We’ve reviewed Cart66 Cloud before as part of our eCommerce platforms guide, and also wrote about using Cart66 Cloud for membership sites. However, the original review is now almost 2 years old (crazy to think the site is that old!).
Cart66 has made several changes since then, including a massive change to their pricing structure. They’ve added support for photo galleries, product pages, and catalogs, which were some of the biggest things missing in earlier versions. As a result, we’re doing an updated Cart66 Cloud Review for 2015.
Note that this updated review doesn’t do an in-depth dive into every single Cart66 Cloud feature. Our original review is still a good source of comprehensive information, and we’ll be going over some new things in this updated review.
Cart66 Cloud is a fairly unique WordPress eCommerce solution since it’s hosted instead of being a downloadable WordPress plugin. This has both pros and cons that we’ll get to later, but this is something you should know up front. You’ll need a Cart66 Cloud account, and then you can tie this account to your website to manage your store.
Cart66 Cloud offers a 14-day free trial, and costs $95 per year after your trial period — it was previously $199 per year, so this is a steep discount. You no longer have to enter a credit card to start the trial either, so you’re free to give it a go to see how you like it.
The new $95 price point makes this a more compelling option for sites looking for an all-in-one solution. You don’t have to purchase payment gateway integrations, shipping integration, or add-ons to create site memberships; Cart66 Cloud offers tons of functionality in the core platform, and now offers this at a very low yearly price.
With Cart66, you can sell simple, variable/configurable, downloadable, membership, and subscription products, and use one of over 80 payment methods to sell them, so there’s lots of flexibility to be had.
I started with the Cart66 Cloud quick-start guide, which is a bit outdated, but a good place to see what you’ll need to do to get set up. First, you’ll register for a Cart66 Cloud account. This gives you access to your dashboard, and lets you configure your basic settings.
Your Cart66 Cloud dashboard is also where you’ll manage products, orders, payments, and shipping methods, so you may want to poke around.
To integrate Cart66 Cloud with your website, you’ll need to install the free Cart66 Cloud WordPress plugin. This will let you sync your site with your Cart66 Cloud account, and gives you the secret key to enter in the plugin settings.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you can look at it’s basic settings and enter your secret key.
One new feature that I like is the embedded Cart66 Cloud dashboard. One complaint I have of using a hosted shopping cart solution with WordPress is that you have to manage your shop and website in different places, but by iframing the dashboard in your site, you can manage Cart66 at the same time you manage your website.
Once you’ve configured both your Cart66 Cloud account and the integration plugin, you’re ready to create products and set up your shop.
Lots of the improvements to Cart66 Cloud as of late have been related to product creation and syncing it with your website. When you create products, you do so in your Cart66 Cloud dashboard. You can create several types of products, including:
- simple products like coffee mugs
- virtual products that don’t require shipping (like services)
- variable products like tee shirts with different sizes or color (and different prices)
- customer-defined pricing products (like donations)
- subscription products that use recurring billing
- membership products that grant access to content and expire
- digital products that grant access to downloads
The ability to create tons of product types (especially memberships and subscriptions) can make Cart66 Cloud worth it’s price tag alone. One of the biggest issue’s I’d had with Cart66 originally was that products had to be created in your dashboard, then you had to manually create sales pages on your site for every product, then use a shortcode for a “buy now” / add to cart button.
If you had lots of products, this was super tedious to do.
Now Cart66 Cloud helps with this by automatically creating product listings on your site (a “product” custom post type). A new product will be added to your site automatically when it’s created in your Cart66 dashboard, which generates a sales page for that product so you don’t necessarily have to manually create pages. You can then add your own description and any images to the product sales page.
Here’s a video which shows this process:
This can save you a lot of time while creating a product catalog, as sales pages automatically display product information. You can also add categories for your products (but no tags). I really loved this feature addition, as it makes Cart66 Cloud a more realistic choice for sites with a large product catalog.
Along with the addition of product pages, you can also display a pre-made catalog, which organizes a grid of your products. A product catalog shortcode can be used to create a “store” page:
[cc_product_catalog max="8" category="all" sort="name_desc"]
When customers browse your store, they’ll see your shiny new product catalog, and can click through to the automatically generated sales page.
Finally, if they add a product to the cart, they’ll be taken to the Cart66 Cloud cart and checkout pages. These pages are not hosted on your site. They’re hosted by Cart66 so that they’re secure and PCI compliant, and so that you don’t have to worry about your own payment integration. As a result, the customer will be taken from
http://yoursite.cart66.com/ to purchase.
This is what most hosted eCommerce platforms (such as Shopify) do so that checkout can remain secure. However, since Cart66 doesn’t get involved with the rest of your site, you’ll need to use the “page slurp” function under Customize > Checkout Page so it can copy your theme’s styles. Once it does, you’ll have a cart and checkout page that looks just like the rest of your site:
Integrating your payment method with your site can be a pain, as you’ll typically need to purchase an integration plugin, SSL certificate, and ensure that your site is secure.
The biggest benefit to using Cart66 Cloud is that you don’t have to worry about this. Cart66 lets you use one of 89 payment gateways that serve a total of 94 countries (not every gateway is available in every country). All you need to do is enter your API credentials, and you’re ready to accept payments. Best of all, you can accept recurring payments with almost any gateway that Cart66 Cloud offers.
Setting up shipping methods with Cart66 Cloud was a bit confusing to me at first (and was the same way the first time I’d used it). However, once you see how they’re set up, you understand that they’re fairly flexible to use.
You can set up weight-based shipping, price-based shipping, free shipping, or get real-time rates from EasyPost (which is great).
I opted to use weight-based shipping, which can serve as a simple flat-rate shipping method, or can let you create weight tiers for your shipping rates. You can enter a maximum weight for each rate to create a tiered system, or you can leave that max weight blank to use that rate as a flat rate.
As for inventory management, I was disappointed the first time around that this doesn’t exist, and it still doesn’t. You can mark products as “available” or “not available” for basic in stock / out of stock management, but you can’t manage inventory quantities.
Order management with Cart66 is still pretty good, but not amazing. It hasn’t changed much, but we didn’t talk about it a lot in the initial review.
You can view orders, and edit customer details for the order. You can also mark orders as “paid / not paid” and “shipped / not shipped”. Personally, I love that shipping status and payment status are separated. However, you can’t add items or edit them to substitute items, add free gifts, or cancel parts of an order.
There’s also no way to manually create an order for your shop, which makes it impossible to take phone orders or create gift orders.
I do like that orders will link to associated memberships, subscriptions, and customer accounts, which makes it easy to switch views.
Cart66 Cloud still hasn’t added much in the way of reporting, as you can view basic sales data and “live” carts on your site, but no aggregated reports on sales, subscriptions, or other product types.
Cart66 Cloud has a fairly new knowledge base / documentation site, and they still offer ticketed support. As the platform is pretty easy to use, chances are you won’t need much in terms of set up help, but it’s always great to have self-help resources and access to someone who can make sure your site is running as expected.
As far as extensibility goes, you won’t be able to customize much of the Cart66 Cloud experience. You can adjust how products look on your site, but as the platform is hosted, you won’t be able to customize or alter the way it works like you can with a downloadable plugin.
There are some built-in integrations for Cart66 Cloud that you don’t typically see in downloadable plugins, which helps to make it a more well-rounded solution out of the box. For example, the MailChimp integration lets customers opt to join the mailing list of your choice at checkout, making it easy for you to build your email list.
One feature that deserves special attention are memberships with Cart66 Cloud. Most eCommerce plugins don’t include membership capabilities in the core plugin, which definitely sets Cart66 cloud apart. You can sell a membership-type product, and then the free members plugin integrates your content with both memberships and subscriptions.
To sell content access on your site with recurring payments, you’d create a subscription product. To sell access for a set length of time, you’d create a membership product.
Both of these product types can be used to restrict categories, individual posts, or pages on your site.
First, let’s talk about some things I didn’t like in the original review that have changed:
- Product catalogs and pages: integrating products into your site is now far easier. You can use the automatically generated sales pages, which is a huge help for shops with several products
- Managing 2 dashboards: If you want to manage your store from your site, you can. The embedded (iframed) Cart66 dashboard can let you work solely from your WordPress site.
- Cost: You don’t have to worry about paying $25 monthly or $199 per year — now you pay $95 per year for tons of features and easy set up.
There are still some negatives to consider while using Cart66. First, you won’t be able to manage inventory, or integrate directly with shipping providers like UPS. You’ll also be stuck with core features, as you can’t customize Cart66 the way you can customize a plugin. For example, you can’t change how order management works, add your own shipping method, or add a new product type.
However, there are some great upsides to using the platform. First, you get a lot of features for a low yearly cost. You can manage tax rates, create several shipping methods, use almost any payment gateway, and integrate easily with MailChimp. You can also create several customized notifications, such as emails before a membership expires, and easily switch payment methods without messing up recurring billing.
You’ll also benefit from using a hosted solution, as Cart66 hosts the checkout process for you, ensuring that payments are secure and seamless. As a result, you don’t need to worry about PCI compliance and SSL certificates (though I still recommend one to protect log in credentials anyway).
Cart66 Cloud had made some great improvements in terms of managing your store and product catalog. While there aren’t massive changes to the platform over the past couple of years, these are some really nice evolutionary changes that make it easier for you to manage your site and to support shops with several products.
If you want add-ons or the ability to customize your site, this may not be the solution for you. Cart66 won’t let you create custom plugins, sell complex products or bundles, manually create orders, manage inventory, or integrate with other services. What you sign up for is what you’ll get, which can work for many stores. Cart66 Cloud is not short on features, but you don’t have the flexibility to extend or customize it.
Cart66 Cloud may be a good fit for you if you want an easy to use and set up eCommerce platform, you’re okay using the payment and shipping methods offered, and you don’t need to make any customizations to the way the platform works. The ability to sell memberships and recurring subscriptions is a huge bonus as well, especially at a low price point. It’s a great choice to get up and running quickly with an eCommerce site and with minimal effort. It also handles payment security for you, which lets you stop worry about PCI compliance.
Overall, the changes over the past couple of years are solid, and I found managing my test store a lot easier when I didn’t have to manually create my catalog. Kudos to the Cart66 Cloud team for these changes 🙂 .
If you want to give it a try, you can register for a 14-day free trial with no credit card to see if it works for you.
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