Ana Khlystova
Jan 15, 2020 | 10 min read

If you’re evaluating Intercom vs Drift for your company, chances are you’re working in marketing or sales. I mean sure, their live chats, knowledge bases and other customer support dedicated features are great, but these two tools are historically famous for functionality like custom bots, demo booking, product tours, email marketing — you know, sales and marketing stuff.

Basically, I don’t think any other tool comes even close to their sales and marketing features. 

That being said, you must think twice before rushing into anything with either of the two. Both Intercom and Drift are also the most expensive tools on the market with all those advanced features costing even more. 

Do you really need custom chatbots that cost hundreds of dollars? Are you going to use built-in calendars for booking demos? Or maybe you would be better off with a more cost-effective solution like HelpCrunch, which also offers live chat, knowledge base, and email automation features? That is something to think about as well.

Looking for an all-in-one
customer communication tool?

And even if you’re dead set on either Intercom or Drift, there are also lots of things you should consider first. So, let’s talk about them now:

TL;DR

Intercom is a great and well-balanced all-in-one tool that covers support, marketing, and sales tasks while Drift is way more sales-oriented. Both tools are famous for their highly developed bots and for being quite expensive and enterprise-oriented.

Intercom Drift
Main features Business Messenger
Team Inbox
Outbound Messages
Live Chat
Drift Help
Drift Video
Drift Email
Drift Meetings (calendar)
Out-of-the-box features Chatbots
Product Tours
Help Center
Chatbots
Email bots
Account-based marketing
Free trial Available for 14 days, requires credit card details Free account with limited functionality
Prices start at $38/mo $50/mo
All-in-one ‘Premium’ subscription starts at $1500/mo $153/mo
G2 rating 4.3 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Intercom vs Drift: introduction

Intercom was founded in California in 2011 by four designers and engineers as a business messenger. The main idea was to create a new customer communication platform for businesses that want to talk with their customers faster and more efficiently. 

You can talk to the customer when they’re in the product – much like when you’re in a shop, someone will come up directly to you and talk to you there rather than send you an email or send you a letter in the mail.

Eoghan McCabe, Intercom’s CEO & Co-founder.

Basically, it’s not that Intercom has invented live chat for websites and apps, it’s just that they made it so much more than just live chat. Thanks to them, companies now use their software not just for answering customer requests, but also for attracting new leads, increasing conversions, onboarding, retaining customers and engaging with them at different stages of the funnel.

That is why there’s no surprise that other companies saw the potential value of business messengers and tried to duplicate the success. This was the beginning of a new era in customer communications.

Somewhere around this time, another business messenger’s enthusiast David Cancel had started his job as Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. Fast forward four years, he raised a $15 million Series A for his own startup called Drift.

Drift is also a business messenger for real-time communication between businesses and customers or, as they call themselves, ‘conversational marketing platform’. After all those years at Hubspot, it was hardly surprising that the project was completely dedicated to sales and marketing tasks right from the beginning.

Everyone has been using messaging for support, and no one has used it for sales and marketing. We thought that if everyone’s default is now to use messaging in their personal lives, that would be the way we’d buy online.

David Cancel, Drift’s CEO & Founder

Summarizing the above, both Intercom and Drift are virtually business messengers (aka live chat tools) with numerous out-of-the-box features aiming to help marketing and sales teams with their daily tasks.

And how’s it going today?

Intercom vs Drift: features

Intercom features

Intercom distinguishes three main use cases for their software — lead generation, customer engagement, and customer support. These packages include different combinations of Intercom’s standard products:

  • Business Messenger for real-time communication with your leads and customers on your website or inside your product.
  • Team Inbox, which is basically a unified help desk for managing multi-channel support in a single window.
  • Outbound Messages for sending drip campaigns and manual one-time blasts via messenger, email or as push notifications.
Intercom dashboard

Based on your needs, you can enhance your Intercom platform with different add-ons, which include Help Center, Chat Bot, and Answer Bot. The Product Tours feature for onboarding new customers with the help of proactive contextual messages is also available for additional fees.

Intercom’s bots are especially interesting as they’re one of the best customer support automations available on the market these days (which shows in those bots’ pricing, too). They can ease your team’s workload dramatically by automating routine tasks like assigning questions to the right departments or auto suggesting help center articles based on customers’ questions.

The only tool that can compete with Intercom in this department is — you guessed it right — Drift. So, let’s talk about its features for a change.

Drift features

At first glance, it seems like Drift isn’t even trying to be a customer support solution. Its homepage talks about leads, pipelines, and sales right up front while its feature list includes such mysterious things like ‘account-based marketing’, ‘conversational emails’ and, of course, bots, bots, bots.

Don’t worry, though. As any other all-in-one customer communication tool, Drift offers standard features like live chat, knowledge base, and email automation. It’s just that they either call them differently or don’t market them as aggressively as sales-dedicated features.

Here are Drift’s core features:

  • Live Chat for real-time communication with customers
  • Drift Help for creating a self-help knowledge base for your website or app
  • Drift Video for recording and sharing sales and demo videos 
  • Drift Email for sales email automation
  • Meetings for booking demos or any other calls right in a chat window
Drift dashboard

Basically, Drift offers so many sales and marketing features that you probably didn’t even know you needed them before you saw them on their website. But that is just the tip of an iceberg.

Drift offers this separate peculiar feature called Account-based marketing (ABM), which is more sales than marketing in its essence. Basically, your business can identify very specific companies that you want to target with your account-based marketing campaigns, and Drift helps you start conversation with them as soon as those companies visit your website.

However, Drift software gets the most exciting when it comes to bots. Because in all honesty, none of the above mentioned features will work quite like you expect it to without automation. But in bundle, they can do wonders.

And Drift does offer numerous automations to choose from — chatbots, email bots, and even custom AI-powered bots for creating workflows and playbooks based on your previous conversations. They can help you to pre-qualify leads, route new conversations to corresponding departments, book meetings — and do all this 24/7 so that your leads don’t ever feel unattended.

Drift vs Intercom: features showdown

Both Intercom and Drift share some basic features like live chat, knowledge base, and email automation even though Drift positions all their features from a sales and marketing angle. 

However, their chat widgets look completely different. Intercom’s Business Messenger combines different apps in one window where you can choose to start a conversation, find an answer in the knowledge base or read company’s news. Drift’s Chat, on the other hand, looks simple and clean — it’s a simple window where you can chat with customer support and answer qualifying questions from a chatbot.

Intercom offers one unique feature that Drift doesn’t have in its package and it’s product tours for customer onboarding. Basically, you won’t need any third-party solutions to integrate contextual tips right into your product.

On the other hand, Drift has all those meetings, videos, and, of course, account-based marketing. The latter is a very unique feature that has no rivals whatsoever.

Drift’s bots are also more evolved and diverse (they even offer email bots). However, Intercom has been working on their AI automation quite actively for the last few years and made a huge breakthrough in this department.

Intercom vs Drift: prices

Intercom’s pricing

I’ll put the cards on the table and say this right away — people usually hate Intercom’s prices.

It’s not that Drift is more affordable, it’s just that you can never tell how much you’ll end up paying for Intercom at the end of each month. The thing is, not only does Intercom charge for subscription and additional agent seats, but it also takes extra fees for active contacts in your database.

There are four tiers of Intercom pricing: lead generation, customer engagement, customer support and all-in-one:

The cheapest Intercom subscription is the Essential Customer Support for $38/mo. It includes 2 agent seats and basic live chat functionality that you need to provide real-time support to your users.

The ‘All-in-one’ subscriptions start from $87/mo with each additional agent seat costing $19/mo. Sure, you’ll be able to use it for live chat, email automation, targeted messages and stuff. However, none of the subscription plans includes custom bots, product tours or even knowledge base functionality. Those are to be purchased separately and there’s no way to tell you how much they’ll cost as the actual prices are revealed by request.

The Intercom’s pricing page only says that bots cost from $99/mo, product tours — from $119/mo, and help center articles — from $49/mo.

Drift’s pricing

On the flip side, Drift has this one main pricing model called ‘Chat’ (however, they do charge for their video and AI automation functionality separately).

Let me elaborate.

Drift’s ‘Chat’ package is not just live chat software. Depending on the subscription plan you choose, it can also include things like a knowledge base or custom bots, or account-based marketing. But if you want just video, email, or AI automation features, they have their own pricing. The video thing costs from $0 to $10 per month, while other products’ prices are revealed by request.

Now, there are five ‘Chat’ subscription plans with prices varying from $0 to $1,500 per month and more.

There’s also the cut-down version of the Drift software that is available for free. It includes live chat for real-time communication, 1 agent seat, and calendar integration for booking meetings and demos. You’ll only be able to store 100 contacts in your dashboard. On the plus side, it offers 150 email sequences that you can use every month for sales purposes.

The cheapest ‘Standard’ plan offers live chat and knowledge base tools without limitations on the number of contacts. It costs $50/mo, and each additional chat seat is available for $20/mo. You’ll also be able to use saved replies and send proactive messages to your customers.

However, these subscriptions don’t include anything that Drift’s really famous for. The exciting stuff like custom bots and landing pages will be available for your business if you choose at least the ‘Pro’ subscription for $400/mo with additional chat seats costing $40/mo each.

And for as much as $1,500/mo, you get account-based marketing features, multiple teams with separate inboxes and even your own dedicated customer success manager that will explain how to use all this.

Intercom vs Drift: pricing showdown

At first glance, it might seem that Intercom offers some more affordable subscription plans compared to Drift. But that’s until you remember that it also charges for your active contacts. And that you have to pay for knowledge base functionality separately. And that bots are also separate products with separate invoices.

So, basically, the Premium All-in-one subscription for 10 agent seats and 10,000 contacts which will include knowledge base and custom bots, will cost you at least $1,113/mo.

Drift’s pricing, on the other hand, makes much more sense with their pay per seat system. There are four subscription plans to choose from including the free one. The cheapest plan for $50/mo includes knowledge base functionality and they have unlimited contacts on all subscriptions! However, the Drift Qualification Bot is purchased separately and it’s pricing is only disclosed by request. 

The Premium subscription for 10 team members will cost you at least $2,300/mo. It will include everything from knowledge base to custom bots to the whole account-based marketing thing. However, if you don’t need the last one, just go with the Pro subscription and your costs will immediately drop to $800/mo for 10 agent seats.

Intercom vs Drift: user reviews

In general, users rate Drift and Intercom similarly. According to G2, Drift scored 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 439 reviews, while Intercom’s rating there is 4.3 stars based on 885 reviews.

Intercom users are especially fond of platform’s robust functionality for any need and goal, great UI & UX of its interface and numerous integrations:

Feels like Intercom has thought of everything, whenever I need to do something with it, it’s like there’s already a dedicated feature waiting for me.

However, there’s one complaint that appears in many Intercom’s reviews and that is their pricing — their unpredictable and complicated pricing that people don’t seem to understand and definitely don’t like.

The overwhelming number of Drift’s reviews on G2 mention their amazing customizable playbooks that allow to automate many routine tasks as well as their nontypical features like calendar integration and account-based marketing.

Drift has been the missing piece of our marketing efforts to capture more leads and convert them faster. Sometimes, people hesitate to reach out to a salesperson directly but feel confident to “play” around with a bot which helps them find the information they need faster and lets them be in control of the process.

While it’s difficult to find negative words about Drift (the last one-star review was written in 2018), some users complain about Drift’s high prices and their glitchy mobile app.

Intercom vs Drift: conclusion

To sum everything up, both Intercom and Drift are strikingly advanced all-in-one tools for customer support, marketing, and sales. Probably, the most advanced in this niche.

In addition to standard live chat and knowledge base features, Drift has all those amazing sales things like calendar integration, conversational landing pages, and account-based marketing. On the other hand, Intercom offers the product tours features, which is also something both unique and extremely useful for SaaS businesses.

Most importantly, both Intercom and Drift have the best bots on the market. Even though the whole technology isn’t developed to the point where bots can replace human help, you can automate so much stuff with their help already.

The main drawback to both Intercom and Drift is their pricing. If you want to use those advanced features, be prepared to pay a couple of thousands of dollars every month. So, maybe try a more affordable tool like HelpCrunch before rushing into anything with super expensive tools like Drift or Intercom? It definitely won’t hurt to test all options.

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Ana Khlystova

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