One of the most common questions my readers have asked me recently is: "What's the best sales funnel software between Thrivecart and Cartflows?"

I've published several articles, videos, and tutorials on each one of these tools, but it's time that I put them side by side and give you a true, balanced look at each option to help you find the perfect selling tool for your online business.

More...


Thrivecart

Easier, Faster, And More Full Featured

Thrivecart has done what few companies have been able to: they have struck the perfect balance between simplicity and advanced features. Their platform is both friendly to beginners, as well as serve the needs of multi-million dollar businesses.

With their limited time Lifetime Deal, now is the perfect time to lock in your price for life. I've also included a TON of exclusive bonuses for anyone who uses my affiliate link below to enroll in Thrivecart:


Cartflows

Great potential, but not for the feint of heart.

Cartflows is a really good idea! With ~30% of the internet using WordPress, and WooCommerce being a free E-Commerce option... it makes total sense to build a funnel-builder on top of that solid foundation. Unfortunately, after extensive testing (and many evenings with my head in my hands), I realized that I was spending more time working on my tech than I was on the important parts of my business. 

Cartflows takes an already complicated process (selling through WooCommerce) and makes it more complicated. If words like "caching," "plugins," and "integrations" make you shudder, you might consider avoiding Cartflows until they have ironed out some more development. But if you are already firmly rooted in the WooCommerce landscape, Cartflows is the best game in town.


How I tested these tools against each other

Most reviewers do little more than look at the company sales page (and affiliate terms!) before writing their ultimate review.

I'm different.

I've lived these tools. Breathed these tools.

Cursed at these tools sometimes.?

I've built client websites with WooCommerce and Cartflows successfully.

I've run full funnels using Thrivecart's sales and affiliate platform.

I actually do this for a living.

And while the links in this post are affiliate links, I'm going to give you my true experience with each tool. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.?

Full Disclaimer: I am using Thrivecart as my checkout solution of choice, so I guess you could say I'm biased there. But I spent the better part of a year with Cartflows, and several nights with support before making my decision to switch. You'll learn more about all this in this post. I am also personal friends with the developers of both solutions. I consider them friends. This post is NOT meant to attack, slander, or do any evil to any product. But I owe it to you, my readers, to know my truthso ultimately you can succeed online.

And by the end of the post - no matter which solution you choose, I want to leave you with a little perspective here which is worth more than the entire review:

The tool that keeps things as simple as possible is the winner 99% of the time. Focus your time on serving your audience, creating, marketing, and selling products - and less time on the fiddly knobs, and you'll be successful.

Alright so with that out of the way, let's start talking about these tools side by side.

So what exactly are we comparing?

Thrivecart and Cartflows are sales funnel builders.

Their entire purpose is to help you sell more of your products, more easily. 

They do this by allowing you to craft entire buying experiences for your customers to maximize their satisfaction and your revenue.

If they come to your site looking for a book, they might also be interested in an audio version, some additional worksheets, a deeper video training, or access to an exclusive membership as well.

Sales funnels allow you to make these offers to your customers and measure their results to become more profitable over time.

That is a gross oversimplification, but it will serve as our orientation.

Read More: Complete Thrivecart Review for 2020 | Complete Cartflows Review

Feature Set: SaaS Vs Plugin? Things Get Hairy Here...

Thrivecart and Cartflows are two fundamentally different platforms, and so it's a little difficult to compare their feature sets side by side.

Thrivecart is a Software as a Service, which means you log into a separate platform to create your products, manage your sales, and do customer management.

Cartflows is a WordPress plugin, which means it is installed directly in your website and you have the ability customize it and maintain it over time.

Because Thrivecart is its own service, it controls the experience for you and has the final say over what features exist in the platform.

Cartflows, on the other hand, simply extends the functionality of WooCommerce, which makes it an extremely customizable tool (in theory...)

If you want a particular functionality that doesn't exist natively in Cartflows, you might be able to find a tool that does it.

And if that functionality simply doesn't exist? Well, you can even hire a developer to build it for you! Sounds great doesn't it?

Well, that's the beauty of WordPress, but it comes at a cost.

When something goes wrong (which it will), you are now in a bit of a bind.

Who's support channel do you go to?

What happens if your site goes down? Your entire business is now hinged on several components all talking together in harmony.

Oh yea, and by the way each one of those plugins gets updated all the time (and not at the same time) so what might have been working yesterday could all of a sudden crash on you today.

Better hope it's not the day of a big promotion!

Here's a side by side comparison of the main features of each system. The Green checks means that the feature exists. The Yellow caution means that you need additional plugins or complexity to make it happen, and the red means that it's not supported:

FEATURE

THRIVECART

CARTFLOWs

Can Accept Credit Card and PayPal

Bump Offers

Downsells

Upsells

Chain Offers

Affiliate Program

Subscription Billing

Subscription Dunning (card recovery)

Membership Integrations

Abandoned Cart

Limited

Embedded Cart

Pop up carts

Pre-built templates

Create unlimited funnels

Coupon Codes

Email Marketing Integrations

Built in sales tax calculation & GDPR

A/B Split Testing

Global Cart Feature

Phew, long list, but the main takeaway is that Cartflows is very limited in its plain vanilla form.???

Don't expect to simply install WooCommerce, Cartflows, and be off to the races.

Cartflows and WooCommerce leave several key areas missing, require additional tools (and additional costs) to stack on to match up to the competition.

Thrivecart was designed specifically for sales funnel-style selling, so they tick most of the boxes that are important to marketers.

Cartflows is trying to take a classic E-commerce platform (WooCommerce) and turn it into a funnel building platform.

And it gets a lot of the basics right, but it really forces you to get resourceful along the way.

Want to change what that button says? There might be a CSS code you can use. (this was a true scenario for me - it was recently fixed with an update).

Need to sell subscriptions? Browse 5 different subscription platforms and hope that it integrates.

Trying to integrate with your email marketing platform? You'll probably require an additional tool like WP Fusion(around $300 per year) just to make that work...

In general, you can get the job done with both platforms, but the Thrivecart functionality is built from the ground up for the job, instead of trying to connect the dots to a very complex problem.

Winner: Thrivecart's built in functionality is simple to use, has advanced features that marketers love, and doesn't require you to do tons of research, integration, or custom CSS to get your system up and running.

Also Checkout: Step by step guide to building an online business with Thrivecart | Step By step guide to building a sales funnel with Cartflows

Ease of Use: WordPress familiarity or Thrivecart's intuitive wizard?

Thrivecart has intentionally made their entire interface very beginner friendly.

Want to create a new product? Click the "Create new product button," and you'll be able to follow through the wizard step by step until it's done and you have the page ready to share and sell.

The entire process feels logical, starting with the overal product details, setting up fulfillment (delivering the product or granting access to your membership or course), designing your checkout, and setting up automatic behaviors (like tagging your customers).

By the time you finish the set up, you feel confident that things are working as they should, and with a single test of the process, you are ready to turn it live and drive traffic to your funnel.

With Cartflows and WooCommerce, the process is a bit less streamlined.

You'll set up your WooCommerce products in one area, then bounce over to Cartflows to design your pages, then bounce over to a different system to set up your integrations with you membership area, then ...

You get the idea. Again, they both work, but I definitely recommend you get a checklist when setting up you Cartflows funnels because some steps are easy to forget.

Winner: The straightforward nature of product creation with Thrivecart is a breath of fresh air and gives you confidence that the product is created properly.

Support

Thrivecart has an excellent support team, but I have found that I rarely need to access them, as they provide step-by-step video instructions directly in the platform, where and when you need them:

Need to set up a new integration? Just head to the settings and you can just hit play and follow along click by click. No need to scour knowledge base articles.

When I have reached out to their team regarding a custom integration I was building, they offered to log into my site and were able to help me figure out my issue within 48 hours.

The Cartflows support team has a bit of a challenge ahead. Because there are over 50,000 plugins (just in the repository!) the team must be hit from every angle...

I've received mixed results when reaching out to Cartflows - sometimes they would go above and beyond, offering me custom CSS code to solve my problem (shudder).

And other times ... weren't as successful.

The benefits of SaaS

Quick point to make here - this is where SaaS platforms shine.

Because their functionality is closed off and developed internally, Thrivecart is more equipped to support their system and keep things stable.

Before they release new functionality, they are able to test it deeply.

But because Cartflows sits on top of a huge platform, in several cases you will realize that two tools that should have worked perfectly, simply don't and there isn't a great reason why.

Example: My email marketing platform connected directly to WooCommerce - so whenever a product is purchased, the user should be tagged. For whatever reason, it would only work for some products, and not upsell and downsell products... custom coding required. Same

Winner: Thrivecart. While Cartflows is a newer platform and are currently going through growing pains, there are simply less headaches to deal with when setting up and maintaining Thrivecart.

Cost: Lifetime vs multiple annual licenses

This one is really going to depend on your specific use case.

Thrivecart's license allows for 1 custom domain, and the pro plan allows you to have 5 clients underneath your account.

So you can have 5 different log ins for people to see how their individual portfolio is performing.

Sure, you can integrate more payment processors and shove all your clients under 1 dashboard, but I don't recommend that!

Cartflows' annual license allows you to install the plugin on up to 30 websites!

This is great for agencies.... and that's about it.

But the cost gets a little more complicated if you try to compare apples to apples feature sets.

Because Thrivecart builds in their affiliate platform, subscription platform, many more integrations, and more into a single platform, I'll put a similar setup with Cartflows to compare all in costs:

Thrivecart

Cartflows

  • Standard License: $495
  • Pro Upgrade: $195

Total: $690, one time

  • Cartflows Pro: $299 per year
  • WooCommerce Subscriptions: $249 per year
  • WP Fusion: $347 per year
  • AffiliateWP: $247 per year
  • LaunchFlows: $297 per year

Total: $1,439 per year

I would love to see Cartflows release a single site plan for $50-$100, which would really score some points because many users are just trying to build their business and have no need for 29 other licenses.

Winner: Thrivecart has a bigger up front cost, but the lifetime deal ends up saving a ton of money over time compared to the current contender in WordPress. I have also seen developers create extensions to live ON TOP OF CARTFLOWS... which already lives on top of WooCommerce... it gets to be too much after a while!

Conclusion

I tried not to be too harsh in this comparison, but at the end of the day, I've learned to value simplicity and speed to market more than anything else.

And Thrivecart gives you exactly that.

Cartflows will surely be a staple in the WordPress community for a long time, and I have great relationships with the founders of the plugin. But at the current moment, more development and simplification is required before Cartflows is a real contender for Thrivecart's platform.

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8 Comments

  1. I agree with all of this. I started liking CartFlows a little better after I invested in LaunchFlows and had additional functionality, but it was getting too much. Way too many parts to handle, and I felt like I was becoming a developer instead of a content creator because I had to troubleshoot everything. I moved my shop to Shopify, and for my onsite funnels, I got ThriveCart. So much simpler and more powerful. Great article!

    1. That’s awesome! I’d love to hear more about your experience with Shopify and Thrivecart. I haven’t tried that one yet but I’ve had several people reach out and ask for some Shopify content ūüôā

  2. Interesting comparison, I have both and liked CartFlows better and the possibilities it brings to the WP ecosystem…. You mentioned that you canīt change what the buttons say, but thatīs not correct as of couple of weeks ago, you can change the button wording!

    I do see the ease of ThriveCart and appreciate the fact that it is not WP dependent which got me thinking as to which one I should implement going forward…

  3. Thank you for your post & video even though CartFlows didn’t seem to fare well in it ūüôĀ

    So let me address a few things and add some info that I think would have made the post and video more balanced.
    – Cart Abandonment: You can push abandoned carts into any CRM that accepts webhooks
    – AffiliateWP: When that was first reported, we swiftly resolved it in a matter of days, we became aware on Jan 7th and had it working on the 12th, would have been faster but there was a weekend

    I think what would have been helpful, more balanced if you also included things that CartFlows is good at vs only pointing out areas where ThriveCart is good.
    – SmartFunnels: The ability to have different upsell paths
    – Checkout Offers: This allows you to have an upsell for any payment gateway, before the purchase
    – Make all types of funnels, not just funnels where you sell stuff. With ThriveCart you can’t even have a landing page that goes to a checkout page
    – Physical product fulfillment
    – There are many other things

    Also, the post is missing the risks of using ThriveCart:
    – The developer has a history of building SaaS apps, selling them as lifetime deals, then abandoning them. Look up EasyVideoSuite or Audello
    – The developer has a prior history of building new versions and charging lifetime deal holders for the new version, look up EasyVideoPlayer > EasyVideoSuite (both abandoned). Now when they come here to respond to this comment they will say they are updating them (just break-fix) and they work, but they are sorely outdated, it would be foolish to use them
    * To add context I have purchased all of the devs products so I know first hand of buying a lifetime deal from them and it being abandoned. I am not going to say that is going to happen here, but as Dr. Phil always says ďThe best predictor of future behavior is past behaviorĒ, it is what it is.

    Also, the total cost that you mention, it’s a bit inflated. It’s like you are adding in everything under the sun, it almost feels like most of the article, tilted for some reason.
    – WPFusion: it’s not required at all. Just about all major email marketing platforms offer a native integration that they provide. Most are much better then what you get out of ThriveCart because it also sends ecom data.
    – AffiliateWP: yes you do need this to have an affiliate program, but not $250 its $99. But it would have been nice if you added that when you have affiliates in ThriveCart, that ThriveCart markets to them in your affiliate area.
    – LaunchFlow whatever: That is something different entirely and it provides no value, it’s not from us or endorsed by us, I don’t even know why it’s listed there.

    Listen I get it, you are at a point where you prefer a fixed SaaS-based solution over the flexibility of an open-source solution. I totally get it and I am all for that and wish you well.

    * To anyone that reads this, John and I know each other. We have shared a meal together, have talked on the phone, if I lived near him I would consider him a real-life friend, so I am writing to him as a friend above.

    1. Hey Adam thanks so much for chiming in! For those that don’t know Adam is one of the co-founders of Cartflows, and he’s just an all-around good guy.

      To all my readers, the back and forth above in these comments is meant to be healthy, respectful, and productive. Adam is an awesome guy, great dad, and an all around impressive professional. He even gave me free Cartflows t-shirts at the Traffic and Conversion Summit in 2019! You can see me giving him some love in this video: https://youtu.be/JGOAyyvVSsA?t=882

      Itís important for both him and I to be truthful and to maintain the integrity of our own brands, which is why I invite the discussion as it makes everyone better.

      Iíd like to add some additional detail to what Adam brings up in his comments:

      #1 You bring up the point of Ė “Cart Abandonment: You can push abandoned carts into any CRM that accepts webhooks.”

      Yes, your documentation calls for a Webhook + Zapier integration. Perhaps this is just personal preference and some people are perfectly happy with using Zapier as a solution. My main business relied on Zapier for a long time until a direct integration was built for our tools. In that model we drove cold, paid traffic to offers (with a decent daily budget). The result? An additional $299 PER MONTH in fees to get to Zapier’s “Team” level (if you are doing more than 2,000 tasks per month which is only 64 tasks per day). So while you are technically correct, it also adds cost and complexity to the solution, which I have found to be a theme in this setup.

      #2 Next point about the AffiliateWP bug – Your team is awesome for their turnaround time on fixes like this, and as I mentioned in the post, opinions change and I’ll absolutely revisit both tools on a regular basis to show the progress made by both teams.

      But AffiliateWP was only an example, and I used it to illustrate a point. Tools that are designed to integrate with WooCommerce (like AffiliateWP, Groundhogg Email marketing, even Mailerliteís WooCommerce integration) can’t be automatically assumed to also integrate with Cartflows “Flows.” There is custom coding and custom support required by the Cartflows team to keep the intended functionality (I have several support ticket histories to confirm). And unfortunately there is no way to “get ahead” of the game here, because when tools are created and marketed to “integrate with WooCommerce” the developers canít be expected to automatically test their functionality with Cartflows, which means the burden falls on either a) the cartflows development team (not enough hours in the day to cover every tool) or b) the user community who might not be able to afford mistakes during a launch.

      Hope that clears up some of the nuance that might have been in the post. I might update to add more depth into each of these experiences to not confuse anyone on my perspective.

      The next part of your comment brings up features you wish I added to the post.

      #3 SmartFunnels: I was excited when I heard of this new features ” Wow I can dynamically control where each funnel goes!” I’ll definitely add this into the post, but it also requires a bit of peeling back the onion to have a complete perspective. Weíve all been through sales funnels that never seem to let us goÖ 1 upsell, 2 upsellÖ 4 upsells! You never feel good at the end of that process. So my personal mantra is to have no more than 2 upsells or downsells. So while the ability to customize the path of the customer is still cool, it can also lead funnel builders to craft complex journeys that ultimately may anger their customers, resulting in more refunds and fewer repeat customers (if they have a bad experience going through a drawn out upsell chain, they will think twice before buying from you again). For me, Thrivecartís linear upsell/downsell process is more limited than Cartflows, but it also helps keep me respectful to my customers because I donít push the envelope beyond a few, logical, linear post-sale offers.

      #4 Checkout Pop Up Offers: Iíll also add more to the post on this feature. I kept it out because I am on the fence about it and havenít run traffic to it to prove if it helps or hurts your conversions. You really canít call them post-sale upsell offers because the transaction isnít complete when the user is presented the offer. So while it opens up the opportunity for additional revenue, it also opens up the possibility for customer distraction and may cause a bounce. My understanding is that since the payment hasnít been sent to the payment processor yet, if the customer abandons on the pop up offer, the original transaction wonít be processed either. Upsells are fundamentally different. The transaction is already completed and the user has already become a customer. You already got the money. In this world, any future upsell offers are simply additional revenue with zero risk of a lost customer. With how I understand your checkout feature, itís simply not the same and there is a large risk in using the tool. You also wonder, if this feature is truly that powerful, why havenít all the dedicated funnel builders implemented it as well? Itís certainly no more complicated to implement than a bump offer on the checkout form, so I just canít be sure the feature is a true value add.

      #5 To your point about ďMake all types of funnels, not just funnels where you sell stuff. With ThriveCart you canít even have a landing page that goes to a checkout pageĒ

      I donít know if I would say that. The post was looking the best ďSales FunnelĒ software. Not ďlead genĒ funnel software or ďwebinar funnelĒ software.

      And so letís look beyond that for a minute. With Cartflows, when trying to do lead gen funnels, the general consensus in the group has been to ďsellĒ a free item, which would trigger a WooCommerce order confirmation and deliver the freebie directly to the customer. Add in some CSS magic and you have something that resembles a lead gen funnel. You can do the same thing with Thrivecart if youíd like (sell a $0 item to add people to your list) but itís just not a conversion-optimized way to do it. So I donít think that point is exactly a benefit to Cartflows. And until Cartflows has a way to do A/B testing that doesnít require Google Optimize or some other layer of complexity to intercede, I wouldnít say that itís a competitive funnel builder for ďall type of funnelsĒ compared to the likes of Thrive Optimize, Kartra, Clickfunnels, etc.

      I do see that you removed the ďA/B testingĒ feature from your sales page which was there since inception, so thank you for the transparency there.

      #6: You mention: Ė Physical product fulfillment
      HmÖ thatís a strange argument, as currently Thrivecart integrates with Disk.com, Kunaki, Lulu, Printful, Shippo, ShipStation, Shopify, Vervante, and more through Zapier and Google Sheets. The global checkout function is definitely unique on Cartflows, and Iíll look to revisit the post when the rules engine is out to see how it is able to create relevant customer journeys based on product category, tag, etc. Cool stuff is on the way for sure!

      In the next bit of your comment, you start attacking the reputation of the developers… In my experience, that tends to do more damage to the person speaking, so Iíll do my best to stay above board and respectful here…

      #7 The developer has a history of building SaaS apps, selling them as lifetime deals, then abandoning them. Look up EasyVideoSuite or Audello.

      Quickly researching, I see over 286 updates were rolled out to Thrivecart in 2018, and 146 platform updates in 2019 (including a drag and drop page building function – not small bug fixes). And this YEARS after release. To me, that doesnít sounds like an abandoned product, but instead a maturing platform. (numbers pulled from an official post from Josh Bartlett inside the official Thrivecart FB Group).

      Just scrolling through the official Cartflows Pro changelog, I cound around 30 plugin updates in 2019 to the Cartflows Pro plugin. Now I know that ďplatform updatesĒ and ďplugin updatesĒ arenít necessarily the same thing and itís not meant to me a measuring contest. Iím simply trying to add some facts to the point I think youíre alluding to here.

      #8 The developer has a prior history of building new versions and charging lifetime deal holders for the new version, look up EasyVideoPlayer > EasyVideoSuite (both abandoned). Now when they come here to respond to this comment they will say they are updating them (just break-fix) and they work, but they are sorely outdated, it would be foolish to use them

      Iím going to stay above board with this response, but in general – I think itís important to stay kind here. Donít throw stones. I wonít respond in specifics (if youíd like I can) but there are also promises / features / commitments made to lifetime deal purchases of Cartflows that have been back-burnered, abandoned, or simply removed altogether from the promise. Over a year since the pitch, promise, and purchase has been made. I donít fault anyone for it because I live in the real world and I understand that things that seem simple can quickly become complex.

      Thatís why I didnít bring anything up in the review. Point being – companies develop, they learn what promises they can fulfill and what they need to abandon.

      Simply to support the final counter argument about inflated pricing…

      #9 You mention: ďItís like you are adding in everything under the sun, it almost feels like most of the article, tilted for some reason.Ē

      This isnít really fair at all, because the goal of this section (which I think was clear) was to provide an apples to apples comparison of features.

      The additional costs I brought in added subscription features, fully functioning email marketing integration, an affiliate program, and other features that bring the feature set of Cartflows more on par with what you get with Thrivecart. To me thatís not inflating anything, itís putting things on an even playing field so they can be fairly compared and contrasted.

      Because as I mentioned in the article – thatís the blessing and curse of WordPress – You can interchange parts and pieces to do what YOU need, but it comes at cost in both dollars and complexity. Maybe adding in Launchflows was unfair – Iíll give you that. I still honestly donít know what the heck that guy is doing so Iíll likely remove that from the cost list.

      #10 And I disagree with the statement that WP Fusion is not really requiredÖ Tight integration with your email marketing platform IS important, I donít care what anyone else says. Your email list is the most valuable asset of an online business, and itís important that you can link your email subscribers to their E-Com activity for proper messaging and segmentation.

      And from first hand experience, I specifically chose an email marketing platform that had a TIGHT integration with WooCommerce, and while the integration worked on primary product purchase, it failed on bump offers, upsells, downsells, etcÖ Same custom coding and support problem from an earlier point. In the Cartflows uers group, the general consensus is to keep your platform in sync with email, get WP Fusion.

      #11 As for AffiliateWP, I quoted their most popular price point, and additionally I was trying to help justify Cartflows 30 site license for $299. The $99 AffiliateWP license is limited to a single site, so I couldnít in faith tell my readers that ďeven though the cost is higher, you can use it on 30 sitesĒ because it wouldnít be true. If Cartflows had a single site license option, then I would happily select the price points that would enable that even comparison.

      ====
      Iíll spend some time working out the right way to incorporate the important points of this discussion into the post, because you do bring up several things that should be called out in more detail.

      I still believe that if you are an existing E-com store owner who is firmly entrenched with WooComerce, Cartflows is a powerful option that has a huge future ahead of it. But I see the largest growing segment is the solopreneur who has < 10 sites, < 10 offers, and < 10 hours to troubleshoot tech issues. For this segment, I think I gave a fair perspective of the tools. Thanks again for all the great feedback!!

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