Virtual Master: Cart66 Cloud Review
Does reading about SSLs and PCI compliance make you want to curl up in a ball? How about thinking about the logistics of hiding premium membership content or recurring billing for subscriptions? That’s what our next WordPress eCommerce Platform is counting on. Cart66 Cloud is an all-in-one eCommerce solution that takes care of security and PCI compliance for your WordPress store so that you can sell products from any WordPress website. Formerly PHPurchase, Cart66 has gone from competing in the premium plugin space to becoming a WordPress solution for hosted shopping carts that specializes in membership and subscription products. Setup is required in your Cart66 account and from your WordPress dashboard, but chances are you won’t need any extensions or functionality besides the Cart66 Cloud offering.
Skip to section:
- Base and Ancillary Costs
- Overview and Usability
- Customer Experience
- Built-in Payment and Shipping Options
- Reporting and Inventory Management
- Other Features and Comments
- Cart66 Review Wrap-up
- Read More
Base and Ancillary Costs #
Cart66 Cloud services are currently listed at $25 per month, or $199 per year. These prices are advertised as discounts of the $49 per month or $499 per year pricing. At current prices, Cart66 Cloud is a very competitive eCommerce option based on the store options and support that are included in that ticket price. You don’t need paid extensions (like gateway integrations) or eCommerce themes to start selling; all checkout experiences take place on Cart66’s servers, so you don’t have to worry about getting an SSL (anywhere from $10 to thousands per year) and Cart66 Cloud is compatible with many different themes. Note that only your shopping cart and checkout are hosted on Cart66’s servers, so you’ll still need to host your own site.
Pricing is easy with this one; once you have a WordPress site set up, all of the eCommerce costs are bundled up into one $25 per month or $199 per year payment.
Overview and Usability #
Once you’ve signed up for Cart66, you’ll have access to both a Cart66 Dashboard and the Cart66 WordPress plugin that will integrate the Cart66 services with your WordPress site. Setup on the Cart66 end was very easy, as the UI is clear and navigation is simple. You’re greeted with a Quick-Start Guide and other helpful documentation when you first log in:
You have very few settings to adjust, such as your home country and store URL. You’ll also want to go to the Setup > Keys menu to get your Secret Key; you’ll need this to configure the WordPress plugin.
Configuring store settings from the WordPress end wasn’t too bad using the Cart66 Quick Start Guide as a reference, but some settings don’t include descriptions, which could be confusing for some users. For example, knowing what each input for “Product Loaders” will do, which page template is best to use, or knowing that customers with memberships probably shouldn’t be redirected to their order history upon logging in would be helpful. However, I did find most of what I needed in the documentation; some of the settings help was outdated, but gives you the general idea of what you’re looking for. Hopefully, links to appropriate documentation are included in the plugin settings page in the future to make this a little bit easier.
Tax options are geared towards allowing you to create regions and tax rates based on where you’ll be selling and shipping. You can configure a general region, then set rates for that region. You’ll need to know the tax information for the areas in which you sell or ship, and this was one of the topics I couldn’t find much documentation for.
Here’s my interpretation of what you can do with these settings (if someone can correct me, please feel free to!). I’m familiar with the Philadelphia region, so I’ll use that as an example. Sales tax in Pennsylvania is 6%; however, taxes in Philadelphia are 7% since the city adds its own tax. Let’s say I have stores/locations both in and outside of Philadelphia. Now, if I have an “add” rate set for the US (or just Pennsylvania), I can either “replace” orders in Philadelphia zip codes with a 7% tax (this seems to be the option I’d use if I needed to), or I believe I could have a “compounded” 1% tax for Philadelphia zip codes so that it’s added to the 6% tax (not sure how this would work since I’m unfamiliar with this setup – maybe another add tax code would do it). If anyone has any other example cases to provide for these options, I’ll be happy to include them :). I couldn’t find solutions in the knowledge base or documentation for this to help me out as to what each option will do.
With Cart66, you can sell simple, variable/configurable, downloadable, membership, and subscription products. All store management has to take place in the Cart66 dashboard, and product addition is included in that idea. The good news is that product addition is very easy, and variable/configurable product addition may use one of the easiest setups I’ve seen. Notice you don’t add any product description or images; you’ll be doing this from your WordPress pages instead.
Variable products are very easy to customize; no attributes to write, then select, and turn into variations. Simply name what property will vary, set the values for it and how the customer will select it, and that’s it. I would have liked this better if it included a link to documentation or an explanation of different input types for new customers (just as I suggested for “settings”), but it’s pretty easy to figure out if you’ve never done this before.
Once you’ve added this products in your Cart66 dashboard, you’ll add them to your WordPress store via shortcodes. Keep reading under “Shortcodes” to see what this looks like from the WordPress end.
Membership and Subscription Products
For creating membership products, I did have to refer to the documentation for some help. When members sign in, they’re directed to the “Order History” page from Cart66 by default. When I tried to return to the site with my test membership, I was no longer signed in. I wasn’t sure why this occurred, and I found the answer in a slightly obscure place, as it was in documentation for creating sign in/out links. It’s necessary to change the default page to which you redirect members when they sign in to something on your site rather than the “Order History” Page, which probably should have been a notice in the WP plugin itself so I knew that was the case.
In any case, the actual product creation is very easy. Simply select how long the membership is valid for (this can only be expressed as “days”), then set pricing and naming for the membership in the basic product info. Easy!
From the WordPress side, you can determine what content is restricted based on category for posts, and/or pages if you’d like to include them in your premium content. This is the part I really thought was useful in Cart66. Once you’ve selected which post types or pages are restricted, they’re automatically hidden from the blog page, widgets, and anything else unless customers are signed in. It’s a really easy way to restrict premium content, such as video tutorials or premium articles. If you’re interested in this, I would check out this documentation for more details on restricting content.
Want to restrict an article that doesn’t fall into one of your designated categories? No problem. You can do that right from the post or page editor in the WordPress backend on the right-hand side of the page/post editor:
Subscriptions were very easy to set up as well, but didn’t have too much flexibility in the terms for the recurring billing. Billing has to be a function of months, not days or weeks. However, the fact that (1) subscriptions are supported automatically is awesome, (2) Cart66 Cloud let’s you use any of their payment gateways to process subscription billing (without purchasing any add-ons!), and (3) subscriptions are just as easy as memberships to set up, which made me forget all about wanting to bill in terms of weeks or days. For most eCommerce platforms, you’ll need at least 2-3 paid plugins to get the functionality for subscriptions and memberships that you get with Cart66 Cloud.
Since products are created in your Cart66 account, and not within your WordPress dashboard, you’ll need to insert products on your site using shortcodes. You can insert shortcodes using the Cart66 “Add Products” button next to the WP “Add Media” button.
When you view your product on the frontend, notice that the shortcode only displays the price and “Add to Cart” button to the user. You’ll have to add your product information manually. For physical products, this was the big downside for me. You’ll have to spend a lot of time setting up your catalog structure manually, and creating shopping or product pages on your own, which is going to take some time in design.
This setup does offer you a huge amount of flexibility in how products are displayed, but may become difficult if you have hundreds or thousands of products (which is why I really like this platform for memberships/subscriptions, but probably wouldn’t use it for stores with a lot of physical products unless you’re okay with a lot of setup). Membership products and subscriptions are displayed using shortcodes in the same exact way:
However, you may not know what each attribute means or what the values for each represent, which left me curious. You can either test every one to see how it displays, or Cart66 has a Shortcode reference available for the possible shortcodes you can use throughout your site. There are shortcodes to add products, add a “buy now” link, and show or hide products based on membership. The shortcode guide provides the attributes accepted in each shortcode as well.
Customer Experience #
Since you’re using whatever theme you want for your WordPress store and setting up your own product catalog, the customer experience is pretty much up to you, which has upsides and downsides. Setting up a catalog will be entirely on you, so you can create category pages for browsing and individual product pages, but you’ll have to insert products individually and change the layout of the pages yourself. This will get very tedious if you’re selling a lot of different products, and puts a pretty big set-up burden on you before launch. Upsides are that you’ll still benefit from a simple, one-page checkout to reduce cart abandonment, and Cart66 does offer widgets to display shopping cart and membership information:
Since checkout occurs on Cart66’s servers instead of your own, you have to spend exactly 0 minutes worrying about PCI compliance and security, which is an enormous benefit for shop owners that just want to focus on growing their businesses. However, since the checkout process takes the customer away from your site, you’ll probably want to make that process as seamless as possible. That’s where Cart66’s Page Slurp tool comes in. You can have Cart66 rip the HTML/CSS from your theme and style your cart and checkout pages so that they look just like the rest of your site. That way customers don’t notice that they’ve gone to a completely different site and get nervous or uncomfortable before purchase. They’re then redirected back to you after purchase, and if they don’t look at the page URL, they’ll probably never know they went anywhere. Here’s the cart before using the page slurp:
And here’s our updated checkout after the page slurp of the WP TwentyTwelve Theme we’re using:
Not quite happy with the styling? You can further edit the HTML/CSS of the slurped page from your Cart66 account:
Again, we come back to the idea that you may need some styling and/or design for this platform, especially if you’re selling physical products, but you have loads of flexibility in how you want your store to look and act, so the customer experience is entirely in your hands.
Built-in Payment and Shipping Options #
Cart66 has a manual payment gateway (cash or check) set up by default, but payment gateway integrations are included in the service, which means you don’t have to purchase premium add-ons to make sure you can use your payment processor with your platform. There are also a few basic shipping options that you can set up from the Cart66 dashboard.
While the only stock live payment option is a manual payment (a test gateway is included for convenience), Cart66 is already integrated with over 50 payment gateways, and supports recurring billing for all of them, so that you can simply access the integration you need for the payment gateway you already use. There are 52 payment gateway integrations to choose from with heavy hitters like Authorize.net, Braintree, Stripe, CyberSource, First Data, PayPal, SagePay, and TransFirst in the lineup. If you use one of these services, you simply have to select the integration for your store and configure it with your API credentials and that’s it. Payment processing is made as simple as possible.
By default, Cart66 Cloud includes options for free shipping, weight-based shipping, and price-based shipping. These are flat-rate shipping approaches that you can set a price or weight break for, so don’t expect to add the exact shipping costs to each order.
For example, I set a weight-based shipping method, and I was able to set a maximum weight to offer two pricing tiers. Notice, however, that I can’t delete the higher tier and set more rates to have a few “tiers”. Basically, you’re stuck with two weight tiers, so choose wisely grasshopper. You can also set expedited shipping, etc. I’m sure you can hide some shipping options from the checkout page if you want to mess with the styling and add more shipping, but that wasn’t something I wanted to spend the hassle doing :). You can go through the same setup with price-based shipping, but obviously you’re not going to get exact USPS rates for your shipping costs.
Reporting and Inventory Management #
There’s no real reporting built into the Cart66 dashboard; you can view order information, including failed orders, but get no insight into monthly sales, etc. You can see a “live” cart page to see what customers are doing once they’ve added a product to their cart, which is pretty cool:
Cart66 lacks inventory management, so you’ll be on your own in terms of keeping track of stock. Again, another reason that I think it’s great for digital, subscription, and membership products, but not so much for physical products.
Cart66 has a knowledge base for registered users, pretty good documentation, and dedicated premium support for Cart66 Cloud users. The knowledge base and documentation will be great for basic questions, and as a reference before contacting dedicated support. In the experiences I had with the support staff, they were friendly, helpful, and responded in a reasonable time frame (within a day). My experience may be biased since I did state I was writing a review, but they do state that they’ll respond within 12-24 hours, which is a major concern for most users. If something is wrong with your Cart66 account, your entire checkout process is probably down, not just one paid extension / plugin (unless, of course, the plugin is your payment gateway 🙂 ), which can obviously pose a huge problem. I couldn’t find any negative reviews or complaints about support, so it seems safe for me to say that support for this one won’t disappoint (fingers crossed!).
Other Features and Comments #
With no ability to set dynamic pricing / quantity discounts for products, Cart66 Cloud falls a bit farther behind for physical products in my book (which is a shame because variations really are so easy to add). However, they did just fix an odd pricing quirk with the fact that price increases or decreases for variations weren’t reflected in the product price next to the “Add to Cart” button. Hopefully this signals that more improvements are coming.
New features! Real-time price updates for products with price changing variations & show/hide the ($x.xx) price variation description.
— Cart66 (@cart66) September 19, 2013
For those of you selling digital products, you’ll also enjoy that Cart66 Cloud uses it’s own CDN, so you won’t have use Amazon CloudFront or another CDN:
Also wanted to mention that we offer a built-in CDN for managing your digital files for selling digital products, so that has been a great fit for some of our customers as well. It’s just one more thing that folks don’t have to set up on their own, it’s all included.
Joey, Cart66 Team
One thing I couldn’t figure out (and maybe someone could answer this!), is what this little guy was doing at the top-right of my post editor:
I tried some different settings using that little menu for my posts and got nothing. Maybe it’s just me, but I gave up after a bit. If you have insight, please let me know in the comments!
Cart66 Cloud Review Wrap-up #
If you want to sell memberships, subscriptions, and/or digital products, Cart66 Cloud is definitely one of the top contenders for the job. Content is easily restricted for your membership levels, and restriction settings are flexible and easy to use. Subscriptions are really hit out of the park, as you don’t even have to enable recurring billing with your payment gateway since Cart66 does it for you. All you have to do is set the products up, maybe set a reminder email for customers whose memberships expire soon, and produce great content for your members.
The $25 per month price tag is worth it for these services. The ability to add physical products is a benefit, and could be great for some promotional gear or books, but doesn’t make up one of the great benefits of using this platform for me and is more of a sidecar feature. Product pages and the catalog have to be set up manually (which has the potential to be a huge undertaking), shipping options are a little bit limited, there are no quantity discounts, and there’s no inventory management tools. You do have maximum control over design and display, but it’s going to require work and time. Because of this, I see physical product addition as a benefit, but Cart66 does a great job as a membership, digital, and subscriptions specialist, and should probably be viewed in that light.
Read more: #
- Chris Lema’s Guess Who’s Back? Cart66 gives an overview of Cart66 Cloud services. He gives a more in-depth Cart66 review in Cart66: Selling Products and Services (which has good videos), and has more details in Finding the Best Membership Plugin. All of his content is pretty great.
- WP Explorer’s Cart66 Cloud Review provides a good overview of Cart66 services, which some good discussion in the comments.
- Our conclusion to this series has a spreadsheet with a brief overview of all versions of Cart66, including some information on Cart66 Pro and the free Cart66 Lite plugin.
Like this Cart66 Cloud Review? Check out the rest of our WordPress eCommerce Platforms Guide.
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