Disclosure: I may be compensated via the links clicked in this article. The opinions expressed are my own and stand by my recommendations. Please read my disclaimer for more info.
If you run an e-commerce business, you probably spend a lot of time focusing on marketing and your storefront’s design.
But when’s the last time you thought about what shopping cart software you use to power selling a digital product?
While in many cases you can use something like Shopify or WooCommerce, the fact of the matter they aren’t the best for selling digital products. You need a shopping cart platform that specializes in selling courses, membership sites, subscriptions, and SaaS.
So, if you’re wondering which shopping cart software is best for your sales funnel, this ThriveCart vs. SamCart breakdown is perfect for you. I’m covering the main features, cost, and what makes each service unique so you can pick the right choice for your online business.
ThriveCart was founded by Josh Bartlett in 2016. ThriveCart helps store owners sell digital products through custom landing pages or an existing website. With numerous conversion rate optimization tools, ThriveCart lets you optimize your sales funnel and split-test what landing pages and copy work best.
SamCart began in 2014 and was founded by Brian Moran. Like ThriveCart, SamCart’s mission is to help digital marketers easily sell digital products. With SamCart, you can sell through one-page landing pages or integrate the software into your existing store. The design simplicity also lets content creators start selling quickly while the depth of sales funnel optimization options helps improve conversion rates and profitability.
Let’s see how SamCart vs. ThriveCart compares in the numerous features each shopping cart offers business owners. I will highlight major feature points and tell you which service I recommend. For more comprehensive overviews, check out my ThriveCart review and SamCart review articles.
How Are SamCart and ThriveCart the Same?
SamCart and ThriveCart both excel at conversion rate optimization and upsells, so there are plenty of similar features to compare.
- Bump Offers, Upsells, and Downsells — Both platforms let you create upsells, downsells and bump offers to increase average revenue per user.
- Abandoned Cart Notifications — Send emails with your email marketing provider to visitors with abandoned carts to chase down revenue.
- Payment Options — Flexible payment options for customers including trial periods, coupons, pay what you want, and multiple payment plans
- Shopping Cart Options — Embed your shopping cart with your existing website or create a stand-alone sales funnel
- Landing Page Builder — Create unique single-page and multi-page landing pages to sell from
- Subscriptions — Offer subscription payments for your product/service to create reoccuring revenue.
- Affiliate Management — Recruit affiliates, monitor sales, and pay affiliates with an in-house affiliate center
- A/B Testing — Continually optimize your funnel with design and copy split tests
- Reporting — Monitor clicks, orders, conversion rates, refunds, and other sales data
- Transaction Fees — Don’t pay additional payment processing fees on orders unless the customer’s payment method charges seller fees
- Sales Taxes — Automatic sales tax and VAT
- API — Both have an API to access your customers and orders.
How Are SamCart and ThriveCart Different?
- Pricing Model – SamCart charges monthly fees whereas ThriveCart charges a lifetime payment.
- Affiliate Management – Both shopping carts let you create in-house affiliate programs, but ThriveCart has more sophisticated tracking options.
How is SamCart Unique?
- Courses — You can now host your course with SamCart instead of requiring a thrid-party service or creating your own WordPress membership website.
How is ThriveCart Unique?
- One-Time Pricing — Unlike most SaaS products, you only a pay a one-time fee with Thrivecart. Which in the long run can offer significant savings.
1. Upsells, Downsells And Bump Offers
One of the main reasons to use shopping cart software is to improve conversion rates and customer lifetime value. On this front, both SamCart and ThriveCart let you add order bumps and upsells to increase average order value (AOV) over time. You can also create downsell pages to promote cheaper products if the customer cancels their order or abandons checkout.
The upsell creation process is fairly similar for both SamCart and ThriveCart, and you add specific upsell products to different funnels. You can also run A/B testing on shopping cart layouts and copy variations with both shopping carts to test which layout has the highest conversion rate.
2. Payment Options
If you give customers more payment options, you usually see an increase in conversion rates. Thankfully, SamCart and ThriveCart both offer numerous payment options, including:
- One-time payments
- Multiple payment plans
- Free trials
- Pricing tiers
- Pay-what-you-want pricing
Both shopping carts also let you create coupon codes and customize when and how coupons apply. For example, you can edit the discount type, amount, duration, and eligible products for coupon codes. You can also apply coupon codes to different types of payment plans and include or exclude shipping costs.
In terms of payment gateways, both ThriveCart and SamCart support Stripe, Authorize.net, and PayPal. SamCart also supports the Braintree payment processor.
Mobile devices are a big part of e-commerce so it’s critical for a shopping cart platform to offer it as an option. Both offer mobile payment options via Stripe for Apple Pay and Google Pay.
With the slightly better payment processors and payment plan options, SamCart has a slight edge over ThriveCart.
3. Design Editor & Templates
SamCart and ThriveCart both let you integrate their shopping carts into your existing website. So, if you sell products from a WordPress blog or Shopify store, you still enjoy all of the payment options and upsell features you get with both companies.
You can also create landing pages with SamCart and ThriveCart to sell from. If you’re using paid ads, email marketing, or social media to send traffic to a funnel, this feature is also useful since you drive potential customers right to a sales page. Landing page options include:
- Standard checkout page
- A popup sales page
- Landing page plus checkout (sales cart)
SamCart and ThriveCart also support multi-step checkout, so you can collect customer information and billing details on a different page from your product info page if you prefer.
One area where SamCart beats ThriveCart is landing page templates. SamCart has over a dozen templates, and templates target different niches, like fitness or promoting a webinar.
You can also use SamCart’s design editor to build templates from scratch or edit pre-made ones. Overall, the editor lets you customize templates to match your brand quite easily. You can also add widgets like testimonials, various info tabs or FAQs, or add custom HTML.
ThriveCart also has a drag-and-drop editor, but it’s less flexible than SamCart’s. Additionally, ThriveCart has fewer checkout templates than SamCart. However, you can share ThriveCart templates, so you can actually buy pre-made, high-quality ThriveCart themes online to solve this issue if you’re willing to spend a bit of money.
4. Affiliate Management
If affiliate marketing is a meaningful sales channel for your business, ThriveCart is a better option than SamCart.
Both shopping carts have an affiliate management center that lets you approve affiliates, monitor sales, send payments, set cookie durations, and manage customer returns.
But, ThriveCart is more flexible and advanced than SamCart. For starters, you can customize affiliate rates and eligible products per affiliate rather than managing affiliates with global settings.
Additionally, SamCart relies on UTM parameters to let affiliates track their sales. In contrast, ThriveCart lets affiliates use pixel tracking and sub IDs to monitor performance. If you’re onboarding skilled affiliate marketers to grow your business, they absolutely want this level of tracking.
For a basic affiliate program, you can get away with SamCart. But ThriveCart is clearly better than SamCart for affiliate management if you want more control over commission rates and performance tracking.
SamCart and ThriveCart let you dig into your analytics to examine info like:
- Checkout page views
- Orders and refunds
- Average order value
- Affiliate performance
- Sales tax
- Subscription revenue
You can also view product-level data and compare different performance windows. Overall, choosing a winner between SamCart vs. ThriveCart for reporting is largely a matter of preference depending on which UI you prefer.
One important factor in the SamCart vs. ThriveCart debate is pricing. This is because SamCart offers monthly plans whereas ThriveCart is a one-time expense.
For starters, ThriveCart costs $495 for lifetime access for the Standard plan. If you want ThriveCart Pro, you’re looking at $690 to gain access to these features:
- Affiliate management system and tracking
- Automatic sales tax calculation
- Multiple users and client permissions
- Use custom a domain name for the shopping cart.
- Dunning — which informs customers with expired or near-expiring subscriptions to remind them to update payment info to remain active ThriveCart users
- Create joint venture (JV) contracts for revenue-share arrangements
Ultimately, ThriveCart’s pricing is simple. Online business owners who don’t heavily rely on affiliates or subscriptions can probably stick with a Standard plan, but Pro is available for sellers who use it to increase sales by using affiliate marketers.
Plus, having a custom domain name is important for accurately measuring conversions on your own blog instead of relying on third-party cookies, which are on their way out.
In contrast, SamCart charges a monthly fee and has three tiers depending on how much functionality you need:
|Multiple Payment Options||–||yes||yes|
|UTM Tracking & Advanced Reporting||–||yes||yes|
|Customer Self Cancellations||–||–||yes|
SamCart provides a 20% discount for annual payments and has a 14-day free trial. But even with a 20% discount, SamCart gets expensive quickly. For example, the Launch plan is $470 per year and the Grow plan costs $950 per year.
And, serious product creators are going to need the Grow plan if they want to leverage some of SamCart’s best features, like upsells, bump offers, and multiple payment options. Plus, the fact you’re not white labeling SamCart even after paying $490 a year is a massive downside.
Finally, if you want custom checkout fields on your shopping cart, you need the Grow package.
SamCart and ThriveCart don’t charge additional payment processing fees unlike E-commerce platforms like PayKickstart, which is a plus. However, different payment processors like Stripe, Authorize.net, and PayPal still charge transaction fees.
Ultimately, I think ThriveCart wins on pricing since it’s a one-time fee. SamCart costs significantly more once you pass your first year of use.
Integrations are another consideration when choosing between ThriveCart vs. SamCart. After all, while you can create stand-alone sales funnels, there are numerous ways to embed SamCart and ThriveCart with your storefront and other e-commerce software.
Popular integrations for both shopping carts include:
- Automation: Klayvio
- Email: ActiveCampaign, AWeber, ConvertKit, Drip, GetResponse, Hubspot, MailChimp
- Memberships: Kajabi, MemberPress, MemberMouse, WishList
- Website Builders: Shopify, WooCommerce, WordPress,
There are some minor differences, like SamCart having more membership website integrations than ThirveCart, whereas ThriveCart lets you integrate with webinar software Demio, which SamCart doesn’t support natively.
But, you can use Zapier to integrate thousands of third-party apps with SamCart and ThriveCart, so this isn’t a dealbreaker.
SamCart and ThriveCart don’t have many built-in automation tools and rely on third-party software like ActiveCampaign for automating your sales funnel.
But, ThriveCart has slightly more product and affiliate rule options that let you add customers and affiliates to specific groups or send out automated sequences depending on their behavior. The rule-based system is also intuitive, and you can layer automated rules as well, provided you have an integration like ActiveCampaign.
SamCart vs. ThriveCart Feature Comparison
|Affiliate Center||Pro Edition||Scale Edition|
|Course Membership System||–||yes|
|Refund Policy||30 days||30 days|
|Free Trial||none||14 Days|
|Pricing||$495 – $690||$49 – $199/mo|
Which Is Better?
BEST OVERALL: ThriveCart
I personally use and recommend ThriveCart to my clients instead of SamCart for two main reasons: the advanced affiliate system and pricing.
ThriveCart’s affiliate tracking capabilities blow SamCart out of the water. And, after about a year, SamCart becomes more expensive than ThriveCart and only gets more expensive over time.
SamCart is superior in its design-builder, theme library, and recently introduced course membership system. But if you use ThriveCart’s design tool or buy pre-made themes, this isn’t as large of a competitive advantage. Plus, both platforms have similar integration capabilities thanks to Zapier and the same payment options, so there isn’t much difference there.