, Woo Commerce is a reliable affordable eCommerce solution that requires a bit more programming/coding skills.”
- Magento - “I could suggest Magento as a third option. Some may disagree, stating that it is by far one of the most expensive eCommerce platforms on the market, but it is an open source, free to use solution. If you do it right and keep a simple online store, your hosting fee might not be as high as expected. This being said, when you wish to add features, the cost goes up quickly. They have the largest community of users that can provide support, ideas and solutions to your need. However, you need a good programmer or have decent base of coding in order to get your website up and running in a reasonable amount of time.”
- Shopify - “If you are just getting started with e-commerce I highly recommend looking at a platform like Shopify. There are many things to consider when building a new e-commerce website such as PCI compliance, product and inventory management, and selling on other sales channels like Amazon and Facebook. A platform like Shopify handles all of this for you for a low monthly payment and a per-transaction fee.
You can typically get a website up and running in just a few weeks versus several months on other platforms. The platform provides several starter themes that are easy to customize and align with your company branding.
Shopify does have its limits. The first would be cost of the plugins to provide additional features and functionality. Shopify has many third-party plugins in its marketplace but many of them have a monthly fee, you may find over time it begins to add up as you continue to customize your website and add additional third-party plugins, something to keep in mind.
The second limitation would be if your business model has a complicated sales process that requires significant customization to the traditional e-commerce sales process. For example, a custom sales configurator or the need to integrate with many third-party systems. You may find that it makes more sense to move to a self-hosted platform that provides you more control and flexibility for your business needs.”
- Magento - “Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms with a strong development community and third-party plugin-support. Magento is offered in two options. The first option is a paid solution called “Commerce”, the paid solution can be hosted with Magento on its cloud platform, you can also host it on your own server. The second option is “Open Source”, this is offered free and you can host with any web hosting provider you like. The differences between the two is that the paid version offers additional features with respect to marketing, reporting, and order fullfillment.
Magento’s codebase is completely open source, this means you can customize every aspect of your website to meet your unique business needs. Magento has a strong developer community which means it can be much easier to find a freelance developer or agency that has experience working with the platform. Magento has over 4,000 third-party extensions, the largest by far for any e-commerce platform.
While all that is great with Magento there are of course things to be aware of. When hosting your own e-commerce platform you are responsible for making sure your website is secure and PCI compliant. The costs for web hosting, compliance monitoring, security, and on-going maintenance and upgrades can quickly add up.
Given the higher investment costs for self-hosting, it is wise to consider whether you truly need the ability to customize your e-commerce platform or whether it would be better to conform to a hosted e-commerce platform and invest that money elsewhere in your business.”
- VTEX - “VTEX is probably not an e-commerce platform you’ve heard of but they are one of the fastest growing platforms worldwide. VTEX, headquartered in Brazil, has a strong presence world-wide and is only now entering the North American market.
VTEX is a hosted e-commerce platform. It provides many of the same features and functionality that you would find in any hosted e-commerce platform.
VTEX differentiators would be that is has a much more robust application programming interface (API) that allows you to integrate the website with many different third-party systems very easily.
VTEX is well known for its marketplace feature. A marketplace is a type of e-commerce site where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties, whereas transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. This can particularly popular for B2B website looking to aggregate sales between several partners in a specific industry.
VTEX has also been widely used by mid-size and large corporations looking to provide a presence in a country without paying high-licensing fees with their main e-commerce platform. VTEX charges a fairly low subscription fee with additional per transaction fees.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is easy to set up, robust and connects to marketplaces seamlessly. They have been around a long time and are able to grow and scale for SMB’s.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is “stupid simple” to set up as well. It has a very diverse community of developers and plug-ins to make your store mimic many of the things more robust ecommerce platforms have.”
- Miva - “Miva is the platform that has been in the ecommerce space the longest going back to the 90’s. What I love about it, is the flexibility to do anything you can think of. It has a rock solid group of developers in the community and this platform can scale up into the mega millions as you grow. You will not need to jump off as you grow to enterprise level, like you might need to do on the other 2 platforms I mentioned.”
- Shopify - “Shopify takes away all the "technical" parts of running an ecommerce site and allows you to start selling online in no time at all. Shopify has a lot of pros, including no need to worry about hosting, easy WYSIWYG editors and a tonne of integrations to 3rd party solutions.
Shopify is a SaaS solution which means there is a monthly cost, and as you grow, you ultimately use more apps, which will increase this cost.
Shopify is a great solution for startups, SME's and is even used by ecommerce giants such as GymShark, who use Shopify's plus program.”
- WooCommerce - “If you focus heavily on marketing, blogging and building your brand’s story, then WooCommerce is the option for you. WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress (a popular open-source blogging platform) which once implemented, changes WordPress into a very versatile ecommerce platform.
WooCommerce has thousands of themes and plugins allowing you the flexibility to create a site with the features you want and additionally, as it is open-source you can really dive into the code and create your own functionality.
If you are planning to create your own WooCommerce site then there is no official support unless using a 3rd party company, and you may have to find your own hosting. But initially, this could work out to be a more affordable and flexible option than SaaS models such as Shopify or BigCommerce in the beginning.”
- Shopware - “Shopware is the no.1 platform in German-speaking locations and has been taking the English speaking countries by storm. In my opinion, this is everything Magento 2 should have been, but better!
It is an open-source platform that provides a free community version. Out of the box, it is feature rich, powerful, easy to use but furthermore, it gives you so much flexibility not just with apps and themes, but also with the possibility to hire a developer.
Much like WooCommerce, if you decide to implement this site yourself there will be a learning curve and you will have to arrange your own hosting. But Shopware has the ability to support a startup all the way to a multisite ecommerce giant.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is an excellent choice for new brands. For ease-of-use, plugins, integrations and speed-to-market, Shopify is the go-to if you’re starting a new online brand. With big-name brands like Budweiser and Tesla utilizing the platform – and a user base north of 500,000 accounts, Shopify use is growing rapidly.
Other advantages to Shopify include easy theme installation and customization. Hosting and SSL are included in Shopify as well. Overall, Shopify represents the easiest solution for brands to get up and running quickly. Whether you’re an eCommerce beginner or advanced, Shopify has solutions, themes, apps and functionality to enable quick start up and rapid growth.
Shopify is particularly strong in fashion, cosmetics and jewelry verticals and has traction in others as well. Recently, Shopify is making a big push for dropshipper accounts and offers easy integration with Oberlo and other integrators of dropship product data.
There are few industries I would consider as “bad fits” for Shopify, but there are instances where it may not be the best solution. Large retailers, those with high SKU counts and those needing advanced CMS functionality may become frustrated with Shopify.
Other potential drawbacks of Shopify include the lack of ultimate coding/design functionality in some cases, scalability concerns for large retailers and rising costs as business grows. A percentage of sales (2.4% & up) is paid to Shopify, but covers credit card/processing services. Consider that this is in addition to regular platform fees ($29 - $299/mo). The percentage of sales payment rate is ok for most start-ups, but many find the fees greater than other solutions at larger sales volumes.
Overall, Shopify is great if you want a fast start-up or growth platform with a large selection of apps and integrations. The interface is user-friendly and there is a multitude of Shopify developers and consultants should the need arise for advanced functionality or customizations.”
- Magento - “With stores like Coca-Cola, Nike & Ford using its platform, Magento is well-situated for larger, mature brands and multi-channel retailers. Magento has a higher cost of ownership at entry point (can be up to $20,000 for a commercial license), but its open-source nature, design flexibility and other benefits can outweigh the costs in large implementations.
Magento is known for creating high ranking SEO pages and stores, enabling B2B commerce and for its development agility. The community of programmers with PHP (the coding language of Magento) is large also.
There are integrations to major, enterprise-level solutions for email, analytics and other marketing and data providers. Most major PIM platforms also work well with Magento. The platform is known for good data management support and superior handling of large SKU counts.
While there are advances in usability with Magento 2, the interface is not as friendly as Shopify. Some basic customizations require familiarity with PHP as well.
As mentioned, licenses for Magento (other than the free “community” edition) can be expensive and the cost of design and development customization can be high. It is important to understand, though, if it is the platform or the business that is driving the need for customization. Those finding Magento development costs high might very well experience the same on other platforms as well. It’s important to compare total costs of ownership for each platform in apples-to-apples format.
Unlike Shopify, Magento does not provide hosting and does not charge processing fees as a percentage of sales. Start-ups or smaller businesses are unlikely to secure much better rates for Magento than Shopify offers. As the business grows, this will change.
All in all, Magento is a good platform if you’re looking for a larger, more flexible and scalable solution. It is good for brands as well as for high SKU count retailers.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is the most ubiquitous solution on the planet. WordPress.org estimates that a full 30% of online stores worldwide are powered by WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free commerce-enabling plugin for WordPress. The availability of the plugin makes it easy for a site to add purchase functionality to any site.
WordPress, like Magento, is known for its ability to create high SEO-ranking pages. It has a large community of developers also and offers plugins to most major integrated platforms (such as retargeting platforms, entry-level email service providers and more).
Like Magento, WordPress does not “require” (or “compel”) you to use an internal CC processor. WordPress is open-source and quite flexible in terms of design and development capabilities. WordPress is not a commerce-first platform, but one advantage of using WordPress for commerce is the built-in CMS capabilities.
Plugin conflicts and support are often-cited disadvantages of WooCommerce. Reliance on a developer for advanced functionality can increase the cost of ownership for WooCommerce and some basic customizations can be difficult to affect for those unfamiliar with WordPress backend functionality.
WooCommerce is prevalent in the publishing industry, with stores like Spectator Shop and Men’s Health store utilizing it.
An eCommerce store can be launched quickly and inexpensively with WooCommerce. For those businesses for which content is important, WooCommerce is a great solution. Control of code base and ability to perform well in search engines are compelling benefits for eCommerce businesses on WooCommerce.”
My recommendations depend on the type of company, its size and capability of dealing and managing an online store, and the scope and size of the catalogue. Depending on that, I can recommend one of these 3 platforms:
- Shopify - “For me, Shopify is the best choice when you are starting something. As it does not have a high implementation value or high maintenance (if you stick with the basic features), it is the best platform to make a proof of concept and launch easily and quickly. So, if you want to establish your ecommerce business, but are not quite sure if it is going to work, or if you are able to handle it, Shopify allows you to put your ecommerce website online, without a high risk when doing so. Also, the fact that it is cloud based allows you to focus on your business, instead of worrying about hosting your website, and all the necessary precautions to keep your website up. On the other hand, when you are sure of what you want, and need to customize the website or have a lot of additional features, Shopify starts to get limited and costlier.”
- WooCommerce - “After you know exactly what you want to do, you can choose to have your own ecommerce store. So, if you have a store that is not huge in terms of categories and articles, WooCommerce can be the perfect choice. It handles relatively well a store with different product configurations and allows you to be able to focus and optimize for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and UX (User Experience). Also, there is a plethora of available plugins (free or paid) to enhance the platform and build a bulletproof store that does almost anything. The problem with WooCommerce is that when you start to get really professional, and need to have hundreds of categories and thousands of products, and to be able to have different kinds of clients, with different price rates, complex shipping tables or integrations, it might start to be complicated to keep the platform optimized, or keep it cost effective. But if you have a small shop and need to control all the content in an easy and attractive way, WooCommerce is the platform to go with.”
- Magento - “Magento is the most complex and robust of my 3 suggestions. In fact, Magento can be used by a small business, but it can also become an enterprise level solution. The fact is, when you start growing your ecommerce website, you will need to solve some issues that start to happen, when dealing with order management, logistics, or event stock and invoicing integrations. And that’s when you start realising that a simple ecommerce website is not realistic anymore. But you should keep in mind that complex is not equal to complicated. Magento allows you to implement many more features than a simple ecommerce platform and for that reason it has a bigger learning curve. But as you start working with it, it is just a matter of time to realise that you now have a robust tool in your hands that prevents future problems, and even allows you to scale your platform and strategy, considering integrations with Marketo for Marketing Automation, or with the whole Adobe Marketing Cloud, allowing for a completely automated platform, that profiles your users and even creates automated campaigns focused on user behaviour.”
Nancy L. Bullock
- Shopify - “Why? You don’t need a whole team of IT folks to get your site up and running and it is very scalable and user friendly. The support and customer service small companies receive from Shopify is also geared for non-tech people who are focused on selling their message and their products and not coding. I have many clients who are satisfied customers. I have also heard Shopify’s vision and strategy is shared by senior management and they are consistently focused on bringing a top quality to the small market business community. I have also been impressed by the quality of the staff that they hire, and their platform is scalable. Also, very affordable.”
- Magento - “Why? Probably more geared out-of-the-box to medium sized companies, but starting with Magento will allow you not to have to change platforms for the life of your business. Magento is also investing in state-of-the-art technology improvements every year. It is a platform that will require an agency or in-house technical support (not your marketing department) but is a very robust platform that can play with the big guys, and has such a wide client presence, that many tech folks are familiar with the platform and you should be able to find IT support for fair and reasonable prices. It is “everywhere” for a reason. A pricier, but robust option.”
- Weebly - “Why? A very solid “no coding” option to get your site up and running. From a company standpoint, they are making significant technology investments to keep up in the marketplace and the platform for my clients has proven to be very intuitive to update and navigate. There are scaled plan options at different functionality options and price points, so make sure you understand what you are getting.”
There are a variety of eCommerce platforms out there for small businesses. I believe due diligence is key for decision making and an organisation’s starting conditions, business objectives, budget and capability must be considered before locking down which path you want to take. I’m recommending 3 platforms as they are likely to cater to the distinctive needs and different type of SME customer.
- Magento - “A highly customizable eCommerce platform that offers secure cloud hosting solutions, integrated order management functionality, decent business intelligence capability and the benefit of a global community of experts and peers that can help you through challenges. In my opinion, Magento Commerce is perhaps more suitable for small businesses with higher levels of maturity and larger starting budgets; more of an aspirational platform to utilise as ecommerce businesses scale and grow.”
- ShopyGen - “A complete turnkey solution, again very affordable and specifically aimed at developing multi-vendor platform capability for small businesses. They have template options available, but can also offer bespoke store designs developed around Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. The analytical suite is robust enough to help small businesses grow, they offer SEO consultancy and dropship integration solutions if needed, the user interface is very intuitive for backend management and oncall support is fast and efficient.”
- iPage - “One of my personal favourites for startups and solo entrepreneurs! iPage offers everything you need to get started in eCommerce, but this is reflected in the price and you will have to do all the work yourself. Servers are secure, startup costs are super cheap and you can create your own ecommerce website (fully mobile optimised) with free FTP locations and free SSL certificates using Wordpress, Weebly or Website Builder. Analytics capability and email marketing tools are basic but adequate for micro companies and they also offer integrated solutions that tap into Mojo Marketplace, Google Adwords and Small Business Funding platforms. The support team is also very responsive and very helpful when called upon. There will be limitations as your business grows and scales, but this is a great starting point that doesn’t cost the earth.”
There are hundreds of eCommerce platforms to choose from but at eCommerce Cosmos we recommend Shopify & Shopify Plus 99% of the time.
From zero to one million a year Shopify will work fine, after that Shopify Plus is going to start making more sense with lower transaction fees and more customization.
Many businesses will go with Square, or Wix to save money and fail to realize that they are not setting themselves up for success.
- Shopify - “If you are just starting out choosing an eCommerce platform can be overwhelming. You’ll want to choose a platform that is affordable, robust, is constantly updated & can scale with your business. Shopify is all that and more.
With world class themes and apps, Shopify is built simply and beautifully. The platform is built to help you sell more. From accepting all types of payments with one click integrations for accepting Bitcoin Payments, Amazon Payments to pushing your products to every social channel with native apps made to work to syncing your Shopify Store to Pinterest (this turned out to work extremely well when selling hammock chairs online since it’s such a visual product that people usually want to sit in and touch).”
“Shopify can carry you through your business journey for years. Ideally you grow too fast and you scale up to Shopify Plus. With prices starting at $2000 a month vs the $29-$299 a month on regular Shopify, Shopify Plus is everything you need to run an Enterprise level store. Recently we helped an 8 figure seller migrate from Netsuite to Shopify Plus and they saved over $630,000 & increased conversions by 25%.
With Shopify Plus you have the advantage of complete customization and a lower total cost of ownership compared to Magento, WooCommerce, Netsuite and other platforms where you’ll easily pay over 6 figures a year between hosting and development costs.”
“Shopify would be at the top of my list, as there is very little lift to get off the ground with their standard package. The ability to scale up based on features is great for a small business.
A quick second would be Big Commerce, which also offers very customizable and scalable packages for small businesses.
Another option that is popular with entrepreneurs is WooCommerce, as it is built on the popular WordPress platform. While this does an adequate job of bringing eComm to a blogging platform, it would not be my first choice.”
- Shopify - “Shopify in my experience to be the best “out of box” solution that can also grow with your business and not hinder it. It has intuitive processes to syndicate your product feed and track marketing activities through the cart. I have also found it to be very stable over the years.”
- BigCommerce - “Big Commerce is a strong contender for shops that are poised to grow and want a solution that can enable their growth. While there are entry level packages, a more established store will benefit from the customizations that are available.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce can be helpful if your business is growing out of WordPress, or if you want to explore eCommerce capabilities in addition to other goals. It can be a bit tedious to setup, though no more so than other WP Plug-ins.”
- Shopify - “If I were to launch an ecommerce business, my first choice would be Shopify since it’s very easy to setup and use. The basic front-end and backend UX interfaces on mobile and desktop are very intuitive and straight to the point when it comes to e-commerce. It’s hosted on Shopify’s servers so you can feel good about reliability, speed and security. You have a wide range of themes and apps you can buy to customize your front-end. Their customer service team is known to be awesome! Shopify has different pricing packages starting as low as $29/month and it goes up as you start selling more and need more features.”
- Magento - “Magento Open Source previously known as Magento Community Edition would be my second choice since it’s open source and you can self-host it on your own servers. Magento is widely used in North America and internationally and has a large community of app and module developers to extend the features of your basic site. It’s also a powerful and customizable platform made to support a large quantity of products and orders. You don’t have to pay a monthly plan and transaction fees to Magento. However, you’ll need a Magento professional or a web developer to help with customization, improving performance and service of your e-commerce site.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce would be recommended if you already have a WordPress Site or Blog and you want to turn it into a shoppable platform, since WooCommerce is simply a WP plugin. WooCommerce is also very customizable with the hundreds of themes available on ThemeForest and Wordpress.org. There’s also a wide range of paid add-ons to expand on the list of functionalities required. You can’t use WooCommerce without WordPress so you’ll have keep that in mind if you already have a website that is built on another CMS and you want to make it transactional. The WooCommerce plugin itself is also free.”
- WooCommerce - “Those of you who have used WordPress will love WooCommerce. Woo is a free plugin that turns your WordPress site into a fully functional ecommerce site.
Although the standard functionalities of WooCommerce are pretty basic, it is built on an opensource platform and there is a vast collection of extensions that will enable you to customise your site to do whatever you want to do.
If you have big ambitions, don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a WordPress site. WooCommerce is really scalable, I’ve overseen some big builds on Woo – 100k+ Products.
WordPress/WooCommerce developers are pretty easy to find, so you should always have a good supply of people who can support you.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a very simple and easy to use platform that will allow you to get off the ground with relative ease. There are also hundreds of apps for Shopify, which makes it easy to expand.
There are lots of shopfront themes available for Shopify, so you will be able to choose a design you like and that works for your business.
Where Shopify falls short is on cost as you scale. This is down to the subscription and transaction fess involved. If you expand quite quickly, the costs can mount up and there will come a point where you will outgrow the site.”
- Magento - “Magento is a really good platform for building a site that is scalable. It has a real solid base and there are some big sites that have been built on Magento. It’s quite user friendly behind the scenes and I would say it is the most powerful out of the three platforms I have suggested.
Magento would be my suggestion to those who have a good budget and resources at their disposal. Because of its complexity it can be quite resource intensive. Magento developers are like gold dust, so you will need to consider this when making a decision. If you find a good Magento developer, pay them well and nail them to floor.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is by far the best solution for small businesses as it is a complete e-commerce solution. It allows companies to scale their business to new levels of success financially. I have seen numerous clients scale from $0 to over $1M and some over $10M on Shopify successfully. I personally find that it is a solution that grows with you and your business, providing thousands of apps, and is cloud-based meaning you can avoid the headaches and liabilities of self-hosted solutions. We've seen dozens of businesses shift from other platforms to Shopify and have not seen any of our clients leave Shopify for another e-commerce platform.”
Euan A Cameron
- Shopify - “Shopify is a brilliant platform for any small business looking to launch an ecommerce site, which not only looks good enough to compete with the big online players, but which also packs in all the essential features. The number of add-ons and baked in integration with the likes of Facebook/Instagram/Google etc. make Shopify my number one choice for any small business looking for a reliable eComms platform. Its also super cost-effective which is important.”
- WooCommerce - “Woocommerce is great if Shopify isn’t your bag, or maybe you already have a Wordpress site. It is an incredibly powerful Wordpress bolt-on, which enables you to build a fully featured eComms website within a Wordpress environment. You won't get the same level of hand-holding that Shopify provides, and it will take a bit of work with plugins to get tracking etc. but it's a great alternative option. Plus it can be fun for those who like getting under the hood as the possibilities are endless.”
- Wix - “If you are new to eComms and want a simple drag and drop store in which to sell your products, Wix is a nice option. They provide all the handholding you could ever need. Support is pretty good - not that you will need much, and they also have tracking baked in for Facebook, Adwords and Google Analytics. Its a great stepping stone into the world of eComms, but you will likely outgrow the platform which can cause headaches later on…”
- Shopify - “Shopify is really easy to use and covers most of the aspects you’ll need to successfully run an online shop with the added bonus of it being very scalable, so it will take you from a small start-up to an enterprise-level business with affordable pricing plans. There’s also a whole world of apps and plugins for all the extras you might want, including subscription products, email marketing and product reviews functionality (albeit at additional cost). And when you get stuck there’s very reactive people there to help you, quickly. Their Experts Program gives you even more options of help and there’s developers available to build any customisations you might want.
The liquid code isn’t too hard to master the basics of it you’re that way inclined – it’s not at all necessary - and you can use HTML in product descriptions and editorial pages etc. The feature I would find hard to live without is the ability to download all your products via a spreadsheet, make bulk amends and re-upload. This is handy early on when you’re learning what works and what doesn’t, and changing things around to get the optimum situation for sales. All code updates are done in the background so you don’t have to worry about updating for each new phone or operating system, which you may have to if you’re building it from scratch.”
- EKM - “The “British Born & Bred” alternative to Shopify who now boast over 10,000 shops. Does most of the same kind of things as Shopify but they don’t charge extra for apps (or transaction fees), they’re all part of the service. And as they’re younger than Shopify, they’re ever evolving, so you will get lots of new updates and features as they develop them. There’s all the usual marketing features – you can upload your products directly to Google Shopping from the site, for example, plus email marketing, SEO and Wordpress blogging. Includes bulk product management and you also get a UK Account Manager. One to watch. I’m a fan so far.”
- Squarespace - “Actually, I haven’t worked with Squarespace but I know lots of who have and have only good things to say. There’s also plenty of Squarespace specialists out there who can help you if you get stuck. So that’s more of a ‘one to consider’ if the first 2 don’t suit your business.”
There are numerous solutions out there, and I choose to focus my efforts on Magento. My software developers are familiar with and work with other platforms which I will discuss momentarily, however, we find the best value and flexibility to be in moving forward with a Magento based approach.
- Magento - “Magento is a open source solution that allows for most any level of customization and flexibility. While the backend is not as friendly as some of the more basic platforms, it is certainly one of the most powerful. The trick with deploying or moving to this platform is working with an agency or developer that is very comfortable with the platform. The sky really is the limit with magento, and you can essentially get started by hiring someone to setup and deploy a theme for a fairly low introductory cost.”
- Shopify - “I am probably one of the few people out there that really is not a fan of this platform. This is simply because I do not believe in the “rent a home” approach to business. I believe there is a lot of place for SaaS level solutions however, when you are building your core eCommerce business on a solution that is extremely proprietary in nature and requires Apps with monthly fees in order to grow, you are in some ways increasing the monthly costs and becoming more entrenched in a solution which you are bound to. This is an excellent platform to start out on, if you are going to be a one man shop and plan to bootstrap the initial launch, while managing the designs and app implementations yourself. But please be sure to monitor your monthly costs as there will be a time when you will need to consider replatforming. *Just my thoughts.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the current defacto go to platform for software as a service (SaaS) online stores – Its intuitive and easy to use and offers a range of services that put it a step above its competitors. One area its particularly strong is in the area of Apps, which are becoming a much larger part of the ecosystem for these online platforms, allowing users to customise their offerings greatly. Additionally, as the biggest player, Shopify can offer significant savings in terms of fees for their platforms and for transactions – a real saving for smaller businesses where every dollar counts.”
- BigCommerce - “The solid number 2 in the online store platforms is definitely BigCommerce – its offering is also very good and has most of the functionality that any store would need. Its cheapest plan is also cheaper than Shopify’s and has more features making it the best bet if you are just starting out and testing the waters online. It also offers a tonne of customisation features within its own platform (rather than relying on apps). Lastly its templates have better AMP integration (a Google mobile initiative) which in the long run may prove more beneficial from a traffic perspective.”
- Volusion - “Volusion, similar to Shopify and Big Commerce is a hosted online platform that is specialised for ecommerce – and it has all the tools you require to run a successful online store. The one area that Volusion really shines is in analytics and reporting tools – They make is super easy to keep track of all the important metrics you need to keep an eye on to manage ROI across channels, as well as order funnels and consumer behaviours. Volusion isn’t as straightforward as some other platforms, but if a robust view of your data is your number one priority, it’s the best platform by far.”
- BigCommerce - “Big Commerce is a great multi-tenant SaaS solution for small businesses that are looking for majority of their merchant functionality out of the box. There are apps extensions that can be used to carry out specific functions, but just about all of what you need to start is already included with BigCommerce. This platform is ideal for a basic direct to consumer merchant who may have a few physical locations locally or nationally (I do not recommend BigCommerce for international businesses). BigCommerce does not support B2B out of the box and has limited product catalog management, so you would need to integrate a wholesale solution like Handshake. I would recommend Shopify Plus if you need basic B2B functionalities but a completely different platform like WordPress/WooCommerce if you have robust B2B requirements as a small business owner. However, if you do need to build custom B2B functions it would be better to do so in WooCommerce or BigCommerce instead of Shopify because you can build custom plugins with php/js in WooCommerce and custom applications with official SDks and Rest APIs for BigCommerce in Php, Node.js Ruby, and C# making custom development much easier in comparison to Shopify custom development. Here is an example of a partner now taking full advantage of the BigCommerce platform: https://skullcandy.com.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is also a multi-tenant SaaS solution ideal for small businesses that, unlike Bigcommerce, has an enormous community of partner developers and app extensions giving Shopify a functional advantage. However, from a technical perspective you will need to know their proprietary Ruby-based language, Liquid and is not as straightforward when it comes to developing custom applications for Shopify. Shopify Plus is Shopify’s “enterprise” version of its platform and comes with robust out of the box features that expand beyond BigCommerce’s functionalities that come out of the box. Shopify Plus also includes a native wholesale portal that supports basic B2B functions. With Shopify, you can easily take your small business transacting very little with basic features and utilize their extension marketplace to help fuel DIY growth and when ready, seamlessly upgrade to Shopify Plus to support your scaling business. I believe that if you are anticipating rapid direct to consumer growth, Shopify is an ideal platform to launch your business online. Here is an example of a past client of mine seeing growth on the Shopify Plus platform: https://pre-brands.com.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a great solution for small business owners that need complex B2B functionalities or multilingual and multisite capabilities. WooCommerce is an extension of WordPress and is a bit more technical so you may need to have a technical resource available because unlike BigCommerce and Shopify, it is a self-hosted solution. Powering roughly 27% of the entire internet, WordPress has a gigantic community of plugin extensions and developer resources for WooCommerce. You can also build out a WooCommerce store with very little technical knowledge using page builder extensions and other plugins if needed. WooCommerce is ideal for small business owners who have a more complex business model, are international, or have complex B2B requirements. You can see an example of a global Chinese-based site I built using WooCommerce here: https://btcboosters.com.”
- Shopify - “Shopify has totally disrupted the eCommerce Platform market over the past few years by reducing complexity, championing usability and reducing time to market for eCommerce builds. Even those with little or no eCommerce experience can setup a stunning eCommerce store in a matter of hours by utilizing one of Shopify’s pre-built themes. The platform also has an excellent library of apps which allows you to add features (Abandon Basket emails for example) with ease. The Shopify online knowledge base is also extensive and, if you do need a helping hand, the Shopify Experts directory will help you source freelance support in no time at all.
However, the real beauty of Shopify is the power under the hood and the platform’s excellent scalability. The solution is absolutely suitable for larger businesses or those planning to scale as it benefits from a large variety of advanced features and extensive customization options which can utilized by developers as a business grows.
Watch out for: Before on-boarding, ensure you understand the fee structure. Unlike some other eCommerce Platforms, Shopify charges a fee per transaction in addition to a monthly service fee. This works well for small businesses as it requires very little capital investment upfront but as sales grow, so do costs.”
- Magento - “Until recent years the opensource version of Magento (Community) was my go-to platform for eCommerce Startups with plans to scale. The core platform is a tried and tested eCommerce engine with a 19.64% of the top 1 million Alexa rated websites (https://pagely.com/blog/top-ecommerce-platforms-2018-compared/). Unlike Shopify, Magento community has no monthly fees attached, but beware, you’ll need to host the platform yourself and will most certainly need support from a developer to help with configuration, customization and integrations.
With the right technical support Magento is super flexible, stable and powerful. Again, the platform comes with an extensive plugin library (tip: these can create security vulnerabilities, always check the suppliers thoroughly before installing) and a robust knowledge base.
Watch out for: The key watch out with Magento is the lack of support and the vulnerabilities a self-hosted environment can present. Ensure you enlist a Magento certified agency or freelance developer before on-boarding to the platform to help mitigate these risks.”
- Shopify - “Shopify has developed a very cost effective, simple yet robust ecommerce platform designed for the non-tech savvy business owner. They can easily construct, design, manage and promote their business in a way 5-10 years ago would have cost 10-20x
In addition, due to the rapid growth of the company and customer base, a very strong support network of developers, freelancers and app builders has quickly developed – providing a pool of resources to solve the changing needs of retailers on the Shopify platform.”
- Shopify - “When it comes to an ecommerce platform for a small business seller, you have to be realistic about expectations from the platform vs your own in-house abilities and where/how you prioritize different aspects of your business. Let’s face it, in 2019, it is not as easy as it has been in the past to run a viable, sustainable ecommerce business. With my clients, I recommend things based on what I would use myself if I were in their shoes, with their advantages and disadvantages taken into consideration.
I would recommend Shopify first for several reasons, the most important of which being all-around flexibility and their commitment to staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. Shopify is a hosted solution. They have a legion of developers working to stay on top of their systems. Google requirements & other standards are hard to stay on top of for a small business with stretched resources. Shopify removes the burden of many of those worries as these items are built right into the system.
Shopify is very easy to sign up to and go live. They do not have the largest selection of free templates, but their liquid code makes altering those templates very easy once you understand the process. I’ve gone live with stores in less than 5 hours in the past with no issues. The back-end is very useful and easy to use for anyone at any skill level. I had an older woman as a client for a long time who did extremely well on Shopify in a male dominated sector. She wasn’t doing any programming, but used the back-end interface with very few problems.
Shopify has a large partner network with custom themes available, apps, integrating systems and support. It is very easy to find all of the functions that you need and plug them into the store. One important feature of Shopify that is unmatched is it’s flexibility and integration as a standalone POS. It gives the seller the opportunity to take payments like any brick and mortar store without the extra equipment like cash registers and payment readers. Shopify also integrates with Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms, extending its usefulness beyond just a website standalone interface. Shopify is an all-around solution both online and offline. This is unmatched among competitors.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce comes in right behind Shopify and appeals to the more technical entrepreneur. BigCommerce also offers many of the flexible solutions for selling on other platforms that Shopify does minus the POS. It also offers many of the backend capabilities that Shopify does. The backend of BigCommerce looks and functions similar to Shopify as well. Really for some the difference between the two comes down to personal opinion. However, from my point of view the POS offering that BigCommerce does not have makes it a close second place.”
- Volusion - “If your eCommerce product offering is centered around a small group of sku’s, Volusion is quite easy to use and fairly flexible. They offer many of the same features as the others. Their setup interface is a little easier as it has video walkthroughs and there is a lot of hand holding with each new feature that you use. Someone experienced like myself finds that annoying, but for a new seller or user, it comes in handy. Volusion offers less themes than Shopify but they are all free and responsive. Volusion has been around since 1999. It used to come in two versions, now only one which is focused on ease of use. It still is a little clunky on the backend UI but navigatable nevertheless. Volusion has a cap of 1000 products, but no cap on amounts of orders or anything of the sort.”
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no added cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Email marketing rocks. It can be a hugely effective marketing channel for just about any small business when done right. But what isn’t so fun for many, is trying to figure out which ESP your business should use, particularly if you’re just getting your feet wet with email marketing. There are literally hundreds to choose from in 2018. Who has time for that when running a small business?! So where do you start?
That’s precisely what we set out to help you with in this article. We reached out to over a hundred email and small business marketing experts to ask them one simple question: “Based on your professional experience, what is the best email marketing software for small business currently available?” We’ve posted the results below, as well as a summary of the most recommended small business email marketing services, and all of the contributions that our experts kindly made. There are some real pearls of wisdom in there!
So whether you’re looking for your first ESP to put together your company’s very first email marketing campaign or you’ve been growing this channel for some time already and have outgrown your current ESP, this article should serve as a useful starting point in your search.
Best Email Marketing Solutions for Small Business: How Our Experts Voted
|ESP||# of Votes|
|#1. MailChimp||77 Votes|
|#2. Constant Contact||27 Votes|
|#3. ActiveCampaign||13 Votes|
|#4. Campaign Monitor||10 Votes|
|#5. AWeber||9 Votes|
|#=6. Drip||8 Votes|
|#=6. dotmailer||8 Votes|
|#7. Infusionsoft||7 Votes|
|#=8. Klaviyo||6 Votes|
|#=8. HubSpot||6 Votes|
|#9. Adestra MessageFocus||4 Votes|
|#=10. ConvertKit||3 Votes|
|#=10. Emma, inc||3 Votes|
|#=10. SendGrid||3 Votes|
|#=10. IBM Watson Campaign Automation||3 Votes|
|#=11. GetResponse||2 Votes|
|#=11. Robly||2 Votes|
|#=11. ONTRAPORT||2 Votes|
|#=11. iContact||2 Votes|
|#=11. SendinBlue||2 Votes|
|#=11. eSputnik||2 Votes|
|#=11. Sharpspring||2 Votes|
|#=11. ReachMail||2 Votes|
|#=11. Maropost||2 Votes|
|#=11. Salesforce||2 Votes|
|#=12. MailerLite||1 Vote|
|#=12. Sendlane||1 Vote|
|#=12. EmailOctopus||1 Vote|
|#=12. Benchmark Email||1 Vote|
|#=12. FreshMail||1 Vote|
|#=12. AllClients||1 Vote|
|#=12. BombBomb||1 Vote|
|#=12. SendPulse||1 Vote|
|#=12. Clickback MAIL||1 Vote|
|#=12. Pure360||1 Vote|
|#=12. UserEngage||1 Vote|
|#=12. TrafficWave||1 Vote|
|#=12. Kartra||1 Vote|
|#=12. Oracle||1 Vote|
|#=12. RedEye||1 Vote|
|#=12. Response Genuis||1 Vote|
|#=12. Mad Mimi||1 Vote|
|#=12. MailPlus||1 Vote|
|#=12. Adobe Campaign||1 Vote|
|#=12. Cordial||1 Vote|
|#=12. MailPoet||1 Vote|
|#=12. Laposta||1 Vote|
|#=12. Surefire Local||1 Vote|
|#=12. TinyLetter||1 Vote|
|#=12. Zoho||1 Vote|
|#=12. Bronto||1 Vote|
|#=12. DoctorSender||1 Vote|
|#=12. Autopilot||1 Vote|
|#=12. WhatCounts||1 Vote|
|#=12. Clang||1 Vote|
|#=12. Flexmail||1 Vote|
|#=12. Mautic||1 Vote|
|#=12. Kentico||1 Vote|
All in all there were 58 different ESPs recommended (we told you it was a crowded marketplace!), but there were definitely a small group that stood out, as you’ve probably already realized from looking at the results table above. And these are the email marketing providers for small business that we’d recommend you check out first.
At the top of our survey tree, MailChimp was by far and away the most frequently recommended platform. Constant Contact also got a lot of support from out experts as being a great option too. In fact, in many cases these will probably be the two default email marketing services for small business, and should be more than sufficient if your requirements are relatively basic. They’re both on the easy end of the spectrum in terms of learning curve, affordable and the toolset provided is more than enough for most small businesses’ needs. AWeber is another program that scored well in our survey that could be added to this group as another option.
If you’ve reached a point where you want to take your email marketing to the next level and introduce more automation or you’ve used and outgrown one of the providers just mentioned, ActiveCampaign, Campaign Monitor, Drip and dotmailer are the ‘next level’ platforms that scored well among our experts. These options are certainly among the best small business email marketing software if you’re looking for a more sophisticated platform that gives you more control and customization over your campaigns, to make sure the right message is being delivered to the right person at the right time. Klaviyo is another good option in this category, and was highly recommended for ecommerce businesses by numerous experts in our survey.
Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are a couple of powerful systems that may well be overkill for basic email marketing activities and novices, but in the right hands could be a small business’s secret weapon. We’re talking about HubSpot and Infusionsoft. They would require a greater time investment to get up to speed, particularly in Infusionsoft’s case, but they can handle so much more than just your email marketing. They are marketing automation platforms that are equipped with just about everything you’ll need for digital business growth.
1) If your business is venturing into email marketing for the first time, you have basic requirements and/or limited resources, try one of these:
4) If you have some experience with email marketing or someone dedicated in your team, want to put to put together a more sophisticated program and/or have greater resources, try one of these:
Read What The Experts Said
Below you can read exactly what each of the experts had to say when we asked them for their recommendations. There are some real golden nuggets in there! If you’re interested in a particular software, you can use the filter below to skip to the recommendations that were made for that specific product. Enjoy!
- Adestra MessageFocus
- Adobe Campaign
- Benchmark Email
- Campaign Monitor
- Clickback MAIL
- Constant Contact
- IBM Watson Campaign Automation
- Mad Mimi
- Response Genuis
- Surefire Local
- Mad Mimi - "In my professional experience email newsletters work well as a marketing tool for small business. The development and communicating of useful content that you as a small business can send out on a regular basis keeps your clients close to you - and away from your competition. Email newsletters are an affordable marketing platform where you can promote your business, analyse what content your database is consuming and you can add new contacts to your database – keeping your database current. You can also use content to promote and please your clients– for example highlighting one of your clients in a ‘Client of the Quarter’ section.
I recommend using Mad Mimi for the visual designs that are available to you as a small business, the simplicity of building and moving around of your content and images which saves valuable time and the technical support excellence."
- TrafficWave - "TrafficWave, because they have a newsletter, which explains the benefits of having an ESP plus an affiliate plan that pays the Small Business Owner. Compatible with WordPress. Their subscription service is a flat rate one."
- MailChimp - "Free for the first 2,000 Subscribers, then costs a monthly fee after that, compatible with WordPress."
- AWeber - "Perhaps the most trusted of all the ESPs, they have different levels of subscription, based on number of subscribers, and they do provide an email marketing guide, although it is not as comprehensive as TrafficWaves' guidance."
- Klaviyo - "If you’re an ecommerce business on Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce I would recommend Klaviyo hands down. The ease of integration and standard out of the box flows make set up a breeze. For example, for ecommerce retailers abandoned cart messages and browse abandonment emails are important, and being able to pull in the product image can be somewhat technically complex, but with Klaviyo it just takes a few button clicks. Klaviyo also has a good email editor, a flexible revenue based analytics dashboard, strong 3rd party native integrations, and the UI is fairly simple to use and navigate."
- ActiveCampaign - "For coaches, consulting, or service based businesses, Active Campaign is by far my favorite and recommended ESP. It lives somewhere between a basic MailChimp and Infusionsoft in terms of platform complexity. Deliverability is good and it really shines when setting up simple or complex automations using their intuitive drag and drop campaign builder. They also have a good CRM system. Finally, I like that they have tag based system for organizing contacts which tends to be more flexible than a list based system like MailChimp. Because of all the features that come with this ESP and their competitive pricing, I both use and recommend Active Campaign to my service based businesses."
- ONTRAPORT - "If you’re looking for more of an all-in-one marketing platform, then I could recommend ONTRAPORT. It’s an ESP, CRM, and landing page builder all in one. And it also lets you send SMS and direct mail as well. While not as well known as it’s older cousin Infusionsoft, to me it’s somewhat more intuitive to use, and has more out of the box features to make the learning curve easier to manage than a larger enterprise solution."
- MailerLite - “I worked at Mailerlite as an email marketing and support specialist almost for 4 years 🙂 But I recommend it for small businesses because it’s very easy to use and start email marketing from the scratch. Mailerlite has a simple Drag-and-drop Email Builder, its automation tools can help you to build sophisticated campaigns with no technical skills required. Also, you can create responsive landing pages, customize beautiful popups with just a few clicks and connect a MailerLite account to other web services (Shopify, WordPress, etc.)”
- eSputnik - “It’s SaaS from a Ukrainian team and this product is awesome (maybe not so fancy looking as other services but still powerful). It has a simple-to-use Drag-and-drop Email Builder (Stripo editor is a product of the same team and mainly incorporated in eSputnik’s Builder), you can combine email/viber/push/sms messages and do automation thanks to its scenarios builder. And the support is just great and lightning fast!”
- MailChimp - “Simply because it’s a classic of Email marketing SaaS. Mailchimp has a separate “unit” for transactional emails called Mandrill. It can be a little bit expensive for some small business, but you always can try its 'Forever Free' plan to find out how it works for your scenario.”
- SendGrid - “As we have a database of over 40,000 and it handles that amount well 'The Marketing Campaigns' engine that SendGrid rolled out has a number of benefits for the business owner that doesn't want to get into API code. The Marketing Campaigns drag-and-drop editor is easy to learn and quick to navigate. After building your first campaign, you can easily duplicate it and not have to build each campaign from scratch.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing service providers. They offer a very easy to use interface with great tools and awesome support and is in my view the best solution for startups and small businesses.”
- Infusionsoft - “There's a reason it's called 'Confusionsoft' - its a very steep learning curve, but my colleague who recommended the product and used for last 12 months is a "fan." I've been giving it a go the last 3 months, but I just can't get the feeling.”
- MailChimp - “Having tested many email marketing software systems over the last 15 years, I can truly say that MailChimp provides a slick and reliable solution for any small business.
It provides enterprise level features at a price small businesses can afford. If you have under 2,000 subscribers it’s even free! You can’t ask for more than that.
* Free for up to 2k subscribers
* Handles bounces and unsubscribes to keep your list clean and legal (including GDPR opt in compliance)
* Create a sign up form with ease for your website (get your developer to drop in the code) or use the handy WordPress plugin
* Easy to use, drag and drop style templates to create professional branded email campaigns
* Split A/B testing feature to test what works best (day/time/subject lines etc)
* Advance scheduling – create in advance and send at the best time for your audience
* Easy to understand campaign performance reports including email content click maps
* Tracks with Google Analytics
* Integrates with some CRM systems too.”
- SendinBlue - “SendinBlue is a great choice if you want more than just very basic functionality for a good price. For small businesses that do not want to commit to any paid re-occurring monthly plan SendinBlue is a solid and much cheaper alternative to the classics such as MailChimp. Offering more or less the same features you get 5000 email credits for only 30€. Compared to $150 with Mail Chimp, this is a bargain, which has its perks too.
+ transactional and automation emails (also on the free plan)
+ neat developer API (makes integrating your own system really easy)
+ awesome customer support (very responsive and helpful)
+ HTML Editor (for users that do know some coding this offers another level of customisation)
+ supports SMS campaigns (also on the free plan)
+ good price
- no A/B testing functionality on free plan
- delivery (they don’t like to hear it, but I did have some problems with the delivery of emails in key times, which is not so great and someone might not want to risk.)”
- MailChimp - “Probably the widely known and most popular email marketing tool is definitely a good choice for small businesses to get started. In terms of design functionality Mail Chimp tops many other basic ESPs. With an easy drag and drop email builder and the ability to customise almost everything you can think without knowing too much code, anyone can build great emails with Mail Chimp. In addition Mail Chimp offer most of the features you would expect from a good ESP already in their free plan.
+ many useful integrations (WP, Magneto, Eventbrite, GA, Salesforce, Facebook, etc.)
+ A/B testing supported with any plan
+ intuitive delivery times (based on your user’s time zone)
+ survey feature
+ extensive knowledge base
- limited audience segmentation
- transactional emails are only available in the paid plans”
- SendGrid - “Probably not the most typical ESP, SendGrind actually started with transactional email services and only added main email marketing features later on. For a small business with people managing email that know how to programme, I definitely do recommend SendGrid for the management of transaction emails.
+ extensive transactional email services
+ A/B Testing
+ high delivery rate and scalability (delivers a large volume of emails effectively)
+ multiple dedicated IP addresses
- no templates available
- many standard features are only available through an API (e.g. GA or Autoresponder)
- rather expensive”
- MailChimp - "I have used MailChimp a number of times, a cost-effective platform to use, but after years of using Messagefocus found it a little clunky and lacks sophistication , but is very good for businesses with predesigned html to load in or for basic email design templates within it to use. Loading data within it is easy and personalisation of it, is easy to use too. Reporting is limited, doesn’t show where links were clicked on in the email just the number of times, so, if you had the same link within an email several times, you wouldn’t know what one worked best on its location. If you were starting out with limited experience in email marketing and wanting to look at the basics, this would be a good platform to start with."
- Adestra MessageFocus - "This is a platform I have used for years and have nothing but glowing reports to say about it. It is at the more higher end of ESP providers, but I turn to it every time I want ease of use, intuitiveness, great customer service, reporting, reliability, easy to integrate, bespoke project builds, specific html creative templates built and education! This platform is easy to use for non-marketing specialists also, who might not look over the whole aspects of an email communication, but Messagefocus prompts you to do so. My favourite hands down in my 18 years + of marketing!"
- ConvertKit - "My favourite ESP has to be ConvertKit. Although you must pay up front to use ConvertKit it is actually cheaper long-term than those ESPs who offer a free sign up. Should you make groups of subscribers, they only count as one email address, other service providers would count the same email address in two groups as two ‘different’ email address. Not ConvertKit. Plus, ConvertKit has an excellent tagging system – you can tag certain subscribers with several tags and then send broadcasts to only those with tags you select. For example, say you wanted to send a newsletter in French to iOS users only, you could exclude all other languages and Android/Windows OS for your newsletter. Clicking on certain links within newsletters can also tag subscribers, plus you have your automations and sequence emails – as you’d expect. Oh, and did I mention their customer service was top notch? ConvertKit is the ESP for small businesses."
- MailChimp - "If I do not use ConvertKit then I would recommend MailChimp for it’s ease in getting set up. MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers and its drag and drop features make email newsletters so much easier. If you are a novice in email marketing, then MailChimp is a credible solution."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp’s easy user interface allows users to setup campaigns, templates and opt-in forms easily. I currently use it for my newsletter which I built in the template creation section. Love how it is to use easy their drag and drop editor. You also can-do segmentation on your lists which can enable further automation. Their automated campaigns suite is quite vast for a small business esp. They’ve also setup the ability to run social ads and postcards through their system now."
- Constant Contact - "Constant Contact have easy to use landing pages which plug into your site seamlessly. They also had some growth tools to help you grow your customer database. I know they’ve had several updates and their interface is easier to use than a couple of years ago."
- Emma - "Emma has been around a while and has upgraded into a mid-level ESP. They are now geared for mid-sized businesses, but I used to use them for some small business clients. They have a great drag and drop editor, or you can code your emails directly into the interface. They also have a partnership with Litmus allowing you see how your emails render across ISP and platforms. That’s extremely helpful when designing your campaigns."
Kathleen E.R. Murphy
- Constant Contact - “Explaining why I am recommending Constant Contact’s ESP solution for small businesses is easy. Why? Because not only did I formerly work at the company, I also used the product on a daily basis when I was there. A greater endorsement about their product is that when I left the company, I continued to utilize and solely recommend this ESP for my small business clients.
There are a number of reasons why I would recommend small businesses consider Constant Contact as their ESP, and the number one reason to do so is their customer service. Think of Constant Contact’s customer service team as the Nordstrom’s of the ESP world, but at Walmart pricing levels.
The product is also incredibly easy to use, and has an intuitive user interface. They also are available to help guide you if you are a new or small business to assist you with understanding best practices to get the most out of the email campaigns you are creating. I also know firsthand that they have the highest deliverability rate in the industry, and should you find yourself in the undesirable situation of becoming blacklisted based on unknowingly using non-permission based emails, you will not find another ESP who can navigate you through this conundrum faster or as painlessly.”
- Constant Contact - “I recommend Constant Contact for its ease of use, product training, attractive templates, ample reporting, and features such as integration with social media and other industry leaders like Eventbrite, WordPress, Paypal, etc. They provide robust product and email marketing live training workshops, e-learning and webinars for businesses and non-profit organizations. Their customer support team is very knowledgeable and courteous. Constant Contact also has a Partner’s Program of email marketing experts who can assist companies with their email marketing needs. The partners have training to become certified annually and stay abreast of new products and features.
Constant Contact products include Basic and Plus Email Marketing, Coupons, Surveys, and Event Promotion and Registration.
Their pricing is cost effective for small businesses and non-profits, with monthly subscription and discounts if you pay annually. The fees are based on the number of contacts you have with the ability to send unlimited number of email campaigns. Unsubscribed contacts do not count toward the total count of contacts.
Constant Contact is innovative and continuously improves the functionality and features of their email marketing platform, constantly adding new integration partners. They have enhanced email automation, sign up buttons and forms, subject line personalization and emojis, and their templates are mobile responsive.
As a small business owner, I rely on Constant Contact as an excellent tool to promote my business and my clients.”
- MailChimp - “In my time working with small businesses, MailChimp is the first recommendation out of my mouth. I consider MailChimp the “best” of the small business-oriented email marketing tools available currently. The toolset provided is pretty robust for small business requirements, intuitive in its UX, and the pricing is affordable. They even have a free option for businesses with very small lists (provided you send less than 12,000 total emails in a month and you don’t mind the MailChimp branding at the bottom).
The platform is reliable, deliverability is reasonable, (provided you’re holding your end of the deal in terms of building your list), and it’s a pretty quick process to set up and send an email using a MailChimp prebuilt template or importing your own design/code. I’ve seen businesses with lists of 100 to lists of 1+ million using the platform—if that gives any indication of its usability and pricing.”
- HubSpot - “The question I ask here is, “What are you looking for email to do for you?” If the answer is to nurture leads in a “one-to-one” fashion with automation, then Hubspot is a great tool to utilize. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Hubspot as a broadcast email marketing tool, but for automated lead nurturing, more in the vein of the CRM, Hubspot fits the bill.”
- Adestra MessageFocus - “For small businesses who are ready to step up in terms of capabilities, data management, etc., for their email marketing programs, Adestra is a great tool to jump to. Their email setup process is simple and straightforward and their new-ish template editor makes creating and editing emails much simpler. They have a drag-and-drop automation program builder that makes creating and managing automations simple, and the form builders are simple to use as well.”
- IBM Watson Campaign Automation - “This ESP will always be the top in my eyes (maybe a little bias as this is where my email career started). The ease of use of the system is great for small businesses and the marketing automation allows for businesses to set up workflows to ensure each email is sent to the correct target group and follow email best practices. The dynamic templates and fixed template set up is really easy to use and allows for all levels of skill to be able to set up an email to broadcast. The cost may not be financially feasible for the smaller businesses, however if it is something that can be afforded I would definitely recommend this ESP.”
- MailChimp - “One of the largest email platforms used by the smaller businesses and it offers the ability to send out automated emails to your database. While having the same best practices and (some) functionality of the bigger ESPs – MailChimp is a more cost-effective platform that anyone can use. The drag and drop functionality of the template design is a definite positive, and the ease of uploading data and segmenting assists in sending the campaigns out without hassle. This could be the best platform for the small businesses as it allows for integration between all the social channels as well as event bookings through the platform. Landing pages and surveys are also part of the platform which can help any growing business. The pricing starts from $0 a month, however with this set up customising and ensuring that you have your own domain is not possible. For a start-up this is a great option and the platform can grow with the business.”
- Infusionsoft - “This is a new one that I have only known of for a little while, however it is fairly easy to use and offers a free trial that you can use to see whether it fits your needs. The usual basics that any ESP can offer come as standard and the ability to integrate with your CRM is also a big plus. The ability to connect with your payment system and collect without additional stress is also a plus for the small businesses.”
- MailChimp - "It’s a solid, easy to use platform that you aren’t likely to outgrow. The reports are nice, A/B testing is simple, and you can set up a welcome series email."
- ActiveCampaign - "When you’ve outgrown the chimp and you want better integration between your email and your website, move up to Active Campaign.
It’s a big step up without the huge costs and setup issues with Hubspot-style marketing automation. You can segment and track visitors beyond the inbox, through their experience on the site and into your sales funnel."
- Constant Contact - "Major player in the email marketing world with superior customer services and a mostly easy-to-use platform. Includes surveys and event marketing, as well as a solid FAQ section. Constant Contact has been working hard to add features to their system, such as click-to-segment and RSVP blocks, among other improvements."
- Robly - "Uses a very clean interface help make it easy to use Robly. They have 2 smart features that help improve open rates. OpenGen technology will re-send your campaign, with a different subject line, to those who did not open the first time. And ROBLY A.I. where instead of sending your email campaign all at once, patent-pending Robly A.I. sends each email one at a time, at the exact moment your subscriber is most likely to check their inbox."
- Clickback MAIL - "An ideal platform for B2B lists that are not opt-in. Very smart technology and human intervention to maximize your lists and turn cold contacts (purchased lists) into warm leads. System is fully CAN-SPAM compliant and has a striking feature that will identify even minute items in your email that may send it to spam. Excellent support too!"
- MailChimp - "I have advised all my clients to use MailChimp it is so easy to use. It has drag and drop templates so you need zero amount of coding experience to create a professional template for your business. It’s especially good for small businesses as the system is free as long as you have under 2000 contacts, which is a brilliant feature and helps cut down on unwanted spend. Lastly, I absolutely love the automation feature I use it myself when people sign up to my email list. It means you can have a series of emails being sent to your subscribers and it happens automatically – set it up once and off you go gently nurturing your list!"
- Campaign Monitor - “My first choice is always Campaign Monitor. After years of working with this platform, it’s the one I keep coming back to and the main reason is that it’s simple, it works and it just makes sense. Email marketing is a competitive market, ESPs add new features all the time, and at the end of the day, most platforms suitable for small business are basically the same. So, what’s important to look at? Ease of use and support. If email marketing is important to your business you’re going to be spending a lot of time working with your chosen platform so it should be as simple and easy to use as possible, and the support should be GREAT. Campaign Monitor ticks all the boxes for me.”
- MailChimp - “My second choice is MailChimp. There’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike about this platform, but it cannot be denied that it is extremely popular, widely supported and it has the all-important free tier for operations that are just starting out – so if you have less than 500 subscribers and don’t mind seeing the MailChimp badge on the bottom of your emails, it can be a good choice. When it comes to custom templates, I’m less of a fan of this platform – so if really tight branding is important to your business, maybe look elsewhere.”
- HubSpot - “My third choice – HubSpot - is for companies that need to do a lot of email marketing and have a bit more of a budget to play with. HubSpot’s email marketing offering is a bit more expensive but you get a lot of bang for your buck. Custom templates in particular are very, very powerful, plus it’s an entire CRM and marketing platform to boot.”
- Constant Contact - “The clear winner for me is Constant Contact. It’s the ESP I use for my business and there are so many possibilities with it. There are several reasons I love Constant Contact. The main one is: for a time-strapped small business owner, it is the easiest to use and has the lowest learning curve. If you do struggle to get started, you can talk to a coach on the phone. That’s right, they have telephone support!
In addition to being easy to use and being able to talk to someone, Constant Contact’s pricing structure is very clear. You only pay for contacts once, regardless of how many lists they are in (there are ESPs that will charge you multiple times if a contact is in multiple lists), plus you can send unlimited emails every month for one, fixed cost. This is hugely important for small businesses that are on a tight budget.
And did I mention the templates? So many of them, all mobile friendly and all completely customisable so you can make them fit your branding.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s a whole host of information you can find on their blog, including webinars, how-tos and hints & tips. All of this is free (even if you’re not a customer!)
Finally, Constant Contact is a suite of tools for small business: email marketing, email automation, online surveys, coupons and a social media scheduler. You get so much more for your money!
If you’re excited by all this, you can try Constant Contact free for 60 days (no credit card needed) right now.”
The way I see it, a good email marketing tool needs to have the following attributes. It should allow you to easily manage your contacts, create groups or segments, and track the performance of your campaigns. For small businesses, it is essential that they’re cost-effective too. With that in mind, my top choices for an email marketing tool for small businesses are:
- Drip - “Drip is one of the most user-friendly email marketing platforms, perfect for people just starting off with email marketing. They provide some cool features to create smart segments or groups from your email list. They offer a free account for less than 100 subscribers and thereafter, you need to pay $41 per month for up to 2500 subscribers.”
- MailChimp - “One of the most popular email automation tools that’s loved by companies of all sizes. They have a great user interface and their features are pretty intuitive. They also provide support through live chat and emails. The best part is that they offer a free plan that allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month to 2000 contacts.”
- Constant Contact - “Another simple and easy-to-use email automation platform that allows you to manage your email lists efficiently. They provide built-in email templates too. You can easily track the performance of your campaigns using their reports. Their plans start at $20 per month and they provide a 1-month free trial too.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is the most popular email platform in the world among small businesses for good reason. It combines powerful functionality with an extremely user-friendly interface at an affordable price. Over recent years, MailChimp have expanded well beyond email and the platform now offers landing pages, social advertising and even direct mail in the form of postcards.
MailChimp’s campaign design and templating features are the best on the market at this price, no question. The drag & drop editor gives users a lot of flexibility and freedom to design their own campaigns, while the template language enables designers to load in custom modular templates.
MailChimp’s offers excellent e-commerce integration capabilities with plugins available for many popular platforms such as Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. They also provide a fully featured and robust API for developers who want to build custom integrations.”
- ActiveCampaign - “ActiveCampaign is the platform I recommend for small businesses who are looking for an email and automation platform combined with built-in sales and CRM features.
In addition to conventional email marketing, ActiveCampaign also offers excellent marketing automation capabilities including a slick visual workflow editor, site and event tracking, contact tagging, lead scoring, SMS and more.
The platform packs all of this functionality into a well-designed user interface which is really intuitive and easy to learn and at a very reasonable price point.”
- MailChimp - "The most popular email marketing service provider. If you already have an online shop to sell your products or services, MailChimp integrates with all the major e-commerce platforms: Shopify, Magento, PrestaShop (and more). So based on your customers behaviors, you could send personalized campaigns to them. Get social with your shoppers and connect to your advertising channels like Facebook and Instagram. You can setup a series of automated messages like Welcome, Abandoned carts, Follow Up, Thank you messages etc… If you want to go a step further, you can create beautiful, mobile-friendly landing pages that make it easy for people to reach your promotions or join your mailing list.
Pros: Starting at $0/month for a basic plan (Up to 2,000 contacts). Easy drag & drop interface to create campaigns that fit your style.
Cons: Very versatile, but with so many options and features, it could be intimidating and complex for a neophyte to not get lost. Hopefully you will find the abundant documentation in their Support and Learning sections useful. Many YouTubers already posted hundreds of webinars to explain specific tasks. Be ready to invest a little bit of your time to fully understand what you could get from MailChimp."
- FreshMail - "Focus mainly on sending effective email marketing campaings. You could send various types of campaigns: Transactional email, Autoresponders, Scheduled, etc… With the intuitive template editor, you could find a beautiful design from the library and easily customize it to your needs.
Pros: Simple to use. If you want to start sending newsletter or marketing emails without having all the e-commerce to manage, FreshMail is a good option. 30 days trial is free. After this period you could opt for a monthly plan or a “pay as you go” if you send emails on a irregular basis. Starting plan is at $14/month (Up to 1,000 subscribers).
Cons: If you are looking for a full marketing automated solution, FreshMail is maybe too basic to expand your business further in the long term."
- EmailOctopus - "My ultimate recommendation is a solution between the two above; effective, simple and a cheap way to send email marketing campaigns. EmailOctopus sends your emails through Amazon's Simple Email Service (SES). Use their beautiful pre-designed templates or upload your own. If your business is currently using popular apps like Eventbrite, Shopify or SurveyMonkey, you could integrate it.
Pros: Powerful automation to engage your audience. High deliverability (using Amazon servers). $0 Free Forever Plan (Up to 2,500 subscribers) and four paid plans starting at $19/month.
Cons: The initial setup is not so easy for a non-technical user, but their Support Service will help you with every step (go with the paid plan). Once it's installed, the interface is friendly."
- MailChimp - "Getting started with email marketing is not easy, especially when time is limited running a small business. MailChimp is a great way to get started with minimal cost and an easy to use interface. Great for lower levels of email marketing and those just getting started."
- Campaign Monitor - "Campaign Monitor is also a great starting platform, however this system offers more advanced features taking it up a notch from MailChimp. Unlike MailChimp there is no free level.
Campaign monitor offers greater levels of personalisation and automation."
- dotmailer - "If a business is already experienced with email marketing and has a higher level of communications, my favourite tool is dotmailer, this takes any SME to the next level with greater integration and support."
"Most email system recommendations tend to either be for entry-level systems like MailChimp or AWeber that you grow out of as soon as you need to do any serious level of segmentation and automation. Or they’re for difficult to use jack-of-all-trades behemoths like Infusionsoft or Ontraport that are filled with features you either don’t need or you already have covered. My recommendations sit in the middle ground.
- ActiveCampaign - "Active Campaign has all the advanced email and marketing automation features of the big systems that will make a big difference to your results and will save you a lot of time. But it’s not bogged down trying to provide a shopping cart, affiliate system or other stuff you probably don’t need (or if you do need it, you can easily find better carts and affiliate systems like Thrivecart).
As a result, it’s a lot easier to use than the big systems. And if you stick to the Lite plan, it’s cheaper too."
- Drip - "Drip is in the same category as Active Campaign. All the email and automation features you need without the needless complexity of the big systems. It’s younger than Active Campaign, so has less users and less integrations with other tools. But some people prefer it. I find it’s very much a matter of personal preference so I’d advise trying both to see which you click with."
- MailChimp - “For small business owners with relatively simple data management needs, I would hands-down recommend MailChimp. MailChimp is simple to learn and master the basics of setting up a good email marketing program. It provides a nice blend of basic to advanced features. Lately, the company has expanded its feature set to include marketing automation and e-commerce features so you can easily set up automated emails like real-time welcome and e-commerce transaction messages. It integrates with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify.
The platform provides an easy-to-follow workflow for setting up campaigns and provides many pre-built HTML responsive templates that are designed to look good on desktop and mobile email clients. This makes it easy for a small business to get started sending great-looking emails.
MailChimp provides some nice touches for marketers who need to build landing pages or create Facebook and Instagram ads for retargeting. This provides a nearly complete ecosystem for the small business marketer.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp has an good reputation and is quite an easy tool to get the hang of once you get to grips with the basics. The main benefit for small businesses is that they offer a free service for brands who have under 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails out per month. For more information take a look at their ‘Forever Free’ account.
I’ve found their support team really helpful with questions about how to approach a particular task in MailChimp or if you’re having a particular issue with one of your campaigns. They have an online chat feature if you’re a paid customer (monthly or pay as you go) which means you can get an instant response. If you don’t have a paid for account you can always email their support team.
Finally – even in the free account you have the ability to set up automated (sometimes also called triggered, funnels or programs of emails). This is powerful stuff and to be on offer free of charge is fantastic. In summary it’s a great entry level system which gives you the opportunity to test how email may work for your brand without a high initial outlay.”
- dotmailer - “dotmailer is a popular tool for both small businesses and larger organisations. They have a really nice drag and drop email builder where you can do all the usual things like bold, underline, add links on keywords etc. You don’t need any coding experience to use the tool (but you can access the email html if you want to).
They have a nice system for building email automations which is called ‘Programs’. It’s a very visual tool so it’s nice and easy to see what message flows you’re creating based on someone’s data, their behaviour or segment they fall into. You can bring in your rules, add in your email campaigns, set periods of time to wait between each stage etc all in one screen.
Dotmailer also integrates well with systems like Magento, Shopify Plus, Zapier, WooCommerce and Wordpress.”
- Response Genuis - “Response Genius might not be an email system that you’ve heard of but that shouldn’t stop you taking a look! (https://www.responsegenius.co.uk/our-story) Their website highlights how their system can be used by marketing agencies, but as a hands on user myself, I’ve been really impressed with the functionality on offer. The user experience in the system is logical and well thought out making it easy to progress between working on data, building your email creatives, and reporting. I love the fact you can open different sections on the tool in individual multiple browser tabs – this makes things a lot easier for me when I’m working across multiple emails or trying to reference previous campaign information.
Their support team are on hand by email and they really know the system inside out.”
- Constant Contact - “I recommend Constant Contact for the price point and the capabilities. I have found customer service to be eager to please. I have also found Constant Contact to be quite easy to use and learn. There is an enormous number of webinars and support to ease the curve of learning. The editor has drag and drop capabilities, as well as the ability to insert pictures and videos. I really love the website match templates you can get at Constant Contact. They are like emailing your live website to your prospects and clients.”
Kokchin Chow (KC Chow)
- Klaviyo - “Highly recommended for ecommerce brands/business, digital marketing funnels.
Klaviyo is the top 1st ESP for e-commerce niche, Klaviyo helps marketers target their promotions more precisely using transactional as well as behavioral data. Better segmentation ultimately results in sending more relevant marketing campaigns, while the segments also update in real-time. The software allows combining and excluding different segments for even more powerful targeting and lets marketers specify multiple criteria for their segments. For example, marketers can target female customers who bought a purse during the holiday season.
The custom web-tracking system uses browsing behavior and helps target people who meet specific criteria e.g. male customers who looked at t-shirts 5 times during a week. This means virtually unlimited targeting opportunities, thanks to the variety of available options. Klaviyo makes it easier for marketers to use existing segments to target Facebook Ad campaigns, while events, custom attributes and properties can be used to personalize emails.”
- AWeber - “Good for business’ newsletter, infoproducts business
According to my experience, the first benefits of Aweber is their deliverbility, Aweber will ensure most of your emails will send to inbox folder instead of spam folder.
It is cheaper when compare to Klaviyo, and it is easier to use, most of the beginner won’t take long period of time to learn how to use it.”
- ActiveCampaign - “Suitable for business’ newsletter, infoproducts, digital marketing funnels.
ActiveCampaign is slightly more advance platform than Aweber, ActiveCampaign also allows you to create email flows like Klaviyo. It is very similar to Klaviyo, however it is more towards general business’s email marketing.”
There is no “one size fits all” in email marketing, so it’s important to figure out objectives, types of emails, staff, budget, metrics before selecting a platform.
- MailChimp - "Cheap and cheerful and relatively easy to use (I find the interface slightly clunky). Use MailChimp if you want to get up and running quickly and want eCommerce plug-ins that are pre-built and easy to integrate. If you’re selling something and want to add shopping cart abandonment reminders, then MailChimp is the right platform for you."
- Benchmark Email - "Easy to use, streamlined low-cost platform designed for small businesses. Benchmark is a breeze. It features a simple drag-and-drop editor, image cropping, and good integration with popular small business apps. I like Benchmark because I can get an email built and delivered in minutes, and add some marketing automation."
- ActiveCampaign - "This is an integrated marketing platform, so it’s more than just an email solution. Low cost and easy to use, although there is some setup and training involved. This is a “Swiss Army knife” for marketing communications. I would pick ActiveCampaign for a sales-focused organization that wants surveys, Salesforce integration, easy DRIP campaigns and robust marketing automation."
- AWeber - "Simple to use and perfect for the small business owner who has a smaller customer base, and wants to stay in touch with that base with email marketing. AWeber has templates for building optin forms, is simple to use and has a long track record for email delivery and a simple-to-use dashboard for managing your email marketing."
- MailChimp - "Works well for small businesses who anticipate building and managing a larger list of subscribers. Lists are simple to segment, templates are easy to use, delivery is first class, and it’s possible to integrate your account with shopping carts."
- Constant Contact - "A worthy competitor to MailChimp with similar features and is easy to use. But cost is higher than both AWeber and MailChimp."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is the best provider to launch your email marketing. It has an intuitive template builder and easy navigation. It supports integration with the major e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Prestashop, and others making email marketing easy for the owners of online shops. Email automation allows you targeting customers based on their preferences and previous sales."
- eSputnik - "Esputnik is the platform that offers an advanced level of analytics for your e-commerce. Easy to set up and cost-efficient solution. They have a great support department that will help you to solve any issues. With Esputnik you can build a powerful automation workflow."
- DoctorSender - “DoctorSender is a very easy plug and play ESP, you can dip in and out when you want with no long term commitments and great customer service. Whilst you can sign up and send immediately, I view this is a bit of a longer term ESP because DoctorSender will work alongside you to warm up your dedicated IP address and help with deliverability. The open rates I receive from the platform are similar to others that have minimum 12 month contracts and are 2 to 3 times the price.
You can integrate your database into the platform and maximise the features of the system with trigger emails, SMS follow up and auto responder emails. I have found the customer service second to none, the support is quick and efficient and they offer workable solutions rather than just saying “don’t send to a domain” or “use different data.”
The system is incredibly simple to use and you do not need any previous experience of sending emails and they take on board any improvements you suggest. The pricing is also one of the most competitive ESP’s on the market too.”
- ReachMail - “Reach Mail is an American based bulk sending solution. There are no long term commitments but it can take a while to get up to large sending volumes with ReachMail. Sometimes having an ESP with no commitment can mean poor delivery as you are using shared IP addresses and other people’s poor practice may have a detrimental effect on your results (equally you could piggy back on good sender reputation), but ReachMail are very protective of their platform, you will start off with small volumes and each send is rated (based on opens, clicks and bounces), you can only increase your send volume based on good data and good delivery and for this reason, I view these as a partnership in sending because you know that the IP’s aren’t getting burnt by other people and you are receiving the service you are paying for.
Setting up the email can be a little cumbersome but when you are familiar with the system then the process is easy. The sending speed of ReachMail is one of the factors I use this, they can deliver a few hundred thousand in minutes, so if something is time sensitive this (such as the sale starts at 12), and you want to send it at 12 then the bulk of the list will receive it at the start of the sale.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is very user-friendly even for beginner’s. The platform was created for small to medium sized businesses, so it really does a great job cutting through the red tape by making it fairly simple to create a campaign. It is built to take you step by step to insure you create a well-thought out campaign whether you are B2B or B2C. MailChimp keeps everything compliant and helps make sure the emails you are sending out are too. Bonus: The pre-built templates are a great start for beginners. A few of my favorite additions are the pre-built automation and gif’s!”
- Constant Contact - “Constant Contact will be another ESP you have heard a bazillion times, that’s because it has been around awhile and has a proven record to help small to mid-size businesses with their email marketing. Constant Contact also offers a wide variety of awe-inspiring templates but also integrates with your online store such as Shopify and Facebook as well as your WordPress. This Email Service Provider is very easy to use and has a step-by step process to help you create a beautifully optimized email.”
- HubSpot - “If you haven’t heard of HubSpot yet, you should! It is one of the most comprehensive ESPs, more so than the two previously mentioned. It is still a great platform to use if you are a small or medium sized business, but it is definitely a bit more robust. HubSpot is basically your all in one Marketing Software program. It offers Email, Social Media Marketing Ads, SEO and BLOG Management and Sales and Lead Automation.”
The SME space is full of ESPs now and so I split them a few ways. First as a stand alone I think CampaignMonitor/Emma highlight the best of breed in being creative and technically led. Followed by MailChimp for its scale and extensibility. For B2B or more Sales led and not consumer comms, I lead with Autopilot.
- Campaign Monitor/Emma, Inc - “These both are built on a heritage of creatively and customer focused thinking. From the top down they are about how to make it easier to create and deploy either manual or automated campaigns. The founders and leadership are still driven by this. For SMEs making things elegant and easy to use is critical based on the lack of staff and time (have been fortunate enough to know and work with the leaders of both companies).”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is the power player in market for sure and has a lot of scale. Their founders came from web dev and data driven thinking and since day one have used this data analyst model to drive innovation and insights for customers. This bedrock has allowed them to achieve scale, deal with topics like bad senders and deliverability, but also extend the product across the overall ecosystem allowing SMEs to tie MailChimp into a large part of their business tech needs.”
- Autopilot - “Autopilot is my attempt to shift from B2C to more sales and marketing automation. There are many players in this space but I point out Autopilot because of their great UX approach and power for the SME customer to use. They have made automation something that SMEs can aspire to do.”
“When choosing an email channel tool as an SME, there is a bigger question to consider. You have to take into account the people, process, tech and data included in the wider goals of the business. Buying tech is the easier of the 4. I find too many just buy tech and don't consider if they have the skills to use it, the associated tech that ties in, the data they need to do the work and the time needed to do the work. I see companies who buy SFMC and have staff who can only use MailChimp for instance. Or they buy an ESP that does not easily tie to their Ecommerce site for stronger customer comms programs. Or they buy an ESP for doing customer emails and are manually doing their sales acquisition without lead nurturing.
We live in a time where we have endless technical choices and I have listed the ones I see as leaders – but I feel strongly you have to pair these choices with understanding how they fit into your people, your current martech and how you work. Then you will succeed and grow.”
First of all, which ESP is best for your company, depends on your number of subscribers and the amount of emails you send per month.
Bana Kopty McCamy
- MailChimp - "I recommend MailChimp. Not only is it a fun platform to work on (lots of funny animations keep things light), it has offered anything I have ever needed, no matter how large the campaign. It is easy to design emails, whether you are doing it on your own using their templates tools or having a designer upload it. When it comes to building a email marketing cadence, no matter how complicated, they have a solution for it. Welcome email series, abandon cart, unique coupon codes... you name it! They have always offered a solution. Lastly, they are partnered with many website building/hosting sites like Squarespace and Shopify so you can easily integrate all your email marketing efforts in one go."
- Pure360 - "Pure360 offers a standard platform for email marketing send called Pure Campaign, and you can add new features and functionality as you grow and move towards more personalised sends. Pure Campaign offers a wealth of reporting features which are essential from the off – being able to report in depth on how your emails are performing is essential for a successful email marketing programme. You are also provided with a dedicated IP address which enables you to start building your sender reputation up from the start; some smaller ESPs do not offer this."
- MailChimp - "If you want to get started quickly – MailChimp is another excellent solution for small businesses. We have been able to get clients up and running with email marketing in less than a week using MailChimp. Again, the platform is one that marketers can grow into – you have everything you need and more to build and send great emails, and report of the success of them. You have access to a wealth of integrations when using MailChimp, from ecommerce and CRM to analytics, loyalty, subscription management and more, enabling you to pull together data from your different collection points and increase the relevance of your email marketing messages."
Javed S. Khan
- BombBomb - "Colorado Springs based, BombBomb is super easy to use with a very simple app and plugins for Chrome and Outlook. I LOVE that I am able to make personalized contact with leads, prospects, referrals, and customers. With the software, I’m able to introduce myself, and help make a real connection with people I never meet in person!
A video is much more personal than just an email. It also helps them to remember me! Video emails totally differentiates me from everyone else and it's the PERFECT way to enhance relationship building. This is consistent with my theme; “Stay Memorable, Not Forgettable”
From a user perspective, the software is super easy and intuitive. I love being able to create different email design templates and making mine unique, but also having the option of using the many pre-populated templates too.
I also like that tracking capability -- I get an immediate notice when a customer opens my email, watches my video, or forwards my video to a friend. More than occasionally, people actually tell me how much they appreciate getting emails this way.
In addition to their software, the customer service is remarkable."
- Robly - "Robly will save you tons of time and energy when you send out content to your email list. I particularly love the ability to send emails at specific times and resend emails using a different subject title when your first email was unopened – that my friends is totally brilliant.
I can track who opened which email and see the true value of our content for our subscribers. Many people have switched from Constant Contact to start working with the Robly team!"
- Constant Contact - "I’ve been using Constant Contact for many years (close to 8 years). We use the software to build electronic newsletters, join my mailing forms, automations, surveys for the various companies and organizations that have retained us for our email marketing services.
Like the other software choices, Constant Contact has many different template options to use for mailings. Within the software, you can change fonts, colour, backgrounds and layout with ease. It is VERY user friendly and if you need to stop in the middle, will be saved where I left off.
Also, I love that I can schedule mailings and campaigns in advance for when I want them to go out. This saves us a lot of time and not having to wait til the day of to log on and send them out.
Very similar to the other software choices, there is a track analytics. We know what emails (and topics) people are more interested in versus ones they barely open. This helps us in choosing more engaging content. I know what percent of our contacts have opened the emails. We can even able to see the time and date (and by whom) an email was opened."
- Constant Contact - “I recommend Constant Contact because it is easy to learn and use, offers many great features and has excellent customer support. First, Constant Contact is very user-friendly. It has a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor – you see updates to your email as you make them. They also allow you to have multiple contacts lists and make it easy to manage and segment them, so you can send targeted emails.
Among the other reasons I highly recommend Constant Contact are as follows:
• 98% industry-leading deliverability
• Click segmentation
• Automatic re-send to “Non-openers”
• Easy tracking and reporting
• Unlimited number of emails each month
• Autoresponder and A/B split testing (available in Email Plus)”
- AWeber - “My top pick will always be AWeber. It’s not too expensive, it has a great user interface, and you have lots of options for tagging your clients and segmenting your lists. One big advantage above the free MailChimp account, for example, is that you can send to all of your lists at one time rather than having to send out to each list individually. There’s opportunity to share your broadcast messages on social media, have your free offer sent out immediately with or without confirmation, and it’s just an all-‘round great solution. I have used AWeber for years.”
- iContact - “iContact is a good solution for email marketing, as well. You can import list from other providers without re-confirmation (which as we all know causes subscriber loss). The interface is a little tricky, but once you learn it, the difficulty level is low. I haven’t used iContact in a while, though I have used it for clients, but in the past, I was impressed with how things worked.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is free when you first sign up. For some entrepreneurs, who are just starting out, this is a great option. You can have a list up to 2,000 customers without paying a dime and you can send up to 12,000 emails a month. The only drawback to MailChimp is its interface. It’s not at all intuitive and when using it for my clients, it even took me a little while to figure out how things worked, whereas usually, me & any software are quick friends. I also dislike that there isn’t the capability of immediately sending your offer product after optin. You have to create a separate thank you/download page when you either embed a form or use a WordPress plugin for collecting names & email addresses. It’s not a big deal, but that’s my biggest beef – that, and the fact that you often have to do some fancy coding to make their forms fit well in some designs.”
Siu Yen Wong
- MailChimp - “Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing products of today, especially for small businesses. Its campaign builder lets you easily craft emails that suit your message—whether it’s for a product launch or news announcement, for a start. Some of its features include email templates, in-suite apps, integration to e-commerce platforms, and targeted analytics, among others. You can also target your customers based on previous sales, preferences, and behaviour.
MailChimp offers a ‘Forever Free’ plan which allows you to send 12,000 emails per month for up to 2,000 subscribers. This includes automation, built-in signup forms, report and data insight, and campaign creation without coding required. Their paid plans start from $10/month. This unlocks unlimited sending, email delivery by time zone, predicted demographics, and email and chat support.”
- ActiveCampaign - “ActiveCampaign combines your email marketing, automation, with CRM and sales. It comes with all the tools you will need to create smarter email marketing campaigns. It’s easy to use, and one of the most feature-packed email marketing & automation tools around. On top of that, it’s also one of the most affordable tools.
What sets ActiveCampaign apart is the fact that it has its own CRM system for managing leads, and marketing automation for nurturing your leads into customers. In short, it’s an all-in-one platform. Unlike some of the other tools that do this, ActiveCampaign is affordable starting at $9/month.”
Kenny Van Beeck
- Flexmail - “Flexmail is a super nice, very simple and affordabale scenario driven email automation tool. No need to know anything about coding or technicalities. All features come out of the box and bring you a very high value for money.”
- Mautic - “Mautic is one a the very few open source marketing automation platforms. So if you want to bring your marketing automation to the next level, yet at an affordable price, this is the thing. Webtracking integration, social media connectors, super slick journey manager builder, … it has it all. You will need a bit of digging in the beginning, but ones you discover the magic of leadscoring, that will all be fine ”
- Kentico - “If you really want to play it big, pay a bit more, but have your entire eco-system into one super platform. This is it. Kentico has a CMS engine (can be used in headless), runs e-commerce like a swiss clock and has the entire marketing automation system integrated. Now, if you want to only grab the online marketing platform, that’s fine. But the real power in terms of speed and effectiveness comes on the full suite. Gone are complex API or file-based transfers. Just let the system handle all the work.”
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is the most popular email marketing platform and a top choice if you’re looking to get your foot in the door with email marketing. They provide a number of easy ways to design and send your email campaigns. It is used by millions of users worldwide to send up to 1 billion emails every day!
Not convinced? MailChimp lets you have up to 2,000 total subscribers for free and gives you the ability to send out up to 12,000 emails per month… for FREE.
This is our top pick."
- SendinBlue - "SendinBlue is another popular email marketing provider worth trying. Much like MailChimp, it covers email marketing, transactional emails and mobile text messaging.
The email builder available in SendinBlue is functional and super-easy to use. Everything works via drag and drop and doesn’t require you to have any design skills.
It comes with a free membership option that covers all the features. There’s just one restriction: there’s a limit of 300 emails per day."
- MailPoet - "MailPoet started as a small WordPress plugin, yet it has now evolved into a fully-fledged representative among some of the best email marketing services / tools in the market.
They specialise in sending newsletters and posting notifications or autoresponders in a simple and personalised way. You can drop your posts, images or social icons in your newsletters at the touch of a button. You can also change fonts and colours quickly. This is a simple newsletter solution for WordPress and email marketing newbies, that can manage all of your subscribers within one place.
The free version is available if you have maximum 2,000 subscribers, and it scales nicely from there. So if your website runs on WordPress, might be one to consider."
- AWeber - "If you're looking for an easy to use and a cheap monthly cost ($20 per month) email service provider than I'm certain AWeber will be a good fit for you. You can learn how to use AWeber fast! Either through YouTube videos or the instructional videos you get once you register with AWeber. I personally use AWeber to send emails to my list and there are many cool features you can use to design your emails in a more attractive way."
- Maropost - "A key benefit for using Maropost is it's deliverability. The system ensures your emails don't go to spam when your sending them to your customers. The spam rate is extremely low using Maropost. I found that both AWeber and Maropost are great email service providers for building a loyal and profitable email list."
- MailChimp -
"It is free up to 2,000 contacts.
It is easy to learn and use.
It has landing pages.
It has marketing automation.
It integrates with lots of programs."
Kristina Hernandez Eddy
With so many choices of ESPs available, it’s no wonder that small businesses experience a daunting time trying to figure out which is the best one for their company. There’s a lot of thought that goes into the process, including budget vs. pricing, functionality of the tool, integration and automation options included, available out-of-the-box templates, and much more. With every decision, a strategic overview should be built in order to understand what you get from each tool. Businesses have to also be prepared to invest in their staff, regardless of which ESP they choose. You can have the best platform out there, but if your employees don’t know how to use the tools properly, the business will never truly get what they want out of the ESP tools they purchase. Time and training are key to any email marketing platform that’s added to the marketing process.
I went through a lot of these issues myself when I first had to decide which tool was best for my company. I was stuck with a few options after going through all of the information, and I wasn’t sure which ESP I wanted to purchase. Thankfully, I figured out that the best way to resolve my indecision issue was to build a side by side view of the details and rate the products based on their capabilities and offerings. I knew that the ESP with the best ratings at the end of my little experiment was the tool I wanted to go with.
Here’s the view of my top three choices (paid options only) for ESPs for small businesses and the rating system (aka strategic plan) that I put together to help me make my decision wisely:
It was a tough decision. Salesforce almost won! But in the end, I went with MailChimp. From personal experience, I love this platform. Later down the road, I plan to integrate it with another ESP that has more powerful features in other areas such as sales insight, but I’m perfectly fine with MailChimp as my starter tool. Why? It has a completely free platform where I can add funds whenever I need to which turn into credits that I can use towards paid-for email features. It really is a great tool!
Now, every business is different. You might find during your research that another ESP better suites the needs of your company. That’s okay! Just remember to identify and investigate the specifics that matter to your team so that you can ensure the best outcome.
BONUS TIP: If you are a perfectionist and cannot stand sloppy email marketing like many of my clients, then you’re going to want to invest time preparing plans for a quality assurance process where checks and balances are in place for your team. Every email should be lined up for quality checking after it’s built.
Make a checklist of important things you want the team to be checking during this QA process. Be sure to use specifics. Check ESPs for their email client rendering functionalities. This way you know what it offers and what it doesn’t. When you are researching this information, remember that an email won’t look the same on an iPhone X as it does on a laptop’s Outlook 2016 program.
If you are looking for a good platform to help you ensure quality email marketing and check for client rendering issues, I highly recommend Litmus. It’s my #1 go-to product for quality assurance testing. Another great option is Email On Acid. It’s more cost effective and has some other great capabilities, as well.
- MailChimp - “For me, MailChimp is a simple, straight-forward and affordable email marketing tool that allows users to do a lot – and if you have under 2,000 in your mailing list, it’s free. And since budget is key for most small businesses I know...
Beyond no cost, MailChimp offers small businesses the following:
• Easy to use forms that allow you to build your subscriber list. You can place them on your site’s pages or have a pop-up or both…whatever delivers!
• List segmentation so you can ensure the right people get the right message for even stronger results. For example, I work with professional service firms that segment based on the services they offer – so subscribers can sign up to receive exactly what they are interested in, and the business can deliver that information fast and easy.
• Landing pages are now available – so for many small businesses, what has been a lot of work and frustration can be achieved in a matter of minutes. A great way to build your list!
• Reporting that tells you who did what, when and lets you respond based on your reader’s actions (downloaded something) or inaction (didn’t open the email at all).
• A/B testing that lets you test – and improve – your email marketing performance.
There are a lot of other great benefits with MailChimp – so check it out.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is the cheapest of the options and easy to use. They have recently added more features including creating landing pages, automation, which is great for grabbing users who subscribe and engaging with them immediately. They also offer pop ups for your website. The tool also integrates well in to WordPress, Salesforce etc and other platforms so it really streamlines the whole process.”
- AWeber - “AWeber is an easy to use drag and drop platform that I mainly use for heavy automation. Integrates well into most platforms and allows great variety in automating your email campaigns to really nurture your users. They recently added a feature that allows you to create subscriber segments based on open and click engagement and not necessarily on sign ups. Their app is a nice feature if you want to track results on the go.”
Rick de Wit
- ActiveCampaign - “For small businesses that want to start taking e-mail marketing (automation) serious, Active Campaign is one of the best ESP’s in the market right now. The software offers a full range of email marketing features for a competitive price. The strength of Active Campaign is its user-friendliness. The user-interface works intuitively and the template builder, email builder, automation builder and form builder all have drag & drop interfaces. This enables you to build personalized automations and good looking responsive e-mail campaigns without technical knowledge of HTML, CSS and SQL. To help you on your way, Active Campaign has also pre-installed some e-mail design templates for inspiration or direct use. In addition to this, the automation builder offers a selection of pre-build automations such as Abandoned Shopping Cart, Product Interest Follow-up, Webinar Reminder Series, Accessory Upsell After Purchase and many more to be generated in a few clicks.
Active Campaign also has some downsides, but you will only start noticing most of these when your e-mail database grows beyond a small business size. We noticed that the user interface slows down when the database exceeds 125k contacts. The API is also limited to ~5 requests per second. This limits the ability of one of our customers to send bulk e-mails with Active Campaign that are triggered through other systems. We also observed that e-mails created with the drag & drop editor are not displayed correctly on all popular e-mail programs and on mobile devices. Active Campaign offers the possibility to send custom HTML e-mails, but this requires vast knowledge about HTML and CSS for e-mail to use.
Despite these disadvantages, the superior user-friendliness makes Active Campaign one of our most recommended ESP’s for small businesses.”
- MailPlus - “MailPlus is a leading email service provider in the Netherlands with over 5000 customers. Both big and small businesses use this software to engage with their subscribers through email. The pricing structure for using the software is fixed, meaning the price doesn’t change as the number of contacts in the database grows. This makes MailPlus ideal for when you expect a large growth in the number of subscribers, but have a limited budget for your ESP. However, in addition to the fixed price, you also have to pay a small but fair fee for every e-mail you send.
MailPlus has all the features that you need to get started with professional email marketing (automation). The features include (but are not limited to) a HTML template based e-mail and landingspage editor, an automation builder and an integrated form builder. At the moment of this writing, the user interface is a bit old-fashioned. But MailPlus is working hard on a new interface and plans to update it before the end of this year. Creating e-mail campaigns and building automations is user-friendly, but not as user-friendly as Active Campaign. If you encounter some difficulties working with the software, the top-notch customer support of MailPlus will help you out, free of charge. MailPlus also has an extensive partner network with marketing, communication and internet agencies who are ready take your email marketing (automation) to a higher level.”
- Constant Contact - "I love recommending entrepreneurs, small businesses and educational institutions Constant Contact. The userface is easy to use, customizable and scalable. When clients are just starting out, I always suggest Constant Contact. I use them myself and love it."
- Infusionsoft - "For years, I have seen Ramon Ray talk about how Infusionsoft has helped him better organize his contacts and provide stronger personalized service. When I suggest Infusionsoft to clients, they need more, and this program is helpful to them"
- Surefire Local - "I love Surefire Local. Surefire Local multiplies your marketing efforts by helping you see and strengthen all of your online activities from a single platform - so you can finally get the kind of quality leads you really want. They handle everything, and their experts are amazing. I handled their PR for a bit and was really impressed with their product."
- MailChimp - "I have used MailChimp in the past while working for small businesses and also currently use it for my own mass email marketing campaigns. It is free for up to 2000 subscribers and larger plans starting at $10/month. They offer several easy to use pre-designed templates that can be based on industry or even customizable template for those that are more tech savvy. As with all email marketing applications, they provide basic analytics such as number delivered, opens, clicks, unsubscribes; the basics. It’s a great application for small businesses that are just starting their email marketing strategy and have limited or no budget for emails.
The down side to MailChimp is audience segmentation and automated email sequences are less intuitive. Opt-ins and download deliveries require a third-party integration. Templates are widely used and a bit difficult to customize. Like most email marketing applications, you can make several emails and schedule a time to shoot them out to various subscriber groups. This is something I do, send out different emails based on their industry and/or location, then follow up with a introductory call. MailChimp is a great tool for starters with small lists and near zero budgets that will give you the basic of your email marketing needs."
- GetResponse> - "GetRespose is a great tool for business owners that don’t have a strong understanding of the email marketing space. This tool actually acts like a consultant, teaching you when to send your messages, how to segment your audience, and everything else you need to know to make the most of your efforts with email marketing. Pricing starts with a 30-day free trial and packages starts at $15/month for up to 1,000 subscribers. Like other applications, they have the standard pre-designed templates, customizability, and analytics. However, the templates, fonts, and design functions are not the best, customizing is limited, editor is hard to use and not a great experience as other applications. If you choose this email marketing platform for your small business, your might want to create the layout elsewhere and import it into a blank template.
That being said, what makes this application great for small businesses is its strategic recommendations. It actually teaches you! A business owner or email marketer is never left guessing when or how to send your first touch message, welcome message, newsletter, or special email offer. GetResponse is one of the only platforms to also track purchase behavior, so you can make the direct connection between emails sent and revenue gained. If you have room in your budget and don’t plan to do any customization, need help with analytics and overall email marketing strategy, GetResponce is a great app and teacher."
- Constant Contact - "Constant Contact is probably one of the most well-known email applications out there, probably because you’ve seen their ads. If you’re new to email marketing and need an easy-to-use, intuitive platform that is still reasonably comprehensive, Constant Contact is a great fit. They offers a free 60-day trial for all users. After that, plans start at approx $20/month with rates dependent on total list size. It is quick, simple, and you can compose your first email using one of their pre-designed templates. Like most applications, templates can be customized, however, there are some limitations in customizability in terms of formatting, font, and color options compared to MailChimp or some of the other apps out there.
Constant Contact shows you exactly how to track open and click-through rates, so you can get the performance information you need, no analytics knowledge required. One of the benefits with Constant Contact is their easy event registration tools that are great for businesses and organizations that regularly host events for their audiences. Constant Contact is often cited as a best option for nonprofits, organizations, and brick-and-mortar businesses. If you don’t mind spending a little bit and will have minimal to no customization, Constant Contact is a good application for starters."
- Constant Contact - "With over 20 years in the Email Marketing space, Constant Contact is a “tried and true” platform that excels at getting small business programs up and going. If you’re just getting started and looking for a one-to-many email marketing platform with a deep catalog of easy-to-use templates, Constant Contact might be the perfect fit for you. They have all of the basics covered - segmentation, contact management, real time tracking - and extensive online resources to hold your hand through every step of the process. Once you’re ready to grow your program, Constant Contact’s Email Plus package gives you access to tools that will help you know and grow your audience: Email Automation and A/B Subject Line testing is simple and effective functionality that will allow you to take your program to the next level."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is generally my #1 recommendation to small businesses for their email marketing needs. While still easy to use with plenty of online help and documentation, MailChimp has a robust set of capabilities and integration options that used to be reserved for big business platforms. The more customized you’re able to make your email marketing, the more effective it will be. MailChimp has an impressive list of backend integration options that allow you to go beyond the basic “Welcome Message” with cart abandonment, product recommendation and event based messaging - tailoring your content to your customer’s needs and interactions. Testing is also more robust in MailChimp: test not just subject lines but images, layouts and send times to see what works best for your unique audience (or better yet, custom segments within your audience!)."
- Drip - "If you’re ready to get really personal with your customer and are willing to work at bit to make it happen, check out new(er) kid on the block, Drip. Still able to deliver your latest big sale information to your entire customer base in a single “blast”, Drip really shines at 1-to-1 marketing automation. It’s extensive list of integration options will help you create email marketing campaigns that are as personal as each of your customers, delivering individualized content at just the right time. While requiring a little more than an Excel sheet of email addresses, Drip does have a growing list of online resources and a link to certified consultants for those who may not have the in house capability to get themselves up and running."
- Campaign Monitor - “We solely recommend Campaign Monitor because of its responsive-first builder capabilities (really great for beginners to craft mobile-friendly campaigns) and the intuitive nature of its list management and automation capabilities.
We’ve often found that those using more traditional do-it-yourself builder tools like Constant Contact and Mailchimp tend to look “too homegrown” and the templates pre-built in Campaign Monitor are more enterprise-level in design and aesthetics.
The only downside is that Mailchimp is known for their “forever free” plans, which are great when you’re really tight on a budget, but Campaign Monitor starts at around $9-10/month based on your list size and I believe it’s worth every penny.”
- SendGrid - “SendGrid enables marketers to focus on their business without the cost and complexity of the ‘cloud provider’ platforms. The SendGrid platform makes it easy to build and deploy campaigns at scale and speed. The reporting capabilities are fabulous; with delivered, unique opens, unique clicks, and unsubscribes in a straightforward view. You can also drill down further into device type, geographic locations, category stats, mailbox stats and browser stats.
SendGrid delivers more than 100 billion emails a year, for both small and enterprise level companies including Pinterest, Airbnb, Uber, foursquare, Twilio, Spotify and Pandora.
I’d therefore recommend this platform to anyone that needs to create campaigns without wanting to immerse themselves in the hassles of coding”
- dotmailer - “Dotmailer has one of the best WYSIWYG email editors on the market. It is extremely flexible, it allows creating complex layouts on emails, making it easy to find what you're looking for. The automation tool is intuitive and robust. The segmentation functionality is flexible and enables the user to create specific rules for creating segments.
Not a designer? No problem! The entire Dotmailer system is built to anyone to get started easily. But don’t mistake the simplicity of using the platform for a lack of features. Address books, segments and customer scores make it a one stop tool for brand building, transactional and ecommerce.
Just as importantly, the customer service is excellent. Each individual at dotmailer treats the customer with the highest respect.”
- Salesforce - “Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SMC), formerly known as Exact Target, is also one of the best email providers for small and large businesses alike.
SMC provides brands with a single platform to engage customers via triggered and transactional email, text messaging, landing pages, and social media.
Supported by an excellent services organization, SMC's platform integrates with many sales and marketing information systems, including Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM, Omniture, Webtrends, and many others.
Salesforce is arguably the most popular option and works with a huge range of organizations around the world ranging from SMEs to enterprise brands such as Expedia.com, Aurora Fashions, Papa John’s, CareerBuilder.com, Gannett Co., Inc., The Home Depot and Wellpoint, Inc.”
Steven T. Smith II
- MailChimp - “If you run a lean organization, you want to spend more time developing content and less hand coding email campaigns MailChimp is the ESP for you. MailChimp provides the end user a full suite of marketing tools and an impressive platform to develop email campaigns. The list builder is intuitive and allows you to segment on the fly. The email builder offers the novice a myriad of pre-built design options and the power user automations and lifecycle marketing capabilities you’d expect at far most expensive options. Documentation & support are quite robust and integrations are seemingly endless. I’d recommend MailChimp to any SMB who needs a platform they can afford and scale with their business.”
- MailChimp - "Mailchimp is an obvious choice here for small businesses. They allow you to start sending quickly without having to jump through hoops to get setup. They’ve continued to focus on integrations for both B2B and B2C that allow setting up multiple channels a breeze. The con to Mailchimp is that scaling with the platform quickly becomes a challenge when you start to get sophisticated logic."
- Drip - "Drip is a great choice if you’re on a budget, but looking to specifically take your B2C campaigns to the next level. They offer a decently robust feature set that most small businesses would be happy with. They also have good native integrations that solve most needs. I really like the custom fields and events that are lacking with most of the others in the space."
- Campaign Monitor - "Campaign Monitor is probably on the higher end for most small businesses, but they have a great drag and drop design tool that makes creating campaigns super easy. They also have a simple customer journey tool that is simplistic for those that need some hand holding. Like the other two platforms, they have a ton of integrations with most small platform businesses. I really like their contact property view that shows you a timeline of events for each one. If you’re looking to do some high level segmentation, they are a pretty good fit. Con with CM is the cost to scale up; gets a bit pricey pretty quickly."
"Email marketing is one of the most lucrative marketing tools available worldwide. It is easy to manage, gives you full control of building and maintaining relationships with customers and has a very high ROI. For small businesses, it is especially useful to build brand awareness and provide excellent customer service by offering support, updates and promotional announcements. Having the right ESP is essential for any business, yet imperative when starting out to maximize the right exposure with your customers to build loyalty and repeat business. Choosing the right ESP is imperative to keep costs down and pay for features you use instead of an entire enterprise you may not be ready for. Many services also provide deliverability support and free templates to help you get started quickly and efficiently.
Before you even begin to research ESPs take time to have a marketing plan prepared and begin building a customer list to make sure the right email goes to the right person at the right time. That is the crux of email marketing. You can spend all your time planning, creating and hitting “send” but if the ESP cannot deliver your email it’s wasted effort. Another thing to consider is the right size platform for your investment. Is this a new endeavour or migrating to another system? If your company is growing rapidly you’ll need to think about scale and reaching a larger audience over time. You’ll only want to bring highly engaged data/subscribers to the new ESP. Make sure the list is validated through a data hygiene tool. Never buy or rent lists. Your content should be relevant to your subscribers and a preference center is key for them to let you know how often they want to hear from you. Are you a novice or experienced marketer? Sometimes it’s not just about the budget but also resources. Services like Constant Contact, MailChimp and ReachMail can help you with tutorials, live chat, community support, blogs, and dedicated company reps to answer your questions and teach you about the platform (or best practice marketing techniques in general)."
- Constant Contact - "One of the largest and fastest growing ESP’s in the world. It’s beginner friendly and gives you a robust platform to manage lists, contacts, templates and more. There is detailed reporting, social media tools and an image library available. It has a vast library of resources and offers online training. It allows small businesses to dive right in and navigate the system like a pro. They also offer a 60-day free trial (no CC required) and pricing starts as low as $20 per month."
- MailChimp - "One of the most popular providers. They have a great UI (user interface), lots of tools and plenty of support. They offer an easy email creator, autoresponders, segmenting and analytics. An additional feature is setting up delivery time based on user’s time zones and geolocation. There is a huge knowledge base of “how-to’s”, videos, blogs and tutorials for all experience levels. They have a forever free plan which allows you to send 12k emails for up to 2k customers. Paid plans start at $10 per month. For small businesses, there are a lot of features for a low price to make this a great choice to partner with."
- ReachMail - "Another great choice because they also offer a free account for a certain send size. The pricing levels are very reasonable for different volume levels including custom plans and infrequent mailings depending on your businesses’ needs. You can also build surveys to help get feedback from your clients/customers. There is generous storage space and an image library to utilize. The ease of use is helpful from setup to deployment. They offer a wide array of metrics and reporting and make it easy to implement suppression lists as needed. Their deliverability team is extensively trained and eager to help with the proper technical framework to ensure deliverability is at its strongest for your organization."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is a great email marketing platform for small businesses – it’s affordable, scales easily, has a nice and user-friendly UI, and is quite intuitive. It has a number of great content creation tools, as well as data/segmentation tools, so it’s a good solution for a small operation with a lean staff and only 1-2 people handling all email efforts."
- Bronto - "Bronto is a fantastic tool if you want a bit more sophistication and technology, but still need a straightforward interface with intuitive features and capabilities. The segmentation and sending options are fantastic and really easy to use. They also have amazing customer support and their live chat is phenomenal."
- Campaign Monitor - "Campaign Monitor is also a great option, as they have a free trial option and a great, scalable solution. Their engagement monitoring is fantastic, their content tools are amazing for a team that doesn’t have a strong design resource for building emails in HTML/CSS, and they have awesome optimization tools for data, segmentation, and content. They also have a straightforward pricing model that provides monthly payment options and packaging."
- Campaign Monitor - “Campaign Monitor is an email service provider that works well for companies of all sizes. With their easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface, an email marketer is able to create beautiful, branded and professional email templates and campaigns reasonably quickly.
What I like most for small businesses are Campaign Monitor's dynamic segmentation and marketing automation features. Their visual journey designer sets them apart from other email service providers, especially for the price point. With a user-friendly interface and guided instructions, a small business can automate fully optimized, personal email campaigns to reach their audience at the right time.
In addition to Campaign Monitor's robust REST API, they integrate directly with a variety of the larger commerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce, as well as CRM systems such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics and even visual dashboard software such as Klipfolio. Lastly, for anyone working in email marketing, I find their blog and knowledge base helpful and reference both often.”
- Oracle - “I know they might be slightly more expensive then some other providers, but I just can’t look beyond Oracle, whether that be B2B using Eloqua or B2C using Responsys.
I have never worked with an ESP platform better than what oracle provides. It ticks pretty much every box when it comes to usability of the platform, ease of syncing your CRM database within the platform and just basic campaign building to the point of execution.
More complex tasks such as dynamic content for segmentation within your campaigns is easier to set up and implement than in other email marketing tools, which for someone who lives and breathes this stuff is a god send. However, for a small business, this could be quite difficult, although there are helpful videos/articles to help you get through this and I find their support teams very engaging to off their assistance.
Automation implementation is simple (which is what you really want!) and they offer you ready made blueprints which you can use if your email automation skills are not as advanced as others.”
- dotmailer - “If you are in retail especially, dotmailer is another great choice and offers user friendly drag and drop elements to create email templates. The process of start to execution of a campaign is simple, effective and easy to use for any level – beginner to advanced.”
- Constant Contact - “For the business owner who is crunched for time and needs an ESP that is not too complicated and has great customer service, Constant Contact is at the top of the list. Constant Contact has an easy-to-use platform with just enough bells and whistles to make it very effective for many business owners. The most valuable part of the Constant Contact service is their help desk. They are there to support you and can reduce learning curve time and frustration, so you can quickly and easily put out a great looking campaign. Monthly Subscriptions start at $20.”
- ActiveCampaign - “For the business owner who is ready for the next level and willing to put in more effort to get more advanced features like dynamic content, split testing and marketing automation ActiveCampaign is a great solution and still reasonably priced. Active Campaign does require more input time.”
- MailChimp - “For the budget-strapped business-owner I recommend MailChimp. MailChimp offers a basic service for free. While free can be good, be advised that you will have to be prepared to go it alone. MailChimp does not offer customer service and many owners quickly out-grow the complimentary version. If you have the time and the technical skills to create your own campaigns, MailChimp can be a low-cost entry point. Be prepared to move on to other more advance service providers in time.”
- Constant Contact - "Constant Contact offers a robust email marketing system that is easy to use for small business owners. The newest drag and drop editor makes it simple to customize one of hundreds of available email templates. Constant Contact recently introduced A/B subject line split testing and an automated re-send to those who have not opened the initial email campaign. Both of these features help business owners to find out what messaging resonates best with their audience, which helps drive more engagement and, ultimately, sales."
- MailChimp - "In the battle of API Integration, MailChimp is King Kong! Simply put, they’re everywhere because they made it easy for other platforms to connect. The fact that most platforms integrate with MailChimp means that a business owner could create a new Shopify ecommerce store or create a landing page in Unbounce, and MailChimp would do the heavy lifting when it came to email follow up. MailChimp also offers some really robust split testing and automation tools to make life easier for a busy entrepreneur."
- MailChimp - "Depending on the size of your small business, MailChimp may be suitable for all your email marketing needs. Ever expanding, growing and changing, MailChimp offers a wide range of tools for your marketing buck. While it is very affordable, I recommend it to a lot of my clients starting their business. It can become a bit clunky when a business owner reaches a certain size…that threshold is different for everyone. Tech support is on the minimal level here (remember that the monthly fee is very low), so be prepared to do some digging for resources to help with questions or challenges that you may experience. They do have an extensive knowledgebase."
- ConvertKit - "ConvertKit is the “next level” of email marketing tool I recommend because it offers some additional functionality and features that MailChimp does not. It makes building an email sequence easy, it integrates with many other products out there (landing page software, etc) and putting a form on your website to integrate into the delivery of an email sequence is very easy to achieve with their automation builder. Also, their live chat tech support is awesome. Some of the versatility of creating rules to integrate with a payment on your website and that triggers an email sequence to be sent is pretty awesome."
- Infusionsoft - "Next level, someone who is either at or operating toward a 6-figure business, I recommend Infusionsoft. It’s versatile, it integrates with nearly everything a small business owner would use. It is more complex to get to know and manage, so it may be best to have someone support you in your Infusionsoft efforts. I love that you can build out campaigns and integrate with payment forms, build out a landing page if needed and create an affiliate offer all under one roof."
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is a great option for small businesses because it is easy to upload a list, has an easy drag/drop email creation tool that outputs responsive (mobile friendly) emails and has added a lot of marketing automation features to help a small business scale up their email marketing as they grow. Scaling up meaning automating email workflows, setting up data collection forms and even integrating with CRM solutions to pull in lists from the data source (ie. Salesforce).”
- Constant Contact - “Constant Contact is another great option for small businesses because it is also easy to upload a list, and also has an easy drag/drop email creation tool that outputs responsive (mobile friendly) emails. Additionally, this tool makes it very easy to take action on recipient behaviors to create list segments you can use in the future to send highly targeted emails to the right audience. Data collection/Sign-Up forms are easy to create. They also have support, so small businesses who typically need more support have easy access to answer questions or get help.”
- Adestra MessageFocus - “For the small business who needs enterprise level features/functionality to scale up quickly, I would recommend Adestra’s MessageFocus product. Their email editor allows you to create templates, but lock down elements of the template to 100% control the brand standard. You can create unlimited users, but also many workspaces if you are sending email on behalf of many brands or products. This platform has also added a lot of automation features allowing users to automate emails when certain criteria is met like clicked on a link in a previous email, has a certain domain in the email address, geo location, etc. There are also a lot of built in deliverability tools to prevent you from reaching email addresses known to be invalid or undeliverable because it has a global bounce database across all workspaces. You can get a dedicated IP if you send higher volumes and also whitelabel domains to optimize inbox placement.”
- dotmailer - “This is a great mid-level tool that can really scale into various other channels and web development areas. The tools are very user friendly and the teams at dotmailer are constantly developing and bringing in solutions to assist with e-commerce and general digital marketing disciplines. They position themselves as a marketing automation company, which is fair to say if you look at the wider offering from them. Their traditional email marketing tool which the company was built around is certainly one of the most user friendly and filled with all of the bells and whistles marketers love to see but never use.”
- RedEye - “If you are willing to pay a little extra for strategic guidance and ongoing feedback, RedEye are great at leading the way in terms of benchmarking against your own metrics as well as industry trends and benchmarking. The tool itself is good enough for the mid-market player but the ongoing customer guidance and support is great if you don’t have the expertise or time to become an expert yourself.”
- MailChimp - “This is the original underdog, they have gone from strength to strength since first launched, they offer free usage up to a certain volume which normally hooks the smaller business start-ups and hobbyist type of audiences. The offering is by no means simple if you do invest in their technology, the platform is extremely user friendly but also extremely SaaS orientated. If you want human interaction on a support query this may not be the platform for you.”
- HubSpot - “HubSpot have a fantastic, free CRM and the email marketing tools are super powerful, especially for B2B brands or anyone with a Shopify store.”
- MailChimp - “If you just want to get on with email marketing, you can’t go wrong with MailChimp. It’s free until you go over 2000 contacts and enables you to connect with prospects and customers straight away.”
- Kartra - “This is similar to HubSpot, but you can run all kinds of marketing activities from kartra, as well as your CRM. It’s brand new to the market and the feedback across the industry has been very positive. And it’s cost effective for small businesses.”
- Constant Contact - “I’ve promoted email marketing for small business and non-profit since 2011. Over the years, I’ve looked at and worked with several companies. I keep coming back to the best of the best, Constant Contact. It has everything you need for the small business who wants to develop a continuing relationship with customers and prospects. While they have tough competition which often features lots of whiz-bang technology, the truth is that most of the small business community neither wants nor uses that extra techno-bling. It serves to over-complicate the experience of using the software, and features meant to attract simply go unused. I’ve interviewed people who spend hundreds per month on complex software while they only use 10% of the capabilities. Waste of money, no?
In Constant Contact, there are a host of valuable features and the development team works hard to LISTEN to their customers (yes, they listen to your feedback) and deliver features YOU asked for. How cool is that?
As a company, not just a product, I love that Constant Contact is committed to the two most powerful goals for the success of small businesses like yours:
First, they firmly believe that your company will flourish with up to the minute marketing EDUCATION. They support trained independent business owners like me to deliver their world class marketing educational seminars. I love presenting their thoughtful marketing workshops through independent events as well as powerful national partners like SCORE and the SBDC. Attendees walk away feeling as though they just took a college level marketing course. And Constant Contact does not charge anyone for this – they do it to fulfil their mission.
Secondly, they believe that if you’re going to deliver a powerful tool to all business owners and non-profit organizations, you want to seal their success by providing stellar SUPPORT. The software itself is designed to be user-friendly for the average, non-technical person so you don’t have to be flustered with complicated steps and technical processes. However, if you do have issues using the software in any way, there is LIVE and LOCAL support available and waiting for your call. They are in Massachusetts and Colorado. I’ve met the support team – all real people, no robots. They are positive, friendly and energetic. They consider it a pleasure to help you, not a burden.
As a small business owner myself, I’ve selected Constant Contact as the only company I feel worthy to promote. While there are a host of competitors, no company offers Education and Support to their customers. None. This is a company that believes in the success of entrepreneurs like you and me. Other tools are geared toward technical developers, completely ignoring the customer experience of the business owner. Constant Contact serves the business owner completely.
I hope this has helped you choose the best tool for your company and for your own experience.”
- Klaviyo - "Klaviyo, hands down, for ecommerce brands. Their data integrations and segmentation tools allow you to build super targeted audiences based on browsing activity, purchase history, AOV and more. Klaviyo makes identifying your loyalists and turning browsers into buyers insanely easy."
- TinyLetter - "TinyLetter is awesome for sharing updates, behind-the-scenes info or Letters From the Editor. Email marketers sometimes forget how personal email actually is. It’s the last algorithm-free frontier, and when subscribers opt in to your list they’re trusting you with a direct line of communication to them. TinyLetter is perfect for building and keeping that trust; it’s not about flashy sales or savvy sales funnels, and IMO that’s the beauty of it."
- MailChimp - "You can’t *not* mention MailChimp (and since TinyLetter is owned by MC, I guess I’ve technically mentioned it twice). It’s free (at least to start), so incredibly easy to use, and while I might get booed for saying this—I’m a fan of the double opt in. It ensures you’re building your list with integrity."
- dotmailer - "If you are a small business that wants to level the playing field with larger competitors, leverage email as a primary means of driving revenues from your customer database, and work with a provider that can scale with you as your business grows, dotmailer is the email marketing tool for you.
Its intuitive interface provides access to robust functionality that is often only available with much more expensive solutions. For example, dotmailer offers built-in integration with Salesforce so that you are able to leverage email response data in other channels, such as your customer contact center. Achieving that level of integration even when one is using Salesforce Marketing Cloud to send email is time-consuming and requires the assistance of a third-party integrator, but with dotmailer is available out of the box.
The dotmailer platform also offers slick tools for geotargeting using a map interface. These are the kinds of tools that small- and medium-sized businesses will need to access and master in order to remain competitive with larger players in today’s complex digital marketing landscape. And with dotmailer those tools are available at an affordable price."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp provides a good, low-cost solution to meet the basic email marketing needs of small businesses. If you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles and want an affordable and reliable tool, MailChimp is the way to go. MailChimp also provides one of the best resource libraries in the business, with valuable articles and how-to guides on all aspects of email marketing."
- AWeber - “AWeber is probably the most simple ESP to use. There are basic templates centered around holidays and other promotions. If you are not a graphic artist and don't pretend to be one, AWeber is straightforward and easy to use. You give up some graphics ability, but you won't waste a lot of time figuring your Email Campaigns out either. I used it for one of my first Email Newsletter clients, a small pizza place. His 'digital marketing manager' passed away and the client was stuck. I was able to pick it up in less than an hour and saved a ton of time on helping him with his email blasts. Because I could put my graphics and writing touches to each message, his response was between 20%-34%. Not bad for a basic ESP to do local direct marketing for a small business owner!”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is a very popular ESP, most of you have heard of it. As recently as September 10, 2018 PC Mag names MailChimp as an Editor's Choice for Best ESP 2018. Our company, Local Direct Media, has outgrown MailChimp, but if you are looking for a simple and basic way to get out emails to your customers, this is an option.”
- SharpSpring - “3 SharpSpring is what we use at Local Direct Media to do Email Blasts and Email Campaign Management. Not only Email Marketing Software, SharpSpring is a whole marketing automation platform that allows you to have visibility, 1-to-1 messaging, lead capture, lead scoring and more!
Having the ability to track your website's visitors and see what pages and information they are interested in is very valuable. For example, let's say you have a video explaining your new 'business catering service.' With a typical ESP you only know if a receiver opened an email, clicked to go to your landing page and the totals of each. With SharpSpring you get to see who this is, how long they spent on your site, what exact pages they viewed, and you can even see what they have done in an easy to read timeline.
SharpSpring also provides related executives or coworkers from a visitor's domain. This can be super helpful to your business development and sales teams when it comes to Email Blasts and Social Media. Since SharpSpring is an automated ESP for smbs, it allows you to automate and send messages to individuals based on their site interest. So, if someone goes to your page on 'Business Luncheon Catering,' they will immediately get an email about catering company lunches. Capturing leads is key to SharpSpring's value as an Email Marketing System. Using a built in free CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, you and your salespeople are now able to manage each customer based on their experience. If they keep coming back to a specific page, they may be showing coworkers your webpage's detail. Now you know they are interested, what they are interested in and maybe most importantly, who they are exactly. Call them at the right time and you will close more sales!
Our teams work with clients on Lead Scoring so you are calling the right customer at the exact right time. Simple example: You do a general Email Blast and 100 visitors go to your 'Business Catering Page.' 20 of these bounce off. 20 go next to your 'About Us' page to learn more about who they are working with. 20 watch the video. 20 share the catering menu, and the last 20 go to your pricing page. Which ones do you call first? Well, as you see the life of the lead a 'prospect quality' starts to emerge. The next few days or weeks your sales team is following up on these leads. We work with our customers to figure out who to call first and who to avoid. If a lead score drops off or never grows, this customer or prospect might have lost interest or be on vacation, at least you know not to waste time on them.
Overall, I recommend SharpSpring as the #1 ESP and marketing automation platform. It's easy to use. It's powerful. Just keep in mind you have to have a marketing partner who can work with you to implement all the details. SharpSpring is not a set it and forget it ESP. If you have the right partner and commit your team to it, you will grow your business steadily.”
Malcolm James Forrest
- MailChimp - “When I first started out in Email Marketing, MailChimp was my first
provider for the reason that it was cheap and easy to use! It starts you off with a manageable amount of subscribers for your list, so you can have an amazing starting point. Great for the startup guys.”
- Maropost - “Now, I absolutely love Maropost & here is why you will too!
Most of my clients use Maropost simply because you can keep track of all emails being sent out to your lists. A lot of the time, I see you have issues figuring out which emails being sent out get opened more often than others. Maropost keeps track of all open rates, also including any link clicks provided within the email being sent out!
So if you’re also trying to manage sales, Maropost is right for you.”
- AWeber - “I use Aweber currently for my business & email list. My reasoning is because, I use a lot of autoresponder emails. Aweber helps me simplify everything by being able to type my email directly on their site & set it up to be delivered at certain points of the week. I’ve never had an issue using Aweber, so deliverability is awesome! I think you’ll be pleased with this one.”
There is a wide range of email marketing software available these days. Understanding the key features of these platforms and your own business needs is necessary to choose your best fit.
When selecting an email marketing platform, you want to keep following aspects in mind:
1. Integrations: how does the ESP integrate with your current tools? Can it easily be connected to your CRM platform or does the ESP also offer CRM functionalities itself?
2. Segmentation: how easy is it to create segments? Can you combine multiple data points to create advanced segments?
3. User interface: Do you like working in the platform? Are all the functionalities easy to find and understand? Is it easy to build email templates and email campaigns?
4. Reporting: Does the email platform offer useful insights? Can you see how many people opened, clicked, bounced or unsubscribed?
5. Customer support: Does the ESP have a responsive and friendly customer support? Are they approachable and do they offer useful help when you ask a question?
6. Price: Do you pay a set up fee? What is included in the monthly fee? Do you pay per subscriber or per email address?
After you have selected a shortlist of ESPs based on the criteria above, it’s time to start asking for demos and get your hands dirty. In the end, YOU are the one that will need to work in the email platform. The best tool is the tool that can do what you need and that you enjoy working in.
- MailChimp - “Attracting thousands of customers with their ‘forever free’ plan (up to 2000 subscribers), MailChimp has positioned itself as the go-to email platform for small businesses. Their super user-friendly interface is a joy to work with and their easy-to-use drag and drop email editor makes sure you don’t waste too much time designing your emails.
MailChimp is for you if:
- you are tipping your toes in email marketing
- you have a small, slow growing list
- you want a budget-friendly solution to send out emails
MailChimp is not for you if:
- you have a large list (or multiple lists) with lots of different segments
- you want lots of flexibility when it comes to email automation
- you’re looking for advanced list functionalities (such as tagging, dynamic data,...)
Overall, Mailchimp is a great, low-cost choice of email marketing platform for small businesses who want to get started with email marketing at a slow pace and want to get familiar with the basic functionalities of a ESP. But if you’re ambitious and want to grow your email list fast or want to start using more advanced email marketing techniques, you’re better off with a paid platform that offers more flexible features.”
- ConvertKit - “ConvertKit is a new player amongst the email marketing platforms. They focus strongly on audience segmentation, tagging and simple, yet powerful email automation.
Their features are a gift from heaven for consultants, digital content creators and publishers who rely on sharing expertise through email marketing, content upgrades and (multiple) downloadable offers such as ebooks and online courses.
Unlike other email platforms, ConvertKit only counts each subscriber once, no matter how many lists they’re subscribed to. So you won’t be paying double for highly engaged subscriber who opt-in to multiple content upgrades.
The choice of templates and their design options are rather limited so if your business relies strongly on sending beautiful or graphic-heavy emails, you might want to look for a different platform.”
- IBM Watson Campaign Automation - “I have extensive hands-on experience with the platform. It is affordable and provides excellent scalability and sophistication, great support and effective deliverability services.”
- WhatCounts - “A lesser known ESP, it has proven deliverability excellence, excellent informational resources to help you maximize the efficacy of your email marketing program, and robust data management capabilities. It is extraordinarily scalable as your business grows.”
- AWeber - “A great fit for small and medium businesses, particularly publishers.”
- HubSpot - "I found HubSpot to have all of the basic tools needed to run a fairly sophisticated program on a small budget. It integrates relatively easily with CRM systems like Salesforce. The interface is intuitive. With a basic understanding of email marketing, you can teach yourself how to use this tool without any extensive training or certifications."
- MailChimp - "I’ve never personally used MailChimp, but I’ve evaluated their capabilities a couple of times while considering replacements to existing ESPs. On each occasion, I ended up needing a few more capabilities than they were able to provide, but I was running very sophisticated programs that only a couple of top tier ESPs could handle. I was still impressed with MailChimp’s product offering, and if I were running a smaller email marketing program, they would definitely be on my shortlist of technologies to purchase."
- Constant Contact - "Similar to MailChimp, I’ve never directly used Constant Contact. I also evaluated them on a couple of occasions and found that their product offering and price points were well-suited for small businesses with moderate email marketing needs."
- Constant Contact - "(disclaimer, I used to work at Constant Contact) Most Constant Contact’s customers are small businesses and non-profits, so they are very good at supporting those categories. Small businesses and non-profits are usually stretched pretty thin when it comes to resources. There aren’t many people but there are still many things that need to be accomplished.
One of the most crucial elements of successful email marketing is consistency. Sending an email today, and not sending again for several months will undermine the value of your emails. As a result, small businesses and non-profits need help. Constant Contact is very well-known for their high-quality customer support. They spend as much time on the phone as needed to help their customers through whatever hurdles they are facing. You can also communicate with customer support through email and online chat. Plus, Constant Contact hosts an online community where employee, solutions providers, and customers offer additional assistance.
In addition to their great customer support, Constant Contact’s email templates are terrific. They are easy to use, designed by professionals, and plentiful! They cover many different types of businesses as well as events, so it’s rare that you must start from scratch. However, designing your own email is easy, as the platform uses blocks that you simply drag and drop until you have the configuration you want.
Sending emails on a regular basis is important to stay top-of-mind, but you also want them to be targeted. Constant Contact offers drip campaigns, several email triggers, and the ability to create new lists based on the readers actions. Drip campaigns are designed in advance and run at designated intervals to lead readers through a series of emails. The purpose of the drip campaigns can vary widely, from simple customer on-boarding to educational information to creating qualified sales leads.
Another benefit of using Constant Contact for email marketing is the integration. You can easily setup a connection with PayPal and create buttons that allow readers to pay for things directly from the email. Other integrations include Constant Contact’s survey and event management tools. Again, simple drag and drop functionality allows you to embed links into the email. When using the event management tool, registrants are automatically added to email lists, and you can send emails exclusively to registrants. Additionally, you can also see who hasn’t registered, and send follow-up emails to them. This prevents registrants from continuing to get marketing information for an event they have already decided to attend.
The reports are basic, showing how many opens, click, unsubscribes, and non-opens. A quick drill-down will list which contacts are in each report. Here’s where you can create new lists. Simply select the list that includes everyone who clicked on a specific link, name the list appropriately based on the topic of the link, and the next time you have information on that topic you know who to send it to!
Constant Contact’s longevity in the email marketing industry has built their reputation on the Internet, so they have a very high deliverability rate. This was established through a diligent compliance department that quickly identifies spammers and removes them from the system."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp has created a unique niche for itself in the email marketing/marketing automation space. It is a great option for organizations that have no initial budget as they have a free version with some limitations. It’s also a great option of creative, knowledgeable users who know the ins and outs of email marketing as it offers powerful marketing automation functionality.
The tool itself is very flexible and easy to use for experienced users. Also built with blocks, creating a good-looking email is not difficult. Their additional functionality is where they stand out from the crowd.
MailChimp focuses largely on e-commerce businesses. In addition to standard and drip campaigns you can also create marketing automation campaigns based on customer interactions. The marketing automation functionality is simple to use as MailChimp’s options are in plain-English and easy to follow.
Marketing automation campaigns take planning, and MailChimp has done a lot of that for you. The emails are geared toward continuing the conversation after the sale, utilizing retargeting technology that encourages customer retention and the next purchase.
To accomplish this, MailChimp email blocks include “products” and their email templates revolve around shopping and payment options. A huge benefit to getting action-oriented emails created quickly. Additionally, their e-commerce integrations are impressive and include Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and PrestaShop. These integrations allow MailChimp to understand your customers’ buying patterns, assist with recovery of abandoned carts, and develop loyalty programs and rewards.
The email reports at MailChimp are what you would expect, showing open and click-through rate. However, their additional e-commerce reports are excellent as they include the amount of revenue generated and attribute it to the standard campaigns or the marketing automation campaigns.
MailChimp offer multiple pricing and feature levels, and they all include A/B testing. This offers the ability to send similar emails to two different sets of contacts to learn which is more successful. Subtle changes such as the subject line, the arrangement of the images, or some text is all you need to improve the results. Once you understand what works, then you send it the larger targeted list.
Their customer support is exclusively online (chat and email) unless you are a “Pro” level subscriber, so it can be a little difficult for the free version users to learn email marketing. "
- ActiveCampaign - "ActiveCampaign offers more sophistication than Constant Contact and MailChimp. Although MailChimp offers great marketing automation and its website states it’s “the world’s largest marketing automation platform,” I consider ActiveCampaign to be more of a marketing automation platform than MailChimp.
Why? Well, while all email marketing tools have an area to store contacts, ActiveCampaign incorporates a more extensive contacts area that can serve as a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, specifically for salespeople. The information they enter, such as phone calls, meetings, and updates to customer fields, can and should affect the emails the contact receives.
Also, an important part of any marketing campaign, automated or otherwise, is the goal. ActiveCampaign’s goal area allows you to set the goal and then measure your success against it. This is very powerful for marketers who need to deliver information about sales attribution.
The email design tool is much like all the other, utilizing blocks and simple drag and drop functionality. The templates are also very good, and can speed up the process substantially, as you’ll be creating multiple emails to develop the automation sequencing. The tool also offers in-program pop-up tips, so you don’t have to look far for help.
The automation sequencing options in ActiveCampaign are excellent. Their If/Then statements are written in plain English, so although you are “programming” it, the options are easy to understand. The customization of the contacts is also very simple. You can create new fields and place them on the layout so that data entry flows intuitively. The fields can also be utilized in the marketing automation, so if a sales person adds or edits information in a field, that contact can be moved to a different email sequence. The value here is that you continue to send the best targeted information to your contacts based on your interaction with them.
Once the automations are set up you need to have contacts to go through them. You can easily create online forms that utilize both standard and custom fields to reside on your website. ActiveCampaign offer several types of forms, and your first step is to connect it to an automation. The system will walk you through the process making it simple and effective.
Although ActiveCampaign is a marketing automation tool, you can also use it as an email marketing tool and send them one at a time. You can also create A/B testing, sending slightly varied emails to different sets of contact, to test which is more successful.
ActiveCampaigns’ customer support is very good but what you can access is based on your subscription level. At the basic level, you’ll be communicating online and at it’s highest level, you’ll get a designated account rep! Other options include their online community, articles, videos, and one-on-one training options, so you can learn at your own pace. They also have a partner program, so you may find someone local to help you in-person."
- MailChimp - “My #1 email marketing recommendation for small businesses is MailChimp. It's easy to use and includes everything you need for professional email marketing. There are other tools that have more advanced features, but for most small businesses, MailChimp is the way to go.”
- MailChimp - “When it comes to small businesses the key to any marketing tool is simplicity. Small businesses are typically time poor so the tool needs to be simple but professional.
And of course, price is also a consideration here and MailChimp starts free and is hugely affordable as you require a paid subscription when your lists grow to over 2000.
MailChimp makes it easy to design and send emails. And easy to build email lists with forms that can be hosted by MailChimp or integrated with your website.
The tool also integrates with Facebook, Instagram and Google Display ads so you can show remarketing ads and further develop your email list. It is not only a great email tool, but can help reduce the total number of platforms you need to work with overall - this saves you more time and money. And makes your life easier. Which is what every small business marketing manager really needs.
We also need to know that GDPR is taken care of and MailChimp allows us to ensure we have GDPR compliant levels of consent for our marketing lists.
And finally the tool offers a range of automation options. This is next generation digital marketing. This allows you to automate follow up emails to keep people engaged and nurture those conversions.”
- MailChimp - “As one of the most popular email service providers in the world, my top recommendation certainly be MailChimp. Offering an easy to use interface with an array of tools and top notch support. MailChimp comes with an intuitive ‘kitchen sink’ editor, merge tags, autoresponders, simple tracking and reporting to quickly analyse results from within the application. No need for analyst or programmers here, Mailchimp integrates wonderfully with Wordpress, Magento, Shopify and many other platforms. Lastly, Mailchimp offers one the best free introductory plans available for new users, a great value add to get started.”
- Drip - “Drip is a nimble and powerful email tool that ecommerce, bloggers and even marketers should take advantage. The onboarding experience is delightful and frictionless, you will begin setting up campaigns in minutes. The beginner friendly system allows for integrations with popular website builders such as WordPress and WooCommerce, an ideal fit for individuals in real estate or other solo entrepreneurship. Simple as it may, its still equipped with intelligent marketing automation tools, smart segmentation, and other cool features.”
- Emma - “Emma is a great email marketing service if you’re looking to test the ‘email waters’. Emma's easy to use application and customer-centric ecosystem make it a breeze for new admins to get up and running building and managing their campaigns. The system is equipped with both email tracking and mail editor. List management is easy to use, you can simply import and segment your contact list with little to no effort. Emma also offers unlimited picture hosting as part of their CMS engine, great for retailer/ecommerce business with an abundance of pictures and assets to host. It also allows integrations with Shopify and Salesforce quite well, to complete your marketing automation stack.”
- HubSpot - “Having used numerous other ESP platforms in a corporate setting, including MailChimp, Real Magnet (Higher Logic), HubSpot and Vertical Response, hands down the only one I would recommend is HubSpot.
It is by far the easiest ESP platform to use, with better templates, easier customization and editing tools that work consistently. But above that, HubSpot has absolutely the best Customer Support in the business. They have solved every problem, every time I have called them. They are responsive, courteous, and always offer alternative solutions. The other vendors are typically poor responders, have limited work-arounds, are very buggy and have flawed editing tools.
Because of HubSpot’s tremendous support and superior email platform, we’ve moved our website and social to HubSpot as well, which makes integration with those marketing tools seamless. HubSpot’s workflows work great so we can run multiple, interactive campaigns just like you can with larger platforms like Marketo and Eloqua, but having tested those two platforms, HubSpot is light-years ahead of them in terms of ease of use.”
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is easy to get started with and free for less than 2,000 subscribers."
- ONTRAPORT - "Ontraport is good if you need a more robust ESP, but don’t want to hire a full-time person to run it."
- Infusionsoft - "Infusionsoft is great if want something robust and you have someone to run it for you"
Eugene L Brill
- Drip - "I’ve started moving my more sophisticated clients to Drip.co. With their Automated Marketing system, we now send the right email, with the right message, at the right time to the right subscriber. It also helps us create synergies between the emails we are sending to our subscribers and the ads we are showing to our Social Media audiences. We immediately implement the Welcome On-boarding Campaigns (with a 60-day series of ±10 emails), Blueprint (Shareable) Automated Workflows & Rules (shopping cart & category abandonment, Facebook Lead Generations & Custom Audience integration, etc.) and initial Lead Scoring.
Now, these features are available through several ESP's and service providers, but what sealed the deal for me was when Capterra rated Drip as the Most User-friendly Marketing Automation Software in the market today (and, I have tons of experience with other ESP’s). They are also #5 on the Most-affordable list, but usability is key.
I’m also a big fan of their customer service and help desk. Just as a note of caution, if you’re on the free plan (only applicable to accounts with less than 100 subscribers), you only get helpdesk support within the first 15 days. Get implementing quickly, the service will pay for itself once your campaigns, workflows and rules are in place. Usually the turn-around for a helpdesk ticket is two business day. Once they respond, they do their best to resolve your issue quickly… if you haven’t figured out by that time (as I said, very user-friendly).
The company is growing rapidly, and with that comes growing pains. You will come across bugs from time-to-time, but they are usually fixed in short order, or there is a work-around. The development team is based in their Minneapolis, MN and/or Park City, UT offices.
Note: not all Ecommerce platforms integrate as smoothly as Shopify."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is the gorilla in the room (excuse the primate pun… lol). Capterra rates them as the #1 Most Popular Marketing Automation Software, and for good reason. MailChimp has been around for a LONG time with integrations to pretty much everything, a BIG advantage. Although, some do require a third-party integration platform (use Zapier for Facebook Lead Ads and PieSync for others).
As far as usability goes, the MailChimp email builder with their user-friendly drag-and-drop functionality and several pre-built templates, is extremely easy to use. This makes it great for quick ‘blast’ emails. The marketing automation side is less so, it can be somewhat complicated.
MailChimp uses Contact Ratings; a five-star scale that shows you how engaged a subscriber is, rather than a Lead Score. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
The free MailChimp plan is a great starter option for Ecommerce businesses."
- Constant Contact - “This is one of the longest standing ESP’s for small business. The tool was built around simplicity for use, and caters to folks who are not used to sending emails as their main job function. List management, template management, out of the box reporting, and really well done training makes this the no brainer choice for a small business looking to establish an email program with their customers. Additional functionality like campaign automation, coupon management and survey’s allow businesses to grow in sophistication without needing to change providers.”
- MailChimp - “Another long-time ESP; MailChimp has been used both by small businesses as well as larger companies in its earlier years. Now although over time, larger more established companies may have outgrown this ESP, the platform and functionality is still very useful and applicable to small businesses. In fact, if you are looking to schedule messages at different delivery times based on things like time zone, this functionality already exists in the platform. This ESP might be a better fit for small business with customers across the many states, as opposed to more local based businesses. Great too for businesses looking to integrate their social streams and even remarketing.”
Maria Elena Duron
- Constant Contact - “Constant Contact is a robust tool that is easily managed even for we, the time deprived small business person. If you’re doing all the work in your business and also having to take on the role as business owner and work on your business, then this tool fits into your schedule and gives you the kind of analytics you need to make sound business decisions that will help you grow your business. It’s important you find a tool that provides helpful analytics and much more than the vanity metric of your “open rate.” You need a tool that you can access on mobile and manage on the fly and that also provides you the feedback and strategy suggestions like having an expert with you without having to invest additional time and money.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is a good tool if you're considering email marketing and want to test the waters. There’s no commitment or investment other than your valuable time. If you don’t know what you want email marketing to do for you, then use MailChimp to experiment with what you would do with a list of people. Then, sign up for every webinar that Constant Contact offers to help you as your formulating your goals and objectives.”
- MailChimp - “If you’re new to email marketing or don’t have a huge amount of knowledge on the subject, Mailchimp is a brilliant tool to get you started. It’s simple to use and understand and allows you to easily create vital infrastructure necessary for email marketing such as a preference centre (majorly important with the introduction of GDPR). Most email professionals will have used or come across the system at some point and it can often be used as a stepping stone to bigger, more complex systems. Having said that, it’s perfectly suitable to use for your email and automation needs long term!”
- dotmailer - “Dotmailer is a slightly more advanced system which leverages email and sms as part of a wider automation process. It allows easy links into e-commerce platforms such as Magento, and numerous CRM systems to help provide that holy grail ‘a single customer view’. You can build and manage email easily with drag and drop tools, as well as more advanced functionality such as SMS messaging, managing your transactional sends, building landing pages, surveys and forms, sign up boxes and preference centres. Their help team and guides are brilliant and cover all aspects of the system as well as best practice tips, GDPR and other global data protection compliance notes and ideas for how to improve your campaigns, great for if you don’t have a huge amount of knowledge or a large team, or if you just find yourself stuck! They also regularly host seminars and webinars to increase knowledge of email and marketing automation.”
- Adobe Campaign - “Adobe Campaign is the Ferrari of ESPs in my opinion. It allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of in terms of email marketing and marketing automation and has the Adobe brand to support it. It’s all bells and whistles but for some may be too much too soon. I would recommend looking into the functionalities of the platform, however, to help you understand what could be possible further down your email journey.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is a great ESP for small businesses because it is simple to use with easy navigation and helpful tutorials but more importantly, it is also free for up to 2000 subscribers. As a small business, money can be tight so having a system which actually works and you can use for free is great.”
- Campaign Monitor - “Campaign Monitor is also great for small businesses, allowing for greater functionality than MailChimp. Although a small fee is involved, the benefits of Campaign Monitor outweighs this by far. The ability to easily set up drip campaigns and having greater control over the branding of individual emails is what makes Campaign Monitor.”
- iContact - "iContact is an easy-to-use email marketing tool that includes small business templates and help. It can be scaled based on your growing audience and has good reporting tools as well. If you use SalesForce, it integrates with that as well."
- MailChimp - "MailChimp is a great email marketing tool for the more visually oriented small business. It offers good templates, and has great graphic tools to make your email stand out to your customers."
- MailChimp - "For a small business starting out in email marketing, you can’t go wrong with Mailchimp. It has all the basics covered, with easy to build emails and customisable ready-made templates. One of Mailchimp’s big strengths at the moment is its good implementation of GDPR standards and list management. You can be confident that the lists you create are managed properly by the system and that unsubscribes are removed and handled correctly and lawfully. They also have a few really simple custom list builder tools and the ability to create custom sign-up forms really easily which can be embedded into web pages or added to email links. If you’re just starting out and need something quick, easy and reliable, you really can’t go wrong."
- Campaign Monitor - "A little bit of a step up from MailChimp but relying on your ability to build email templates outside of the system, Campaign Monitor has a variety of payment plans so you’re only paying for the lists you’re using each month. Their list management tool is really strong as well, giving you the ability to upload lists and then create custom segments within them for mailings, based around creating AND and OR structures for your data sets. For any budding agencies of freelance creatives, the ability to split your account down into separate client portfolios and have separate billing for each is a really strong feature."
- IBM Watson Campaign Automation - "Seemingly having a new name in the top corner every time I log on, this ESP offers another step up in terms of functionality and technical specs, making it a great choice for an enterprise system. If your business has its own central database that you can run queries in and export lists, then this ESP gives you a lot of freedom to upload really detailed email templates and customise them within the tool. I use their dynamic content modules very heavily, allowing me to upload one email template and having different block display for different data segments upon send. I’m also a fan of how easy it is to schedule emails and implement send time optimisation across campaigns using the inbuilt inbox monitoring function. You can schedule an email and fire it off and be confident that the customers who receive it will be getting relevant, personalised content at a time that suits them to receive it."
- Cordial - “This platform has an advanced AI behind it and is a go-to for personalization efforts. A good platform for businesses who want to take their email marketing to the next level, as it is not the cheapest solution out there but well worth the additional investment. Also has a cool drag-and-drop editor that makes putting emails together easier. Integrates with major ecommerce platforms. Why I recommend it is because of how advanced the data capabilities are in flow creation, much more advanced than most platforms. Recommended for businesses that have advanced rules for flows, such as leveraging multiple data sets or triggers.”
- Klaviyo - “A great starting platform for email marketing. Integrates easily with Shopify and updates real-time. Very easy to create and manage flows, which is a fall-through for some other platforms I’ve tested through the years. It also integrates real-time with some other Shopify apps, such as Privy for onsite marketing and JustUno. Affordable and easy to use, a good platform to start email marketing with or a step-up from a platform like MailChimp.”
- MailChimp - “Great for startups or companies who are not ready to invest in email marketing or who are starting from scratch and want to see how it goes before investing in a better platform. Now it has capabilities for onsite pop-ups and even landing pages and has a free starter package. It allows for easy email creation, free templates and much more.”
- MailChimp - “Best is Mailchimp. Why?
We use a range of email marketing software for our clients including Campaign Monitor, AWeber and MailChimp, but MailChimp is the all-round winner.
It's a great tool for newbie email marketers and experienced professionals alike. Regardless of what you want to do, you can usually find the functionality somewhere in MailChimp or any number of the plugins that integrate with it. From simple standard manual mailouts to automated RSS driven blog post, most campaigns types take just a few seconds to set up.
MailChimp makes sure you can easily design each stage of the sign up or opt out process to suit your brand and you get a large number of options that allows you to create landing pages, forms, popups, redirects and everything needed to offer free downloads or access to hidden parts of your site for those who sign up to your mailouts.
One of the handy features MailChimp get just right is the ease of which anyone can create a series of autoresponders that allows you to slowly drip feed your message, proposition and sales pitches to potential clients who have signed up to your list.”
- Klaviyo - “Klaviyo is my #1 recommendation for ecommerce entreprenuers specifically if you are using Shopify or a similar ecommerce platform. Klaviyo integrates nicely and enable you to see your true ROI (return on investment) from email marketing. They also work exclusively within the ecommerce space, which is important in today’s hyper-competitive ESP marketplace.”
- MailChimp - “Mailchimp is very comparable to Klaviyo. I consider Mailchimp to be more newbie friendly, but may not be your best option once you scale and need to add more advanced functionality. But their inbox deliverability is great and is a great place to start for almost any industry with a clean opt-in email database.”
- Sendlane - “Sendlane has a great team and take great care of their clients as well. I believe Sendlane will be a major player in the ESP space over the next several years.”
- Constant Contact - “I’ve worked with Constant Contact since 2012. Employees of the software company offer excellent customer service and consultative support services. Constant Contact is affordable and dedicated to small business. Constant Contact is an innovative company and their consistently evolving email marketing product comes with many bells and whistles for a low monthly fee making it attractive to businesses.”
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is a secondary option to Constant Contact. It allows small business owners the ability to create and distribute email newsletters with ease and at a very affordable rate – free. Their customer service is not as available as Constant Contact; however, they rate number two in my book of email service providers.”
- MailChimp - "A popular entry level platform is MailChimp. They define their target audience as small businesses and have the tools and functionality to support SMEs including templates, basic personalisation and basic email automation. MailChimp is used by a huge number of small businesses and SMEs who don’t need to send large volumes of emails or require sophisticated data segmentation. It’s particularly appealing for eCommerce brands who can utilise their integration capability with platforms like Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce."
- Adestra MessageFocus - "For a step up from Mailchimp, for businesses needing more support, more sophisticated data segmentation and email workflows, Adestra is a good option. The addition of account management will be particularly welcome for those businesses sending larger volumes of emails, regularly creating multiple new campaigns or who need support for internal staff."
- Zoho - "If you’re looking for a bit more than a basic ESP, for managing trigger emails and workflow management, a marketing automation platform should be a consideration. Zoho is an entry level platform that combines CRM and email management making it a great option for small and start-up B2B businesses looking to log and manage leads through their pipeline. Zoho also integrates with MailChimp for access to a wider range of tools, making for a more powerful email management solution."
Out of the numerous services out there we’d recommend either Mailchimp at the entry-level (if your requirements are fairly straightforward), or Drip if your needs are more complex.
- MailChimp - "Most people who’ve used any email marketing software in the past will have heard of MailChimp. It’s affordable, quite easy-to-use for basic applications, and their ‘forever free’ plan of up to 2,000 contacts is often enough for many smaller businesses (if you don’t mind having a “Powered by Mailchimp” button on all your mails). If your goal for email marketing is simply to automate the sending of bulk emails to various customer lists, then MailChimp is ideal. Where MailChimp falls down is when you need to do something more complex. The system’s automation and recipient management features lack many elements that are standard with competitive systems, for example. Quite often, even for basic applications, you have to create multiple recipient lists in order to do what you want. MailChimp is more of a ‘hands-on’ system, where you need to go in on a regular basis to set-up or tweak something, rather than a system that you set-up once and don’t need to touch it again maybe for weeks."
- Drip - "Think of Drip as much more than simply an email marketing tool and more as an affordable, easy-to-use email marketing automation platform. The applications of Drip are huge, but as an example you could use Drip to control the type of Facebook ads you’re showing to customers, automate ‘cart abandonment’ campaigns for customers who didn’t complete their online purchase, and resend emails using an alternative “subject” line to recipients who didn’t open the first one. The user interface looks easy to use, and it is – as long as your workflow is simple. However things can get quite tricky if you’re developing something complex – the downside to the system’s flexibility. Drip is more expensive than MailChimp, but then it’s doing much more than simply sending emails. Drip also offers a free plan (for up to 100 contacts) which is otherwise identical to their paid plans – it’s not cut down in any other way."
- Drip - “Drip is one of my favourite tools. I have tried many, but Drip is just generally superior in my opinion. Its ease of use and extensive functions are unbelievably well thought out. Combine all of that with their pricing and you have a winning product for small businesses.”
- ActiveCampaign - “ActiveCampaign is a game changer. This is one of those tools that if implemented correctly goes way beyond just email marketing. It is a true automation platform. In the right environment, its automation can really deliver a great deal of benefit to SMB.”
Maryna Shynkarenko / Vlad Shevchenko
Nobody has invented the perfect email marketing service for small businesses yet, as there is always something missing. Everyone’s criteria for selection of a mailing platform vary, so in the present article we’ve decided to focus on simplicity of use (even when the user encounters the interface for the first time), availability of a free account and affordable paid plans, and capabilities to bulk email and automate email marketing campaigns.
In our opinion, some of the most suitable ESPs for small businesses are:
These services are quite similar in their features and functionality, so let’s look at their common advantages:
• Quick creation of subscription forms for any design;
• Friendly interface;
• User segmentation;
• Campaign analytics and tracking;
• Automation and autoresponders;
• Email template builder;
• Over a hundred ready-made adaptive templates;
• Multiple useful integrations with e-commerce platforms and CRM;
• Easy adjustment to Zapier integration, if needed;
• A plethora of tutorials, how-tos, and instructional videos.
Each of these services also have their own distinctive benefits, as well as, of course, the disadvantages, which we shall discuss in more detail further on in the article.
- MailChimp - “MailChimp is an excellent choice for small businesses with a limited budget because the platform offers useful features, such as automation even for users with a free account.
Users with under 2,000 subscribers sending no more than 12,000 emails a month can choose a free account. Paid accounts start at $10 per month.
1. Easy landing pages creation.
2. Option to create Facebook, Instagram, and Google AdWords ads directly from your MailChimp account.
3. Automation is available even for free accounts.
4. One of the best responsive email builders on the market.
5. Functionality to accommodate the GDPR. Include GDPR fields, allow marketing permissions to synchronize contacts and delete personal data on demand directly through the API.
Slow client support, split testing is only available for PRO accounts, setting trigger emails logic can be tricky. Once your business is scaled to medium size, the price hikes up significantly, surpassing many other ESPs.”
- GetResponse - “GetResponse is one of the most popular email marketing tools for small businesses, particularly favored by businesses offering educational and information services. Within the platform, you can conduct webinars and automatically send out notification emails so that subscribers do not miss your event.
There is a free 30-day trial plan for users with databases of under 500 subscribers and inexpensive monthly plans starting at $15, without restrictions on monthly sending volume.
1. Readily customizable, intuitive automatic scripts, accessible even for newbies.
2. Option to create simple landing pages within the platform, access to 1,000+ stock images from iStock.
3. Ready-to-use predesigned survey form templates.
4. Availability of a webinar room.
5. Automation of dispatches: creation of emails through Json requests.
Limited automation for base accounts (PRO accounts start at $49), inconvenient email builder, occasional bugs with new updates.”
- SendPulse - “SendPulse is a convenient and multifunctional service for working with email distribution. The service leans toward an omnichannel approach, so users will be pleasantly surprised by additional functions, such as web and mobile push notifications and sms-dispatches.
There is a free plan for users with 2,500 subscribers sending under 15,000 emails a month. By the way, the free plan includes unlimited pushes! For businesses with a limited budget that also want to try alternative ways to reach subscribers - other than email - this service is an ideal option. All paid rates start at $11, which is, admittedly, a fairly low price.
1. Easy set-up of push notifications.
2. AI-curated automatic re-sending of unread messages, guaranteeing the best resend time for each subscriber.
3. Preview of trigger emails when setting up automation.
4. Email automation can be paired with automation of other direct channels, such as push or sms.
5. Map of clicks and device analytics.
Automation is only available in paid plans, low loading speed for contact sheets and when mailing your email campaigns, only basic integrations with CRM and CMS.”
- ActiveCampaign - “With ActiveCampaign you can easily drag & drop your own template, build your list and create your own marketing automation flows. You can go for maximum results with limited effort. I have a soft spot for automated flows. What I really like about the drag & drop automation builder is the option to automatically split your audience into two groups (or more) to do structural A/B testing. This has helped me optimize my marketing flows more than once. Creating a non-linear campaign with sidesteps, conditions and actions is also easy. The ability to assign tags to certain actions and stages in your automation is also great for analysis and follow-up purposes.
ActiveCampaign has its limitations (the form builder is very basic for instance) and is sometimes a bit flaky in performance, but it is quite affordable and even with a limited plan you can do great things. Features such as lead scoring come with a price, depending on the amount of contacts you have you pay twice or thrice the bill you pay for the lite plan. You can try ActiveCampaign for free for two weeks.”
- UserEngage - “A tool you have to check out is UserEngage. It combines email with mobile marketing and chat. Tools that can handle all these channels well and provide you with a 360 degree customer view are the future if you ask me. UserEngage’s campaign canvas is very easy to work with and offers a lot of options, triggers and actions. Currently mobile marketing is limited to Android, but they’ve assured me an iOS version will be available soon. I really like their option to create your own analytics dashboard within UserEngage and the contact insights (collected data, behaviour) are impressive. Whereas the starter plan is more expensive than that of ActiveCampaign, UserEngage wins when you opt for the more fancy plans. You can try UserEngage for free for two weeks.”
- Laposta - “Laposta is a basic Dutch ESP that can do a lot of things MailChimp can, but offers more and at a lower price. It recently released its automation functionality with which you can create non-linear automation flows (not just drip, but if/then/else forks) by dragging and dropping actions on a canvas. Creating an email works just like you want it to: you combine objects in your email and then customize them. They also have a lot of predefined templates to use. Building a list is easy and creating segments works really well. Definitely worth a look if you know your Dutch. Free to use up to 2.000 contacts and 12.000 emails per month.”
- AllClients - “Things I most like about it ...
• It's very fast to get set up and start working - you don't need a degree in CRM!
• Really simple 3 or 4 level structure allowing easy codification of contacts and very flexible / powerful searching allowing highly targeted campaigns
• Automation for email campaigns - not all CRMs have this, bizarrely
• To-do-lists and Action Sets which allow you to automate your sales and business process
• Intelligent links that you embed into emails, making instant responses to campaigns really easy – eg. Do you want to upgrade to X plan …YES or NO?
• They have some very sexy in-built landing pages, making use of an external landing page providers unnecessary
• It’s really easy to use ‘on the go’ – eg. On mobile and iPad etc. Which makes a massive difference if you are trying to track campaigns, respond quickly etc. A great way of leveraging small businesses resources as it means it’s not all queuing up for when you ‘get back to the office’.
• The support is outstanding - online and same day responses by email. They must all know me on first name terms by now - I ask, they reply. Unusual tbh.”
- Infusionsoft - “I was an InfusionSoft user for several years before I ‘downscaled’ to AllClients. Infusionsoft is right at the top end of the market in terms of functionality and price. But it comes with an equal measure of complexity – resulting in its moniker ‘confusionsoft’.
• I stopped recommending it to clients because most people do not have the skill set, mind set or commitment to make it work for them or explore its functionality.
• However, for those who do, it’s unbeatable in terms of function – it can track every aspect of your campaign, with its drag&drop graphical interface. You create pathways for every conceivable eventuality…if they do watch the video; if they don’t; if they’ve click on the link but not acted upon it, etc etc.
• Which means your planning time for campaigns is longer – but the outcomes more measurable.
• You probably need someone ‘in house’ who is prepared to commit to being ‘the InfusionSoft guy’. Playing with this part time won’t ever work.”
- MailChimp - "This used to be bottom end of the market, but they have improved no end. If you are start-up or still developing your marketing automation and email marketing, MailChimp will give you everything you need and more. Inexpensive, easy to use and has all the tools you need."
- SharpSpring - "If you are looking for a comprehensive and scalable marketing platform, most people look to the market leaders like HubSpot, Infusionsoft and Marketo. SharpSpring will provide you with all of the functionality, reporting, and features of all of the big tools, but with pricing and flexibility that works much better for small businesses. No need to shell out £6k plus upfront. You can pay monthly. It’s a great set of tools, easy to use and very intuitive. Their customer service and support is second to none as well."
- MailChimp - "Why? In the last few years MailChimp has gone from back of the pack to leading from the front. It has a sleek design and is incredibly easy to set up and operate. Best of all – you can send up to 12,000 emails for free every month. All in all it’s a standout choice for any small business looking to get their email marketing underway."
- Campaign Monitor - "If you’re looking for something slightly more sophisticated, Campaign Monitor does an excellent job at building workflows. It allows small business to build and automate processes which send emails out to customers when they do (or don’t do) something. These can vary from basic actions to very complicated touchpoints, but Campaign Monitor gives the flexibility to do whatever you want."
Glenn “Email OG” Edley
- MailChimp - "MailChimp continues to be the leader in helping businesses’ start sending beautiful emails. With the tools and integrations they have available in the platform you can start collecting email addresses and sending emails quickly. Once you’ve realised email is the best marketing channel you have you can get help to drive your email marketing harder and the platform can scale up with your business."
- Klaviyo - "Klaviyo makes automation quite easy. Again, excellent integrations, good tools and a simple setup with the scalability for an experienced email marketing team to get even more from it."
- MailChimp - “MailChimp has been my consistent go-to recommendation for anyone looking for their first email marketing system for many years. It’s been around since 2001 and its delivery rates have been consistently reliable over the years. They responded well during the recent introduction of the GDPR laws; they seemed to listen well to their customers; a good indication of their customer support which I believe to be incredibly important when dealing with a digital service. Several of my clients did find their list segmentation restrictive but with their recent introduction of the tagging feature, this should make MailChimp far more flexible for you as you grow your list.”
- Infusionsoft - “Infusionsoft is the e-commerce system I use for my own business. Now this system may not be right for you, especially if you are in the early stages of starting your business and/or list. If all you want is a broadcasting and autoresponder system, then this will be like a hammer to crack your nut. But if you know you want to manage several marketing campaigns and you want to have an e-commerce system under the same roof as your email list, then I can highly recommend Infusionsoft. Word of warning though – it will take you at least three months to up and running with this system because it can be complex to start with but if you are focused on the long term growth, rather than an instant quick fix, this is worth looking at.”
- ActiveCampaign - “ActiveCampaign was created for people getting frustrated by Infusionsoft. If you don’t need the payment processing, e-commerce shop or affiliate programmes, then ActiveCampaign will be a cheaper and easier option for you. I did try to move away from Infusionsoft to go to ActiveCampaign last year, but for some reason my brain just didn’t like the vertical layout of their campaigns. But don’t let that put you off because you may prefer the layout in ActiveCampaign.”
- MailChimp - “I recommend that small businesses consider using MailChimp for their email marketing campaigns, primarily because they get reports detailing who has opened, clicked, bounced and unsubscribed from their emails, amongst much more.
Templates can be created and saved so all future emails look alike and the drag and drop campaign builder option makes it simple to use and produces professional looking emails. I’d recommend not using the pre-designed templates, as when I have done so, I’ve invested time customising them but get to a part where I can’t, get frustrated, and end us building it myself from scratch. You are also able to import and use your own html designed campaign, although this is not something I have ever done with my clients. The ability to set and change the font settings throughout the campaign is a function that I miss when I am made to use another ESP.
The list management section is simple to use, and the form builder makes it possible to collect new contacts. MailChimp has always been strict on their Opt-in policy and reminds users of this often.
There’s so much more that I could go into detail or list about the benefits of using MailChimp, as it is a super great tool, which is easy to use and is free (for up to 2000 subscribers and limited to 12000 emails a month -so more than plenty for most small businesses).”
- MailChimp - “Probably one of the most popular email service providers for SMB, MailChimp offers an incredibly simplified UI that allows most savy internet users a way to send not only static campaigns, but automated campaigns. These automated campaigns are incredibly important as they allow the business owner to set up messages once, and have them send when the criterion is met. This allows for marketing when you’re not thinking about it. They also have a constant need to educate their users as they have a incredibly up-to-date blog and content strategy.
For costs, MailChimp bases it’s costs on how much you send, but their pricing is pretty low, which is an advantage for small business owners. I would recommend MailChimp to those business owners who want to do a bit more with their email marketing but are still doing it themselves, or have a marketing person with an overflowing plate of responsibilities.”
- Constant Contact - “One of the first SMB companies out there that you’ve probably heard of through their advertising. They have an incredibly simplified UI and cater almost exclusively to the SMB market. From acquiring lists to templates and creative examples, they take the hand of the SMB business owner and help them communicate with subscribers and customers. Constant Contact is the ground floor of the SMB marketplace and for those that are not that internet savy, they make it very simple. You can drag and drop the build of emails so you don’t need to know HTML as well.
Pricing for Constant Contact is based on list size and is a bit more expensive than other providers. I would recommend Constant Contact to those that want to have email marketing, but are cost conscious and want to just have an easy and impressive way to communicate.”
- dotmailer - “dotmailer globally has been an enterprise vehicle for marketers to send messages to millions of contacts. Recently in the US they’ve come into the SMB and Mid-Market business with pricing that allows marketers that are ready to dig deep into email sophistication. Now, it should be said, that investments with dotmailer are equal to your thoughts and needs beyond simple email marketing. More depth on marketing automation and enterprise level functions allow you to really accelerate what you want. If you’re doing it right, that is mirrored with success that drives sales. dotmailer is a great company to graduate from either MailChimp or Constant Contact, but I have known small business owners that have started with dotmailer solely because they are both marketing and internet savvy and know the return they can get with the investment. These business owners put in a lot of effort, so if you have a dedicated person for marketing in a wider team, this is an option you want to explore.
I would recommend dotmailer to SMB companies that clearly are tuned into digital marketing or have a background. Also, I would recommend dotmailer to companies that feel like they’ve outgrown the smaller players, but are not big enough to take the leap to a much larger investment.”
“98.4% of people surveyed have said that they check their email daily and email marketing is still one of THE best ways to reach and interact with your customers, patients and clients. Email marketing is an excellent tool for:
• Building brand awareness
• Establishing your own/ your firm’s expertise
• Driving web traffic
• Creating and nurturing leads
• Getting your community to ‘know like and trust’ you
• Filling events
• And of course, Driving Sales!
Your choice of Email Service Providers should be based on YOUR goals. Consider integration, functionality, if needed, your budget, bandwidth (how much time you have) and your comfort level with the basic interface.
If you are just starting out, have a small mailing list, NO budget at all and/or are a non-profit trying to grow from scratch, I recommend Mail Chimp. It is free and while you get what you pay for, in terms of lower deliverability rates and the hassle of double opt-in, it does offer a fairly professional end product with limited technical skill required.
If you are a serious enterprise with thousands of people on your mailing list and a staff to monitor results and integrate your email marketing with your advertising and sales efforts, I usually recommend Salesforce or Infusionsoft. These are powerful tools which, in the right hands, can really help you build your bottom line.
In many cases, the companies that I work with who HAVE one of these advanced programs rarely take advantage of all the bells and whistles. They end up spending a lot of time and money on software they don’t fully utilize.
For small to midsized businesses who are looking to grow and nurture their customer base, I always recommend Constant Contact. CC is an easy to use tool, built to send effective, attractive mailings at an affordable price. Your mailings will look great on any device, you can schedule delivery and posts to your social media profiles and there are a number of useful applications like list segmentation, survey options and contact building tools that help YOU build YOUR business.”
- Constant Contact - “Attractive Templates:
Yes, the CONTENT is really what matters but if the recipients don’t bother to even LOOK at it, you won’t get the conversions you need!
Constant Contact offers templates for any number of mailing types from event invitations to sales mailings, plain text emails and of course, enewsletters. All of them have the option of including high resolutions graphics (they offer a library or you can upload your own), call to action buttons, links and surveys.
The easy to use drag and drop interface makes it easy to create branded, professional looking mailings, quickly.
If you are already using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, Constant Contact integrates seamlessly with most of the more popular tools. If you are NOT already using a CRM, CC provides you with the functionality to TAG, SEGMENT and monitor the actions of your mailing list members so you can be sure the right people are getting the right message and that they are following through on your calls to action.
They also offer a number of list building tools such as website sign up widgets, applications to connect this tool to your existing email and social media accounts, ‘text to join’ and point of sale integration to keep your list growing.
Scheduling and Social Media Integration:
While I am NOT a fan of the ‘set it and forget it’ school of marketing, I DO highly recommend creating (and USING!) an editorial calendar. This way, you can build and schedule your mailings in advance so you are not struggling at the last minute to figure out what you will send.
The social media integration allows you to ‘push’ your content out to your social communities, amplifying your message.
As you can see, I am a huge fan of email marketing and could go on all day about how to use it to build YOUR business. If you need help getting started and/or would like to design an effective strategy to make the most of these powerful tools, please reach out to me.”
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no added cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve…The list goes on. In 2018 there are numerous options available to anyone looking for professional video editing software. But which is the best. How do you choose?
These are precisely the questions that we set out to answer with this article. How? Well we did what any sane person would do and contacted hundreds of professional video editors (ok, so maybe we’re not that sane), asking one simple question: “In your opinion what is the best professional video editing software on the market?” After all, who knows better than a pro that uses this software all the time, right? Eventually, we ended up with 116 contributions and a whole lot of insightful information.
So whether you’re a passionate hobbyist and you’ve outgrown your current setup, an aspiring pro wanting to make an educated career choice or an industry veteran just wanting to know your peers’ take on this subject, scroll down to read the results of our survey.
Top Pro Video Editing Software: How Our Experts Voted
|Editing Software||# of Votes|
|#1. Adobe Premiere Pro||92 Votes|
|#2. Avid Media Composer||11 Votes|
|#3. Final Cut Pro X||5 Votes|
|#4. DaVinci Resolve||3 Votes|
|#5. Avid Symphony||2 Votes|
|#=6. Sony Vegas||1 Vote|
|#=6. Autodesk Flame||1 Vote|
|#=6. LumaFusion||1 Vote|
|#=6. MPEG Streamclip||1 Vote|
|#=6. Adobe After Effects||1 Vote|
The result of the vote was, as you can see, pretty…unanimous. In terms of the numbers it was definitely a landslide victory for Adobe Premiere Pro. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story here.
Many of the editors that voted for Premiere Pro talked highly of Avid Media Composer too. We didn’t give them to chance to choose both, so when push came to shove, they went with what is best suited to their own particular editing requirements. And that’s the key here. We were told more times than I care to remember that it really depends on the type of editing you’re doing as to which would be considered the top rated professional video editing software.
The general trend that we noticed when conducting this survey was that for editing long-form content that is complex and data heavy, Avid is the daddy (it is the main professional video editing software used in Hollywood and TV, and has been for some time). This is primarily due to it being very robust, and its great media management and sharing capabilities.
However, for short form and digital content, Premiere Pro was by far and away the winner, recommended time and time again by our experts. The Creative Cloud and Premiere’s seamless integration with the entire package is without doubt one of the major pull factors. A few short years ago Final Cut Pro would almost certainly have come out on top, but they dropped the ball with the release of FCPX and a lot of users jumped ship to Premiere. It still has some loyal fans, and is improving all the time, but our survey showed that it still has some way to go before it can be a strong contender for best non linear editing software once again.
Rounding out this quick summary of the results is DaVinci Resolve. It didn’t get a ton of votes, but it was mentioned by a good number of pro editors as the “one to watch.” It’s already been the go-to option for color grading for a while now, and could well rival Premiere Pro as an all-round package in the near future.
1) If you’re editing shorter videos that aren’t as data heavy, are working alone, and/or work a lot with graphics, this professional editing software will likely be a good fit:
2) If you’re working on longer, data heavy videos and/or are collaborating with numerous other editors on the same project, this will likely be your best professional video editor:
Here’s What Our Video Editing Experts Said
Below we’ve posted what each of the experts had to say when we reached out to them for their take on video editing software used by professionals. There are plenty of invaluable insights in there! And if you want to read about a particular video editing program, you can filter the recommendations using the buttons below.
"After around 10 years using Final Cut Pro, they released a new version that was basically like starting over from scratch. After speaking with several contacts at popular websites, I was told that Premiere was not only very close to the old FCP, but you could customize the keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts become second-nature for an editor, so it was huge to be able to adjust them accordingly. In the TV world, Avid is the industry standard, but after many years of being a freelancer, I’m finding that the vast majority of the web-based companies prefer Premiere. Also, definitely worth mentioning how valuable the entire Adobe suite is, and the integration between applications is absolutely seamless."
"I personally prefer Premiere CC as my editing software of choice because it has dynamic linking with other Adobe products, is ascetically pleasing, and has all of the features I need to use every day. While I have used both Final Cut X and Avid in the past, I finally switched to Premiere when I joined a production company that used it and I haven’t looked back since.
While I loved using Final Cut 7, I felt that Final Cut X was lacking a lot of essential tools and I hated the ribbon of footage. Essentially it felt like an introductory program to video editing because of its lack of depth and flexibility. I’ve heard it has improved but I only know of one production company that uses it (for the reasons mentioned above) and, therefore it’s not worth looking into again in my opinion.
As for Avid, I feel that the issues are the opposite. It is a needlessly complex program that uses mechanics not implemented in any other programs I’ve used, which creates a steep learning curve. It is also less ascetically pleasing than both Premiere and Final Cut Pro X. The only reason I could see preferring Avid over Premiere would be if I was working on a project with a very large team, as this program has implemented a lot of great sharing abilities. I do know a few production companies and post houses who use Avid and it’s usually used on very high quality projects because the program is so stable and robust. Though, because it is so stable and robust, it is very taxing on computers and therefore makes it hard to choose over other programs when not working on a big team.
I feel that Premiere is a great in-between program that is nice to look at, easy to learn and use, has sharing capabilities, has dynamic linking to other Adobe programs, and has all of the essential tools a video editor would need. As well, almost all the production companies I’ve worked for or looked into use Premiere, with a lot of places switching from Avid. Due to that fact, it only makes sense to use the program that is quickly becoming the gold standard in the filmmaking world."
"In Premiere you can cut together a small personal piece or a massive multicamera production. It’s powerful and intuitive allowing experienced editors to sit down, arrange their workspace and get down to cutting instantly in the NLVE experience they’re used to. The integrations with other Adobe products, as well as vital tools to the modern editor like Cinema 4D, are priceless to creatives and vital to our workflow. Adobe commands the video editing market and it’s clear they respect the professionals who need to work day in, day out on their applications."
"To be clear I’m choosing Premiere Pro because it’s the NLE that I am most comfortable with. I have been using it for 5 years now and in that time it’s become widely accepted by the industry. As a side note, I don’t have extensive experience with Avid or Final Cut X, so some of the features I mention may apply to them as well.
Although clunky at times, the way each program in the CC suite talks to each other makes customized workflows very easy. The dynamic link feature between After Effects and Premiere shaves hours off of importing templated lower thirds into a project without having to constantly export new assets.
Being able to generate proxies in the background while I work and then having the ability to switch between the RAW and proxy with just a click makes colouring a project a little easier.
In recent years, the introduction of the essential sound panel has helped me get faster at adjusting my audio mix. Along with the ease of bringing a project into Audition to paint out any background noise and then seamlessly bringing the audio back into premiere for a final conform.
At the end of the day I like Premiere so much because I’m fast on it and I’ve learned how to avoid some of the quirks that some people hate about the program."
"Bar none Premiere Pro is the best NLE package. I have used different packages over the years and I used to be the biggest advocate for Final Cut Pro. After FCPX came out, I chose Premier Pro, the main reason being that it is easy to send edits to After Effects, which is my bread and butter. I also use Adobe Audition, and the ability to go back and forth from Premiere to Audition makes it an easy choice."
"My work involves many tools that aren’t available in standard video editing software. Therefore, Premiere, despite its rather annoying interface and clunky feel, provides a smooth integration with After Effects and other Adobe products, allowing me to produce my work’s unique look.
That being said, my dream software would also include the awesome, real-time capabilities of Modul8 and Ableton Live and the fluidity of Final Cut Pro 7.
I gave up on the Adobe Feature Request Form a long time ago."
"As you know everything is not always perfect or always going to be the best. Something new always pops up that is better than the last. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to editing software. The best editing software in my opinion would be Adobe Premiere. Whether you’re just starting off or editing professionally, Premiere is easy to learn and amazing to work with.
I love working with this and it loves working with me. My favorite thing about Premiere is how easy it is to use. For instance, if I bring a photo into Premiere and see something in there that I don’t like, I can simply bring that photo into Photoshop, make my edit and hop back into Premiere and the edit is done. The same goes for After Effects. Dynamic Link is a savior.
Another huge advantage for Premiere is the “Sandwich Timeline”. This is the ability to stack multiple timelines on top of each other and work from there. So basically one timeline can be selections of the best clips and the other timeline can be used to build. I find this very helpful in getting projects done extremely fast because you don’t really have to sub clip, or keep clicking and scrubbing through to see what’s in the clip. This is a simple click, drag and drop and watch your story unfold in front of you.
I have worked with a bunch of different softwares such as Avid Media Composer, FCP7, FCX, Edius etc. And I strongly believe that Premiere is incomparable. What Adobe really reeled in was the look. This is a program that looks and feels up to date. Not like the others. Avid, FCP7 just feels old once working with them. Premieres default interface is extremely easy on the eyes with being all black. Whereas Avid and FCP7 have an uncomfortable gray look to it making it harsh on the eye and old. Very old.
I like the direction Premiere is going with everything and I only see them getting better. A lot of companies have made or are making the switch over to Premiere because of how dynamic it is. So if you’re wondering which software you would like to use to get started with, I would strongly suggest Adobe Premiere."
"I think there are many standards of software available and it's ultimately what you’re comfortable and confident in using. However, Adobe Premiere Pro in particular sets a universal standard for editing.
It’s accessible, affordable for students and businesses alike and has all the tools and capabilities that a professional video editor will need. It’s hard to quantify this as the best exactly, but it is one of the most popular editing software to use.
It’s extremely intuitive. If you are already familiar with the likes of Photoshop, Illustrator, you will be familiar with the Adobe layout. And even if this your first video editing software that you're venturing on, with the interface and tools available, you'll be proficient in no time at all.
But more than the user interface and getting to know the software, the best part about Premiere Pro is that it is an Adobe product.
There are a host of other Adobe software available that pair seamlessly with one another. Photo editing software like Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Audition amongst others. These are industry grade software available in just a few clicks. With enough time and dedication, you can go from being an enthusiast to being a professional.
Of course there are more favored video editing software, but this will vary from editor to editor, and different production companies. It’s all about finding the best one that works for you. Once you learn those principles, it can be easily transferred and applied to any other software you get your hands on."
"In my career I worked on basically every edit software there is. When I was in my first year of my BA in Video Editing I worked with Sony Vegas 8. In my second and third year I worked with Final Cut. In my final year of Uni and my freelance work after that I started editing with Premiere Pro. When I went to work in broadcast I worked with Avid. I also had a project where I had to do amends in the DaVincivideo editor. Currently I am working with Premiere Proand the wholeAdobe Creative Suite.
So having in mind that I worked with a lot of software through the years I can safely say that Premiere Prois my favorite to work with. Every program has the basic tool of video editing, but what makes Premiere Pro amazing in my opinion is the easy way you can jump to After Effects, make changes to a graphic and jump back into editing without wasting the time of our clients in unnecessary exports and renders. Also the huge library of all sorts of plug-in for Premiere and After Effects is a big draw for me as well.
Premiere Pro is well supported and often updated by Adobe and with the big family of the Creative Suite plus the huge library of plug-ins, makes it my top choice for editing."
"Fast-turnarounds are key to most of my edits, so it’s important to have a set up that I know like the back of my hand. Adobe Premiere is where I feel most at home. I was one of the many editors that jumped ship to Adobe when FCPX replaced FCP7. At first it slowed my editing down to a crawl, but I soon picked up the many new shortcuts and innovations. As new versions come out regularly, I’m impressed by how quickly the technology is moving forward. Some things don’t always work perfectly and I can’t deny there can be some nasty bugs from system to system, but once you hit a sweet spot, it’s a very enjoyable experience.
I’ve tried editing in DaVinci Resolve where I do my colour grades, but I almost always revert back to Premiere. It’s just got everything exactly where I need it to be – fully personalised in window layout and shortcuts that can be quickly moved between computers by simply emailing yourself the presets. Like most editing apps these days, it plays almost any native format, exports to almost any format and doesn’t require rendering to playback in real-time. Also, as most of my edits are short-form, I rarely find the time or the need to make proxy versions. I can easily cut 4K straight from the camera. Premiere is my weapon of choice and it’ll be a hard sell to get me to jump ship again. At least for now…"
"If I had to select one video editing software as the best, it would be Adobe Premiere. The Adobe ecosystem alone is the biggest pro, since all the relevant apps talk to one another. For example, if you are working on an edit and there is a crackle in your audio, you can right click and send the audio to Adobe Audition, fix the problem, hit save, and the audio in Premiere is automatically updated. This workflow is a true godsend.
Now I shouldn’t forget the feature of the program being cross-platform. This is key when working with different editors on different platforms. Although I always prefer to work on a mac, I have plenty of colleagues and clients who only work in windows. The only real con this program has is that it can be unstable and with every update I always fear something breaking i.e. plugins."
"I find the magnetic timeline on Final Cut Pro X very useful. It allows me to edit faster and there is less moving around of shots once you figure out how to use it properly. Apple’s interface in general is very user friendly and everything on the menu mimics Apple’s OS, which makes troubleshooting much easier than with other software.I also love that you can save all assets in one library and just move it around between hard drives easily.
Another great aspect of the software is that you pay for it once and it is yours. While other companies like Adobe charge you monthly in order to use it. After a couple of years of using the software the amount of money spent is quite ridiculous. They just assume that every editor is swimming in money and charging their clients tons of money in order to afford the software."
Luisa C. Winters
"I have been using Premiere Pro since 1994 (when it was called only Premiere), and since then I have seen a tremendous improvement and commitment from the Adobe team to make this the best editing software available. Not only have we seen improvements in stability and performance, but the color correction tools (Lumetri), and the introduction of Motion Graphics Templates make Premiere Pro a difficult software to beat. If you add all of that to its unmatched integration capability with After Effects, you know you have a winner here!"
"I’ve used Premiere Pro as an extension of my experience in animation and visual arts. The direct and intuitive way one can manipulate video effects and juggling a wide range of media give it an edge for short-form projects. Moving video layers will be immediately familiar to heavy Photoshop users, and animating in After Effects is just a link away."
"Oh how to begin… I first learned to edit using Final Cut Pro, but I switched to Adobe Premiere after the great Final Cut X-odus of 2011. Premiere’s workflow was relatively similar to FCP, so it was a quick transition. Here are some of the main reasons I’m a Premiere fan girl:
- Over the years it’s been a phenomenal tool for getting edits done quickly without interruptions and delays from processes like logging, transcoding, and rendering.
- Dynamic linking is a godsend for videos that require intermediate-expert level motion graphics and audio mixing.
- For the types of videos I create, the built in color correction tools (mainly lumetri) have been all I need to do a first pass on color and to add a little style to my footage in the grade.
- Adobe Media Encoder comes with Adobe Premiere and the integration has been really great for queueing renders up without interrupting current edits.
- With the arrival of Creative Cloud, Adobe has been incredibly responsive to feedback, and patches to bugs come out relatively quickly.
- One of the last major updates introduced a collaborative editing option called “Team Projects.” While it’s not perfect, I’ve used it on several large editing projects with success and I’m excited to see how it evolves over the next few years."
"I have tried most popular editing software, from the free ones like Cyberlink to pricey Avid. They each have their pros and cons depending on what you're looking for. But I've settled on Premiere Pro as my go to editing software. I think it is the best deal for what you get, and with the great options of getting the entire creative suite basically sets you up for whatever creative needs you want from animation to brochure design.
To anyone looking to self-learn an editing software, Premiere is the most intuitive and straightforward. I was taught on Avid at University, but once I graduated I couldn't justify the price so I decided to try out Premiere since I was familiar with Photoshop. Without even watching tutorials or reading up on it, I quickly learned how to use it and within 6 months of using it, I was editing my first feature length documentary.
One thing many people also may overlook if they are an Avid or Final Cut user is the transferability. I use a windows laptop as do many of my colleagues, but for those who use Mac, there is still a seamless transfer of files. Whereas for the few people I know who still use Final Cut, I cannot be passed along their files because they simply wouldn't open. Also, the fact that the creative cloud is accessible online has allowed me to download Premiere on random computers when I've been away and need a quick export since all my files are stored on the cloud. It's saved me from angry clients!
Overall, I think you get the most out of Premiere for the price you pay. Obviously it has its problems that can be frustrating. But it is a fast program that you can learn quickly and painlessly. Especially as a freelancer, having a program that can run on any computer I may be working on, it saves me the headache of carrying my laptop with me everywhere."
"It's all about horses for courses with most NLE's and what you are used to. As an editor who started learning on Final Cut Pro, which was very intuitive and user friendly, Premiere was designed by the same person who made Final Cut and this shows, but only has become a serious contender for industry standard recently.
I have always found Adobe software (as that's all they make) logical and easy to learn, and when you need to learn multiple applications to do your job, ease of use is key. A lot of purists from the film and early video days prefer Avid, which was more modelled around representing film and video tape editing in a digital way, and most of Final Cut and Premiere's best features have been lifting and improved upon from Avid, which hasn't changed much in a very long time. Avid isn't particularly user friendly and can take a long time to grasp for most new editors these days.
Premiere is extremely good at being able to edit many different codecs from various cameras, whereas Avid needs to transcode to MXF before editing and the new Final Cut works best when it transcodes to Pro Res (which it can do in the background which is nice). But the new Final Cut (10 or X as it is known) is quite different from any other NLE and takes a while to get your head around when first learning it. That being said it has some good features but the market for it is really pro-sumer video. It's marketed at corporate, weddings and video journalists really and seems to be missing a few pro features I would expect. It tends to get maligned by most editors but I do quite like a lot of its features.
Premiere integrates well with other industry software like After Effects, Photoshop etc. and I think you can do the largest variety of post-production techniques without having to go into other specialist software like After Effects, Audition, Photoshop etc. compared to Avid, which is very clunky when compositing multiple effects and layers, and Final Cut Pro X which feels a bit basic and I feel lacks options at times, but I hear can be lightning fast if you know it well for sport and promo work.
The biggest problems with editing is when things crash and Premiere does this a lot and playback for things like 4K or when you are adding lots of effects to many layers of footage, isn't great or even passable at times. The selling point of the new versions of Premiere were that you didn't need to render before playback (saving loads of time) but unless you have a very high performance machine you will need to render or at least playback your sequence multiple times or on 1/2 or 1/4 resolution to get smooth back on complex edits or even heavy colour correction or green screen. These reasons for me is why Avid is used mostly for long form docs and films where there is a lot of footage and money at stake and there is the budget to get sound designers and VFX artists to use specialist software to add to a film’s production value.
Avid is widely known, trusted and pretty stable in terms of crashing, and it can handle big projects with complex timelines. Premiere does have a nice feature of usually saving your work when it crashes, which it does seem to do regularly especially if you have multiple external drives connected, which helps! You just need to make sure you customise your autosaves to be many and frequent.
Premiere's menu systems are pretty easy to navigate and the interface is nice with the symbols and terminology clear and logical, so customising it is very quick and easy. Media encoder also comes with Premiere and is probably now the best encoder on the market, giving you a wide variety of video file options when exporting or recompressing your videos. Plus if you are editing lots of video you can set your work exporting in media encoder in a queue, to multiple destinations and carry on editing.
There are also cool plug-ins, templates and apps you can install to save time and add production value. You can get a built-in Vimeo app so you don't have to leave Premiere to upload a video, or an Audio Network app so you can browse their music library for your tracks without getting distracted in your web browser. Adobe does love adding cool features every update...they still can't stop it crashing though which seems to be the way in which the software is coded. They are constantly fixing bugs, but seem to add new ones every update.
Premiere has nice features like dynamic link where you can work bring in work from After Effects/Audition, edit for a while and then go back and alter it in the other software and it updates in Premiere. You can bring in images with separate Photoshop layers etc. You can also share sequences and projects easily between editors, which is really handy. The projects aren’t backwards compatible though so once you upgrade a project to a new version of Premiere you can’t go back and you can’t open more than one project at a time, but you can look inside other projects and playback and import media live in there, which is nice.
Unfortunately there is no perfect editing software but I feel Premiere has the edge for the sort of work I do and the speed I want to work at. I am trained in all the major NLEs and would always prefer to work in Premiere given the choice."
Anthony J. Cortese
"I am an Avid guy first and foremost, but I see the benefits of Premiere.
While I admit to liking the open nature and flexibility of the Adobe suite (not to mention comparative price), many of my projects are shared across a number of edit systems and Avid just has project sharing down to perfection. For long form work, the way that Avid keeps everything organized is sort of magic and gives me a level of comfort and organization that I simply don’t experience in Premiere. I’ve worked on large projects in both platforms and I’ve found Premiere just gets to be a mess quickly, even with its new “Shared Project” and “Team Project” features, if you are not extremely careful.
I will say that the knock on Avid has traditionally been that it was not welcoming to multiple formats/frame rates within the same timeline, and it was fair criticism. But, I simply don’t find that to be the case anymore. Avid will even allow you to simply point to media and throw it on a timeline, just as you would in Premiere or FCP, via its AMA linking feature. Full disclosure: this method is definitely not for the sluggish CPU.
My latest project incorporated footage in every frame rate imaginable… 25, 23.98, 29.97, as well as off-speed footage all living in a 30p timeline (Facebook Watch delivery) and it did not blink an eye. I simply transcoded at the media’s native frame rate and let Avid’s FrameFlex do the math as I went along.
With the exception of the woeful Title Tool, (which I joke that Avid seems to have lost the source code to because it has not improved in over a decade) Avid remains the leader in my mind when it comes to big, complex, shared projects. It’s been in the game a long time, and it shows."
"For years, my go-to video editing software was Avid. Throughout college and the beginning of my career, I sought to become an expert in what, to me, was the ultimate industry standard. As my career progressed, my projects became more complicated and varied, and I began working in an agency environment that had projects featuring more and more graphics. I realized that software like Avid could often create barriers to a seamless and speedy workflow. I would often be juggling multiple Photoshop files, After Effects compositions, and sequences that would need to be updated on the fly. With turnaround times as quick as they are, Avid’s workflow became dead-weight.
When I fully switched to Premiere, my entire process freed up and became incredibly intuitive. If I need to make adjustments to files, or create missing pieces, I’m able to stick to one platform. At the end of the day, editing is about story, and all of the NLE’s are merely a tool, but as projects demand more and more “flare,” and an editor is responsible for more than just the edit (think graphics, minor color correction, etc.) in ever shortening deadlines, Premiere has become an indispensable tool."
"I use Adobe Premiere to edit my work because it's fast, intuitive and easy to use. Not only does the Creative Cloud package give me access to the latest versions, but it also integrates seamlessly with all of the other Adobe software. Whether applying advanced effects to a complicated green screen sequence in After Effects, precisely editing pictures directly from a timeline in Photoshop, or even enhancing audio clips in Audition, Premiere has all the programs I need built into one. It also has the ability to sync my custom keyboard shortcuts across multiple machines which makes finishing a job easy. With each free update Premiere gets better and more advanced, so I feel like I'm constantly using the best editing software available."
"When I first started editing around 2002, I used Premiere on my old faithful Emac! I remember cutting music videos at 320 x 240 pixels or pushing the boat out too 640 x 480! (As I sit here writing this, I’m watching Adobe Media Encoder create proxy files from 8K Red footage! How times have changed!)
When I moved into employment, the company I worked for used Final Cut Pro 7 for all of their projects, so it was natural for me to use it. I used Final Cut for many years and was happy with the software overall. But this all changed when a director I was working with showed me how far Premiere had come since I started on it back in the day. I was immediately impressed and started to migrate to Premiere for all of my work.
As an editor you are expected to deal with whatever file type lands on your desk and make it work. This is the beauty of Premiere. It can deal with virtually any file type that’s thrown its way and that still impresses me to this day.
Another important feature is the ability to create proxy files from your large video files with the help of Adobe Media Encoder. Once they are created, you can flip between proxy timeline and your raw footage at the click of a button. It’s a beautiful thing!
The way Premiere interacts with After Effects is also a key feature. If you have a clip in your timeline that needs some effects work, you can highlight it and send it to After Effects to work on. Once opened in AE and the effects are done, it automatically updates in your timeline!
Premiere also has the ability to add colour grade LUTS on to your footage. This feature is very handy for client viewing of offline edits with raw footage.
I’ve been using Premiere for a few years now and I’m still discovering new things it can do. It’s reliable, dynamic and versatile."
"I am pretty sure my experience matches what many experts in the industry would say. I remember making these decisions and following the advice of what the experts I knew at the time had experienced.
Originally, my company invested in AVID software and hardware. This was in the late nineteen eighties. AVID had a large following in the industry at the time. When APPLE entered the professional markets many of us in those years ending up switching to Final Cut Pro. It seemed to do everything the AVID systems were offering and was cheaper, and in some ways we found it better. Then, inexplicably, APPLE – after capturing much of the professional marketplace – starting making stupid changes to their professional line to attract more of the consumer market. We were all stunned. Finally, as Final Cut Pro X arrived with incompatible updates (you could not go back to edit older programs you had already finished to make revisions) many of us in the professional world jumped ship and went to Adobe PREMIERE. None of us particularly wanted to change but APPLE left us little choice. They literally innovated themselves out of the pro market. I can tell you my company’s experience was not unique at all.
I recently had this exact discussion with pro editors I recently met in Boston and they all had travelled a similar path. PREMIERE was pretty easy for all of us to learn. They made it simple for us to convert by offering internal formatting options that utilized Final Cut keyboard shortcuts. I remember one editor I worked with saying, “Go ahead and make the switch - you won’t regret it and will never look back.” He was right. In my experience, the software has only gotten better over the years and its compatibility with other industry-wide workhorses like After Effects and Photo Shop and the other Adobe products has made it one of the most used editing softwares in the industry. It is certainly not the only way to go. “Best” is a relative term and it is difficult to say what is universally “best” for everyone. But, if I was asked (which you did) which software a young filmmaker should learn – I would unequivocally suggest Adobe PREMIERE."
"To me, the best video editing software is Avid when I work in a company setting. On my personal projects, I think Final Cut is more fun. When I do freelance work from home, I use Premiere Pro.
Honestly, it depends on the situation. But I like to be flexible and I try to keep working on each one. It’s necessary to switch from one software to another one and I need to keep practicing all three of them. I have to be fully efficient because the trailer houses may use Avid, Premiere or Final Cut, although I noticed that Avid is more ubiquitous in the film industry.
I prefer working on Avid because I'm used to It: short cuts, the settings and the organization. It has many features that make me work faster.
Avid is pretty solid. That’s essential when we’re working with heavy material like feature films and the many versions of it. We also share the projects. Sometimes, there can be 10 editors working on the movie promo and there is a lot of data to ingest. Avid can easily handle heavy data.
Avid Media Composer is the industry standard even if more companies in Hollywood are trying to transition to Premiere. The most professional: Avid. For beginners: Final Cut. I think Premiere Pro is somewhere in between.
Avid’s improvements are really good and they haven’t made any mistakes really with their updates, which is really appreciated. We are always under pressure (laugh) when a new update is available. We never know if it’s going to be for better or for worse. We (the video editors and assistants) have meetings when a new update comes out to share our experience and new tricks.
Because of those great updates, based on video editors’ comments, I think the future of Avid is pretty bright. When we are experimenting with a new version, Avid contacts us to get our feedback. They are really tuned into our needs."
"I get asked a lot over the years about what editing software someone should use, and I usually respond that software is simply a tool, with the editor being the most important component. But if I had to pick the best tool? Avid Media Composer.
First and foremost, Avid Media Composer is the most used software across the entertainment industry, and it’s for good reason. Though the interface is old-school, it’s also robust and handles large projects well. It’s fast, yet heavily customizable, meaning I can change the keyboard, layout, and commands to fit my style as an editor. Finally, it’s stable and I experience less technical hiccups with Avid than with any other editing software.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the creative vision of the project and how well the editor can use their chosen tool to bring it to life."
Clara Martin Roman
"From my experience I have to highlight 2 softwares: Adobe Premiere and DaVinci Resolve. I use Premiere almost in 90% of my edits, mainly because it is a great tool, very intuitive, easy to work with and it supports a lot of different plug-ins that are very helpful on a daily basis. I love the fact that you can work with After Effects (and the rest of the Creative Cloud apps via dynamic links and render everything in Media Encoder - those 2 softwares are also Adobe) and keep working in your timeline without having to wait for the file to be exported. That saves a lot of time and at the end of the day that is something important to have in mind. Also Multicam is not bad and overall is a great software. Color grading in the other hand is not as great. You have a lot of presets and plug-ins that you can use for a fast color pass or for a special color effect, but it is not ideal for more professional work.
DaVinci Resolve is simply one of the best tools that I know so far. I use it every time that I need to edit and color grade. It is improving the editing part, so it is easily going to become my all-in-one tool. In that way you can avoid the back and forth between your editing software and your color grading / finishing software. It also allows you to do some vfx work. The tracking/stabilizer is amazing. The best thing about this software? It is fast, it is super powerful, professional, node based and free.
Sorry that I am talking about 2 softwares but honestly I could not choose just one. Both have their pros and cons and I think it is best to combine different tools in most cases."
"Currently, I prefer to use Adobe Premiere Pro. Despite the barrage of bugs every new release, Premiere continues to be the most versatile tool to adapt to any size project with flexibility to move between different machines and operating systems. Though, I'm hoping one day Blackmagic's DaVinci Resolve will be as powerful of an editing tool as it is for color -- It's definitely the next tool to keep an eye on."
"As a professional editor for the last two-plus decades, I’ve worked on editing equipment that has evolved from linear tape-based machines, to the early days of non-linear, to the reign of the big-box systems, to the rise and fall of Final Cut Pro, and the eventual rule of software-based, subscription based tools.
So what’s the best system? Unfortunately, that’s not an easy answer, as most tools have their pros and cons. Gone are the days of editing on a proprietary piece of hardware/software that you can count on. Everything now is third-party this, firmware that, codec this, driver that, breaking, crashing, drifting, color-shifting — and every company is racing to try and stay ahead of the curve as newer and higher-raster cameras hit the market. This break-neck development has led to lots of bug-riddled software, and it’s a full-time job just making sure the software you are using isn’t betraying your work. To me, it’s about having a tool that doesn’t interfere with the creative process, and is derived from the features an editor needs — not just ingest, assembly, polish and export, but file-management, flexibility, conforming and versioning. And most importantly, it never fails you with the fundamentals.
I’ve worked on CMX, Video Toaster, Avid, Avid DS, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut X, Adobe Premiere (and the CC Suite), Autodesk Smoke and Flame, and Resolve, but given the choice, the program I most prefer for creative editorial is Avid Symphony — which is just a slightly more advanced Media Composer. Final Cut X is a niche system and terribly inappropriate for integrating into Post-Production pipelines. Adobe Premiere may have overtaken the world as the most popular and diversified package, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the speed at which one can churn through massive amounts of footage with precision. Premiere’s file-management features are atrocious, it doesn’t like to adhere to (or even prioritize) timecode, audio sync, color-accuracy during capture or layoff, consistency or project cleanliness, and rudimentary procedures frequently take multiple steps to execute.
Media Composer/Symphony on the other hand, is fast, flexible and powerful in all the things an editor needs day-in, day-out. Need to relink a sequence to material other than what originated it? You can do that. Need to track down files associated with a 1000 edit show, or quickly figure out which files are related to what? There are many ways. Need to trim or edit complex groups of clips without first locking out material you don’t want affected? Yes. How about change clip durations filled with keyframes with or without affecting timings. Or timewarp something without losing timecode. Or apply source settings to groups of clips from bins. Or have multiple iterations of material (even with the same name) with different compressions linking to multiple sequences? How about moving projects between systems without random loss of renders? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
With Avid, metadata is king. And that data can be changed without permanently breaking everything linked within. There are source timeline views, a powerful markers tool, easy to read timecode fields all over the place, and iterative operations (like entering a numerical value on a trim and repeating it over and over).
Now with all of that, why don’t more people use Avid? One reason is it’s deeper, and therefore has a steeper learning curve. It doesn’t come with a complete package of supporting applications for one tidy price. And generally speaking, the majority of users don’t need (or care) for the deeper features a professional editor requires. Conversely, Premiere has a much wider user base, most grass-roots companies (and even agencies) exclusively use the Creative Suite, and it really has focused on being first to adopt new technologies.
So, ultimately, the best system is one part project type, one part market location, and two parts preference. You can always learn both!"
"I started editing on tape until Avid came along. Lightworks and Media 100 were its main competitors in the beginning, but Avid was solid and worked. Final Cut Studio version 5 made a real impact and I used this up until version 7 when Apple decided to cease its support, and since then I don’t use any Apple products. Adobe Premiere is ok, but as I don’t use After effects I still prefer Avid.
Avid has the best media management and user interface, and since the shake up from other competitors they’ve upped their game."
"Over the last 10 years, I’ve used the most popular mainstream NLEs; Final Cut 7, FCPX, Media Composer and Premiere Pro, which have all served me well on various projects. However, in recent years the nature of my work has required an intuitive platform for highly professional projects with a fast turnaround, and Premiere has become the software I consider the most practical for the post-production demands of my clients.
With Creative Cloud, getting the latest Premiere updates couldn’t be easier. The increase in functionality makes the platform extremely adaptable and quick to work with while keeping my system up-to-date with the ever-evolving media formats and workflows. Premiere is the number one cross-platform tool that allows me to do my job smoothly and efficiently."
"When it comes to editing software, we must remember that they all pretty much do the same things, so it is really more a matter of comfort than anything else. I am very comfortable with Premiere. I love being able to seamlessly be able to go from Premiere to After Effects and other Adobe software quickly and easily. Adobe is also great at dealing with multi-formats and codecs, and in my line of business we get it all.
I do a wide array of work from broadcast sports programming to music videos to business marketing, and sometimes all in the same day. With cards and discs coming from all over the place, I need to be able to ingest and edit quickly, Adobe is a master at this. Adobe, like Apple, is also very good at not complicating the simple. Some software makes simple things hard; I like the simplicity of the layout.
When it comes down to it, Adobe Premiere is comfortable for me and my editing style."
"Its intuitive system enables multiple collaborators to work simultaneously across a variety of the creative suite programmes updating changes in realtime. This is a life saver when working on demanding projects with fast turn around times in agencies where multiple designers are correcting files dynamically linked with After Effects through into Premiere. It’s fundamentally the multitasking god."
Alana Sawyer Smith
"Like many editors my age, I learned on Final Cut 7 and thought it was the cream of the crop. I hated Final Cut X with passion and was reluctant migrating to it. When I moved to my current job, I needed to learn Premiere since the rest of the company worked within the Adobe Creative Suite. Now that I’ve been on Premiere for 3 years, I often wonder what I thought was so amazing about Final Cut 7 (remember when you had to render before even seeing a clip!?!)
Adobe Premiere is the perfect blend of easy-to-learn, user friendliness but strong enough to create professional videos. The ability to import projects from other Adobe programs is such a great tool, especially working at an advertising agency. If a graphic designer creates a complex ad that I need to re-use for a commercial spot, I can import their already-created file and animate individual elements with minimal effort."
"Depends on the need. I personally choose Premiere because it’s a really well-rounded program that integrates well with the entire Adobe suite of software. When Final Cut Pro 7 had no professional successor, Premiere was the logical next step.
That being said, there is a solid base for using Avid, especially if you are working with large post-production teams with many shared assets.
When I initially switched to Premiere, some of my crews were still using tape, while others were using XDCAM, P2, SxS cards, etc. It was wonderful to have a software that could read media in its native format, without conversion. This, of course, is standard practice now. At the time, however, it was one of my biggest draws to Premiere.
The reason I have continued to use it is simple: I have no need to switch.
Were I involved in a Hollywood production, I’d use Avid. Were I working at a news station that required live newsroom integrations, I’d use Grass Valley. Were I an expert colorist, but not an editor, I’d try DaVinci Resolve’s editing platform. Were I just starting out, I’d look at Final Cut X.
It’s like going to buy a car. They can all get you from A to B, but they don’t all look the same, sound the same, or have the same features in the luxury package.
Have you ever driven a Toyota Yaris? It’s a tiny car, but what it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in exceptional gas mileage and reliability. I drove one around Ireland once, and then I edited all my footage of the Irish countryside in Premiere."
"The best is definitely Avid Media Composer. However, with what I usually do, using Adobe Premiere is far more comfortable and accessible. From film school, I was taught advanced editing and it’s always on Avid Media Composer. Besides the obvious that Avid has shared projects capabilities and other benefactors, Avid teaches you the proper way of hard skills editing that can be brought over to Adobe Premiere or to Final Cut Pro. Often I see forums and subreddits asking for the simplest questions about using the program, learning Avid would avoid all the silly questions. The drag and drop convenience is nice, but it’s always good to learn the proper way of insert and splicing. Once you become familiar with the proper way of editing, adjusting and customizing becomes much easier.
Video editing can be defined different nowadays. I still see video editing as the pure form of visual story telling with proper editing and without the flashy cheesy effects you see on YouTube. Avid is the best software not just as a tool, but the discipline of video editing. Of course, there are other tools out there that best suit what other people do, such as I believe FCPX is great for quick edits for YouTubers. I on the other hand, prefer using Adobe Premiere because I do a lot of VFX, compositing, and motion graphics for my work. Being able to use the entire Adobe Suite, I can be very flexible with my workflow and approach."
"As a motion designer, I primarily use After Effects for most of my work. But the integration between After Effects and Premiere Pro makes life much easier when I’m making a video or an animation.
The intuitiveness of the programme means I can jump between software easily without taking time to adapt each time.
I use Premiere for both editing and finessing anything I’ve created in After Effects. Including sound design and music addition."
"I’ve been working in Adobe Premiere Pro for almost 10 years, experiencing directly the tremendous amount of work the company has put over the years in developing and improving the software. The way things stand right now in the video editing field, I wouldn’t switch to any other NLE.
Premiere brings to the table some editing key features which I truly believe make the difference when it comes to smooth production pipelines. Round-tripping and file management are by far two of the most demanding and cumbersome tasks every editor has to deal with. Being able to exploit the Dynamic Link between Premiere Pro, After Effects and Audition in order to efficiently share timelines and assets with different software programs, represents a huge time-saver which dramatically speeds up the post-production process.
Premiere’s main editing interface and workspace are user friendly and customisable. Hundreds of keyboard shortcuts can be quickly set up. Adobe has also shown in recent years to deeply understand their users’ needs, constantly supporting them through forums and experts.
Last but not least, the trimming tools available in Premiere are extremely flexible and efficient, perfectly capable to suit different editing styles. All in all the whole Creative Cloud package provides editors with quality and flexibility that none of the other NLEs on the market can currently match."
"One question that’s always discussed amongst editors is which editing software is best. Everyone chooses their side, and I usually stay out of it because I find it a pretty pointless argument. There are so many different kinds of editing and each one comes with its own set of needs. Are you editing a TV Series, feature films, social media content or videos of your kid’s dance recital?
Right now, I work exclusively on Avid because I work in television, and it’s a pretty standard platform throughout the industry. Many systems have come and gone, but Avid remains constant. It’s not always the most user friendly system and some of its commands may seem archaic, but it’s rock-solid stable. Its media management capabilities make it the only choice for large enterprise scenarios. At our facility, we have 22 edit rooms, and multiple editors often will work on a single project. You can’t do that with other systems. I can also find anything throughout the system through Avid Interplay (Avid’s media management software). For these reasons, I would always choose Avid myself.
Right now, Adobe Premiere is Avid’s main competition, and it’s also a good system. It works with different formats natively and interfaces seamlessly with After-Effects and Photoshop. If you’re interested in doing work that involves heavy graphics or already have experience with those programs, I’d seriously look at Premiere. It’s also got great encoding capabilities making it a good choice for editing social media content. I used it on my home system for years, but I did find it to be less stable than Avid. There have been many updates since then, so please take my experience with a grain of salt.
There are other systems out there that may be worth considering if you’re just learning about editing and don’t have a lot of money. Apple Final Cut Pro was a major competitor to Avid for years, but with the release of Final Cut Pro X, they started over with more of a consumer system with limited capabilities. I’ve heard they’ve made great strides since its introduction, but I don’t know anyone using it professionally right now. I’ve also spoken to a few High School kids who use Sony Vegas and really like it. I haven’t really used either program other than playing around with FCP X in the Apple Store (it was a very different workflow than the other systems I’ve used).
Ultimately you have to decide what kind of editing you’re going to be doing, what your budget is and choose the system that suits your needs. If you’re just starting out, get your hands on whatever you can. It’s far more important to learn and understand the principles of editing and how to tell a story creatively than it is to know a specific software program. In my experience, a creative editor trumps a technically knowledgeable editor any day, so play around and have fun with it!"
"Premiere also offers tools to edit sound, video coloring, titles, and create basic visual effects. With this being said I’m currently in the process of learning to use Avid and cannot yet compare the two, but I can safely say I’d choose Premiere over a program like Final Cut, IMovie, or DaVinci, but I do prefer DaVinci’s coloring."
"I have always held a prolonged belief that Adobe knows who they are marketing towards. AVID tends to be more for people who want to cut straight up narrative video, but in the current day most editors aren’t just working on short films and features. Rather a lot of editors are working on commercial and narrative, and Adobe in my opinion provides the ultimate toolbox without it being financially constricting to the customer.
In terms of workflow, Adobe’s dynamic link is a game changer, allowing for fluid integration between Premiere, After Effects and Photoshop, making your subscription a long-term affair and most optimized to take on a wide variety of jobs. Not only that, but I find Adobe Premiere to be very nicely designed, with smooth space grey toolbars and neon colours, the program’s presentation is very modern. And it updates semi-yearly, so you know you will always be up to date when it comes to codecs and file formats.
Adobe was one of the first editing systems where you could edit and stich VR video. Adobe took what AVID and Final Cut were doing, and put it together to make an all-purpose content creative juggernaut."
Carlos Abi Torres
"As a promo editor, I believe Adobe Premiere is the best choice mainly for its Dynamic Link feature. I use Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop and Audition on a daily basis, and that integration lets me be creative, efficient and fast. The Dynamic Link feature allows me to share assets, sequences and compositions among these programs and explore different ideas quickly without the need to render the sequences or exporting clips, saving me valuable time and letting me deliver my projects on time and on budget."
"Premiere Pro comes with its quirks, as does any editing system. However, I feel that for the fully rounded and dynamic editor I have become, it meets my needs more than anything else on the market. Talking specifically from a 360 video and VR point of view, Premiere and its accompanying additions within Creative Cloud make the whole process of working with rushes completely fluid.
Adobe’s relatively recent acquisition of Mettle SkyBox, a suite of VR post-production tools, has pushed Premiere and After Effects to the front of all 360 editors’ minds. The ability to quickly and easily control an image that could become unwatchable without the correct workflow is vital. Being able to work with a 360 equirectangular image at a minimum of 4K without any stress has been key – I have even recently finished a project at 8K stereoscope (8192 x 8192 pixels), all within Premiere and After Effects. I’ve not attempted to try other editing software for this, although having a working understanding of all other non-linear editing systems out there, I can say Premiere offers the best for me.
I’m increasingly finding myself in situations where a client will want the smallest thing changed, be that a colour tweak, addition of VFX, audio edits or titles, all of which I can make on the same timeline, in the same software. Having the tools available to develop skills in everything: from audio to VFX, has allowed me to become mostly self-taught across all post-production demands.
As I have hinted to before however, Adobe software doesn’t come without its flaws. I’m sure many other editors have their preferred tools, which also have drawbacks and advantages. I can only say that within a 360 VR post workflow, I couldn’t imagine using anything else at present."
"Although Avid is a slightly more reliable choice, I like Premiere because of its accessibility and its updates. Premiere is just a bit more intuitive than Avid in terms of interface, and the things that don’t work so well in Premiere right now (like multicam and speed changes) are likely (hopefully) going to be corrected in updates that happen at least once a year.
Full disclosure: In the past several years, I’ve been using Premiere about 95% of the time, and Avid about 5%, partly by choice (on my home system) but mostly because that’s what the facilities use. Although I first learned NLE editing on Avid and used it exclusively for 10 years, lately it’s been supplanted in my circles by Premiere, so I’m now more adept and knowledgeable about Premiere by default."
"Premiere Pro is easily one of the most professionally built products that simultaneously allows for great accessibility across the board for those looking to jump into editing for the first-time ever, or those looking to expand their editing chops into new realms of color correcting and audio mixing.
It is also remarkably versatile in working with all sorts of various video and graphic filetypes that would normally take a longer period of time to process and transcode through programs such as Avid Media Composer - which is why I prefer it, especially when I need to turnover a piece of work for a client on the fly without any headaches."
Ryan Delos Reyes
"I chose Adobe Premiere Pro because of its cross-platform functionality with other Adobe products, which I also use in my workflow. It has a lot of features that can cut editing time. The only caveat is that not all versions of Adobe Premiere Pro CC are good. Some encounter program crashes more than the others (like 2015 and 2018). If you decide to choose Premiere Pro, I recommend not jumping immediately to the latest version since they aren’t always stable."
"In my opinion, Premiere Pro is the best video editing software to use. It’s versatile and customisable to suit your needs in various ways, from key bindings to window placement. I find the software easy to navigate, quick, and adaptable. Subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud allows for you to get the most recent updates for Premiere Pro as soon as they’re pushed out, and they are repeatedly adding new and useful features. For someone who works in an environment that’s about an efficient workflow, being able to grade to a high quality with their Lumetri Colour panel without leaving the software is more than beneficial, along with creating basic graphics through their essential graphics panel and sound design. I don't really have to ever leave the software.
However, the software still remains useful if you have to leave the software, especially when you use Adobe’s dynamic linking between programs. For example, you can create graphics and vfx in After Effects and import that composition into Premiere Pro without the need to export it separately. You can then update that After Effects composition, which will then automatically update what you had imported into Premiere Pro. This allows for you to see how effects work within the sequence and make little changes with the instant ability to see it update cross-software. Meaning you only have to worry about render times when the final project is ready to export. The Dynamic Linking also works with other Adobe Creative Cloud software, such as Audition, Photoshop and Illustrator.
I find that Premiere Pro is ultimately an accessible piece of software. As someone who couldn't afford to outright pay a large lump sum to buy editing software as a student and graduate, the subscription package with Adobe Creative Cloud was a perfect alternative. With the benefit of regular updates, you can make sure to stay on top of new software technology and software trends without falling behind within your industry.
If you're new to editing, there are countless tutorials online, whether it be on Adobe's website, YouTube, Lynda or another platform; it's never been easier to get on board."
Alvaro del Val
"For me, Avid is by far the best editing software there is. When the digital cameras came around in the early days of this century, Final Cut Pro did a better and faster job adapting to those workflows. But once Avid caught with that, it didn’t have a rival.
Premiere Pro is nowadays the natural substitution for Final Cut Pro. They are almost the same software, and it’s the way to go if you plan to finish your project in that machine: visual effects, conform, color, etc.
But if we are talking about strictly editing, Avid is much more stable, faster and gives you better tools to edit than the competition. And by competition I’ll be doing a direct comparison with Premiere, which is the direct rival right now.
In general, the control and precision you have when editing in Avid cannot be compared with other software. Avid may look harder and more complicated than Premiere at first, as is not as intuitive and requires more effort to learn, the same way it also requires more effort to prepare your footage and transcode in a very specific way. But once you get all that right, you really save much more time in the long run.
Getting a little more into specifics, I’ll give a couple of examples:
As most editors do, I work doing selects of the footage before actually editing. Then I use those sequences in my source window to bring clips to my editing timeline. The way this works in Avid is using the Toggle source/record button, which lets you visualize the sequence in the timeline from the source window. This is very well designed and has become a pillar for me. Premiere has an option that tries to do something similar, but it’s much harder to use, it really slows everything down.
Another example is how Avid works with speed ramps. It has a special window with a graphic where you can visualize and create ramps easily with absolute control. With other software like Premiere, you need to do it inside of the clip in the timeline, which is really hard to do in comparison, and you don’t have at all the same amount of control and precision as in Avid.
There are many other examples of functions, like extend clip or the way you add transitions and dissolves to the clips, that are really more versatile in Avid. Beside the fact that if you edit with a Wacom tablet, Premiere creates a lot of ghost clicks that mess things around, while in Avid it’s really precise.
But in general I feel like, even though Avid has many things to improve, like adding shortcuts to enable/disable clips, nudge up/down clips in the timeline etc, it’s a much better software, more stable and efficient. You just need to make the effort to learn how to use it properly. But the editing process is really much faster in Avid. You don’t have this level of control of your tools in any other software."
"I use Premiere every day. I can’t choose just one anymore, however, because Resolve has advantages over Premiere but not enough to make me switch. I use both now, and will use whatever tool best suits the task at hand.
Again, to say one program is the “Best” is not realistic. Resolve is hands down the best color-corrector in an NLE and it’s FREE, but Premiere runs rings around it with audio, even without going into Audition. Final Cut X is the best application for metadata use, and nothing has ever been as stable as Avid.
However, as of this moment, I use Premiere Pro every day, so it is my current NLE of choice. If you force me to choose right now, I choose Premiere. Of course, you could ask me to choose my favourite movie, too, but how can you compare Amelie with City Lights, or Alien with Failsafe?
I will not use a single NLE ever again. I consider all of them to be tools in my toolbox, and if one suits the project better that is the one I will use. I plan to work more in Resolve moving forward, and it’s getting better and better with each release. Although, the same can be said for Premiere. And FCPX.
So, cast my “vote” for Premiere, but mark me down as 100% agnostic.
One thing I will also add in Adobe's favor is that the Adobe engineers and product specialists are the most receptive and responsive development team I've ever worked with. Not even Black Magic can equal that level of open communication, although they're trying. Avid and Apple, well, let's just say they're not known for their collaboration with editors."
"I think Adobe Premiere is the best editing software on the market. In my opinion there are 3 top dogs when it comes to editing, Premiere, Avid, and Final Cut, and yes in that order. Premiere to me is a fusion of the two; it provides the robust professional quality and reliability that Avid offers with a simple to use, easy to navigate work space like Final Cut. Final Cut dropped the ball with Final Cut X. Although it’s great that it accepts various video codecs, frame size, and frame rate with no converting, it just feels like a more convoluted version of movie maker. The way projects are organized with events and libraries is just overkill and confusing to the average user. It doesn’t give me a high-end, professional feel.
Avid just feels like its stuck in the 90’s to me. Its menu, setting options, how you ingest/transcode video. It just feels clunky and not user friendly. So many things in premiere are intuitive; right click, drag and drop, hamburger menu, etc you don’t hunt and peck when editing. If you don’t know where something is or how something works, it’s easy to figure out. With Avid, I think you need more of a formal class room training to really get up and running with the program.Think of an iPad. You don’t need an instruction manual because of its easy to use and common-sense type of menu and interactive flow. Meanwhile Avid is like Ikea furniture, where 15 minutes into your build you’re wondering how many parts are missing and “is this part A4 cause it looks like B7.”
At my current job we use Avid, so I am on the system an average of 8 hours a day and because of its nexus server and its sharing capabilities it works well for our team. However, we constantly face issues like the hours it takes to ingest footage. If we try to AMA to video, even at 1280x720, it lags, freezes, and crashes. Projects that contain various frame rates, frame sizes, and codecs, require us to create various projects per video type. All of this is just unnecessary, and we haven’t even begun editing yet; this is just getting video onto the computer!!! To run Avid well you also need certain processors, ram, and graphics cards. Don’t get me wrong, Adobe also has certain specs and hardware it prefers. However, you can cut 1080 video off of a 1500rpm drive, with an average student’s computer and not run into crashing issues.
For the price and all the software you get, the CC cloud is a better purchase than just Avid and Protools combined, and you get A LOT more software. Any serious video editor knows the industry is changing. You need to be a graphic designer, a motion/visual effects artist, an audio engineer, as well as a great story teller. You can’t just “edit” anymore. If you’re serious about your craft, the Adobe suite provides all of the programs you need to successfully run a video production company and most jobs that come with it."
"Adobe Premiere Pro is the best video editing software for me for three reasons: Ease of use, depth of toolset and continuous updates.
The interface is very intuitive for experienced editors. Buttons are where you expect them to be and are customizable and everything is named logically. I really like the docked panels because things stay where you put them and you don’t have to constantly shuffle windows around to find what’s underneath.
By “depth”, I mean you can do everything you need to make a great video without leaving the program. Subframe audio editing, robust titling tools with templates and Media Encoder built in are the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes you need to use Audition, After Effects or Photoshop for advanced effects, but you really can polish your entire program in Premiere. I almost forgot Lumetri color tools! I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
Adobe does a great job keeping up with the breakneck pace of new formats and technologies. The first time I really appreciated Premiere Pro as an all-around tool was when a client came to me with a hard drive of footage and needed a complete promotional video done by the end of the day. We had all kinds of video from different cameras and editing systems. Pdfs, psds, mp3, file types galore. Premiere Pro took everything I threw at it that day without a hiccup. I knew then I was never going back to Avid Media Composer! Because Adobe is constantly improving and updating the product, I feel like Premiere will never let me down."
"In 2018, I would say Adobe Premiere.
Adobe Premiere stands out for the following reasons:
1. You can use any kind of video format. If it exists you will be able to open it and use it in your project.
2. The color correction module is also pretty impressive. With very few adjustments you can improve your video tremendously.
3. The third reason is the interface. It is quite straightforward and user friendly. I teach Premiere at UC Berkeley, and people are often able to edit using Premiere after one three-hour session.
4. One of the most impressive features that Premiere has is the exporting. With Premiere you can export your video project to as many formats as you wish. And while the Adobe encoder is exporting your project, you can be working on other projects instead of waiting for the export to finish."
"My preferred video editing software is Final Cut Pro X. I find it to be fast, easy to use and feature-rich. When Final Cut Pro X was initially released, I found it to be a struggle to transition from using Final Cut Pro 7. However, Apple has gradually added new features over time. I find the FCP X interface to be clean and easy to read. I also like the Magnetic Timeline which makes it simple to move clips around and try new things without worrying about syncing issues. Final Cut Pro X also does a great job of clip organization. By allowing me to tag clips with keywords, FCP X lets me quickly search my video library. I appreciate the time-saving benefits of being able to create a large database with detailed metadata. Multicam editing is another strength and allows for an impressive amount of camera angles to be viewed simultaneously. Overall, Final Cut Pro X serves my video editing needs and I look forward to what Apple has in store for the software."
"One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten in my young career, is that the best camera to use to tell your story is the one you have. So many people get caught up on “what’s the best gear,” but often forget about the overall objective; to tell stories that foster real human connection. It feels like so many of us lust after new gear because they’re trying to chase after some feeling they had as a child (I think this accurately describes it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFlcqWQVVuU). Just because you have the best and most expensive gear doesn’t necessarily translate to being good at your craft. This same logic applies to non-linear editing systems.
I grew up editing on Pinnacle editing software (once frying my parent’s computer’s motherboard after trying/failing to install a physical driver properly), then moving to Sony Vegas in high school, as well as futzing around with iMovie. I went to a pre-college summer film camp where I started to learn Final Cut Pro, and then was formally trained in Avid during college. After Steve Jobs died, it felt like Apple made a lot of really bad decisions about what consumers wanted in a non-linear editor, so I, like many other professionals, switched over to Premiere Pro. It’s always daunting to switch over to a new editing system, once you’ve gotten so used to another, but this is something I’m glad I forced myself to do. I had been working in New York City as an internal Director / Video Editor / Camera Operator at various ad agencies, and many of my colleagues were working within the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Premiere Pro seemed like the logical choice in terms of working within the Adobe creative architecture.
Does this make Premiere Pro the best option for editors? That’s really for you to decide. It’s always tough when people ask, “what's the best camera to get?” The real answer lies within what you need out of the tools you’re using. There seem to be a lot of vloggers that use FCPX and are totally happy. I know a lot of my friends who work in reality or scripted series that edit in Avid because of the ease of editing with just a keyboard as well as its ability to handle massive projects. I know a lot of creatives who prefer to use Premier due to its relationship with all of the other Adobe applications. Recently, after upgrading my camera rig to the Ursa Mini Pro 4.6k, I’ve been playing around with Davinci Resolve after receiving the lifetime keycode once you purchase one of their products.
There’s really no good answer as to which editing software is the best for you. It depends on what you’re comfortable with, what you’re looking to spend, if you have certain plugins you prefer, what cameras you’re shooting with, what your workflow will be and so on and so forth. It’s something that needs to have personal, careful consideration. Everyone is different, and so is every project. We’re lucky to be living in the digital storytelling revolution. In my opinion, the switch from analog (film), to digital cinema is the greatest revolution in storytelling since the color TV. It has democratized the art and profession. Everyone can make stunning visuals, but it really comes down to story. If you’re suppressing your creativity because you feel like you don’t have the right gear or tools, then you’re missing the point completely."
"It’s not just the video editing software itself with Premiere, it’s the excellent package that comes with it. Adobe has a great variety of post-production and on-set apps, available for an affordable price. You can do pretty much everything from motion graphics to sound design, and most of the features are pretty easy to use.
It’s essential for editors today to have a good understanding of compositing, grading and motion graphics to offer more value for their client’s money. This is exactly what Adobe offers to editors. Not to mention a vast community out there who can help anytime, those thousands of freebies you can get and millions more for a relatively low price that make your life easier and your work outstanding. That’s what Resolve misses today. But their chain of editing, compositing, graphics and the famous grading software are remarkably good, and it allows you a better workflow than Adobe and therefore sometimes better quality. If they keep pushing they could be quickly at the top of this industry."
"I like Adobe Premiere, and/or the entire Adobe Suite because of how fast and easy it is to use. You can seamlessly move from Premiere into other important programs like Photoshop, After Effects, and Audition, and have those changes update right in your Premiere Timeline. It's a snap. However, it is important to remember, that it is not your software, but instead, your ability to tell your story that will separate your work from the rest of the pack. With strong storytelling skills, you could use magic markers, construction paper, and scotch tape and make something an audience would find interesting to watch.
There are also some great open source alternatives out there. Be sure to check out KDENLIVE.
"In my experience and in my career I’ve had the opportunity to edit on Avid, Final Cut and Adobe Premiere. Even though each offers distinct ways of working, ultimately the end result is up to the editor not the software.
Over the past 5 years I’ve edited exclusively on Adobe Premiere and that’s largely due to the industry in which I work. In digital media, I would say most companies prefer to work with Premiere. It’s a simple non-linear editor that is very flexible with media, allowing you to drag, drop and edit almost any format. Adobe is constantly updating the software and adding new features, like the Lumetri Color panel, that allows me to quickly grade my footage right inside Premiere. This is important for videos which often require quick turnarounds.
It’s also helpful that Premiere works well with After Effects, Photoshop and Audition. These programs natively talk to each other and essentially add built-in tools and templates that are fully functional inside Premiere.
Film and television have their own industry standard, typically it’s Avid, but for the new world of digital media whose audience lives on smartphones, Adobe Premiere is the tool of choice in most productions."
"I love using Premiere Pro because of its simplicity, intuition and versatility. I made the seamless transition from FCP7 around 4 years ago and I instantly saw the advantages to switching and choosing Adobe over Apple.
The Creative Cloud as a whole has proved extremely useful, being able to save settings, workspaces and then share these between computers has saved me some time in the past, not to mention the fact that Adobe works on both Mac and PC, so I can quickly and easily log in and get to work. I use most of the Adobe Suite because of how cleverly the programmes integrate with each other. I could create artwork in Illustrator, create layers which I can then animate in After Effects followed by creating a GFX template, which I can import into Premiere and easily replace text without having to go back to AE to render out multiple times.
Premiere is constantly finding ways to improve my workflow with frequent updates, adding new features which have always proved beneficial. Even when I think I know everything about Premiere, I’ll stumble across an article from other editors who have shared their discoveries.
Any new way to make my workflow quick and seamless is always welcomed as this job is all about short deadlines and high expectations. And so when I was learning Premiere I was quick to pick up the many keyboard shortcuts Premiere has to offer which have allowed me to become a speedy editor, I can alter audio levels as well as switching to roll, ripple, trim and track all within a few taps.
The list of positives for me is endless, and I could continue on talking about all the great little things Premiere can do which have helped me to become a better broadcast editor, but it’s usually more fun to go figure it out for yourself - after all practice makes perfect!"
"This was a tough one, but if I had to pick only one, for the type of editing that I do, I would have to go with Adobe After Effects.
When someone, rarely, asks me what my favourite video software is, I’m usually torn between two: Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Premiere. They both perform such different functions, and I find both so indispensable, that it’s incredibly hard to pick just one. If I’m editing a long simple video, like an interview, or a narrative story, and focusing on cuts and emotional impact, Premiere is the clear winner. If I’m editing anything more complex with motion graphics or animation, I run straight to After Effects, Premiere’s more creative and flexible cousin. So I guess the question I actually have to ask myself is, if I’m working on a typical (for me) video, which generally involves some editing, and some music syncing, and has some motion graphics throughout, which one can’t I do without? And in this scenario, After Effects takes the cake.
After Effects would have to be the logical choice, because it can do almost everything that Premiere can do, albeit Premiere does some of these things better, and a whole lot more. It is not necessarily convenient to make cuts in After Effects because the timeline only exists in layers, and previewing the timeline requires an extra step, and editing audio is a fairly limited experience, but it is possible. And once your initial edit is complete, After Effects can do things with motion graphics that Premiere just can’t rival. After Effects has amazing rotoscoping tools, animation tools, text editing tools, and expressions, which help make a video complete. So in the end, while I prefer to use both simultaneously, I can edit a video from start to finish on After Effects. But I can’t create all the graphics and animations I may want in Premiere. So After Effects will have to win this challenge!"
Wayne H Johnson Jr.
"In 1999 or so we started using Final Cut, I think it was version 1.2 or something like that. So I started my career using that software from the very beginning. We had used an early version of Premiere but Final Cut was our thing. I cut my first feature film, Ultro‑Pep The Move, on an Apple Titanium laptop using Final Cut 1.2.
In 2005 I became a Final Cut Certified Trainer for Apple. I was a certified Trainer for that and DVD Studio Pro, Motion and Color. I really loved that stuff. We used it on everything, six short films, two features, all of the freelance work I was doing, everything. All the way up until about early 2011. Then it all changed.
Apple dropped the Final Cut series with FCP7 and moved to FCPX. All of the Training and Certification stuff they did essentially became meaningless. As soon as they did that Adobe seized the opportunity to save us. And it was kinda like saving us, at least the “us” that weren’t Mac “Cultists.”
Anyway, Adobe put out, I think, Premiere 5.5. It offered a lot of the features of FCP7. They also set it up so you could use the FCP keyboard shortcuts and they really made it feel like FCP7. So it was an easy jump.
At the time we were working on a crazy huge project of a film called Shockwave Darkside, a Stereo 3D feature film that takes place on the moon. We were tasked to do over a thousand VFX in 3D. So we decided to get off the Apple boat and build a PC. That also meant dumping FCP7 and using Premiere. It was the best decision we could have made. Adobe Premiere and After Effects really saved us on that film. No way we could have done that on a Mac and FCP7 or FCPX at the time. No way, especially considering the tiny budget we had. We built a PC faster than anything we could buy from Apple off the shelf and for half the cost. Premiere integrated with After Effects really well and with the 6.0 version After Effects added Stereo 3D camera set ups that you could just turn on. It was amazing.
As Adobe moved to the Creative Cloud it just kept getting better and really started to add all the stuff we, the professionals, had been asking for. Soon it became my new home. Also, it was awesome because we could jump back and forth between Mac and PC if needed. That makes it really flexible.
Now I've used and taught tons of software over the years, all the Pro stuff, some of the free stuff, consumer versions and even done some cutting with the online tools YouTube offers. But I’ve worked on six or so Feature films and hundreds of other client projects using Premiere on PC and Mac platforms and I have to say it is the most flexible tool. I know editors at the big studios like FOX and SONY and PIXAR who have workstations hooked up to huge networks and are tied to Avid or whatever the FCPX stuff is. Fine, if it works and you don’t have to do the maintenance, great. But for those of us that jump from project to project, from budgets big and small, you need to be flexible in both platform and flexible in cost.
On my last film Ahockalypse, in Premiere we cut 5K footage on a MAC Mini i7 with 8GBs of RAM. We just made PROXY files at 1080 and it was seamless on Premiere. And as an Indie
filmmaker being able to save cost by using what we have is wonderful. So until you can run FCPX on a PC or AVID updates its ugly interface, I’ll stick with Premiere."
"Personally, I have no favorites among the three. Each software has its pros and cons. I know most of their strengths and weaknesses and work easily with all three. For me, it is most often the employer’s or the client’s preferences that decide the editing software for the project. In certain cases, it is the project’s own requirements that dictate the choice of one editing software over the others.
Thus, when it comes to nominating the best video editing software, I would go with Final Cut; not because it’s better than the others, but rather because of its low price and the fact that you can actually buy it and own it rather than rent it. It’s more popular with my clients, although Premiere is a close second in popularity, especially since there were some functionality losses in Final Cut when Apple made the switch from Final Cut 7 to Final Cut X that still haven’t been returned to us, like batch exporting and exporting OMFs for audio mixing, for example. But overall Final Cut works adequately for most projects."
"I taught myself how to edit on Premiere Pro so it’s the software I’ve always stuck by. It feels quite intuitive, but also gives me a good scope to play around with footage. I also love that it’s so widely used - I’ve produced content on Premiere Pro while working at the Mirror Online, ESI Media - which comprises of the Evening Standard, London Live and the Independent - and now at PinkNews. In fact, I can’t imagine switching to another editing software."
"Premiere Pro is currently the best editing software on the market, because as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud it plays nice with all the other programs you’ll need in order to complete an edit efficiently. Video editing doesn’t just mean cutting anymore - it involves motion graphics, compositing, audio mixing, and more. The Creative Cloud has programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, Audition, After Effects, etc.) which all work seamlessly with Premiere Pro to tackle all aspects of the edit. And to Adobe’s credit, if you know one of these programs, chances are you won’t be lost in another. All of these programs feel like they live in the same universe. So, when it comes time to take your motion graphics to the next level - After Effects is there waiting for you. When your noisy audio really needs some lovin’ - Audition is standing by. If you’re a Premiere user, all of these other CC programs should feel familiar, and a few tutorials should be all you’ll need to continue to up your editing game."
"Adobe Premiere Pro is user friendly, affordable, and its overall performance can’t be beat by any other application. I started in Final Cut Pro 7, and saw major similarities between the two. However, over the years, Premiere Pro has taken its platform to the next level- keeping up with current video formats, developing new ways to edit, and making it easier than ever to integrate other Adobe products within its program."
"As someone who learned how to edit on Final Cut Pro 7, transitioning to Adobe Premiere Pro was the most similar in terms of functionality and flexibility. It boasts a lot of versatility in being able to work with multiple video formats, framerates, and projects from different editing softwares pretty seamlessly. Its integration with other programs in the Adobe Creative Suite such as After Effects, Illustrator and Photoshop is also a huge plus. That being said, it really comes down to personal preference and comfort. Other programs are just as capable of getting the job done and not all companies use the same one. The more programs an editor is familiar with and proficient in, the more value they can provide to prospective clients."
"In school, we were trained in Avid, which is a great software for working in feature films. However, everywhere that I've worked, since I decided to focus on the commercial world, Adobe Premiere Pro has been the standard.
I like it because it is easy to understand, easy to learn, and Adobe provides a lot of great tutorials and resources to really improve your work and how you use the program. I would consistently recommend the entire Adobe Suite. What's great is the ability to bring together projects from other Adobe programs - if you have something in Photoshop, Illustrator or After Effects, bringing it into Premiere is a really easy process."
"I haven’t found the perfect software yet – it widely depends on the nature of the project I am cutting, so every time I choose on the basis of a specific workflow, agreed with production and post house.
At the moment I am sticking with Premiere, as it gives me the right flexibility between short and medium forms, and because it works nicely within the Creative Suite, especially with Encoder and After Effects. This makes it very easy to work with graphics. It’s easy and user friendly, so I’d say it’s perfect for light projects, multiple formats (well, kind of...), short and medium lengths, creative agencies. On the downside, it requires a quite new and powerful machine to function properly, and it tends to fail on long and heavy projects.
In fact, when it comes to longer form (over 40 mins of length, and big amounts of rushes), Avid is still my choice, because of its stability, reliability, and clever media management."
"I have picked Premiere Pro, as right now, along with the whole creative cloud suite, it is ideal for my needs as an editor. I learnt my trade on FCP and made the jump to Premiere Pro in my first real editing job, finding the fluidity between the various Creative Cloud programmes a huge pull.
In my current position, I move a lot between Premiere Pro, Audition and After Effects; so, it is essential that the programmes I am using have a cohesion that you don’t really get with any other editing software. I would be naïve to think that the Adobe programme was the best at everything in its field. Having explored other video editing software, I know this is not the case, but in terms of being able to cover the broad spectrum of features that I need on a day to day basis, the ease of use and accessibility that Premiere provides is a cut above the rest.
Adobe do update the programme frequently, introduce new features and improve on features that already exist based on the feedback of their customers. It’s a great piece of software that I would recommend to anyone - beginners or seasoned professionals."
"As someone who has worked exclusively in Adobe Premiere Pro since the introduction of Final Cut Pro X, I can’t speak to whether or not it’s “the best” editing software, but it’s certainly been the industry standard for every position I’ve held and serves the teams I work with extremely well.
The app has seen a steady rollout of improvements and enhancements since becoming so widely used, but the greatest advantage I see for Premiere is its integration with other Adobe Creative Suite apps. Dynamic Linking with After Effects ensures I can easily integrate motion graphics work of my own, or I can collaborate with artists on my team in a manner that’s highly efficient and streamlines our creative process. Integration with Photoshop and Audition means I can easily bounce between apps with other specialties at any point in post-production and quickly deliver quality work for my clients. The ability to batch export with Media Encoder saves an incredible amount of time by offloading renders so that I can continue working on other projects.
I’m aware other NLE’s have seen improvements and integrate well with other color correction and graphics suites, but given how standard Adobe’s apps are for teams I work with, how easily it exports work for apps outside the Creative Suite, I can’t imagine using a different app today. The affordability of the company’s monthly membership enable me to pick up freelance projects at my leisure without worrying about the cost of keeping the membership running."
"Adobe Premiere Pro is my choice for video editing, as a professional filmmaker. In the filmmaking industry, I’ve watched it supersede Final Cut Pro in a big way over the last few years, and for me it’s the most natural to use due to its customisable panels/workspaces and depth of functionality.
Integration with After Effects, Audition and other Adobe products is a big bonus, and I like that Premiere takes some of the most useful elements from those applications and brings them straight into Premiere (e.g. Adjustment Layers, Stabilization).
Although the subscription based service may not suit everyone, the ongoing and regular upgrades means you’ll never need to buy updated versions of the software. Adobe are fast to fix bugs, there’s a good support community online, and new features can also be requested through their website. Third party support (for plugins and extensions) is great, and Adobe supports pretty much every format going, including raw camera files.
The overwhelming majority of professionals I know use Adobe Premiere CC, so if anyone is interested in becoming a pro video editor I’d highly recommend it for that reason alone, as it’ll open up your opportunities for work in the long term."
"As we all know, most NLE’s share the same core capabilities: import footage, trim clips, arrange clips, color-correct clips, and then render to our format of choice. Fine. But when you spend as many hours with an NLE interface as we editors do, that NLE’s interface is key to your productivity.
Just the right arrangement of dockable windows and custom work spaces, a clean timeline without resembling the cockpit of a space shuttle, customizable toolbars and shortcut keys, and the ability to dive in deeper for granular control is what makes Sony Vegas a top-notch NLE. It looks simple enough on the surface, but that’s because the designers tucked away most of the commands in easy-to-get to tabs, drop-down lists, or context-menus that don’t clutter up the interface, but are always at your fingertips. This lends itself to more concentrated focus on the task at hand, rather than trying to find that rarely used command smack in the middle of a creative epiphany. Talk about a momentum killer! It’s hard enough to maintain that “inspired creativity” throughout the whole project, much less when your own toolbox gets in the way.
In the same way that thoughtful auto makers installed the steering wheel at just the right height as to not block your view of the speedometer, Sony Vegas designers have also created an interface that is efficient and arranged with the end user in mind."
"I have to say that Avid Media Composer has been the standard for the industry for many years for a reason. How Avid manages the Footage/Data is more reliable, but at the same time, they keep the interface, logic, tools, etc, the same way they had a decade ago. And in these times, you as a software developer, have to innovate and give us more significant upgrades to be able to compete with others software around, in this case with Adobe Premiere Pro.
Personally, I never liked Premiere Pro, because the similitude with Adobe After Effects’ interface. When Adobe refreshed and turned Premiere Pro into a whole new software, editors around the world started to migrate from Final Cut Pro, Avid, etc, to enjoy such an amazing software.
Adobe Premiere Pro gives you the ability to handle all different video formats in the industry, no transcoding process needed, straight from your external hard drive and keeps everything in one place. The best thing about it though is ability to “collaborate” with the whole Adobe Creative Suite to make everything even easier, from editing (Premiere Pro), motion graphics (After Effects), audio mixing (Audition) and file delivery (Media Encoder). All of this in one package.
Color Correction Tools are outstanding. You can send a sequence from Premiere Pro to After Effects with One Click, keeping the same cuts ready to be intervened in different ways and send it back to Premiere Pro the same way. Only Premiere Pro does that, and for me as a Creative Editor/Postproducer it is the best choice."
"I love Premiere Pro’s integration with other Adobe products, such as After Effects and Audition, as well as regular updates to iron out bugs and such. Adobe also seem to be very responsive to user feedback and recommendations.
Finally the monthly payments for Adobe CC takes the sting out of paying thousands upfront for the full product/s, which I think is handy (especially for freelancers who may want to dip in and out of the subscription)."
Shawn Patrick Curley
""I'm looking for a video editing software, any recommendations?" It's a common question that's frequently asked of many professionals. In my opinion, finding a software is like picking out a pair of new shoes, you're going to want to go with something that caters to your particular style, a choice that's dependable and comfortable for daily use. Other aspects to consider are consistency and accessibility. Is it easy to get? Do you trust the brand? I've worked with just about every software on the market and while they all have pros and cons the one that I've been able to depend on the most is Adobe Premiere Pro.
With Adobe, not only do you have the added luxury of cross-platform functionality between Photoshop, After Effects and its long list of creative applications, but the price point is affordable and they offer plans that can suit both individual and organizational needs. Adobe has succeeded in a consistent interface that can serve as a gentle frontier for beginners or a machine of fancy tricks of convenience for advanced professionals.
I consider Innovation to be essential, I trust Adobe with the rollout of new features and applications. For example, I recently taught myself how to ingest and edit 360 videos without having to go out of my way to search for a flimsy VR specific program, it was all within Premiere. It's easy to get left behind in this growing industry but Adobe acts as a friend providing safe navigation to new and exciting fields. As personal and amateur filmmaking continues its rapid leap to the consumer-friendly mainstream, Premiere Pro has maintained a trusted balance between personal and professional use and it's the program that I always recommend."
"Over the past ten years, Adobe Premiere has become the workhorse of video editing systems. It doesn’t hold your hand like FCPX, but then again it doesn’t slap it away like Avid sometimes does. Like all Adobe products, Premiere has a bit of a learning curve and if you are just starting out, it can be a bit steep. For those who know their way around FCP7 or Avid, you can get up to speed very quickly; that familiarity has gone a long way to bring a lot of editors into Adobe's fold. The fold — aka Creative Cloud — is one of the major selling points of Premiere. Not only does it come with most subscriptions, but its integration with industry standards, like Photoshop and After Effects, means you can skip a lot of exports and format conversions with both still and motion graphics. While it might not be as rock solid as FCPX or as highbrow as Avid, Adobe has taken Premiere from an obscure underdog to a downright heavy hitter and the steady stream of added features, Windows and Mac compatibility, and integration with the Creative Cloud make it look like it will be there for the long haul."
"I work on short-form digital videos and do a lot of work that integrates After Effects and Photoshop, so they all work well together for me. I think that the “best” NLE just depends on what you do and your workflow. A program like Avid Media Composer, for instance, would definitely be better for long-form because of its management tools, and overall reliability. I’d think about what your needs are before choosing an NLE."
"In 2018, the best editing software for my purposes is Adobe Premiere.
Adobe Premiere works with Adobe's Creative Suite, seamlessly interacting with other software apps that I use, such as After Effects, Photoshop, and Audition. Premiere is constantly being
updated and made even better. For example, the introduction of Essential Graphics has opened avenues of template creation that simply did not exist in other editing suites in the past. The Lumetri color grading options are outstanding as well as options for video transitions. I use Adobe's library options often, and the consistency between After Effects and Premiere's library panel frees up time to allow editors to focus on what matters, which is creating impressive video projects.
I have been a video editor since 2006. I started off using Sony Vegas. At that time, Premiere was very primitive and I remember seeing another editor using it and thinking it was not close to what Vegas was capable of doing. In 2018, Premiere is now the leading non-linear editing choice for ad agencies and film agencies. While I have seen Final Cut still being used, the versions of that software are not the most recent, and most clients request editors who are skilled in Premiere. Adobe has certainly changed the landscape of video editing."
"Mobile technology has vastly improved to the point where we are able to shoot, edit and publish professional news packages and video features using our smartphones.
Throughout my career, I have used traditional large cameras and complex desktop editing software (such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro), but the release of LumaFusion, an app available on iOS devices, has changed my workflow entirely.
LumaFusion is a multi-track video editor, which enables content creators to produce a range of content for social, online or broadcast audiences. You can layer up to three video tracks and three audio tracks, so you can essentially make a news package on-the-go.
I think the best thing about this app is its ability to share your project between multiple devices, and import footage from apps such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. You can also produce titles from your news organisation outside of the app, and then bring them in to the app for future use.
LumaFusion lets you chose the aspect ratio and frame rate you need – useful depending on where you need to share the video. I tend to film and edit in 16x9, then duplicate the project for editing in 9x16 or 1x1 – but this would depend on what you're editing of course.
On the timeline, you can edit your video with the trim, duplicate clip and split clip tools, and there are advanced features such as clip anchoring to help you keep the project you're working on in perfect sync. Plus, there are lots of colour effects, transitions, fonts and music beds to fit your project.
There are so many functions on LumaFusion, that it does take a while to explore, but the basics are fairly easy to pick up, and the company have a lot of tutorials – give it a go!"
"For me, Premiere Pro is the workhorse of video editing programs. The ease at which it can handle almost any video codec thrown at it, to the depth of the finishing tools included, for me it has to be the number one editing program out there. I’ve worked with NLEs since the days of Final Cut Pro 5, and they’ve come on leaps and bounds since those heady days of just about handling HD video content. Whilst I’ve professionally used various other suites (including AVID, FCPX and Da Vinci), none of them seem to have the ability to just do everything out of the gate.
Now don’t get me wrong, Premiere Pro does sometimes get a bad rap for it’s glitches and bugs, and I’m not denying that, but for a piece of software that continues to innovate year on year, it’s to be expected. So if I had to recommend one piece of video editing software to get your head around, I’d recommend Premiere Pro."
"I was part of the Final Cut Pro 7 revolution. It was great! A truly well-made and “easy-to-use” EDL software. Right when it seemed like everyone was using it, Apple stopped updating FCP 7 and came out with Final Cut Pro X. I couldn’t believe how different it was, and for the worse. It seemed like iMovie and myself, and a lot of other industry professionals, couldn’t believe our beloved software had been discontinued.
I started searching for what my options were. Did I have to just accept FCP X? Could I just keep using FCP 7? Was there something better? I found Adobe Premiere (again). I say “again” because I had used Premiere in high school and remembered not liking it. However, much had changed since high school in the world of Adobe Premiere.
I was already using Adobe Photoshop for photos, Illustrator for logos and text, and After Effects for motion graphics. Except I was having to render out separate files for every graphic. The main point is that I was already in the Adobe world. I was noticing many of us, ex-FCP 7 users, jumping to Premiere. So I buckled in, learned some new keyboard shortcuts, setup the interface just like my old FCP setup and was up and running. And it was better.
You can Dynamic Link between After Effects and Premiere, which saves lots of time and hard drive space. You can color right in Premiere, and it’s very good and user friendly. Adobe updates all the time. I remember even being stoked that I could make the markers different colors, something I’d wanted to do forever! Media Encoder is better than Apples Compressor for exporting your files.
Needless to say I’ve been pretty happy with Adobe Premiere and the entire Creative Suite and would recommend it to anyone."
"If I was selecting software to use for the editing jobs I currently do then I would choose Avid Symphony. However, I don't think it's the best for all jobs. Each piece of software has its own strengths and different jobs have different requirements.
Avid editing systems are the ones I have used the most so am most familiar with both in offlining and onlining. For the online jobs I currently work on – which are mostly broadcast documentaries and daytime shows - Avid Symphony does an all-round good job.
I think it is important to learn as much as you can about any system you use. That way you can often work your way around limitations and get the result you want."