Feb 24, 2016

Important Changes to Mandrill

Update (3/17/16): If you already have a paid monthly MailChimp account and merge it with an existing Mandrill account by April 27, your first million monthly Mandrill email credits will be free.

Update (3/16/16): Mandrill is now an add-on for paid monthly MailChimp accounts, and is no longer available as a standalone service. Existing Mandrill users have until April 27, 2016 to merge their Mandrill account with a MailChimp account. See this article for additional details, including pricing information and instructions for merging your accounts.

Update (2/29/16): SparkPost has offered to take on any departing Mandrill users and to honor Mandrill’s pricing for those users.

Update (2/25/16): We’ve published an FAQ article in Mandrill’s Knowledge Base that provides more information about the transition. We’ll continue updating that article as new questions arise.

Today, my team is sending an email to all Mandrill users about some changes our business is making in the coming weeks. I’ll explain the changes in detail below, but here’s a summary: Mandrill is becoming a transactional email add-on to paid MailChimp accounts instead of a completely separate product.

Going forward, all Mandrill users will be required to have a paid monthly MailChimp account. We want to give everyone plenty of time to research their options and decide whether they’d like to create a MailChimp account, so here’s the timeline and important details:

  • Starting March 16, all new Mandrill users will create accounts through MailChimp.
  • Also starting March 16, Mandrill users can merge their existing Mandrill account with a MailChimp account.
  • Current users will have until April 27 to merge the accounts.

This is a big change, so I’d like to provide some context for our customers who want to know the “why” behind strategic decisions like this one.

The back story

We launched Mandrill in 2012 in response to a significant change in customer behavior: MailChimp was great (arguably the best, but I’m biased) at sending one-to-many emails, but customers increasingly wanted the ability to send one-to-one (AKA: “transactional”) messages to their customers. To get good at that new skill while continuing to hone our one-to-many delivery skills, we decided to create a startup within MailChimp. That startup was Mandrill, our transactional email product. In 3 short years, Mandrill grew to more than 800,000 users, reached an annual run rate of $12 million, and has delivered more than 88 billion messages. I’m proud of how far it came in so little time.

Along the way, the transactional email space continued to evolve. Today, some customers want a transactional email service to be a utility—like a “dumb pipe” or ISP that very quickly and efficiently delivers emails, and only delivers emails. Other customers want a smarter transactional email service that helps them deliver personalized, value-added emails (for industries like e-commerce). Those 2 types of transactional emails are very different animals that require very different styles of innovation, so we’re making these changes to Mandrill to better serve our customers.

Fork in the road

Transactional emails, like password reminders and the myriad email notifications you get after making changes to online accounts, are dead simple. Utilitarian providers like Amazon SES excel at this. Their innovation is mostly focused on increasing efficiency and reducing costs. That’s important stuff, and nobody does it better. Personalized emails, like the ones used by e-commerce businesses, require expertise in data and design: Sellers need to deliver highly targeted product recommendations wrapped in a beautiful design that perfectly represents their brand. Nobody does that better than MailChimp (but again, I’m biased). So you can probably guess by now why we’re choosing this path for Mandrill.

MailChimp’s innovation style is all about democratization. We want to build sophisticated, enterprise-grade solutions, and make them more accessible to small businesses (we do that by making it fun and affordable). We came to a fork in the road, and choosing the “personalized transactional” path with Mandrill suits us and our customers better than the “utility” path.

As they say, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” so no matter how compelling or strategic it may seem to conquer the utility transactional space, MailChimp’s cultural DNA compels us to innovate on e-commerce personalization.

The road(map) ahead

Looking ahead, you’ll see the following advancements to our transactional offering:

  • Better template design
  • E-commerce automation workflows (MailChimp has 150,000 email automation customers, and we think this is going to be a great place to use what we’ve learned from Mandrill)
  • Data in one place: Mandrill and MailChimp both provided a tremendous amount of useful data to our customers, but until now, we’ve kept it in 2 places. This change will allow us to merge it all into one place.

Changes to Mandrill

Now that I’ve shared why we’re making this change and given you a peek at what the future holds, let’s talk about what’s happening with Mandrill now. These changes will affect all existing and new Mandrill accounts:

  • Mandrill is becoming a paid add-on for monthly MailChimp accounts. It will only be available for MailChimp customers who have monthly plans.
  • The name and design are not changing right now, but we’ll eventually call it MailChimp Transactional and bring the branding under the MailChimp umbrella.
  • All Mandrill users will be required to verify their sending domains and add SPF and DKIM records by April 27. (This is already in effect for new Mandrill users.)
  • The Privacy Policy and Terms of Use will be consolidated with MailChimp’s.
  • The billing and pricing model will also be consolidated with MailChimp’s, so users will get one bill that covers MailChimp and Mandrill charges together. We’re ending the free option. This will help us alleviate the enormous amount of time and effort we spend blocking abusive senders from setting up free Mandrill accounts and sending spam, and allow our developers to focus on personalization. Developers building e-commerce solutions shouldn’t find this to be a burden, and indeed, Mandrill can still be used for “utilitarian” transactional emails like password reminders and purchase receipts, in addition to personalized emails. Startup developers looking for a cheap, reliable transactional service may want to consider Amazon SES.
  • We’re ending our reseller arrangement with Heroku, so those customers will need to move over to a MailChimp plan by April 27. The Heroku partnership was a fruitful one, and app development platforms like Heroku play an important role in our industry.

If you’re a Mandrill user, you’ll receive an email today with more information. Details and pricing are also posted on the Mandrill blog.

We want to make this transition as easy as possible. I know this will be disruptive to some Mandrill users who aren’t interested in the marketing and design features that MailChimp offers, but it’s time we close the gap between MailChimp and Mandrill. With Mandrill as a MailChimp add-on, our small business and e-commerce users will be able to send personalized transactional messages to their customers, with all the design features and ease of use they’ve come to expect from MailChimp.