My Love/Hate Relationship with Thrive Cart

Chances are, this is one of the only reviews you’ll ever read about ThriveCart that doesn’t include an affiliate link. There are literally hundreds of affiliate-based websites promoting ThriveCart, and they all share one thing in common: they fail to give you the whole truth.

Check out the Thrive Cart affiliate program and you’ll quickly understand why.

With 50% commissions paid out on every sale of their nearly $600 product, it serves those affiliates best to focus on the wonderful side of ThriveCart, rather than venture into the murky waters of what could very well send you paddling your ass off to the shores of another product.

And to be frank, this review couldn’t include an affiliate link because I’m just not ready to promote ThriveCart and I may never be. I’m still on the fence.

Yep, I have a major love/hate relationship with the “shopping cart” that boasts being “the number 1 platform for marketers!”.

Anyway, let’s get on with the lovey-dovey stuff, so I can explain why I still want to desperately fall head over heels in love with Thrive Cart.

Out With The Old, In With The New?

Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to simplifying my business life. Despite the growling of my tech-savvy software-engineer of a husband, I still use Dreamweaver to design websites, prefer Photoshop CS3 over their new CC series and yes, I use Firefox (though I’m really trying to move to Chrome, I promise.)

So when it came to how I processed orders for my digital products, it should come as no surprise to you that I was still using amember.

I know, I know… save it.

No diss to amember, but it’s ancient AF. I mean, despite their updates, the interface looks like it’s stuck in 1999.

But I could get past that if only it was easy for my customers to use.

Instead, I ended up with dozens of emails from people complaining that they hated the interface, didn’t want to have to create an account before being able to purchase, and the list went on.

It wasn’t amember’s fault, it was mine.

They’re designed to be a membership platform, not a shopping cart and while they offer that option, it’s seriously lacking. And cumbersome. And yeah, ugly.

So despite the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” kinda gal that I am, I knew it was time to start looking at alternatives.

And that’s when I spent 3 1/2 weeks testing out different shopping cart platforms.

Hey, at least I now knew exactly what I was looking for.

MUST HAVE’S:

Visually appealing:
I wanted my checkout pages to look great on both desktops and mobile devices. Modern, sleek… the kind of pretty pages that I can’t get enough of reloading.

Look how nice they are! >> https://creatives.thrivecart.com/kdp-hot-sellers

(And no, that’s not an affiliate link for Thrive Cart; it’s one of my own product checkout pages.)

I will say that as much as I love the default templates and how easy they are to customize, the actual customization options are VERY limited.

For example, you can choose 4 checkout templates, which would be plenty IF you could really customize the heck out of them to really work with your brand, but you can’t do that much.

When it comes to order buttons or countdown timers, you only have 4 colors to choose from and rather than let you upload your own background, etc, you have to choose from just a few options.

Not a deal breaker though. Not even close. I love the look and feel of Thrive Cart wayyyyy too much.

Thrive Cart? CHECK!

Simplistic Interface:
I wanted to be able to move over a ton of digital products quickly, create success pages, and just get on with my life.

No offense to the geeks in my life who get off on creating elaborate “systems”, but I didn’t want to have to install a ton of plugins, integrate into a blog, or even download and install anything. I was looking for a kick-ass, hosted SaaS solution.

Not only does the Thrive Cart admin panel load super fast, but you can literally add payment processors and edit your funnels in a matter of minutes. It’s BLAZING fast.

I think the interface, combined with the dummy-proof system, is my favorite thing about it.

Thrive Cart? CHECK!

Quick & Easy Payment Integration:
I wanted to be able to add multiple payment options, including Paypal, Stripe and Google Pay and I wanted it to be drop-dead easy. No having to configure 10 different things to get it working. Enter my webhook or IPN and voila!

Thrive Cart? CHECK!

Mailing List Integration:
I use MailerLite and oddly it’s not always a mailing list service that’s on the list of integrations. So I wanted my shopping cart to work with them.

Thrive Cart? CHECK!

Okay, so that was my absolute must-have list of features and I wasn’t too worried about it because nearly all shopping carts have those features by default.

Then there was my wish-list.

WANTS – not – NEEDS

Upsells, Downsells, Meh.
Anyone who knows me is aware of how much I personally hate upsells & downsells, so I rarely use them. Yeah, I know, I’m probably losing a lot of money, but my customers appreciate knowing they pay, they get the product, they move on. No endless dark hole of sales pitchy nonsense.

Still, I kinda wanted the option of incorporating upsells/downsells because hey, a girl can change her mind. But it wasn’t a must-have.

Thrive Cart? CHECK!

Affiliate Program
I really wanted a built-in affiliate program IF possible, but it wasn’t required. My plan was to purchase iDevAffiliate and just use that. However, when I saw that an affiliate program was part of ThriveCart, it sweetened the deal.

Up until then, I had been using amember’s affiliate program which is pretty bare-bones and doesn’t give affiliates a lot of options.

Thrive Cart? CHECK?

Well, sort of. And this is where my first fizzle of WTF came into play.

ThriveCart definitely offers built-in affiliate management, but it’s not quite what it appears to be.

The first road block came when I realized that your affiliates don’t simply sign up and gain access to all of your products. You have to choose one main product that they sign up to promote.

Okay, but what then?

Well, THEN, you have to manually (yes, one-by-one) create rules for every single product you have that goes something like this:

When an affiliate is approved for Product A then add them to another product and select the product. And on and on.

I have more than 50 digital products, so it appears I’d have to create 50 rules JUST to make sure my affiliates can promote them all. And then every time I add a new digital product, I have to go back in and add another rule.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to get this set up correctly because it feels like this just can’t be right. But after researching as much as humanly possible, it seems to be the required method.

But baby, it gets worse.

So I spent an hour creating all these affiliate product rules, saved my page and then decided to log in as an affiliate just to see what it looked like.

And that’s when I found this:

Say, what?

Thrive Cart recruits YOUR affiliates to promote THEIR product?

Worse, they don’t even integrate that huge promo box with your affiliate link so at least you get compensated for sending customers to them.

These are YOUR affiliates. You work hard to recruit them, to build that army of people who want to help you take your business to the next level. The last thing we want is to distract them with offers from Thrive Cart.

And did you notice the “your product here” box next to it?

Apparently, marketers’ can contact them about paying for ad space. When that rolls out you won’t have a clue what else is being promoted on your affiliate page.

Nor will you have any control over it.

My initial “Hell, yeah! Thrive Cart is exactly what I’ve been looking for”, turned into a bitter internal conflict about whether I’m okay with allowing them to potentially swipe my affiliates and pull them away from what should be a focus on promoting my products.

So I did as any nice Canadian would do and I decided to contact them before I totally freaked out.

Here’s their response:

Thanks for getting in touch. It needs to show ThriveCart there because essentially, the affiliate is signing up for a Thrivecart account when they sign up to become an affiliate. They can use their account to sign up to promote other products from other vendors using ThriveCart. Also, it is our team that they would be reaching out to if they have any questions or problems. If Thrivecart is not mentioned there, the affiliate will not know who to contact.

I would also just like to address the cost of ThriveCart. ThriveCart is one of the cheapest carts on the market right now. Yes, it is $600, however, other competing cart platforms cost between $100 – $200 per month. So to put that in perspective, that is between $1200 – $2400 per year. Not lifetime, but per year. And you get less of an extensive feature set for your money.

Inside the affiliate centre that the affiliate signs into, there is a banner add where they can sign up to also promote ThriveCart. This in no way takes the focus away from your own product. This is also very common practice for affiliate platforms, I know other cart platforms do the same, if you look at JV Zoo or ClickBank for example, when you sign up to become an affiliate, you have hundreds of products listed that you can promote.



I’ll be honest, I was left kinda speechless. I really don’t know how to feel about any of this.

Starting from the beginning, he mentions:

“Also, it is our team that they would be reaching out to if they have any questions or problems. If Thrivecart is not mentioned there, the affiliate will not know who to contact.”

That kind of turns me off. I thought I’d be in full control of my affiliate program. That it would be up to me to respond to affiliates. That they would simply email ME if they needed help. I just wasn’t aware of the fact that any affiliate I recruit becomes part of Thrive Cart’s affiliate army.

And no affiliate blogs out there cared to mention this.

Second, he goes on to say:

“ThriveCart is one of the cheapest carts on the market right now. Yes, it is $600, however, other competing cart platforms cost between $100 – $200 per month. So to put that in perspective, that is between $1200 – $2400 per year. Not lifetime, but per year. And you get less of an extensive feature set for your money.”

I have no argument to make over the value of paying a one-time fee for lifetime access over a monthly charge. That’s one of the main attractions of Thrive Cart. Pay once, cry once. I think $600 is a more-than-fair price to pay for a lifetime license to a “shopping cart”.

But if we’re being really honest, if I was paying $100-200 per month for a “shopping cart”, I’d expect a lot more out of Thrive Cart, such as my customers being able to add multiple products to one cart.

That’s the basis of a shopping cart, isn’t it?

Yet Thrive Cart allows customers to only add one product to the cart at a time. Sure, they let you add product bumps (where you can promote one other product), and you can create a funnel with upsells and downsells, but a SHOPPING CART typically means that customers can add multiple items to their cart, check out and go on their merry way.

But that wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. I wasn’t thrilled to discover this huge limitation, considering I thought I was buying a “shopping cart”, but I could deal.

Here’s what made me want to break up with Thrive Cart:

“Inside the affiliate centre that the affiliate signs into, there is a banner add where they can sign up to also promote ThriveCart. This in no way takes the focus away from your own product. This is also very common practice for affiliate platforms, I know other cart platforms do the same, if you look at JV Zoo or ClickBank for example, when you sign up to become an affiliate, you have hundreds of products listed that you can promote.”

Umm, come again? That monster-size advertisement box certainly DOES take away the focus from our own products. Their big promo banner is right there in the face of every affiliate I recruit to promote my products. It just shouldn’t be there.

But then he goes on to say that it’s “very common practice for affiliate platforms…” and references Clickbank and JV Zoo.

I didn’t sign up to sell my products through ClickBank or JVZoo! I bought what I thought was a “shopping cart system”.

Thrive Cart doesn’t position themselves to be a marketplace. If they did, they wouldn’t get away with charging $600 for access to use their platform. ClickBank and JVZoo don’t charge those prices. No one does.

And after digging around a bit more, thinking that maybe their optional upgrade to buy a “client license” removes their branding, I was left disappointed. Paying another $100 removes the “powered by thrivecart” that appears at the bottom of all of your checkout/sales/success pages (yeah, you have to pay to get that removed), but paying that fee doesn’t remove their branding from your affiliate pages.

That’s there for good. Or at least until enough people throw a fit and force them to back away from your affiliates.

And no, despite how many other platforms/tools Thrive Cart integrates with, such as:

Payment Processors: Authorize.net, Paypal & Shopify.

Membership Platforms: Teachable, Member Mouse, Memberpress, WishList, OptimizeMember, and Digital Access Pass.

Autoresponders: All of the major players.

Webinar Platform: Demio.

Fulfillment Service: Zapier, Disk.com, Google Sheets, ShipStation, Shopify, Vervante, Printful, Lulu, Kumaki and Shippo.

– There doesn’t seem to be an option to work with another affiliate platform while still selling your products using Thrive Cart.

But I may be wrong… and I hope so because it might be the only way I can stick with them. Based on my research so far, I haven’t found a solution while being able to stay strictly ThriveCart order delivery, which is the point of buying this shopping cart.

Remember how I mentioned I didn’t want to have to work with countless systems just to sell my stuff? So even if there is some work-around, it’ll likely require too much configuration and integrational headaches for me to take on.

So, there you have it. Why I have a love/hate relationship with Thrive Cart and what no affiliate blogs seem to warn you about.

Are these deal breakers for you? I know they will be for many of my team members who understand the importance of being in control of every aspect of their brand, especially their team of affiliates they worked so hard to recruit.

Are these things deal breakers for me?

That decision has yet to be made.




4 thoughts on “My Love/Hate Relationship with Thrive Cart”

  1. I feel exactly the same. I purchased ThriveCart over a year ago and have never used it. Love, love, love the look and feel. But the tradeoffs are too unacceptable, as you’ve very eloquently outlined.

    I’m used to using JVZoo and Warrior Plus, so I understand where they’re coming from in regards to the affiliate base, etc. JVZ and W+ do the same – tap in to and promote to all affiliates.

    But for that reason, they should market themselves as an affiliate platform – not a shopping cart.

    Anybody want to buy my TC license? Lol

  2. Great article Kate. I also purchased ThriveCart a year ago, and I still receive tons of emails praising the product, saying last chance for a one-time payment. That is an outright lie. That what made me purchase it a year ago.

    I must say it does look good, and the whole feel is great. My first question after purchasing ThriveCart was, where is the shopping cart? After finding out that there was none yet, I never used it, still hoping that they will add the shopping cart, to match the name.

    The affiliate portion is another eye opener. It now sounds like a very expensive marketing place. Thanks for sharing your review, Kate!

    Now I feel like Gene, “Anybody want to buy my TC license?”

  3. What’s wrong with simply using Clickbank?

    That’s what I was thinking about using.

    Is there something I’m missing.

  4. Thank you for writing this. I thought I was crazy for not being wildly in love with ThriveCart like everyone else. It works fine. There’s things I like about it more than SendOwl, but overall, I much prefer SendOwl. I simply left SendOwl to a get a lifetime subscription that would reduce my ongoing expenses.

    I think the backend of the software is fine, but the shopping cart looks spammy and outdated to me. I don’t know why they won’t let you choose your own color. I emailed them about this and they gave me the response of “pretty doesn’t always convert” which I’ve seen them say in the Facebook group. Okay, but it’s not one or the other – it can be both. And given how many complaints there are about this, it’s seems like they have no plans to fix it. I can’t imagine a cart that looks like 1999 converts better than a cart updated to match 2019 (the upsell feature is an eyesore).

    On another note, they seem to always advertise it as off the market, but it’s not. It looks like this is their scarcity tactic and this dishonesty upsets me. They just retired their lifetime deal, but for years said it was retiring and then extended the dates. It feels slimy and I can’t be a raving fan of a company that does that.

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