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If you want to make serious money from your blog, you must have your own product to sell.
After all, you have no control over affiliate marketing programs. Plus, they tend to come and go. They’re just not a reliable source of income for your blog.
When you sell your own services, not only do you have complete control, but you can do some good. Your experience, knowledge, and insight can help your audience.
Sounds great, right? But there’s a challenge: How do you handle sales?
When I first started, you had to roll your own e-commerce system. It took many hours to develop and cost thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, today, there are hundreds of shopping cart software options to choose from, including Shopify, WooCommerce, SamCart, and one you may not have heard of before — ThriveCart.
Unlike WooCommerce, which is best suited for selling physical products, ThriveCart specializes in delivering digital and subscription services. It offers a simple checkout process, and you can even use the software to set up a sales funnel.
- Flexible Payment Options — ThriveCart can handle practically any online payment method.
- Advanced Affiliate Marketing — ThriveCart’s affiliate marketing program has many options and is built into the service.
- Great Customer Service — I’ve had all issues resolved relatively quickly.
- Easy To Use — You can be up and selling within a few hours.
- Upsell/Downsell/Bump — ThriveCart offers many ways to increase the lifetime value of your customers.
- Cheap — Compared to many other services which charge a percent per transaction. ThriveCart is a one-time fee which could save you thousands in annual fees.
- Big Upfront Cost — ThriveCart charges a one-time fee, rather than breaking it down into monthly payments. Though that can save you in the long run. The longer you use it the more you save since it’s a one-time fee.
- Not Great With Physical Products — If you are selling physical products, you should look elsewhere.
What Is ThriveCart?
ThriveCart is a shopping cart service that allows you to sell digital and physical products. Unlike other shopping cart software, this is a hosted service with no software to install or manage.
ThriveCart (no relation to Thrive Themes) was created by Josh Bartlett in 2016 and is part of WebActix, Ltd.
There are lots of “must-have” features within ThriveCart. In this review, I’ll only scratch the surface of options available by highlighting just the key features.
Payment Options and Coupons
This is one area where ThriveCart really excels. Whether you’re selling a digital product with a one-time payment or a membership with a monthly fee, ThriveCart will let you do it.
- One-time fee
- Multiple payment plans (split-pay)
- Name your price
- Free trial period
- Limited product quantity
- Automatic sales tax
- Support for 22 currencies
If you can think of a payment option, ThriveCart can do it.
Coupons are another area where ThriveCart shines. You can offer a limited number of coupon codes with an expiration date. Not only can you display a coupon field, but you can make the coupon link available only via a URL. This way, you can offer a discount to your audience, but they can’t share their coupon code with others.
ThriveCart offers these coupon options:
- Fixed discount
- Percentage discount
- Free shipping
- Date range of coupon availability
- Limited amount of times a coupon can be used
- Triggers when a coupon is used (i.e., email notification)
Upsell, Downsell, and Bump Offers
An easy way to increase the lifetime value of customers is by offering more items to purchase at the time of sale. Think of it like buying gum in the supermarket checkout aisle. ThriveCart allows you to upsell, downsell, and make bump offers at the time of purchase.
ThriveCart supports trial offers, multiple payments, and subscriptions, as well. It gives you pretty much every possible option for testing your product and increasing the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers.
Multiple Shopping Cart Options
Depending on your price point and type of product, you can present your shopping cart in multiple ways:
- Standard — The typical order form page which is great for big-ticket items.
- Sales Cart — A landing page and shopping cart combined into one.
- Embeddable — Add to an existing page that allows ThriveCart integration.
- Popup — A button-click popup order form. Great for low-ticket/impulse-buy items.
ThriveCart’s recently added visual drag-and-drop editor makes creating your shopping cart easy. There’s also now the option to share premade ThriveCart templates with others. So you can take what others have learned and tested and apply it to your own cart.
Built-in Affiliate Program
In my opinion, most merchants should use some sort of affiliate program to promote their products. It’s an effective way to market your products — you pay an affiliate only when a visitor converts.
ThriveCart’s affiliate program has functionality that should satisfy most merchants and affiliates. So there’s no need to purchase a third-party affiliate program when using this software. This alone can save you hundreds of dollars in additional software — not to mention the pain of having to integrate.
The program will also allow you to offer an exclusive bonus — a unique feature not seen among even some of the best affiliate systems. It’s an underutilized affiliate marketing technique, but it can help dramatically increase conversions.
Here are some of ThriveCart’s affiliate program features:
- Manual approval of affiliates
- Different tiered payouts
- Automatically scheduled payouts via PayPal
- Customized rules to perform an action (i.e., subscribe an affiliate to your mailing list when approved and entered into email automation)
ThriveCart’s affiliate program is available only with the “Pro” edition.
- A/B Testing — Test any part of your shopping cart sales funnel
- Countdown Timer — This built-in timer can be fixed or evergreen.
- Detailed Reporting — Many different options to display orders and subscriptions.
- External Analytics — You can add Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel for your order page.
- Subdomain Option — With a “Pro” account, you can use your own subdomain. This is better for trust and analytics.
ThriveCart is somewhat unique when it comes to pricing. Most shopping cart services charge a monthly fee. For example, SamCart starts at $49 per month. Some even charge per transaction — the more sales you do, the more you pay!
Not with ThriveCart.
ThriveCart currently has only two pricing tiers, and they cover the lifetime of the service. You pay once, and that’s it.
While ThriveCart states its current pricing may end soon, I’m not so sure. The company has been offering this promotion for the past three-plus years.
Currently, the only way to get ThriveCart is through an affiliate (such as myself). ThriveCart is currently not available through the general website.
The “‘Pro” edition is the better deal because of these available features:
- Affiliate system
- Dunning (rebilling) for soon-to-be-expired and failed credit card transactions
- Automatic sale tax calculations
- JV contracts
- Custom domain name
The custom domain name feature is a must-have and the biggest reason to get the “Pro” version. In today’s world of not allowing third-party cookies, you need a way to measure traffic and conversions to your shopping cart.
So instead of your cart looking like “larryludwig.thrivecart.com,” it will look like this: order.larryludwig.com.
By using a subdomain of your primary domain name, it not only looks like part of your website but can also be tracked with analytics. I highly recommend you get the “Pro” edition.
Lastly, if you want to kick the tires and try out ThriveCart’s service, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ThriveCart has Zapier integration, as well as a well-documented API, which I’ve used myself to add integration into the Woopra analytics service.
For most merchants, linking up with Stripe and PayPal will be your best option. While Authorize.net is popular, it won’t let you offer Apple Pay and Google Pay to your smartphone visitors. From my experience, you want to make commerce as frictionless as possible. Allowing for easy payment on a smartphone will help increase conversions.
Although these are pretty much the standard in online commerce, I wish there were more gateway options.
Email Marketing Providers
Linking up an email service is a critical part of integrating with a shopping cart. Fortunately, there are many options from which to choose.
ThriveCart does offer an option to fire an abandoned cart sequence, should a visitor not place an order. However, from my testing, I’ve found this somewhat flaky. I use another method instead.
- Campaign Monitor
- Campaign Refinery
- CM Commerce
- Constant Contact
- Mad Mimi
- Market Hero
I personally recommend ActiveCampaign for some of its advanced email automations, but pretty much all of the options can work well with ThriveCart.
If you are selling a digital product or a monthly subscription to a private area, you need a membership service with which to work. Fortunately, ThriveCart works with a bunch of membership area services and WordPress membership plugins.
ThriveCart works directly with these membership systems:
- Digital Access Pass
- Thrive Appentice
- WishList Member
It’s also possible to integrate with other membership systems when you use Zapier.
Although Memberpress is an excellent membership platform that integrates well with WordPress, there are limitations with ThriveCart. Specifically, Thrivecart and Memberpress require two emails for new subscribers — one for a welcome email and the other for a password reset. In my opinion, it makes the onboarding process unnecessarily confusing.
From the options listed above, I use and recommend MemberMouse.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for direct webinar integrations, ThriveCart shouldn’t be your top choice for a shopping cart. The software can integrate with only one webinar platform:
However, keep in mind that you do have the option to use Zapier to integrate, which should work well for most webinar systems. However, for this ThriveCart review, I did not test any other webinar platforms.
You don’t have to sell just digital products with ThriveCart. If you’re looking to sell a physical product, you have many options to choose from.
- Google Sheets
Notifications and Sync
Keep your ThriveCart order information exported into Google Sheets automatically or get a Slack notification with each new order. In addition, when you link via Zapier, the options are endless.
- Google Sheets
- $99 - $299 per month (plus revenue share)
- Free 14-Day Trial
SamCart vs. ThriveCart
Among digital marketers, SamCart is the better known of the two. But SamCart isn’t without its benefits or issues. See my SamCart review for more in-depth coverage.
The most significant benefit of using SamCart is its flexibility in design. SamCart can create order forms that look better and more like your brand’s design. That’s not to say ThriveCart’s new visual drag-and-drop designer isn’t good. It just isn’t as flexible.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, SamCart also has a built-in affiliate system. However, ThriveCart’s program wins, hands down.
That’s because SamCart’s affiliate program is very lacking in functionality. For example, SamCart does offer some conversion tracking via UTM codes but is very much an afterthought. ThriveCart on the other hand supports a sub ID (named ‘ref’) or installing a pixel. Keep in mind the affiliate option is available only with ThriveCart’s ‘Pro’ option.
ThriveCart’s affiliate system is one of the best options available. You can use it either built into a shopping cart or with third-party services.
In the SamCart vs ThriveCart debate, they have similar integration options. And one or the other may have a must-have option for you that the other shopping cart service doesn’t. However, with both offering Zapier integration, this issue isn’t necessarily a deciding factor.
Unfortunately, SamCart is more expensive to use. The lowest price option, $49 per month, equals $588 per year, versus $495 for a lifetime of the standard ThriveCart edition. And you can grab the ‘Pro’ version of ThriveCart for a one-time payment of only $690.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for a shopping cart service that works great for any info product, ThriveCart is the best option. Not only have I been using it for myself, but I have recommended it to others in the past two years. The features keep improving, yet I paid only a one-time fee.
SamCart is a close competitor, but for my needs I decided on ThriveCart