- Feature-rich affiliate management built right in
- Great reporting dashboard
- Integrates with most common tools and services + Zapier support
- Thorough documentation, live chat and an engaged FB group
- Lacking support for many payment processors (only Stripe + PayPal)
- No crypto or Apple Pay support
- Limited design options for checkout pages
- Can get expensive if you need the affiliate center
- No built-in digital sales tax calculation
- Difficulty creating A/B tests (potential bug?)
- A little confusing for selling services (but possible)
SamCart is web-based checkout platform that’s designed to maximize your sales and profits. The software was founded in 2013 by Brian and Scott Moran, and has since grown to become an industry leading shopping cart.
ThriveCart is considered by many to be SamCart’s closest competitor, despite being a much newer cart that’s currently still in beta. Aside from price, it’s really hard to separate these two carts, so that’s exactly what I’ll be attempting to do in this post.
So there you have it. In this review, we’ll do an in-depth, 100% objective analysis on where this popular cart stands today, and whether or not it truly holds its own against the competition.
SamCart Review: The Good, Bad, And The Ugly
Kicking things off, I fired up SamCart and began putting the software through its paces.
From here on out, I’ll share my experiences using this tool, as well as what I liked and didn’t like along the way.
How Well Does It Accept Different Payments?
One of the first things SamCart prompts you to do when you start using the software, is set up a payment processor.
Surprisingly, the only two options available were Stripe and PayPal.
Granted, they’re by far the most commonly used, but lack of payment gateways like Authorize.net, Skrill and Braintree wasn’t something I was expecting at this price point.
As for cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) and mobile payments (like Apple Pay), SamCart also falls short. Yet again surprising considering ThriveCart has already integrated the latter.
In fact, this was a comment left by a SamCart user in the native forum:
That’s enough about payment methods, what about payment models?
Well, much like ThriveCart, this is also where SamCart begins to show it’s true colors. The level of flexibility you get here is what I believe allows SamCart to charge on the high-end for their product.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the things you can do:
- Choose from 8 different currencies
- Offer a single price, or multiple pricing options
- One-time, subscription, payment plans (called ‘split-pay’) payment options
- Billing frequency for subscriptions and payment plans
- Free & paid trial periods
- Bump offers & one-click upsells
- Add product quantity limitations
Impressive, no doubt. But ThriveCart definitely takes the edge in more ways than one.
While the following graphic covers more than just handling payments, I think now’s a good a time as any to show you.
Now, I should say the above comparison comes straight from a ThriveCart affiliate, so it is a little biased — but this does line up with my testing and, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find any comparison from SamCart.
And look, I don’t want to take anything away from SamCart here…
This is a very capable shopping with the backing of some key influencers in our industry, but I feel I should be critical at this price-point so you know what you’re really getting for your money.
Aside from the obvious lack of payment processor integrations, SamCart still offers one of the most flexible checkout experiences — after ThriveCart, of course.
How Well Does It Convert Prospects?
It’s easy to forget that while getting someone to your checkout page is several steps in the right direction, until they actually click that buy button, they haven’t yet converted.
(Even the most qualified prospect can bail at the last minute, and nothing says RUN like a terrible checkout experience.)
One of the first things you’ll notice when creating a product in SamCart, is just how many checkout templates they have on offer.
It’s fair to say that there’s enough variety here in terms of design and layout, and even a few different behavioural styles.
For example, here’s a clean popup template I particularly like…
In terms of customization, SamCart has a pretty old-school way of doing things.
Instead of editing a template directly, in a visual sense, you have to scroll past your template selection in order to make “blind” changes to it.
While there are a good number of design elements to play with, including the ability to edit fields and add your own custom fields, it’s still not as intuitive as you might expect from a tool in this league.
Another nice little touch was the ability to generate an embeddable buy button, which you can use to make sales directly from your own site.
I have to say though, while ThriveCart has fewer template options, it is a lot easier to differentiate the different checkout behaviours on their template selection screen…
Overall, SamCart does a lot to offer when it comes to great looking, high-converting checkout templates, as well as design customization…
…but I also know this is something the ThriveCart team are currently working on, so I don’t expect SamCart to have the edge for much longer.
Before we wrap this section up, let’s quickly cover A/B testing.
The final option when setting a product allows you to create variations of the same product for split-testing.
I’m a fan of how straightforward the setup process is, but I wasn’t immediately clear on which variations I was editing.
Even clicking on one variation didn’t give me any clues as to whether or not it was selected. A little weird if you ask me.
Still, the good news is that A/B testing is possible, even if it does take a little getting used to.
Awesome selection of checkout templates but poor design customization options and confusing, (or “buggy?”) A/B testing definitely hindered my experience here.
Does It Help Boost Your Sales?
If the last section was about making the sale, this one’s about increasing the value of that sale.
SamCart claims to “maximize profits”, and this is where we’ll drill down into the exact ways this tool can supposedly help you do that.
Let’s start with discounts and coupons.
Much like everything else I’ve covered so far, coupons can be created when adding a new product.
Clicking the ‘Add Coupon’ button here will bring up some options…
Whether it’s setting a fixed-amount or a percentage, expiring the coupon after a set time or fixed number of uses, or only having it work with one or all of your products…
…there’s plenty here for you to sink your teeth into.
One option I couldn’t find with SamCart that was available in ThriveCart, is the ability to attribute a coupon code with an affiliate, so they’re not always forced to use a specific link.
What about bump offers?
Again, you can add these straight from the product setup screen, and it’s simply a case of selecting a different product that you’ve set up previously.
It would be nice if you could set a different price for these order bumps, since they take on the price of the product by itself.
The offer itself is displayed nice and clearly on the checkout page, though this will vary depending on which template you chose.
So far so good.
A close cousin of the bump offer is the one-click upsell, and this feature alone can seriously drive up your average cart order value if done correctly.
Unlike coupons and bump offers, one-click upsells are handled in a completely different area of the SamCart platform.
From here, you select your upsell product and begin customizing the appearance of the upsell page.
This includes everything from button text, page copy, video URL and position (optional), and even additional HTML/CSS if you choose.
One thing to note here is that you’re not setting up a new product under the “Upsell” menu item, that’s still done through the main Products section.
For me, this still poses the same issue as with bump offers, in that it inherents the default product pricing, meaning you can’t have a seperate promotional price on your upsell page. (Without duplicating it, at least.)
With ThriveCart, for example, you can a lot more granular with things like this, not to mention the ability to offer a trial period for your upsell as well.
Last but not least, let’s quickly cover some of the affiliate center functionality — a significant feature considering that affiliates can drive a huge chunk of your overall revenue.
Accessing your affiliate center in SamCart is just a case of navigating to the menu item:
The first thing you’ll notice about this is the reporting dashboard, which, like the rest of SamCart’s UI, is clean, easy to read and offers plenty of data to analyze.
This is also where you’d add your affiliate links and emails…
Set things like your affiliate commissions for each product…
And configure your general settings, such as payout period, cookie expiration and affiliate approval.
It really has everything you’d expect to see, though, yet again, it’s not quite as feature rich as ThriveCart.
I’m referring to more advanced options like multi-tier affiliates and built-in automations (called “Rules”), though I feel it’s still worth mentioning.
SamCart packs a serious punch here, including bump offers, upsells and payment plans. I did have a little trouble figuring out how to run free and paid trials, however.
How Well Does It Fit Into Your Tech Stack?
When it comes to shopping carts, having them properly integrate with the rest of your software setup is essential.
Email marketing is often the first thing to consider when introducing any new tech into your business, and SamCart doesn’t fall short on options.
You’ve got all the usual email marketing providers such as MailChimp, ConvertKit, Drip and ActiveCampaign, as well as a couple lesser known solutions.
When it comes to memberships, SamCart has considerably less going on, though this is something I’ve seen a lot with the shopping carts in this review series.
You’ve got a grand total of 4 options, which include WishList Member, Digital Access Pass, MemberMouse and OptimizeMember.
As for webinar platforms, there are currently no native integrations available, through a workaround is possible through a third-party application. (More in that in a sec.)
Interestingly, SamCart also has an integration for Taxamo in order to calculate digital sales tax.
While that’s great and all, Taxamo isn’t exactly cheap, and digital sales tax is something ThriveCart handles natively. So… yeah.
Something to consider at the very least.
So what happens if your must-have tool isn’t natively supported? Well, there’s always Zapier.
Zapier effectively allows you to integrate SamCart with hundreds of other apps in their ever-growing library, and I find the free plan is good enough for most use-cases.
Not bad, but definitely fewer integrations than I probably would have expected at this price-point. SamCart is also reliant on a third-party service to calculate digital sales tax.
Does It Always Have Your Back?
Your shopping cart has one of the most important roles in your online business. Hands down.
Whether it understanding how to use the software, dealing with technical challenges or even unscheduled downtime, you need to know that someone (or something) has your back.
One thing I like about SamCart is just how user friendly the interface is. I mean, it actually helps you intuitively navigate your way around the platform. (I know, right? Groundbreaking stuff.)
For example, when you first login you’re greeted with an easy 3-step process to get everything set up.
This obviously cuts down on potential roadblocks, but it also means you’re spending LESS time seeking out help and MORE time working on your business. #WinWin
Of course, it’s not always rainbows and unicorns when it comes to software, so for those less time-sensitive issues, SamCart’s help center is only a click away.
I found their knowledge base surprisingly thorough, and was pleased to see that many of the entries included videos as well.
For example, here’s one on the one-click upsells feature:
As much as I love this, what happens when things aren’t going your way, and you need more immediate assistance?
Who can you call on in the middle of a big launch when you need a quick fix ASAP?
The good news is, SamCart has a live chat option that’s available to you from anywhere within the platform.
The great thing about Intercom (the chat service they’re using), is that it gives you an estimate of reply-time based on the chat agents past behaviour.
In this case, the chat box says they “typically reply in a few hours”, which is certainly not unreasonable, and it’s a step above what ThriveCart offers.
Of course, it’s still not necessarily immediate, and like pretty much every other shopping cart in this review series, SamCart doesn’t have a direct phone line to contact support.
Finally, let’s talk community.
You’ll be pleased to know that SamCart does have an active Facebook community with almost 4k members!
I was very impressed with the thorough documentation, live chat (during biz hours), as well as the engaged Facebook community group for peer-to-peer support.
SamCart is easily one of the more expensive solutions on the market when it comes to shopping carts.
In fact, with the Affiliate Center included, you’re looking at a considerable $199/month investment to use SamCart for your business.
When you compare that with ThriveCart, which has not only performed better in my testing, but is also only $595 one-time (currently), it’s a hard one to justify.
Here’s what the pricing page looks like:
Let’s look at how other shopping carts are priced, so you can get a better idea of where SamCart currently sits in the market.
|Shopping Cart||Free Plan||Trial||Refund||Low End Cost|
|No||14 days||45 days||$99/month|
|No||No||30 days||$595 (one time)|
|No||14 days||30 days||$29/month|
|Yes||14 days||No?||$240 p/m|
Note: the pricing above reflects the lowest tier monthly plan for each of the shopping carts, and should not be seen as a direct comparison since the features and limitations vary a lot from cart-to-cart.
Is SamCart Right For You?
Now that I’ve covered all the different features and functions of SamCart, weighing up the pros and cons and giving my experience along the way — let’s talk about YOU.
As with any tool, SamCart isn’t going to be the right choice for everyone, so I’d like to get to the bottom of who exactly this page builder is suitable for.
Can I Use SamCart To Sell Digital/Physical Products And Services?
In fact, this is one of the first promises SamCart makes on their homepage, and it’s a big one:</p
Heading into the backend, however, there’s no immediate differentiation between digital and physical products, let alone services.
This might be a little confusing for someone just starting out with the platform, though things do you become clearer as you enter into the product settings page.
Switching to physical will give you additional options, like shipping price, shipping address, etc.
As for services, despite being mentioned on SamCart’s homepage, there’s no mention of it at any stage throughout the product creation process — at least as far as I could see.
That’s not say it can’t be used for services, because it can be. It really comes down to how you name your products, but some clarity here wouldn’t have hurt.
Overall, SamCart works just fine for all the things. 🙂
So what’s my final verdict?
Well, while SamCart certainly holds its own in and all-out feature war, the younger, more agile ThriveCart takes the edge for me, and that’s without factoring the significantly lower price point.
If you’d like to see exactly how SamCart compared against 5 other popular carts, click here to read the full roundup.