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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!
Important Affiliate Disclaimer: I’m a ThriveCart affiliate, which means if you purchase or sign up through my link, I’ll receive a commission on the sale – at no extra cost to you! This post reflects my honest opinion based on my experience as a small business owner and online course designer & strategist.
ThriveCart became my new favorite course-building platform in 2022, and it’s held the top spot ever since. As I’ve had more and more clients switch over to this new platform, they’ve all been impressed with ThriveCart’s features.
If you’ve recently heard the buzz about ThriveCart and are thinking of trying it out, you might be curious about how it stacks up against one of the most popular online course builders: Kajabi.
After all, ThriveCart is kind of the new kid on the block when it comes to online courses, and Kajabi has been a favorite of online course creators for YEARS. So in the match-up of ThriveCart vs Kajabi, who comes out on top?
Spoiler alert! I almost always recommend ThriveCart, because it has all the features most online course creators need at an unbeatable price.
At the end of the day, both ThriveCart and Kajabi do the same thing: help you build online courses and sell them to your students. But while some of ThriveCart and Kajabi’s features shake out to be more or less equivalent, there are some major differences in user experience, functionality, and cost.
And even though they will both help you build online courses, each of these platforms *technically* has a different core service, which gives them some pretty unique strengths and weaknesses – and that might make one of the two best for you!
ThriveCart originally started as a shopping cart and checkout builder that helps clients sell digital products and services online. With ThriveCart, you’ll be able to customize your customers’ entire digital checkout experience – it’s all about making it as easy as possible to convert potential customers and increase sales with well-thought-out checkout experiences.
ThriveCart Learn is ThriveCart’s built-in online course-building platform. Whenever you pay for a membership to ThriveCart, you automatically get access to the course builder and can start creating online courses.
ThriveCart stands out from the competition primarily through its flat, one-time membership fee. Once you’ve paid for a membership and joined ThriveCart, you can use the original service and ThriveCart Learn forever (without spending any more money).
Kajabi, on the other hand, is more of an all-in-one marketing platform for your business. Online course creation is just the tip of the iceberg – you can make all kinds of digital products, from online courses to membership sites.
Then, you can build everything you’ll need to market and support your product, including websites, email marketing campaigns, and sales funnels.
Over the years, Kajabi has become an incredibly popular place to make and sell online courses. The main thing that makes it stand out is that it’s truly an all-in-one solution. Once you’ve created your online course with Kajabi, you’ll have everything you need in one place to create email campaigns and sales pages to promote and sell your new course.
On the surface, these services are pretty much the same, but the differences are in the details for ThriveCart vs Kajabi! Kajabi definitely has more overall functionality, customization, and features. Of course, those things are only a huge benefit if they’re things you will use and will help your business.
With Kajabi, you can host standalone websites and landing pages and highly customize the branding throughout your course.
Meanwhile, ThriveCart offers less in these areas. You can create sales pages, but you won’t be able to build websites. ThriveCart’s branding options aren’t nonexistent, but they are limited to colors and font choices that coordinate with your brand and uploading logos onto course login and membership pages.
Kajabi also includes a fully-featured email marketing tool, which ThriveCart doesn’t have at all.
Even though Kajabi offers more features in one service, most people can use their current email marketing platform and build sales pages on their existing website (many templates even have pre-made pages included for this!)
Kajabi gives users a ton of room for customization, but it can be challenging to figure out how to get everything to work the way you want it to. If you’re not already an experienced Kajabi user or tech expert, it can be confusing and more difficult to build a course in Kajabi.
Since figuring out Kajabi takes quite a bit of work, many people outsource the course-building aspect to an expert – and that’s one way to do things! Overall, it’s a more complicated platform for DIY course creators to use. But if you’re at the stage of business where you’re hands-off with the tech side of courses, then hiring an online course creation pro or Kajabi expert to build your course can be an excellent solution.
With ThriveCart, it’s much easier for beginners to set up products, construct courses, and build carts and shopping pages. You can use drag-and-drop builders to customize sales and checkout pages, and it’s easy to choose options for payment plans and set up discounts. On the course-building side, you can choose from multiple layouts and arrange content however you like.
Especially if you’re designing and building a course on your own, it can be overwhelming to work with an overly complicated system. While you can do some impressive things in Kajabi, most people don’t want to bother with advanced coding or hard-to-use systems when they could be working on uploading course videos and materials.
While both platforms offer articles that will help you get started, Kajabi’s has a fuller library of helpful content. Of course, Kajabi is harder to learn your way around, so it makes sense that you’d need more resources to get your course up and running!
ThriveCart has fewer training resources; on the upside, their service is more intuitive and easy to use for total beginners.
If you get caught up on an issue and need help from customer support, Kajabi has a live chat feature to get support immediately. ThriveCart’s support team is super helpful, but it can take 24-48 hours to get a response.
If support and training are a priority for you, Kajabi has a serious edge.
While Kajabi has a traditional monthly or yearly membership plan structure, ThriveCart membership is a one-time fee (which can add up to a LOT of saved money over time!)
ThriveCart lifetime memberships cost a flat fee of $495. If you’ve ever built a course on another platform, you know monthly memberships can add up quickly! Most other services cost around $100-$200 each month—most of my clients who have switched to ThriveCart save thousands of dollars each year.
There’s an option to upgrade to a pro account for an additional $195, but most people have everything they need for course creation on the basic plan! If you get to the point where you’re launching multiple courses and enrolling more students, you can always upgrade down the road.
Either way, paying once for a membership that you can use for months and years to come is a HUGE money-saver.
Kajabi has a tiered pricing structure, where you’ll pay more based on the features you want and how many students you have enrolled in your course. They’ll let you get started with a 14-day free trial, but after that, the lowest-tier monthly plan price is $149 per month. If you pay for a whole year at once, you can get a 20% discount, bringing the cost down to $119 per month. The basic plan includes the following:
For $199 per month, you can upgrade to Kajabi’s next tier, which allows 15 products, 15 funnels, 10,000 active members, and ten admins. But if you want the “pro” plan, with access to 100 products and funnels, 20,000 active members, and 25 admins… you’ll have to pay $399 monthly.
While both ThriveCart and Kajabi allow creators to build affiliate programs, ThriveCart is my pick for its user-friendly design. It’s just plain easier to set up for you and for your affiliates to use.
Whenever you set up an affiliate program, you’ll need a central place for affiliates to find all the assets they’ll need to promote your course, like images and swipe copy.
Kajabi doesn’t have a designated spot for affiliate assets in their platform, but ThriveCart has a built-in affiliate asset hub. It’s a small detail that makes life simpler for you and your affiliates!
When it’s time to pay out affiliate commissions, Kajabi requires users to download a report and manually pay affiliates based on the amounts reported. While the information is well-organized and easy to understand, the payment process is a lot of work.
ThriveCart lets you pay affiliates manually or set up an automatic payment system, so the process can be as hands-on or hands-off as you like.
Let’s talk about the main reason many people use these platforms: online course building.
Online course creation is part of Kajabi’s core service, while ThriveCart added ThriveCart Learn (their course-building platform) in 2021.
Both ThriveCart and Kajabi have drag-and-drop course building, ready-made templates, and multiple options for drip-feeding content according to your preferences. So, what’s different between ThriveCart vs Kajabi?
With Kajabi, you’ll have more room for customization – you can add content areas, edit each section, and tweak themes to suit the course layout you have in mind. ThriveCart has three basic course layouts to choose from: sidebar (the course menu on the left and active content visible in the right-middle), top menu (the course menu is located at the top and the active content at the bottom), and grid layout (lessons are laid out in thumbnails in columns and rows across the page).
While you can add course videos, text, images, and downloadable files to both Kajabi and ThriveCart courses, the main point of difference is that Kajabi will host downloadable files and videos for your course, and ThriveCart will not.
The main reason ThriveCart skips hosting your content is to keep its price affordable. Instead, you’ll have to use other tools, like Vimeo or Youtube, for hosting video content, then embed them into your ThriveCart Learn course. If you have downloadable materials as part of your course, you can store them on Google Drive or Dropbox, then embed the link in your course. Once the content is embedded into your course, viewing or downloading content is a seamless process for students.
Even though Kajabi has the edge on customization and hosts content, If you’re super set on being able to make more adjustments to your course and don’t want to host content elsewhere, go with Kajabi. That said, I’ve never found ThriveCart Learn’s limited customization or lack of hosting to be an obstacle to quality course creation.
Since ThriveCart and Kajabi provide services to thousands of online business owners, there’s a chance your students have already made a purchase or signed up for a course using one of these platforms in the past.
In other words, even though a student might be a first-time customer to you, they might be a returning customer to ThriveCart or Kajabi’s platforms.
Kajabi is account-based, meaning that no matter what a student buys, they have to sign into their existing Kajabi account to make a purchase.
It’s a small step of the buying process, but each step between a student’s decision to buy and the actual purchase is one more chance for them to abandon their cart. If students can’t remember their Kajabi password, there’s the potential that they’ll bounce from your purchase page without actually buying your course.
ThriveCart works totally differently. Students don’t have to sign in or make a ThriveCart account to purchase your course – that’s all handled through your custom ThriveCart checkout page. Students just put the course in their cart and buy it. It’s up to you to deliver login credentials and downloads, depending on how you’ve set up your course or product.
Collecting and reporting the correct sales tax can be complicated, especially if you have students from different countries around the world. They’re easy to overlook, but if you’re planning on selling your course in other regions, it’s a good idea to be as compliant as possible with tax law.
Kajabi doesn’t calculate sales (or value-added) taxes based on customer location. So, even though students from places like Canada or Europe will have VAT added to the price of their course, they won’t see the breakdown of this cost on their receipt for a course purchased in Kajabi.
That’s a potential problem since certain countries require receipts to have a breakdown of the overall cost of products into the purchase price and VAT.
Since ThriveCart is built around customizing the checkout process, they include tax calculations based on location, product purchased, and other variables that come up during the purchasing process.
While Kajabi gets points for customization, hosting content, and marketing tools like email, ThriveCart is the winner!
The bottom line is that ThriveCart has all the core features for making and selling online courses, and you’ll only pay one lifetime membership fee.
High-volume creators can benefit from Kajabi’s additional marketing tools, but most online course creators will find that ThriveCart has everything they need!