When you’re in the online marketing business, you need a way of taking payment from your customers. And while you might rig together a system using a service like PayPal to get your business off the ground, you should step-up to a capable checkout platform to scale and grow.
This post looks at two of the best shopping cart platforms which are ideal for digital marketers: ThriveCart vs SamCart.
ThriveCart vs. SamCart Overview
ThriveCart is a shopping cart platform aimed at online marketers selling digital products. Launched in 2016, ThriveCart has processed over 7 million orders with over $1 Billion in value.
The ThriveCart platform is designed primarily for selling products like eBooks, video courses, and online coaching services. Though some people use it to sell physical products too.
ThriveCart’s USP is that it charges a one-time fee for lifetime access to the service, which is a refreshing change to the subscription-based model most SaaS solutions use today.
However, ThriveCart has announced that they will soon transition to a subscription model but don’t give a precise date. So if you want to use ThriveCart as your checkout solution, be quick and lock in lifetime access now.
Thrivecart claims the use of the wrong checkout solution for your business could cost you as much as 40% in lost revenue. They say this occurs when you focus all your efforts on your marketing but neglect to think about a smooth checkout processes.
When faced with an ugly, complex checkout page, prospective customers can have second thoughts about their purchase and abandon the process. ThriveCart is designed to cut down on cart abandonment by providing a quick and painless checkout for your customers.
Here are some of the headline features of ThriveCart:
Drag-and-drop editor with pre-designed templates. Everyone likes a shortcut, so ThriveCart provides you with a number of proven checkout templates and high-converting sales funnels. You can easily customize the templates to get the look you want using the in-built editor.
Create upsells and bump offers. After the customer has included their payment method and checked out is the perfect time to serve your customer with one-click upsells. ThriveCart has options for increasing your average order value using a range of profit-boosting options.
Integrate with the tools you use. You’ll likely want your shopping cart to integrate with other software that you use. ThriveCart integrates with numerous autoresponders, membership platforms, and also with Zapier so you can create your own.
SamCart launched a couple of years before ThriveCart in 2014. Since then, they have processed sales for 9.7 million products valued at over $1.8 Billion. Like ThriveCart, they provide a service for online marketers to sell physical and digital products directly to consumers.
SamCart’s founder, Brian Moran, decided to create the tool when he was not satisfied with the checkout tools available on the market. Brian has also popularized the concept of the 1-page funnel with SamCart.
Since 2014, SamCart has become one of the market-leading options for digital marketers to create a successful online business with and has over 17,000 entrepreneurs using the shopping cart platform.
SamCart charges access to its service via the monthly subscription model, though, unlike some other shopping cart solutions, there isn’t an additional processing fee you need to pay.
But if you want to use all the available features of SamCart (including those essential-for-digital-marketers upsells), you need to take out one of the higher subscription tiers.
Here are some headline features of SamCart:
Fresh, modern templates and drag-and-drop editor. SamCart has perhaps the best range of templates with the most stylish designs, which you can easily edit with the intuitive in-built editor.
Sell unlimited products. Some checkout software limits the number of pages and products you can create, but SamCart allows you to build an unlimited amount of product checkout pages.
Revenue optimization. The options provided for increasing average revenue per customer are critical in choosing a shopping cart solution. SamCart includes plenty of features for creating upsells, order bumps, and ways to split-test your offers for better performance.
This section highlights the key differences in the two shopping cart software. Understanding the difference between the two solutions can help you to narrow down your decision.
The standout difference between ThriveCart and SamCart is how you pay for them.
- ThriveCart: Charges a one-off fee of $495. There is an upgrade available to ThriveCart Pro, which costs $690 and gives you access to additional advanced features.
- SamCart: Charges an on-going monthly subscription fee for as long as you use the service. The cost ranges between $49 to $199 per month.
Payment Processor Integrations.
The available payment processors for managing customer payments are different for each platform.
- ThriveCart: Integrates with popular payment processors Authorize.net, PayPal, and Stripe. Using Stripe allows you to get paid via Apple Pay and Google Pay, too.
- SamCart: Also offers Authorize.net, PayPal, and Stripe payment integrations but also has a Braintree option to take credit card payments too. SamCart offers mobile payment options such as Google & Apple Pay too.
Shopping Cart Templates.
If a cart’s design is critical to your requirements, there is a difference here.
- ThriveCart: Template designs are a bit ‘last year’. Though they are perfectly functional and you can customize them.
- SamCart: Focuses on the regular release of new, fresh templates and lets you customize them with their drag and drop builder. Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in online digital sales.
Membership Site Features.
There is a slight difference here.
- ThriveCart: No membership feature available (though integration with a third-party services is possible with Wislist Member, Member Mouse, & more).
- SamCart: You can create multiple types of subscription plans. Regular memberships, payment plans, even pay what you can afford offers.
Next, we’ll look at how each tool performs across eight essential shopping cart solution features for selling digital products and services. SamCart can easily integrate with popular membership site software too.
Product Listing Options
A key feature for any shopping cart service is the ease of adding new products for sale. You want the ability to quickly add your products and set the details like price, download links, and any upsell offers. Here’s how ThriveCart and SamCart compare for this core function.
You can sell all types of products with ThriveCart, including digital and physical products & services.
To add a new product, select the type of product you want to sell from the product dashboard, then follow the wizard to set all of the parameters for your product highlighted on the screen below.
The details you need to add are grouped into categories, which requires you to add the following sorts of information:
- The sort of product you are selling (digital, physical, etc.).
- The type of payment you are taking, such as one-time fee or a premium subscription plan.
- Any ‘bump’ upsell you want to include in the shopping cart builder.
- Create coupon codes.
- The payment processor you have chosen to use.
- Details about any affiliate program you are setting up to help promote the product.
- PLUS: you can set up sales tax collection.
You can go forward and backward to edit any inputs, and once you have the base product information entered, you are ready to go on to the design phase of the cart setup.
Adding a new product to SamCart follows a similar process. Click on the products menu item to enter into the product management section of SamCart.
From there, you enter a screen where you add the essential information about the product.
- Set the product name.
- Add a description to help you remember what it is you’re selling.
- Set a pricing type such as subscription, multiple payment options, or one-off payment.
- Set the price of the product.
- Set a free trial period.
- Create coupon codes.
- PLUS: you can set up sales tax collection.
Then you click through to the product details tab, which shows you all the products you have set up in SamCart.
Here you can filter and search for products based on the type of product, payment characteristics, and whether the product is live or not.
While both solutions make it easy to add products with just a few clicks, ThriveCart’s wizard-type entry method is more intuitive and offers the same payment options that SamCart support.
Design & Customization
Once your products are entered, you next want to ensure that you can create an attractive design to help convert the visitors to your product’s sales page. Here’s how ThriveCart and SamCart compare on design features:
The ThriveCart design process begins with another wizard. It’s found under the checkout tab and asks you to follow a three-step process to configure the design.
You first choose the type of page you want to create, such as a sales cart or popup, then you launch the ThriveCart editor to organize the page’s look.
The editor looks a little dated, but there are plenty of basic elements to choose from, providing enough flexibility to build all types of checkout pages. And while you’ll be able to produce a checkout that does everything you need, the final design is unlikely to ‘wow’ you.
If you are not the best at creating designs, ThriveCart can import checkout templates created by other users.
SamCart stands head-and-shoulders above ThriveCart in terms of design capabilities. The drag-and-drop editor is modern and provides all manner of elements to customize your checkout.
Start with a pre-designed template or a blank page, then add or customize the elements you need. There are options for things like headlines, a list of bullets, and video embedding. You can also add in special widgets like countdown timers and progress bars.
One advantage that SamCart has over ThriveCart is the ability to optimize a page for the mobile web. The majority of internet usage now happens on mobile devices, so this should be an important feature for you to consider when choosing a cart solution.
SamCart is streets ahead of ThriveCart when it comes to design. You’ll be able to produce a workable one with ThriveCart, but it lacks mobile optimization, which is essential for selling on the internet today.
Sales Funnel Features
A sales funnel is the path a shopper goes along that turns them from a prospect into a customer. Sales funnels, as they relate to shopping carts, are a bit different.
The sales funnel features found in shopping carts provide methods of squeezing more revenue out of buying customers with upsells and additional offers. Here’s how ThriveCart and SamCart approach it.
ThriveCart lets you add up to five upsells and five downsells to each of your checkout pages. You access the sales funnel feature by selecting the ‘Create funnel’ option against the relevant product.
The sales funnel screen, shown below, lets you customize all of the options.
You can turn the sales funnel on and off for each checkout, set the upsell product, and then edit the look of the upsell or downsell page.
A nifty feature of ThriveCart is that any sales funnel you create can be used on multiple products. So if you want to use the same upsell for five different products, it’s will only take you a few mouse-clicks. Nice.
In SamCart, you can also create up to five upsells and downsells. Again, it’s possible to share your upsells/downsells across multiple products, but SamCart has more flexibility in how your upsells are presented to a shopper.
First, you need to create your upsell/downsell as a standalone product. You can embed video, custom HTML and add in any of the same features you use to create your regular product checkout pages in SamCart.
You can then order your upsells and downsells in any manner you see fit and create a path through your sales funnel to get the most value from your product sales.
Besides the upsell/downsell, SamCart also has an Order Bump feature where you can display a complimentary product and look to increase your revenue further.
This section is close. Both options have good features for increasing revenue by using checkout sales funnels. Be aware that SamCart’s upsell features aren’t available on the base subscription package, but ThriveCart’s is.
Advanced Marketing Capabilities
The primary focus of ThriveCart and SamCart is managing the checkout processes of product sales and upselling. To that end, neither solution has any marketing automation features like email marketing or on-the-fly content customization based on a visitor’s characteristics.
But, both tools have some advanced marketing features to help optimize your checkout pages and get more value from your customers.
You can A/B split test your product pages using ThriveCart. It gives you the ability to create a clone of your product page, make a small change, serve both versions to an equal number of visitors, then see which one performs the best.
Split testing is something you should be doing with all of your money-making webpages, and the process is straightforward in ThriveCart.
Simply select which element you want to split test, make a note of it in the A/B test settings page, and away you go.
Another marketing feature you’ll almost certainly want to use is analytics tracking. With ThriveCart, you can easily add Google and Facebook tracking codes to your pages so that you can get enhanced analytics about your visitor’s behavior.
SamCart also has A/B testing built-in as standard across all of its subscription levels which you can find in the advanced settings tab of your product details pages.
Create a variation by first duplicating the product, then make the change you want to test to one of the versions.
You can track the performance in the A/B test screen to see which version of your checkout page performs the best.
SamCart also has the ability to add Google and Facebook tracking codes into your product pages for enhanced analytics about your visitor’s behavior.
While both tools offer the ability to use advanced analytics and A/B testing, ThriveCart wins the prize for this section as A/B testing is only available on the top subscription tier in SamCart.
Affiliate Program Management
Once you have your product set up for sale with ThriveCart or SamCart, you may want to find your own army of affiliates to promote the product on your behalf. Both solutions make it easy to manage affiliates, but which one is best?
ThriveCart’s affiliate management begins with your product listing; you have to enable an affiliate program in the relevant tab of your product’s details.
Once enabled, you then need to set the parameters of your affiliate program. The settings that need choosing are:
Affiliate commission rate. You can choose to pay a percentage of your selling price or a fixed amount. If your product is subscription-based, you can set a higher percentage for the first payment and a lower one for all subsequent ones.
Cookie Duration. The affiliate cookie determines the time you allow for the attribution of a sale for an affiliate. You can choose any value you like with ThiveCart. Additionally, when you have lots of affiliates, you can choose whether the first or last affiliate that both sends the same customer to your product page is awarded the sale commission.
Your affiliates get a concise set of analytics, and there is a section for you to provide marketing assets for them. ThriveCart support does not handle the payment of affiliates, so it’s something you’ll need to organize yourself.
Affiliate Sub Tracking IDs. ThriveCart offers affiliate tracking IDs whereas SamCart doesn’t. Affiliate tracking IDs allows your affiliates to track where a sale of your product was produced (i.e., from a blog post, video, ads, etc.).
SamCart’s affiliate management feels a bit more well-thought-out.
SamCart automatically creates an affiliate signup page for you, and you can even auto-accept applications from affiliates, leaving you more time to set the following variables:
Cookie Duration. Set the cookie from between 30-999 days, and choose between first and last affiliate cookie attribution, too.
Affiliate Commission. You can choose between a percentage commission and a flat fee commission. SamCart can also handle recurring commissions if you sell subscription products too.
SamCart, like ThriveCart, doesn’t handle affiliate payments, but you can export a MassPay CSV for uploading into PayPal for easy affiliate payment management.
Although both SamCart and ThriveCart offer good affiliate center platforms, ThriveCart offers tracking IDs, making them win here due to link tracking.
Both shopping cart software makes it easy to set up and run your own affiliate program, but ThriveCart has more polish and better affiliate center management features for both vendors and affiliates.
3rd Party Integrations
Setting up a digital business nowadays requires the use of multiple specialist tools. It makes life easier when the tools ‘talk’ to each other and exchange data easily. Both SamCart and ThriveCart integrate out-of-the-box with many common software platforms. Here’s the low-down.
ThriveCarts main set of integrations are designed for payment platforms, membership platforms, and email marketing services. There are other ones available, like fulfillment services if you are selling physical products, and Zapier is present to assist with any other integration you might want to do.
For each type of integration, most of the popular tools in the category are present, such as the choice of autoresponders in the image above. If your tool isn’t available natively, you may still be able to connect it via Zapier or even HTML embed codes.
The first thing to note about SamCart’s integrations is that you don’t have access to all the possible ones unless you sign up for their top subscription tier. So if you use a CRM for your business or want the ability to design your own custom integrations, you’ll need to dig a little deeper into your wallet or purse.
But for payment processors, membership management, and email autoresponders, SamCart is easy to set up and integrate with the rest of your tools and platforms.
Once a tool is connected, it’s straightforward to set triggers and actions to make them work with SamCart. If your tool isn’t on the list of native integrations, you will probably be able to connect it to SamCart with Zapier.
Winner: A tie!
Both ThriveCart and SamCart are good at integrating with other tools. If you use a CRM, you might want to favor ThriveCart as you have to pay more for CRM integration with SamCart.
What gets measured gets managed. Rockefeller famously managed his business based on the reporting metrics he was sent, and you will want to understand the performance metrics about your shopping cart. Here’s what each tool provides.
Thrivecart provides detailed reports and analytics on key performance indicators, including:
- Conversion rates
- Checkout page views
- Refunds, including amounts and rates
- Gross, Annual, and Net revenue
- Active subscriptions
- And more…
You can compare different periods to measure progress, and everything is accessed from one central dashboard. You can also customize your dashboard to only show the analytics you want.
The reporting provided by SamCart depends on which subscription level you take out. The base-level does have adequate reporting, but if you want advanced reporting or the ability to schedule reports, you need to pay for one of the higher levels.
Basic reporting gives you sales and refund information, and you can also see reporting by sales funnels, which ThriveCart can’t do.
To really dig into your reports, you may need to make use of the CSV export functionality and dive deeper using Excel or Google Sheets.
But, SamCart’s reports are clean and easy to interpret, which may be preferred by some users.
In the reporting battle, SamCart’s reporting is easier to understand than ThriveCarts. If you only want headline figures from easy-to-read reports, then SamCart is the one to choose.
The Pricing War
Cost is a major factor for most people when choosing software. So let’s take a look at how each web based platform charges for using their tool.
ThriveCart is a rare beast in the software sector today in that you don’t have to take out a monthly subscription. There is a one-off fee to pay up-front, and then that’s it: you have lifetime access to use the service.
The cost for the standard package is $495. For an extra $195, you can buy the ‘Pro’ version of ThriveCart. This adds in the affiliate management center plus a few other features like automatic sales tax calculation.
ThriveCart says they will transition ‘soon’ to a subscription-based model. But whether this is just to add a little ‘urgency’ to the checkout process is difficult to say.
What is clear is that you can buy lifetime access to a multi-featured shopping cart at the same price as one of their competitor’s annual subscriptions.
SamCart uses the common SaaS pricing model of the monthly subscription payment. And like most other software, there are three tiers, each with more features added into the package as the price increases.
The entry-level tier called ‘Launch’ costs $49 per month and includes enough to set up and run a checkout process for your digital product. What’s is missing is those crucial upsells and order bumps that squeeze more revenue out of your web traffic.
To get upsells, multiple user accounts, and advanced reporting, you need to take out the next tier called ‘Grow,’ costing $99 per month.
To use A/B testing and the affiliate center, you have to take out the top-level subscription called ‘Scale,’ which costs $199 per month.
You can make a 20% saving on the price if you take out an annual subscription upfront, which equates to a $238 saving on the ‘Grow’ subscription level.
When it comes to cost, it really depends on your circumstances. If money is less of a factor, then SamCart is a feature-packed shopping cart solution.
If funds are in short supply, then you can’t argue with ThriveCart’s one-off fee. Even if you bought the Pro version, you would save $260 over the annual price of ‘Grow’ for SamCart.
Let’s try and reach a final conclusion over ThriveCart vs SamCart and which is the best checkout software for you.
If your business is going to involve membership sites, then you really need take a look at SamCart. You might also choose this option if you are a stickler for a modern, fresh design.
You’ll pay more than ThriveCart, but you’ll be getting one of the best shopping cart software solutions available today.
For those that aren’t in the business of membership sites, then ThriveCart is an excellent option. Even if you pay the top-price of $690, it’s less than a full years subscription to the equivalent SamCart solution.
You’ll get a slightly dated design look, but you’ll keep control of your monthly fee business costs which is an important factor for digital marketers working with smaller budgets.
- In 2021, SamCart introduced Courses, their built-in online course app. With the Courses app, all SamCart users can create courses and add their content within the platform. This move is a great step forward to give online business owners all the features they need under one roof.