This post was originally written in early 2020. Since then, I have changed my platform around quite a bit. I take digital sovereignty more seriously, for one. Not only that, I have moved on from Thrivecart and I actually switched to WooCommerce.
ThriveCart remains a solid shopping cart option, however there are definitely instances (such as for a membership site) where I don’t think it is a good fit. Not only that, there have been increasing rumblings in the Thrivecart community about stalled development, lackluster support, etc. They also still offer the lifetime license… something that at this point seems concerning to me since (a) they acted like it would be time-limited and (b) the lack of cash flow could be a problem for the product’s longevity.
In the end, I still like ThriveCart. But, there are caveats. I will update this post to reflect what I believe has changed. And who I think it is good for… and who it isn’t.
In This Post…
So, you’re looking into ThriveCart as a shopping cart. And no doubt, you’ve seen a lot of “ThriveCart Review” posts. And it is pretty obvious they want to sell it to you with their affiliate link.
We both know how the game is played.
So, here’s what I want to do for you…
I want to give you an honest, straight, to-the-point perspective on ThriveCart. I have had an account for 2-3 years now, but I do not run the bulk of my sales through it. I will explain why.
I want to spell out who this is for – and who it is not for. And we’re going to look at it in perspective with other, cheaper solutions that we know are out there.
ThriveCart is pretty powerful. I’m a fan. But, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And you’re no doubt going to be looking at it alongside other options. So, I want to see if I can help you make a decision.
Sound good? Cool. Let’s roll…
ThriveCart And Who It Is For (And Not For)
ThriveCart is a shopping cart system. You knew that. 🙂
But, it is important to understand the differences. ThriveCart is designed primarily to sell online products and services. In other words, stuff that is usually bought one at a time. While it does support the ability to have quantities more than one on an order, ThriveCart is mostly geared toward a traditional sales funnel where people add one item to a cart and them proceed to checkout.
ThriveCart is NOT designed to be a traditional shopping cart where a user adds multiple items to a cart at once and then checks out. This is not Amazon. If you are running an ecommerce site such as that, go find another system. ThriveCart is not for you. WooCommerce might be a better solution.
ThriveCart concentrates on selling 4 types of products:
- The main product (whatever it may be).
- Bump offer (where they can check a little box for an add-on which gets added to their order immediately)
That’s what it does.
You may ask…. can ThriveCart sell physical products? Yes, it can. It has shipping options built in. It has fulfillment options built-in. So, heck yes it can do physical products. But, you will still be selling it in a funnel checkout structure, not an Amazon-like cart.
ThriveCart is for anybody selling pretty much anything online. But, it is not ideal if you want to run a traditional ecommerce store like Amazon.
UPDATE: I want to add, I don’t think ThriveCart is a good fit for people to have a LOT of products. That’s because each funnel within ThriveCart is built around one product. It gets very complicated managing a lot of products inside of ThriveCart. Secondly, if you run a membership site and want people to be able to manage their accounts easily within your site, ThriveCart isn’t a good fit. It is one of the big reasons I switched to WooCommerce.
What Can ThriveCart Do?
Well, this software is incredibly robust. It does pretty much anything you would expect of a robust, hosted shopping cart solution. But, let me highlight some of the features I think are most relevant to my audience.
- Extremely flexible sales funnels with bumps, upsells, downsells. All one-click. And the one-click upsells even work with Paypal (something many carts cannot do).
- Easily supports recurring subscriptions for membership sites – and integrates with several of the membership site plugins on the market. (More on this in a bit)
- Allows very professional checkout pages without the hassle. These checkout pages convert. ‘Nuf said.
- You can send people to your hosted checkout pages, or embed the cart right into your site using popup carts or embedded carts. So, people can buy things without leaving your site if you wish.
- Integrates with practically everything.
- Handles all the tax stuff and various other legal requirements for you.
- Has the affiliate program built right in, so it is easy to enable affiliates to promote your stuff.
- Makes it super easy to use marketing automation for things like abandoned carts, failed payments, overdue subscriptions, etc.
- Gives customers a hub to view their own orders, manage subscriptions, etc.
- Supports all kinds of pricing options, including free/paid trials, payment plans, subscription plans, discounts, coupons, “pay what you want”, etc.
It goes on. You can do split testing. You’ve got really detailed statistics and tracking of recurring revenue. You’ve got unique discount and coupon URLs.
Honestly, the list is long. Most likely, if you need it, ThriveCart does it. And there’s little sense in me repeating what you can easily find on their sales page.
One of the beauties of this setup is that ThriveCart does all this while integrating with almost everything. This means you can use any sales strategy you want without worrying about the built-in capabilities of something like a membership site plugin. Use that plugin for it’s intended purpose… and leave the sales up to a more robust setup like Thrivecart.
Now, about membership sites…
ThriveCart And Membership Sites
UPDATE: This section was so outdated and so much has changed that I had to fully re-write it. So, here we go…
ThriveCart is quite capable of recurring billing. In fact, it does it very robustly and offers a lot of options.
When you use ThriveCart, you know it will work. It makes dealing with Paypal easy (Paypal can be notoriously difficult for recurring payments). And it has a number of integration options. Here are some reasons you may want to consider ThriveCart for your recurring membership site plans:
- Full ownership and control of your recurring subscriptions without being dependent on your cart for life.
- ThriveCart will work with Digital Access Pass, MemberMouse, MemberPress, OptimizeMember, Teachable and Wishlist Member.
- ThiveCart provides a customer hub so that your members can manage their subscriptions on their own. It is a remotely hosted hub, however. Not on your own domain.
- You have all the awesome sales-increasing power of ThriveCart that most membership plugins simply do not have.
Now, I will say this…
One of my chief reasons for switching away from ThriveCart was for membership site functionality.
See, there’s no getting around the fact that ThriveCart is hosted software. It is not part of your site. it doesn’t look like your site. It is…. “over there”. Separate. Always will be.
So, if you want that nice, user-friendly and simplified experience of a person being able to log into your membership site and access their account and do it all right there, you’re just not going to get it with ThriveCart.
If you want members to be able to see their billing history or manage their subscription, you have to send them into the Customer Hub from ThriveCart. The look and feel is noticeably different. They have to log into it separately. It is clearly not part of your site.
It is a much friendlier user experience when they can manage their account… while logged into their account. It is confusing to have them have to go to a completely separate system to do it.
With a lot of software, you end up with a wishlist of things that you wish it could do. And, well, it’s possible that could still happen to you with ThriveCart. However…
This thing is very flexible. You can tell that they’ve put a lot of work into building ThriveCart so that it works WITH your business, but doesn’t try to dictate how you do things.
Also, because they are responsible for making it all work, it just removes the tech headache from the whole mix.
Let me point out a few things that I appreciate:
Custom Scripts And Tags
Serious marketers like to use all kinds of tracking. And ThriveCart enables all of it. In fact, in ways that can be difficult to do on your own.
ThriveCart has built-in tracking for Analytics, Facebook and Visual Website Optimizer. So, if you need to track cart conversions back to a Facebook Ad, or track it in Analytics, this is all easy to do.
You also have a ton of detailed triggering options for triggering your own custom tags.
Want to add different tracking depending on which pricing option they choose? No problem. Track if they took your bump offer? No problem.
This can be tough to set up in other software. If you track conversions based on just the “thank you” page, then how can you tell what they actually bought if you have several products all sharing the same “thank you” page? You end up needing to hire a developer in some cases to work this crap out. With ThriveCart, it’s easy. Just copy/paste your tracker in the right spot.
Integrations. Lots Of Integrations.
There’s an entire screen in ThriveCart for integrations. And it works with so many things that it is broken down by category:
For payments, it works with Stripe, Paypal and Authorize.Net. And, you can also set up multiple accounts. So, if you want to set up multiple Stripe accounts, you can. Some products go through one account while others go through a separate account. You can split up sales volume among different processors.
For autoresponders, it works with all the biggies. ActiveCampaign, Aweber, ConvertKit, Drip, GetResponse, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Mailchimp, MailerLite, and Ontraport.
If you do physical products, ThriveCart works with several fulfillment companies. It integrates with Disk.com, Kunaki, Lulu, Printful, Shippo, ShipStation, Shopify, Vervante. It also integrates directly with Google Sheets if you wanted to use a spreadsheet as a hub for shippers to get order info.
And, let’s not forget, it works with Zapier, too. And via Zapier, you can integrate with almost anything.
Multiple Checkout Options
ThriveCart is quite flexible in what you want your checkout process to look like. And, it recently got even better with their new drag-and-drop interface for customizing checkout pages.
You can set up several different types of checkout:
- Multi-Step is a checkout page which breaks contact info and payment info into separate screens.
- Single-Step. All on one checkout page.
- Sales cart. This is a page where the sales copy and checkout are all on the same page.
- Embeddable. You can make the checkout appear right on your own site rather than sending them to another domain. This can even be used to put a checkout form right on a Facebook page.
- Popup. You can have a Cart button that pops the order form up right in place. A very streamlined payment options. Could even give people the option to buy something right from a blog post, or even your sidebar.
Now, things get cool…
See, not long ago, I thought one of ThriveCart’s achilles heals was that their checkout pages were pretty limited. They converted. They looked nice. But, your ability to alter the look-and-feel was quite limited.
But, no more. Because recently they released a massive upgrade that has a built-in checkout editor. You basically get a page editor where you can drag-and-drop design and customize your own checkout process.
It is like a mini Thrive Architect… all geared toward your checkout process. Design-wise, it actually looks more like the editor for ConvertBox (see my review). I wouldn’t be surprised if Dean from ConvertBox and Josh from ThriveCart had some level of coordination in this, but I’m just guessing. It even shares some visual cues with ConvertFlow (which I also tested out).
But, this is pretty awesome. Pretty intuitive to use, as well. It will never match the flexibility that you will have if you build it locally with something like Thrive Architect, but that isn’t the point. One uses ThriveCart so that all the tech headache is removed. If you do it in-house, you’re responsible for all the tech stuff. With great freedom comes great responsibility. 😉 But, the degree of flexibility you have now within Thrivecart is pretty impressive.
UPDATE: While the builder within ThriveCart is easy enough to use, it doesn’t hold a candle to the flexibility you have when using something like CartFlows along with WooCommerce. When I switched, I was happy to have full control of the pages and be able to integrate it visually into my own site. Over time, I grew a little frustrated with the limitation so ThriveCart’s interface. Not only that, but ThriveCart actually bought ConvertBox. So my comments about the similarities were kind of on point. 😉
Controlling What Happens After Sale
Every product in ThriveCart has a Behavior screen. There you control everything that happens in pretty much every scenario:
For each event, you can trigger custom HTML or take an action in an outside integration. Most common will be to perform actions in your email autoresponder, such as tagging them, add/remove from campaigns, automations, etc.
Wanna get even more granular? You can control these behaviors differently depending on where they are located. So, want to send your EU customers to a different campaign than your US customers? No problem.
Running Your Affiliate Program And/Or Partnerships
Another great aspect of ThriveCart is the built-in affiliate program as well as the built-in partnership options.
- Affiliate program. For allowing others to promote your products and get paid a commission.
- JV Partners. For partnering with another on a product and splitting the revenue automatically.
You can do both with ThriveCart.
For your affiliate program:
- Set your commission rates for all of your products.
- Manage all your affiliates, add them to an email list, webinar, etc.
- Easily pay affiliates. In fact, ThriveCart supports instant payouts to affiliates as well as automatic payouts.
The way ThriveCart handles payouts is pretty interesting. You can pay out affiliates automatically or instantly. You delay payment of commission (for instance, to observe your refund period). In the case of instant payouts, ThriveCart has the ability to clawback the commission if the customer refunds. Of course, you can also just pay out affiliates manually as always, if you like.
It’s all set up and ready to go. For a lot of other options, you have to tack on an affiliate system as an additional piece of software. Having it all in one is pretty convenient. And the ability to pay affiliates automatically can make it pretty hands off.
For your partnerships:
ThriveCart has a cool ability to power JV partnerships and auto-split the revenue between partners. For instance, let’s say you partnered with somebody else on a product. You created the product and they did the marketing and you decided to split the proceeds 50/50.
You can set up a JV contract within Thrivecart. You define the terms and the percentage split. And ThriveCart will ensure it is all done.
For this to work, both partners need a ThriveCart account. But, bear in mind that a JV partner can have an account even if they don’t have a paid vendor account with ThriveCart. Only one of you need a full, paid ThriveCart account to enable selling. The partner does not need it.
This opens up a lot of options for people to develop and sell products while taking advantage of the unique skills and knowledge that you may not personally have.
No need for trust. No need for manual sales reports. It is all handled in Thrivecart.
What’s NOT Ideal About ThriveCart
Any software under the face of the sun is going to have things that you wish were different, or features you wish were there and are not.
For a long time, the rigidness of the checkout pages in ThriveCart was one of those things. It was one of my reasons for not routing all my sales through it. I couldn’t customize the checkout pages that much and I really missed that. Well, they fixed that problem handily with their new visual cart editor. And word is that even more enhancements to that editor are in the pipeline.
But, if I had to name some things I wish were different right now, they would be:
- I think the product listing screen should have more filter options. If your product list gets long, it’ll be annoying. You have search function, but that’s not enough.
- On a related note, I think I should be able to manage client products separately from other businesses. Right now, client products are mixed in to my own.
- The Customer Hub is all hosted on ThriveCart. You can brand it with your logo but that’s about it. This is par for the course with a hosted solution, of course. But, as somebody used to the flexibility of building my own thing, it feels limited. And it could lead to some confusion when my customers would need to leave my site and login to something else to view/manage orders.
- It would be nice to have more granular templates available for quickly creating products with certain desired settings that get repeated a lot. Right now, each product is an island with it’s own settings. You can duplicate a product and edit it, but would be nice to have more detailed control.
- Would be nice to have a visual builder for the funnels to see what product comes next in the funnel, etc.
If you’ve been using another tool for awhile and then adapt to ThriveCart, you may find some things different at first. That’s natural.
ThriveCart In Context With Other Tools
When it comes to software as a service (SaaS), ThriveCart is a great deal because of it’s lifetime deal. This is rare when it comes to SaaS software. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.
The attraction of SaaS software is that somebody else is responsible for making it work. They support it. They support YOU while you are using it. And you don’t have to worry about any technical headaches of setting up a shopping cart on your own website.
Some other third-party SaaS options are:
- If you’re into online courses, you can always use Teachable. It’s pretty good and convenient, but it has it’s limitations. It’s main functionality is the course side of things, not making sales. It will sell your stuff for you and process orders, but it isn’t nearly as robust. All of their plans are recurring plans and it will definitely cost more than ThriveCart in the long run. Considering that ThriveCart now also has a way to do online courses, I would definitely say ThriveCart is a better deal.
- ClickFunnels is a pretty nice platform and it does a boatload. It is also freakin’ expensive. To be clear, ClickFunnels is designed to be a more beginning-to-end solution than ThriveCart. You can do all your landing pages with it, lead generation, etc. You can graphically design your funnels. It’s really cool, actually. But, also not necessary as it can be done in other ways, much more cheaply.
- You can use services like ClickBank or GumRoad. Clickbank will take more of your money. GumRoad takes more, too.
- SendOwl is a solid option. Very robust.
Now, those are all third-party solutions. Personally, I think the most important comparison is to solutions you can self-host within your own website. Namely, WordPress plugins.
The most popular shopping cart for WordPress is undoubtedly WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is robust. In many ways, it is more complicated. In fact, it can be a little annoying. 😇 However, it offers the same level of power and flexibility as WordPress itself due to the vast array of add-on plugins. Not only that, but the degree of integration support makes it a powerful option.
While I used to avoid WooCommerce because of perceived complexity, I now don’t find it to be difficult to use at all. In fact, it has made my online business life easier due to the tight integration with the rest of my tech stack.
WooCommerce can be used to sell anything. It is open source and free. The add-on plugins can cost you some money, but they are also all GPL licensed.
Yes, there are some more technical things to deal with. But, it isn’t difficult.
As for other plugins, you’ve got Easy Digital Downloads. You also have a lot of membership plugins out there that can process payments.
So, where does ThriveCart fall into this whole thing?
In my view, ThriveCart is a suitable fit if you really just don’t want to have your shopping cart functionality within WordPress. If you don’t want to be responsible for it or have to maintain it. If you wanted the hosted convenience of SaaS. If that’s you, ThriveCart is a great deal.
For the most power and flexibility, though, I prefer in-house solutions.
RECOMMENDED READING: Choosing An Ecommerce Platform For Your Online Business (And My Only Recommendation)
Why I Bought ThriveCart: The Lifetime Deal
As I said above, I am not currently processing my business’s sales through ThriveCart. Yet, I bought it and I own a license.
The reason is because you can buy it with a lifetime license.
Pay once. Use it forever. Unlimited support. Unlimited upgrades (since it is hosted).
You can’t even get a Wordpress plug-in to do that. Almost all of them charge recurring fees otherwise you lose upgrades and support. Not with ThriveCart.
I bought the ThriveCart Pro upgrade. You should, too, if you want some of the features I’ve discussed here. PRO comes with the following upgrades:
- Affiliate program
- JV Partner system
- Future-casting revenue and projection metrics
- Multi-users and ability to use for clients
- Built-in sales tax calculations
- Built-in dunning and subscription recovery (for handling expired cards, failed payments, etc.)
- Ability to use your own domain name for checkout pages to make hosted checkout pages look like they’re part of your site
Even just the ability to use it for clients is handy. My wife has a side business and I was able to give her very powerful shopping cart capability without costing us anything. She’s my…. client. 😉 And it is because I have lifetime access to Thrivecart Pro.
I have now owned ThriveCart for probably close to 3 years. I only paid for it once. Yet, in that time I have watched the platform develop more and more. They do a LOT of upgrades to it. You get all the support that you would expect from a fairly expensive recurring SAAS product, but without any of the recurring fees.
Why I Think You Should Consider ThriveCart
This isn’t for everybody. This is a FANTASTIC deal for anybody who is serious about making sales online. But, there is the upfront cost of buying it:
- $495 for a standard ThriveCart account with most capability.
- $195 for the Pro upgrade with the above-listed capabilities (for a total of $690)
So, it isn’t chump change. I understand that.
If you’re just dabbling in online business, then this might not be right for you. And the last thing I would recommend you do is buy something just because it’s cool and then never end up using it. You need to be relatively confident that, in some capacity, you will be making sales online now or in the future. Even if it is some site down the road that you haven’t even started yet.
But, once you have made that upfront purchase of ThriveCart, what you’ve done is locked in the ability to easily sell products or services online. For any business you have now or in the future.
You’ve locked it in. You have features and capabilities that most plug-ins can’t even touch. Even some “big boy” features you might need to grow into down the road. But, they’re there. No duct-taping stuff together to make it work.
And with the lifetime pricing, you have now exempted your business from any recurring billing associated with your ability to sell.
But, here’s the thing…
While this lifetime price has been active for awhile now, it isn’t going to last. In fact, mid-2019, they made some pricing adjustments already that increased the cost a bit for the PRO features. When I bought ThriveCart, the upgrade was more to do with Client use. Many of the features now part of PRO were then part of the Standard account.
The PRO account level will be switching to a monthly or annual fee. The way Josh phrased it leads me to believe that the Standard account might stick with 1-time pricing longer than PRO, but I don’t know for sure.
They are doing this in a staggered way. I do not know the timeline. But, one thing is for sure… if you buy Thrivecart now, it will be at the lowest price you can get it. Because the price is only going up. They will not decrease it. Ever.
The nearest competitor to ThriveCart is SamCart and that runs $99/month. So, you can do the math here.
UPDATE: A lot of my thoughts about this lifetime deal remain true. However, it is concerning that here we are toward the end of 2023 and it is still there. Clearly, any idea the lifetime deal was some exclusive, limited thing was not true. Frankly, it is concerning that they still offer it at this point. So, a good deal? Yeah, it is. But, at this point, I don’t know what to make of the fact that they still offer a lifetime license to a SaaS product. That seems unsustainable.
My Final Word
There are a lot of ways to process orders online. Lots of shopping carts. Lots of platforms.
It can get overwhelming really fast.
I think ThriveCart stands alone in the sheer power it provides to run almost any kind of offer you like – combined with the current lifetime pricing.
Whether you are running a membership site, a service business, a consulting or coaching business, selling courses or ebooks… ThriveCart will do it. It will likely increase your revenue, too, considering the professionalism of the checkout process and the pricing flexibility you have.
All businesses have startup costs. There is an inherent investment to gather the pieces to conduct business online. Most solutions come with a recurring cost. The ability to lock in something like ThriveCart with a one-time fixed cost is just good financial planning. That is one monthly budget item you will not have anymore.
Is it right for everybody? No. First off, I think you need to be more than a dabbler in the idea of online business. If you’re just screwing around and dreaming, then spending the upfront cost for ThriveCart doesn’t make sense right now. And as I said above, if you want to run an ecommerce store, ThriveCart is not for you.
But, if you intend to sell things online, this is a great option.
One cart and you can use it for multiple sites, multiple businesses.
You can have buy buttons right in your blog posts, your sidebar, or anywhere else using the popup forms.
And most importantly…
You no longer have to deal with the technical mumbo-jumbo to duct-tape a bunch of moving parts together. You won’t have to hire a developer or try to customize code you have no business messing with. Thrivecart does it. It makes them responsible for stuff working rather than you.
And that’s just one less thing for you to think about.
As always, this is a decision you need to make for yourself. If you decide to purchase it, my links on this page are affiliate links and that means I will earn a commission. I would, of course, appreciate that. 🙂 And, I’d be happy to answer any questions and even help you after the sale with any setup issues you might have.
UPDATE: These days, I don’t go out of my way to recommend ThriveCart. Not because I think it isn’t good. All the positive things I said about it in my original review above remain true. However, I think the benefits of running your sales “in house” are better. It is simply a better experience overall. If you just want to run a simple operation and funnel a lot of sales through something you don’t have to think about or maintain, ThrivceCart is a solid option. It’s simple. It’ll work.
ANOTHER OPTION: If your needs are simple, you may not need a shopping cart at all. Here’s a way to create powerful order forms without a shopping cart system.
Got A Question? Need Some Assistance?
Have a question about this article? Need some help with this topic (or anything else)? Send it in and I’ll get back to you personally. If you’re OK with it, I might even use it as the basis of future content so I can make this site most useful.