Cart66 launches lite version for free, responds to recent criticism, and talks future

15 Comments

Cart66 Redo

Cart66, formerly PHPurchase, has made more changes to their WordPress e-commerce plugin. Some of the changes, such as the release of a free “lite” version, were planned. Others were in response to some backlash to their previous restructuring and rebranding campaign from PHPurchase.

There were quite a few disgruntled customers that were not happy about various aspects of the restructuring. Our post announcing the change to Cart66 has nearly 80 comments from customers, onlookers, and responses from Cart66 employees.

Cart66 took the tough critiques from our community and their forum under consideration as they adjusted their model for better handling of existing PHPurchase customers and the Cart66 subscription plan.

They also shared with us more details about what they have in store moving forward.

Summary of initial model critiques

I contacted Lee Blue, founder of Cart66, for any comments he may have for this post regarding the backlash from customers:

All the trouble began when we naively assumed that the changes we had planned for Cart66 would be happily accepted by current customers. PHPurchase has been our first experience with such a wide user base and we simply had no idea how passionate people were going to be concerning the change. We clearly goofed by not communicating enough before the transition. We, especially me since I was leading this process, really have no excuse. It was a dumb mistake and something we have learned a great deal from. It certainly won’t happen again.

The majority of the critiques can be summarized in the following list:

  • PHPurchase customers were not “grandfathered in” to Cart66.
  • There was not a warning to recent buyers that the entire model would change with Cart66, meaning many people bought PHPurchase and the model unexpectedly changed shortly thereafter.
  • Many of the existing PHPurchase customers had been waiting on upgrades that went in to Cart66, but not PHPurchase.
  • PHPurchase was a single-payment plugin, and many customers balked at the subscription based model of Cart66. Some of this response was due to the fact that most customers are developers and can’t afford to keep a subscription when their client projects are single-payment models.
  • As the PHPurchase website was initially taken offline and redirected to Cart66, many users felt the upgrade to cart66 was forced rather than optional, and didn’t know what to do for support.

Needless to say, many of the existing customers were quite passionate and upset. Others were supportive of the new model to help the developers create a product with more long term sustainability.

Changes to Cart66 in response to feedback

In response to the backlash, Cart66 is making the following changes. Some of these are gathered from different comments, and others are detailed by Lee’s email to WPCandy.

  • PHPurchase Pro members were given 5 years of Cart66 membership.
  • PHPurchase Standard customers were given a 1 year membership to Cart66.
  • PHPurchase.com was brought back online.
  • The subscription model was clarified to include membership and support benefits, but plugin functionality and updates are provided to all customers.
  • Upgrades will be for life for all customers, not just members of the subscription service.
  • A new level of membership, for a one time purchase and year of support, is being created. This way users can buy that option for single sites rather than having to opt-out of the subscription service.

In the WPCandy discussion, Lee commented on how difficult it has been to see all the criticism:

Thank you all for caring enough to leave a comment here. Even though some of these comments have been hard to read, without them we wouldn’t know what you were thinking and we wouldn’t be able to improve to meet your needs.

New products and promotions

In the midst of all of these changes, Cart66 is also attempting to move forward to further their product. As part of this effort, they announced an affiliate program. The program offers a 20% commission for all sales, and more details can be found on the affiliate page.

They have also released a free, lite version, of the Cart66 plugin, available for download from the WordPress.org plugin repository. I installed the lite version on my test blog and took it for a test drive.

It’s a full service e-commerce solution for basic needs. It has options for physical products with shipping needs or digital downloads. It has shipping options, product variation setup features, custom field options, receipts, promotion capability, and most other aspects of the paid version.

The free version doesn’t come with the order and account tracking features, subscription payment offerings, or premium support. It does seem to be a good way to see whether the plugin is fit for your needs, or as a full offering if your e-commerce requirements are limited to those features above.

If you do decide to buy the plugin, you can upgrade to multisite or unlimited licenses by paying the difference, rather than having to pay the full amount again.

Future partnerships

As we reported in our last article, Cart66 is partnering with Page.ly to launch WP Stores, a fully hosted and managed WordPress e-commerce solution. They hope to launch WP Stores in early April, Lee shared.

We also asked Lee about some of their partnerships with theme shops, and how that will fit in with WP Stores and Cart66:

For the other partnerships we are working on, we are extremely excited about the work Jason Schuller is doing with Cart66 powered ecommerce theme development through Press75. He was the first theme designer we started talking to and we are really looking forward to his Cart66 powered themes.

We have also begun conversations with a few other theme developers including the folks at iThemes.com and MintThemes.com. The folks at MintThemes.com are already using Cart66 to sell their own themes and will soon have Cart66 powered ecommerce themes available for sale.

We are also exploring the idea of selling cart66 powered ecommerce themes on cart66.com. We are still working out the technical details of how to handle all the payments but we’re very excited about the way things are going.

Market Cart66 theme by Press75

Market theme

Most WPCandy readers probably know about Press75 and iThemes. Mint Themes is a project by Adam Pickering and Phil Johnston. It just launched on the 28th, and we’ll be covering them as new themes start to roll out.

Schuller’s e-commerce theme for Cart66 is inspired by Etsy, the popular community commerce site. He has teased the theme on Twitter, and you can see a preview to the right.

What do you think?

So what do you think about Cart66’s response to the criticisms? Is it enough for you, if you were affected the first time around?

Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on their upcoming plans for WP Stores, and their partnerships with Page.ly, Press75, iThemes, and Mint Themes.

15 thoughts on “Cart66 launches lite version for free, responds to recent criticism, and talks future

  1. Big ups to Lee and the crew at Cart66 — I’m glad to see they listened to their audience and made changes that, I think, will make all of us very happy customers for years to come.

    Sorry I spoke so harshly when the change first happened — This response is exactly what I hoped would happen, and I think the vast majority of others that had issue with the initial change should be more than happy with the update.

  2. I think more and more developers are launching products but maybe don’t have the sufficient business background.
    also, I agree about the subscription model for plugins being awkward for developers. (gravity forms; backupbuddy,…)
    but great to see they took the feedback and did something about it

    • Gravity Formd isn’t a subscription. Yes, support and updates are only good for 1 year from the time of purchase. However, we do not use recurring billing.

      After 1 year if you want to continue receiving support and updates you can pay a reduced fee for snot her year of access. It’s entirely up to the buyer, their existing plugin will continue to work and they don’t have to get another year. It’s not automatic. Payments are always one time payments, not a recurring billing situation.

      This business model is vital for sustainability as a plugin developer. If we had to support all our customers for the product lifetime on a single payment our support burden would get too large. Support only scales if sales allow it too and limiting support to 1 year of access is the best way to insure this.

      We take pride in the high level of support we provide our customers and we can continue to do so precisely because of our business model.

      What’s the solution for developers doing client work? Include a license of Gravity Forms when they quote a custom site build for clients. If after a year the customers wants to renew their support and update access, its entirely up to them. The excuse that it makes it difficult for developers to quote site design projects for customers is just silly. It doesn’t. Build expenses into your quote and it won’t be a problem.

      • “…The excuse that it makes it difficult for developers to quote site design projects for customers is just silly. It doesn’t. Build expenses into your quote and it won’t be a problem…”

        That’s pretty patronising Carl. Most of us are aware how to quote, thanks.
        The problem was that the business model used radically changed overnight without much info, and that happened AFTER jobs had been quoted. It’s precisely because the costs were factored into the quote that I amongst perceived problems.

        It originally seemed that the costs changed from a one off payment to an ongoing subscription, and left many people under the impression that the plugin would cease working after one year. According to Lee that was never the case, but it wasn’t made very clear at the time hence some negativity from the community.

        Also, you mention a reduced cost for Gravity Forms after the first year. How much is the renewal of a developer license?

        Thanks

        • I never said I agreed with Cart66’s move to change their terms of service the way they did, because I agree that it caught people off guard.

          My statements above were only to defend the business model of not providing LIFETIME updates and support, which is unsustainable. It wasn’t to defend how Cart66 handle things.

          Gravity Forms renewals are 50% off for the Developer and Business License and 25% off for the Personal License.

          • You misunderstand. I’m not reacting to your appraisal of Cart66’s business model, or of your own. I agree that support, along with everything else, comes at a price. How else could it continue?

            I’m reacting specifically to you summing up well founded irritation (at the original problem) as little more than a silly excuse.

            Thanks for the discount info.

  3. Hey if you F’d up, own it. Seems Lee has done that. It was really confusing and I wasn’t even a customer yet but had phpurchase on my radar for sure. It’s a learning experience and he’s owning up to the mistakes and learning curve… Cart66 is one of the best options for wordpress commerce that I’m aware of so… good to see they’re active in their community and with their customers.

  4. it was a surprise to me since I had purchased a phpurchase pro account just a few months before the switch to cart66. i was outraged at first, but Lee’s responses to the community were very comforting. I agree that its the developer’s decision to bill the client for use of services such as gravity forms and cart66 (which integrate for a nice custom ecommerce solution on WP)… but I must admit its becoming a lot harder to be a full on developer of sites because of services like these. They are making it easier and easier for clients to manage sites on their own. Is this good or bad? I’m not sure. Maybe I need to focus on being a plugin developer and create a tiered pricing structure like the rest of them…

  5. Just a quick updated to let everyone know that buying a Cart66 license no longer involves a recurring payment subscription. Buying a Cart66 license is basically the same as buying a Gravity Forms license as Carl explained except with Cart66 you get free upgrades for life for all the 1.x releases – even after your 1 year of support expires.

  6. First of all I would like to say that even though some issues with switching from PHPurchase to Cart66 were solved it still leaves a very bad mark on the company’s reputation. What I’ve noticed is that the moment Cart66 was introduced one forum on PHPurchase was closed. The only reason I can think of is making paying for support and entrance to original Cart66 forum justified.

    On positive side, I like the idea of making a free version. I even wrote a review of Cart66 Lite. I’ve jumped at the occasion since in the past I really considered buying PHPurchase for own needs. Unfortunately, even though the plugin has a few nifty features there are still many things that need to be worked on. The biggest drawback is closing the gates for users from countries other than the US or Canada. No easy way of translating the front and back end is a big disadvantage.

    Here i would like to give an advice to developers of the plugin. Instead of changing the product’s name, pricing and distribution, they should work on the product itself. Even though new features are added there are more basic issues that need to be solved beforehand. I would really like to know what kind of retailers the plugin (and future WP Stores etc.) aims at.

  7. I am first and foremost a businessman. What works, works. What does not, doesn’t. I purchased the Aquisto theme from Press75 which requires Cart66. I then tried to purchase Cart66 three times. All three times resulted in Firefox crashing (twice) or a redirection of me to a Page Not Found. If Cart66 can’t sell its own products without crashing, it can’t sell ours. I am disappointed by Press75 as well as Cart66.

    Christopher M. Theodore
    Founder
    The Reader Magazine Group
    Redlands, California

  8. Now almost a year later, Cart66 DOES NOT SUPPORT THE LITE VERSION. They say go to the community support forums on WordPress.org, but NO ONE RESPONDS. So if you launched a site with Cart66 Lite and you have a problem they won’t help you. I posted on the forums, emailed the company, and the reality66. Still no response. This company took two steps forward and 1 step back in my opinion.

    • That isn’t unusual. It’s free software. They are under absolutely no obligation to support it just like all the other free plugins in the WordPress.org repository. Whenever you use free software you do so at your own risk when it comes to support.

      If you are relying on a piece of software for your business or to make a living, i’d go with something that includes guaranteed support rather than relying on a free solution.

      As with many things in this world, WordPress itself being a fantastic exception… you get what you pay for.

  9. Pingback: Reality66 (behind Cart66 and Mijireh) launches Cart66 Cloud : Post Status

Comments are closed.