New Ecommerce Tool: Mailchimp's doing what?

Did you hear? Mailchimp has entered the ecommerce game.

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce
A bright yellow MailChimp logo page on a laptop screen

BONUS EPISODE: "Mailchimp is doing what?"

Today we're taking a break from our previously scheduled programming to discuss Mailchimp's new ecommerce tool, the evolution of ecommerce platforms, and the current state (see: abundance) of tools available for businesses looking to include retail. 

Hosted by:

Andy Winthieser
Nora Lahl

Today’s Topics:

  • Mailchimp's Market Share
  • "Easy-to-use" Tools
  • Options for Retailers
  • Taking on Shopify
  • Incomplete "Integrations"


The following is a transcript of the cross-conversation streaming in the above media: 

For those of you who've been following along this whole time, you know we've been looking at ecommerce through the lens of our own direct-to-consumer brand, and we've been touching on the different pieces of the puzzle along the way. Well, today, we're going to do something a little bit different. We've recorded a lot of sessions in advance and already have our schedule plotted out, but we wanted to address some new news in the ecommerce platform arena regarding Mailchimp.

So, it's been out for a few weeks, but in the scheme of things, this is relatively new information, and it didn't fit into our previously recorded schedule. So, we decided to do this little mini episode, a bonus, to talk about it. So, let's just get down to it. Mailchimp has announced recently that they're entering the ecommerce game earlier this spring. They have two offerings: stores and appointments. So, this is big news for ecommerce, right Andy? Yeah, definitely.

Understanding Mailchimp's market share

As people may probably know the name Mailchimp, actually from lots of podcast commercials, among other things, they are an email platform primarily. And they've really been, over the years, expanding more and more into marketing. I was just looking up some stats on Mailchimp. They have 12 million users, and that represents, as of a couple of years ago, I think 2019, that was 65% of the email market share, which is... go ahead. They've been the 800-pound gorilla for email market.

Yeah, the monkey. Their mascot is Freddie, the monkey. So, yeah, they've always been really innovative. They were named the most innovative company by Fast Company in 2017. They've really exploded. They purchased up some competitors over the years in email marketing. And they've really gone after ecommerce-related email. In the last few years, they added transactional emails as a separate service. So, that's the order confirmation emails. Abandoned cart emails are huge for them. They have a lot of automation in place that's really great for ecommerce. And a number of our ecommerce clients leverage Mailchimp in one way or another.

So, in May or April, I guess, they announced of 2021, just a couple of months ago, they announced that they now have ecommerce as an offering as well. So, they've got stores and appointments, which are both transactional. Andy, are you surprised by this? No, I'm definitely not surprised by this. And I think most, I'm intrigued for one. It makes a lot of sense. I get why they're doing it. But I guess I have more reservations than excitement about this whole thing. And then, that's really my stance on it. It's cool.

They're a great company. In fact, I had dinner with some Mailchimp folks in Austin, I don't know, a couple years back, and they actually brought me a pair of socks. Of course they did. And I absolutely love those socks- Really? Yeah. They're my favorite. That's awesome. So, I'm a Mailchimp fan overall. I think they're a great platform. They dominate email marketing. But it's an interesting time because my reason for wanting to talk about this is, and we're seeing this with clients and prospects that come along, and they say, "Oh, we set up Shopify site quick, and these tools are so easy to use, sort of." It's like, they're very easy to use, and get started, and "hack your way through something." And then, you can apply a template and a theme or whatever.

The truth behind "easy to use" ecommerce tools

Every platform calls them different things. But more often than not, you don't end up with all that great of a site. And there's just more to ecommerce than a shopping cart. There's more to ecommerce than just, hey, look, there's this tool that lets us build a catalog. And there's an Add to Cart button. And we see this with Shopify too. Shopify is awesome. Their order management tools are awesome. Their integrations are awesome. Their content management piece totally blows. So, it's like we keep having opportunities to use Shopify, and then, it falls flat because the content management's so weak.

Yeah. And the sites where we have chosen to use Shopify, but need robust content management, we've really had to customize things in a way that undercuts that you can get it set up in a day. Well, no, you can't, if you're trying to do something more complex and if you have a presence beyond your shopping experience, then it's starting to become more complicated, and there are trade-offs. You either have to take what you get and live within the systems that are available or you have to get real custom, which we've done and that can work really well. But then, you're getting into, you're using a developer to set things up and you're reliant on a developer more and more than what these platforms are promoting, which is this one-stop shop. You can do it all yourselves, plug-and-play theme. So, I don't necessarily expect any better than Shopify, when it comes to that kind of thing.

I think it might be a good option for somebody who's all in on Mailchimp already for email marketing, and they just have a few things to sell that are simple, and you're willing to compromise design, and maybe there's a little bit of piecemeal fulfillment, for instance, and you're willing to be high touch with that. It might be a good way to get started. I think it might be a good option in that case. Yeah. I guess in that realm, I would put Mailchimp's ecommerce in the "hobbyist," side hustle... Yeah. Or just like side... Your main purpose is not ecommerce, but you've got some t-shirts that you want to get out to the world.

We have a client that we're working with on a lot of branding, and they have an opportunity to do a little bit of swag. They're a production company, and that might be a good opportunity for them because they really don't need to lead with their shopping experience. It's a secondary thing. So, it might be the right solution for them. But I'll be interested to see what they do because I do think that Mailchimp is smart about how they go about this sort of thing. I don't think that it's going to be carelessly implemented at all. I have a lot of trust in how they make choices like this. So, it'll be interesting to see how it develops and what area it settles into, what solution it becomes for people.

All of the different options for online retailers

Yeah. I look back and one of my concerns with this is when I first heard about this, we had this conversation in the office. I'm like, "Oh boy." On one hand, it's awesome because it's getting to the point where some of our clients or prospects that come to us and they have so many different platforms stitched together, and it's a clusterfuck.

At the end of the day, it's plugins and this third party- Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's these legacy solutions where you've got different people who maybe have learned things along the way and have their pet platforms that they like without stepping back. Yeah. Yeah. Or they had to go and stitch it together because they needed this functionality, and nobody had- Yeah. At the time, that's what they had. Sure. And MailCchimp was part of that list of apps that a lot of companies had because their CMS didn't have good email marketing. So, even with us and the launch of our new site, we were on Mailchimp.

We're 100% migrating off because our CMS, Kentico, has very robust email marketing capabilities. Yes. So, there's no need. I see that they need to keep their customers in their ecosystem because Kentico’s of the world and other platforms are really- ... way at. But at the same time, for a small business, it's perfect. So, I don't know. It reminds me of QuickBooks. Small business owners oftentimes get started on QuickBooks. And really, that was the only solution for a while. And now, they've added all this other crap that nobody uses, even though people use it. We're a small business, but we're never going to run our payroll through QuickBooks. They have it. They had to, and I don't know. So, I'm not sold. I'm not sold that this is a good direction for Mailchimp, but... Yeah. Well, I think it's interesting because like we said, they have 65% of the market share in email marketing. I don't know how much growth there is to be had beyond that, at a certain point. And so, I think they did need to find new opportunities with existing...

We do the same thing, right? You're looking for new opportunities with existing customers. And if you have those good relationships and that trust built up, and you're already doing some transactional emails for them, they like your abandoned cart solutions that you've had in place for a while, I think there's a case to be made for consolidating. Let's say, you're on WooCommerce right now. Well, is that gaining you anything that maybe consolidating into Mailchimp wouldn't? Maybe not, if you've got a pretty simple product. You're going to be losing all the content management functionality of WordPress that goes along with- True. True. That's why it's my fear is just...

I think Wix is the best example. They spend millions on these Superbowl ads, and they get lots of small businesses. And how many times have... Client come to us and they, oh yeah, we built that landing page or that micro-site in Wix. And it was- Yeah, we hate it. It's a nightmare to manage. We don't have the flexibility we expected. The person who understood it left, and now, we're stuck with it. Yeah. Yeah. So, there's a lot of big promises on drag and drop, and this and that, for example. And I see this right alongside the Wix. Oh yeah, we do ecommerce. You could have a shopping cart. Yeah. We have replaced Wix's ecommerce more than once.

But at the same time, it's cool if that inspires small businesses that are like, "Let's try it. Let's-" Yeah. It's the foot in the door. They already are familiar with Mailchimp. I think it's absolutely going to pay off. I hope that it will pay off for Mailchimp. More options and more focused solutions, I think, are good because trying to get down to... There are lots of folks who aren't ready for Magento, or BigCommerce, or some of those other platforms yet, and this might be the way to get going.

And we talked about this earlier, when picking a platform, you want to balance your investing in something that you're going to be with for a little while. So, you're looking down the road, but you don't want to look too far down the road that you're biting off more than you can chew or you're implementing something that's a scale that you don't need. So, with the way that -commerce is going, I absolutely think that there will continue to be more stores. Smaller retailers are going to get in the game. I think it's exciting for folks who have felt overwhelmed by it, maybe, but I don't think it's necessarily for our clients. Even though a lot of our clients use Mailchimp happily for email, I don't think the -commerce site is going to be ready for prime time.

How Mailchimp is taking on Shopify

But I do think one thing that I know you love a conspiracy theory. I love a conspiracy theory. I know, right? They're the best. So, Mailchimp, if you'll remember, I don't know how much you were involved in this, but a couple years ago, Mailchimp got in a dispute with Shopify over, I think, it was just terms of service stuff. And looking back, it's like it wasn't about terms of service at all. When has that really ever been the reason that an integration would come apart? Looking back, this did not develop as a response to what happened in 2020 with going to ecommerce. It may have accelerated it with the explosion of ecommerce in 2020, due to the pandemic. But the writing was on the wall back then.

Looking back, it was like Mailchimp was starting down the path of developing their own solution, and they needed to decouple from Shopify a little bit. Yeah. Well, I think that went both ways because Shopify has gotten significantly stronger on the marketing tools, the email marketing tools. Yeah. They've been growing that, and so, they're definitely more in competition than ever before. They used to play nice together. And now, they're more competitors. Yeah, absolutely. I do think it's interesting.

The challenge of incomplete integrations

Do you think people need to be worried about their Mailchimp integrations for their ecommerce stores? Is that something that's going to start being a problem? I've wondered that, and there's two things that concern me. I shouldn't say concern me. Actually, let me rephrase. One thing I'm really excited about and we're doing a lot of it is eliminating tools. Minimizing the number of different tools that you have to use. Yeah. Because there's been a time where it's like, holy beep, there's just a lot of... Now, you're beeping.

Tools here. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. It's like, well, we got this for that, and this for that, and that for this. And it's like, "Dude, you guys are spending four grand a month on $80 subscriptions." And then, talk about siloed data, right? When your customer data is such a huge part of what you're doing and how you're selling, having it be in different places and not all consolidated is a huge negative. So, anytime that you can get your data living in one place, so you don't have to manually bring it together is huge. So, that's a good point. There's a case to be made for moving to Mailchimp if you're already all in on Mailchimp email, I think. Yeah. I don't know. We have some clients that have massive lists on Mailchimp, and if they added ecommerce, I don't know that we would... Because our integrations with Mailchimp happen behind the scenes. We're passing data to them and email happens. It's like a separate. It's more transactional. Yeah. We're using it to send, but not necessarily to store that information.

Every single day I talk to prospects, and every single day it's a lot of those conversations. 

Ecommerce and this is just one more like Salesforce. Oh, should we use Salesforce ecommerce functionality? Oh, we have NetSuite for our ERP. Should we use NetSuite ecommerce? Oh, we have Kentico. Should we use Kentico? So, on one hand, it sucks that everyone's adding these features and functionality, even though I understand it. They have to, but I want people to reduce the number of tools they're using. But at the same time, I don't think that means you have to go to one, right? Yeah. It's a balance. And that's one of the things that, not to be like too salesy right now, but one of the benefits of bringing in a partner, like Lightburn, to help you audit that is to step back and realize what are you actually getting out of it? Because some of it can just be, well, this is how we've done it, so this is how we do it. And it's very easy to get stuck in that mindset. So, having a completely outside perspective is really valuable. And I do think one of the things you got to do is make sure that you've got your goals, your KPIs, or whatever framework you use solidified, and you understand what is the leading purpose of all of what you're doing.

Because sometimes, you can let the loudest voice in the room dictate which tools you're using or how you're breaking these things up. And if you step back and look at wow, ecommerce is a very small piece of what we're trying to do here, then that's going to change how you treat that solution. Right? Right. But in a lot of ways, with a platform like this and Shopify too, you have to go all in on it, or you have to have sub sites. And then, that gets complicated. It's case by case, right? Think about that. If you're going to, oh, they got ecommerce. I can run my store there. Okay, are you going to move all your content over there? Don't just look at their shopping cart functionality- , what else do you need the site to do for you? It's easy. It's all the stuff beyond the cart that you have to look at. Yeah. If your biggest problem that you're trying to solve is complex fulfillment, I almost guarantee the Mailchimp is going to be the right solution today. I'm going to guess that it's not mature enough, But still, even at the back office stuff, even if you had to re-key orders.

Say you did go to Mailchimp for... Basically, you're running your whole site on it. That's a pretty big commitment. It is. And then you're- But don't just look at their shopping cart functionality and their email, look at their website management. Be like, "Do you have any other integrations?" Shopify has a very robust API, which is great. Yeah. That makes it a lot easier to integrate with other platforms that you may be using and tied to. Yeah. To borrow one of your oft used phrases, let's leave this poor horse alone. I think we beat it. We don't know yet. I want to poke around in the platform. That's my next step is just see what it looks like just so we have a handle on what they're doing. So, I'm looking forward to doing that. We're going to keep an eye on it for sure and be thinking of it because like we said, we really trust Mailchimp. We like what they do. I think they're smart about what they do. I don't think this is going to be a flash in the pan, but it's going to be interesting to see where it ends up settling. Do you have any other takeaways on this? [crosstalk 00:20:56]. Yeah. I think my biggest takeaway is cool.

I like Mailchimp. Love the brand, love their tools generally. I think they're just an awesome company. But I don't see this so much with Shopify, but I see people do this. They pick WooCommerce because that's what works with WordPress. And I'm trying to advocate that people don't necessarily pick ecommerce because it's Mailchimp or because it's, oh, we already use Mailchimp. You got to pick the best tools and get help. If you're not sure, ask for help.

Yeah. And that's one of our favorite things I think is peeling back the layers and figuring out what's the real real ask here. What do you really need? Because I think it can be really easy to say, "Well, we need a shopping cart." Well, we've proven here, MailCchimp is proving the shopping cart is not the hard part. It's everything else. Yeah. I actually had a call today too, not on the sites, they want to redo a site. They just acquired a new company. Our prospect client has a number of companies that has acquired another company, for example. And they know they need to blow up the site, and they're like, "Oh yeah, we're going to use WordPress. And we want to have ecommerce. So, we'll use Woo." They've already figured it all out. Yeah. And it's cool. But the thing is that they're like, "Oh yeah, we read it in that said it integrates with this." And I'm like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, it sort of does." These companies have gotten very good at marketing and putting a feature.

When it says, "Integrates with NetSuite," just because it has an line item that says, "Integrates with XYZ," doesn't mean it actually integrates with XYZ. It might do one function or part of it. I think people are shooting themselves in the foot more often. And I think that's scramble to add ecommerce, which I get. During the pandemic, people had to do it, and people limped along, and that's great. There's going to just be a lot of rework, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Crawl before you walk, walk before you run. But if you can avoid that and a lot of expenses and having to redo stuff in a year or two years, it might be worth that. For sure. I think the takeaway is we're going to keep an eye on it. We may give an update along the road if we encounter a solution where it makes sense to use Mailchimp commerce. I'm interested in looking a little bit more at the appointments option. I think that's a really focused offering that could be a good solution for certain ecommerce situations where maybe people before we're having to shoe horn their appointment setting features into product-based offering.

So, that's very interesting.

What are your thoughts on Mailchimp? What do you think about this? Is it going to be a flash in the pan or do you think they're going to be a big player in ecommerce? We'd love to hear some listener thoughts. Yeah. That was our show today. It's pretty short and sweet. We wanted to just get this out quickly since it's a newer topic.

And next time, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled episode. It's a really great client profile that I think will be really interesting, and you're not going to want to miss it. One of our favorite clients who is just a great success story, trying and failing, and finally succeeding with ecommerce. So, it's going to be a good one.

- - - - - - 

Well that’s our show for today, tune in next week for our very first client profile episode. We’re diving deep into the journey one retailer took to get from a broken, frustrating ecommerce site,  to one of Lightburn’s favorite success stories.

Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was edited by Ryan Dembroski. Our music is the song, Let's Go Go Go by Tigerblood Jewel.

Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your audio. You can always learn more about ecommerce at

We'll see you next time on Beyond the Cart.

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