Klaviyo Vs Mailchimp
icon32.png Posted: 26 Oct 2017 21:13

I originally intended to do an exhaustive comparison of these two competing mass mail service providers. However, I'm going to go ahead and post what I have thus far because the truth is, I'm probably never going to have the time for a complete review. That being said, I still have a fair number of comparisons to be made. Some of these comparisons may be unfair but I've decided to post the comparisons anyway and I'll let you decide whether or not the comparison is beneficial.

I've been working with mass mail for nearly 10 years now and after having tried many services, I ended up with a preference for Mailchimp. Recently, one of our clients was sold on Klaviyo and decided to make the switch. Rather than dump the client, I decided to give Klaviyo a fair shot. Here are my notes on comparing the two.

Text Editing

Mailchimp: With Mailchimp, text editing can be a pain; fonts, sizes, and style want to ignore your choices randomly. In fact this has been a pet peeve of mine while working with Mailchimp. It's improved over the years but we still run into problems, for example: bullets don't want to scale with font size and the "styles" function is a mess. This is so bad that with some clients we will not do formatted text emails, we only accept images so any text content must be in the form of an image and our creative team must convert all copy to appealing images.
Klaviyo: Text editing works perfectly as expected. When compared to Mailchimp in this respect, Klaviyo is a dream.

Auto Campaigns: Importing lists

Mailchimp: Auto-campaigns using imported lists NEVER worked for us. When seeking support, we followed the instructions but it still did not work. When seeking support again, we were told to repeat the original steps we took prior to seeking support the first time. In summary, Mailchimp sent us in circles and the issue was literally never resolved. This issue is why one client stopped paying $125/mo for his 12,000 subscriber list and opted to pay $350/mo to Klaviyo instead. The auto campaigns only seem to work when gaining new subscribers, I have literally given up trying to get them to work with an imported list.
Klaviyo: Unknown. This aspect of Klaviyo I can't (yet) compare with Mailchimp and I probably wont voluntarily try it unless it's needed for one of my clients.

Image Hosting

Mailchimp: Hosts images. I've never had any issues with Mailchimp image hosting and the user interface is obvious and intuitive.
Klaviyo: If Klaviyo is a dream for text formatting, then it is a nightmare for hosting images. It is far from intuitive, so far in fact that for quite a while I didn't even think it was possible for Klaviyo to host images used within emails. Images can only be directly uploaded when using an image block. But in most emails we build, there is a need to include images within blocks that are intended to contain both plain text and images. Users must use an awkward work-around within Klaviyo in order to get them to host images and this process is a major time sink. They recommend imgur and use the antiquated tinypic in their example. In fact, their system is so flawed, that it is faster to use a 3rd party host. Additionally, images that I uploaded to Klaviyo (such as a company logo) were removed by Klaviyo a few weeks later and I had to upload them again in order to use them in subsequent email builds. But this does not explain the problem with using images hosted by Klaviyo. In fact my complaint here is a major understatement and I might do a video to more clearly illustrate just how awful this process is with Klaviyo.

Image Sizing

Mailchimp: Image sizes are straight forward and intuitive. This is important since displaying images within an email must work well for all users regardless of the email client they are using.
Klaviyo: There is a slight learning curve for sizing images with Klaviyo, they need to be at 100% for the x value only and left to null for the y value. This does not mean 100% image size (like in all other services in the entire world) instead it means 100% of the template or block size. There is also a bug in which a Y value will be entered automatically and the only way to correct the badly displayed image is to go back to the image settings and remove the Y value.

Image Management

Mailchimp: With Mailchimp I can upload multiple images at once. The process is intuitive and I can do it while working with the content of the email.
Klaviyo: With Klaviyo I can only upload 1 image at a time while editing the email, and that's only if I'm using an image block. If I leave the editor to open the gallery, then and only then can I upload multiple images at once, but for ease of use, I should be able to reach the gallery while still in the editor. Once I re-open the editor and get back to work on the newsletter, getting each image that I just uploaded into the email (outside of a block) is still a major chore because there is no way to access the gallery while in edit mode. I don't mind saying that this is probably the most annoying encounter I've had using any mass mail service including outdated services like Constant Contact. Intentional or not, when it comes to images, Klaviyo is giving a clear message that even though they charge 3x more than Mailchimp, they don't have the bandwidth to manage images.

Links

Mailchimp: Links are easy and as expected, the universal CTRL+K works for attributing a link to highlighted text.
Klaviyo: CTRL+K does not work and you cannot edit a link to remove it, you must use the unlink tool-bar button. It's astonishing to me that a service should boast so much about their features and yet lack such a simple and expected foundation requirement like this. It may not seem like a big deal but when you manage tons of accounts daily, one quickly becomes accustomed to standard and universal short cuts to help speed up the process or else I'd never see the end of a work day.

WYSIWYG Links

Mailchimp: Two links side by side can be entered into a single text block, but when you go back to edit it, only one appears. This can be very annoying since an inability to edit block means having to scrap that block and start over. I don't encounter the need to edit side by side links often but when I do, I don't even try, I just start a new block and delete the old.
Klaviyo: This is not a problem for Klaviyo; what you enter, you can edit the same way (with the exception of applying hypertext link to anchor text and removing it as explained above).

Test Emails

Mailchimp: Test emails are often delayed by up to 5 minutes. This isn't a deal breaker but it can be annoying to have to wait so long for an email that should be instant.
Klaviyo: Test emails are instant.

Buttons

Mailchimp: With Mailchimp, buttons contains optional fields based on choice of link or email. This is very standard and to be expected.
Klaviyo: With Klaviyo, there are No field choices other than a URL and title with no distinction of the purpose of the button outside of a page link.

Account Adminstration

Mailchimp: Mailchimp has a very nice tool to allow firms to control multiple client accounts using just one login. This is perfect for users like me that happen to manage 30 different mailchimp accounts for 30 clients.
Klaviyo: Klaviyo doesn't include support for multiple accounts with one ID, this means that Klaviyo does not have support for firms. I may be a bit biased in this regard, but ignoring access for firms is a major mistake since it's existing firms with existing mass mail clients that have the potential to bring them more clients in greater numbers. Upon contacting Klaviyo on this matter, they made it clear that they expect firms to create a new login ID for every client. For people like me with 30 Mailchimp accounts, this would be a deal breaker because I'm not going to juggle 30 email address to create 30 login ID's to manage 30 clients for one service provider. In fact, if a client asks me about Klaviyo then I'm going to steer them away and keep them focused on Mailchimp simply because I have enough accounts to manage already without creating unnecessary email accounts to create unnecessary Klaviyo accounts when one should suffice.

Preformatted Blocks

Mailchimp: Mailchimp has some basic preformatted blocks.
Klaviyo: Klaviyo has more preset blocks to choose from including a "split" block which is perfect for creating alternating product shots. Klaviyo even has product blocks that pull data directly from an integrated ecommerce site like Shopify. There is even a block that looks like a topbar menu commonly seen on websites that is very easy to setup with links to pages on your website. This is a very nice feature that makes adding additional content within an Klaviyo email a breeze.

Email Overload

Mailchimp: With automated emails, there is no option to disable a notification once a condition is met. This means that it's possible to overload a users in-box with emails that, while 100% relevant and optin, is still too spammy. This can still be controlled but only through careful management of both automated campaigns and static emails.
Klaviyo: Klaviyo has a nice set of filter that prevents a user from getting too many emails even when they have met conditions that would trigger all possible emails. For example, if I want to automate an email for users that looked at a product, and I also want to send an email for an abandoned cart, with Klaviyo I can avoid one in favor of the other, otherwise I risk spamming the site user with too many emails.

Scheduled Constraints

Mailchimp: Mailchimp is greatly limited regarding how soon after a trigger I can send an automated email. For example, I can only send within 24 hours for an abandoned cart or within 72 hours for retargeting email.
Klaviyo: There are no time constraints when sending an automated email. While I disagree that there is still a natural limit during which time a customer should expect an email, it's still nice to know that I could choose longer than a day or two if the circumstances warranted it.

Automated eCommerce Options

Mailchimp: Has basic options for automated ecommerce emails. Mailchimp also has additional features, such as product specific emails, but these features come with an additional premium fee.
Klaviyo: Klaviyo excels here, not only is there an abandoned cart email, but I can setup multiple email variations based on the value of the items in the cart. I can also customize the condition by entering in a string, this means that Klaviyo can scale with ecommerce sites like shopify to give clients many choices. However, many users won't need a complex auto campaigns that have multiple trigger requirements. While this service is included with Klaviyo fees, Klaviyo fees are significantly higher that Mailchimp base fees and Klaviyo will charge you for these features whether or not you use them, and regardless of how frequently you use them.

Pre Built eCommerce Templates

Mailchimp: Has a few basic prebuilt and ready to edit emails for ecommerce engagement and automation.
Klaviyo: Has a ton of prebuilt ready to edit emails for ecommerce engagements and automation. But most of these will need heavy editing to get the desired results.

Session ID

Mailchimp: Allows me to have more than one login session. This lets me have two pages open while logged in to one account; a useful (some say necessary) feature when comparing contents of a previous email to a new email, and for a quick copy paste.
Klaviyo: Klaviyo does not allow multiple pages open for the same login session. At first it seems to work but upon making any changes to a flow or email, you will be met with an error and any attempt to go back will fail meaning that you will have to repeat all of your previous actions. If this action happened to be creating a new flow or email, then your flow or email will be saved, but it will lack all of your saved settings.

Time Zone Targeting

Mailchimp: Mailchimp has a great feature that lets me send flows and static newsletters via a "time warp" feature that lines up the time that the email is sent to the time zone of the subscriber. For example, if I specify 4pm then each user will receive the email at 4pm their time.
Klaviyo: This feature is not available when setting up a flow. My only choices for delivery times are based on time zone and time of day. I won't get into the details of how this reduces conversions but suffice it to say, that it's hard for me to accept the claims of higher sales with Klaviyo than with MC when they have missed a very important metric regarding email delivery times.

Custom Templates

Mailchimp: Mailchimp makes creating new templates effortless. I can create an email and at the same time I can save that email as a template. This also means that I can also create a new template based on a previous template by clicking a single button.
Klaviyo: Klaviyo makes creating a new template a chore every single time. This is because I can't use a pre-existing template as a basis. Often times there is a need for a new template that still needs to have some basic elements from an existing custom template. But with Klaviyo, no matter how simple or complex your new template might be, you have to start over from scratch. Klaviyo does have an import from URL option which is nice, but this is kind like handing you a bulldozer to do a job that you can do with a shovel and if I want create a new template based on on older template, I'm still out of luck.

Fred: Hi John, can I borrow your shovel, I need to dig one tiny hole to plant one tiny seed.
John: How about I loan you my Bulldozer instead?
Fred: That's overkill, can I just borrow the shovel.
John: Sorry, I don't have a shovel.
~ Klaviyo in a nutshell

Nope, No Comparison Here

Klaviyo: One very annoying aspect of Klaviyo is the lack of a product search feature when creating product specific emails. Product specific emails is one of the key features that Klaviyo offers. When specifying the product used to trigger a flow, I'm met with a drop down menu that lists all of the products. Naturally it feels like I should be able to start typing the product name, but that does not work. I need to manually enter the full product name exactly as it appears on the shopping cart database, or scroll through the entire list of products. Manually entering the product nomenclature is risky because if you make a mistake, then it won't trigger the flow. On the other hand, browsing through a list of products is very time consuming, even with a small list of say 40 to 50 products, I feel bad for anyone with 1000's of products because creating a product specific flow is going to be very time consuming for you and you're going to need a team.


As you can see, there are a lot of factors to compare, and there are many missing from this list. If it were simply a matter of counting pro's and con's, it would be easy to decide. But each scenario above may have a weight of importance that varies from the other.

The Crux of the Issue

I think klaviyo developers spent a lot of time with lofty goals, which is great when you are trying to introduce new tools, but sadly these lofty features don't come with many of the more common features that are just as important (some would say more important) than the higher functions that Klaviyo advertises. Klaviyo has built a tall tower that is polished to a high shine to attract attention, but this tower is built on a foundation that I find lacking for my day to day needs in a mass mail service provider. But let me tell you how I really feel…

For the most part, Klaviyo provides a decent service. I still prefer Mailchimp, but they could both use some improvement. If I ignore all of the little things that I dislike about Klaviyo, then the two primary issues that are preventing me from switching over to Klaviyo are the issues with hosting images and the fact that I can't control multiple accounts with one master admin ID. I might be inclined to use Klaviyo as a single business owner, but since I run 30 mass mail accounts for clients, I simply cannot juggle that many login ID's.

Likewise, if mail campaigns were the only type of digital marketing I did, then maybe I would prefer Klaviyo and overlook the lack of a master login account. But for most of the services I use, I login with a single account. For example, for running 72 separate websites, I login with a single master ID, and for running 30 mailchimp accounts, I login with 1 master ID. Even GoDaddy allows me to login with one master ID, once a client has added me as a user. The same is true for managing Google Analytics and Adwords accounts, I login with one master MCC ID and from there I can connect to any client account. So I don't quite get why this is an issue with Klaviyo.

But there is one more factor that is going to further push me away from Klaviyo:

Mailchimp: Free up to 2000 subscribers and 12,000 subs costs $125/mo.
Klaviyo: Free up to 250 subscribers and 12,000 subs costs $350/mo.

If it were a close tie, then this would certainly be the tie breaker. Seeing that I have to pay nearly 3 times as much for Klaviyo easily tips the scales in favor of Mailchimp. Mailchimp is also very kind in terms of giving new users time to build their list by allowing them to "play" for free until after they exceed 2000 subscribers. With Klaviyo it's only free for up to 250 subs so very soon after launching a marketing campaign to gain subscribers, you can expect to be paying. This makes it more difficult for new marketers to gain enough momentum to afford paid campaigns through mass mail. I realize that I'm addressing low figures here, but the world is packed with small and mid size companies and startups that don't have money to burn.

Something Sour

There is one more thing I would like to mention that sours Klaviyo for me, a large part of their promotional model is based on comparing themselves to Mailchimp and they love to use this quote: "If you want to send newsletters then use Mailchimp and if you want to make money then use Klaviyo". That's a clever bit of promotion, but it's a bit misleading too and it's the type of thing that pushes me away on principle alone. Money can be earned with all mass mail campaigns, in fact you can send email via gmail and do just as well since they allow you to send up to 500 emails per day and you can BCC users, provided that you comply with international CAN-SPAM laws. Services like Mailchimp and Klaviyo merely automate the process. If you're not making money with these services, it's not because you chose one over the other; the problem isn't with the medium, the problem is with the message.