Kartra is the new kid on the block in the marketing automation world. They combine the sales funnel, checkout, and landing page capabilities of Clickfunnels, with the email marketing automation capabilities of tools like Active Campaign or Drip, and then again with the membership platform capabilities of Teachable or Membermouse. (Almost.)
They even throw in tools like a scheduling calendar (with payments!), a helpdesk, and video hosting.
I mean, it sounds like the one app to run your whole business – it seems (and IS) very dreamy and appealing to have everything under one roof. For some marketers and business owners, this may be the perfect app – BUT I CAN’T USE IT OR RECOMMEND IT FOR EVERYONE QUITE YET. And I’ll explain why.
Now, I wrote down these frustrated bullet points after a second attempt at making a Kartra trial work. This was after a first paid trial and a few months of paid “use.”
So with that frustration in mind, here was my honest take, and the actual notes I took in my Stickies app while frustratedly trying to put everything I needed together to launch a product for my business totally on Kartra:
Everything takes multiple, repetitive, mind-numbing clicks. I’m not being dramatic here – even GETTING to the editor to edit an existing form design takes over 25 clicks (not including the actual form design changes!) You have to click through screen after screen of “Next” to view every setting before you get to the form design. This would be so easy to fix with a form settings navigation at the top… and maybe I am so tech illiterate that this is a feature I missed, but tried and it’s doubtful. I am trying to run a business efficiently – not get carpal tunnel!
Each time you change a form template, all of the content on your form disappears and you have to start over. What?!
AND… those forms designs? They can’t be edited or added to. There is no option to add text, headlines, etc. So you must work within the templates they give you or with a plain form.
The memberships do not allow for dynamic content based on the user’s info, even if the user’s info is in kartra. All membership areas are 100% the same across all users. This is only a minor gripe, as I realize a dynamic membership website based on individual member attributes is a big ask for a product trying to do it all-in-one. But if I’m going to have to have an external membership site anyways to fulfill this need, that partially removes the benefit of membership site management for me here.
There are no custom fields available in payment forms. Only the basics. This can be worked around by using forms up to the checkout process, or after, but this is still frustrating.
There are limited layouts with payment forms. Another minor gripe, but still a gripe.
THE BIGGEST GRIPE, AND THE REASON I STARTED MAKING THIS LIST: There is NO OPTION to add a link to terms and conditions on payment forms. I found a thread in the official Kartra group where someone had done this previously, but the a href code no longer works in the TOC customization section, and the billing agreement checkbox characters are FAR too limited for any sort of serious service agreement. This puts high ticket businesses like mine at risk because my Terms & Conditions need to be beyond clear and beyond forward.
Danielle Doucette recently posted a workaround in the official Kartra group, in which you add a custom field in a form that you can put in your funnel before the checkout page, and I can respect that – however being that there is already a T&C section in checkout, I don’t understand why this is so limited.
ANOTHER BIG GRIPE: There is no way for a customer to purchase multiple products at once, or to select addons for a product other than one single bump offer per product. This is a problem for me because if I’m going to be paying a subscription to a product with a checkout form, I expect to be able to build fully functioning checkout forms, without having to create every variation of my product manually, and then having to know which link to send to a client, or making them choose from a page of confusing checkout links. I want to be able to sell my Managed Website service in such a way that the client chooses their addons themselves, chooses them on one page in an easy to see format (not via upsell page after upsell page or via a single bump offer), and is billed the appropriate amount automatically. I can do this with Jotforms (free!!), Cognito forms, and Thrivecart – why can’t I do this in Kartra? Why is it so hard to add a simple checkbox section to add extra items to the checkout forms? (Can you feel my frustration?)
The calendar layout is terrible. They have done great work trying to integrate this, but even if I used all of the other features, I would never present this booking calendar to my clients. Calendly and Acuity still blow it out of the water and the UX is far better on both.
The Helpdesk tickets can’t be replied to from/via email, or even viewed. The user has to click to go to the helpdesk link, and then has to enter their username and password, only to have to click into MORE things to see their tickets and replies. I consider this the opposite of user-friendly, and I imagine I would receive far more help inquiries via email to skirt past this frustrating process if I implemented this in my business.
There is no sitewide tracking. Why? Kartra will provide you individual-page tracking codes for any non-Kartra pages… but you have to set each of these up individually, and then add them to each of your website pages individually. Compared to systems like ActiveCampaign and Drip, this is frustrating, because within those systems you can see a person’s website visits on a sitewide basis – so you can see that a blog post that maybe you wouldn’t have even thought to tag in Kartra’s system is actually an important page visit for most of your prospects. They already have tracking codes… so why not make them sitewide?
“Powered by kartra” is on everything – and I mean everything. This is frustrating because if I’m paying almost 100 buckeroos for a software monthly, I should have the option to remove third party branding, in my opinion.
As you can see, there are a number of high priority issues that will prevent me from using Kartra for now, and will prevent me from recommending it to anyone who needs more customizable checkouts, fewer frustrating clicks, and dynamic membership content. For anyone who just needs the basics and is selling straightforward products.. it’s great! I would love to be able to use Kartra in my business, but the big thing that is holding me back is the checkout. Once this can be enhanced to have clear multi-product/addon selection, I can consider moving my systems there. For now, here is an alternative stack I can recommend!
Kartra Alternative Options
Forms + Payments: Jotform, Cognito Forms, or Thrivecart
Email Marketing: Drip or ActiveCampaign (I prefer Drip.. AC’s layout is super clunky and I think they have less effective deliverability)
Membership: WordPress + S2member + LMS of your choice if needed (LifterLMS is free)
Helpdesk: Anything other than Kartra 😛 Freshdesk, Zendesk, etc
Calendar: Calendly or Acuity
Optin forms: ConvertBox or Optinmonster
Will you have to spend more money with the above stack combos? Yes. However, you also need to have software that works – and if that means duct-taping a few pieces together until Kartra matures a bit more.. that’s what I’ll have to do!
Kartra employees/founders: please do let me know once the above issues are fixed. I WILL HAPPILY SWITCH OVER. <3
-Hannah, the Vagabond Boss