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Should I Integrate With a Checkout Tool, a Membership Plugin...or Both?
Should I Integrate With a Checkout Tool, a Membership Plugin...or Both?

The difference between checkout tools and membership plugins so that you understand what solution you need

Paul avatar
Written by Paul
Updated over a week ago

When setting up a WordPress site to sell courses or memberships, It can be very difficult to know what kind of technical setup you need in order to satisfy your requirements.

You might be asking yourself questions like the following:-

  • What's the best way to take payments?

  • Should I integrate with an offsite checkout tool?

  • Do I need a membership plugin?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of setup?

  • What is the checkout flow like?

In this article we'll try and help to help you decide which technical setup is right for you.

But before going into further details about this setup, it's worth mentioning some of the most important Thrive Apprentice features that you can use when building your online school:

  • Thrive Apprentice is a 'drag & drop' course content builder, that's fully customizable

  • you can organize your course into lessons, chapters and modules that you can publish all at once or schedule for later

  • the course supports text, audio and video lessons and you can also attach resources to your lessons

  • drip lesson content to students based on their behavior and course progress using 'Drip' schedules

  • Thrive Apprentice also functions as a full membership plugin for WordPress; you can protect and restrict access to your course content with 'Products' that you set up directly in Thrive Apprentice

  • use the 'Conditional Display' feature to hide or show content to different users

Course Platforms, Checkout Tools and Membership Plugins

There are 3 useful components to selling premium content, either as courses or as a membership platform, on your site:-

  • Membership platforms (like Wishlist Member, MemberMouse etc.) protect content.

  • Payment tools (ThriveCart, SendOwl) manage the processing of payments (Stripe, PayPal) and sales funnels.

  • Course platforms (Thrive Apprentice) help you to create and organize beautiful course content.

Your 3 Options for Integrating Thrive Apprentice

  • Thrive Apprentice can be used directly with checkout tools (like ThriveCart and SendOwl).

  • Alternatively, you may wish to integrate Thrive Apprentice with Membership solutions (such as Membermouse and MemberPress).

  • Finally, it's also possible to integrate Thrive Apprentice with a membership solution which in turn integrates with a checkout tool!

The setup you choose depends on your business needs.

Let's take a closer look at each in a little more detail...

Thrive Apprentice + Checkout Tool

With this setup, Thrive Apprentice is used to create your courses and handle access. Your checkout tool is for taking payments. In more detail:-

  • Thrive Apprentice will handle everything except payments.

  • You create your course content and set up access restrictions inside Thrive Apprentice.

  • Everything to do with payments, cancellations, processing refunds and disputes, digital VAT are handled inside the account of your checkout tool and not in Thrive Apprentice.

  • Customers make payments offsite (they are directed to the checkout form hosted by your checkout service and redirected back to your site after payment is completed)

  • Any changes made inside your checkout tool are communicated to Thrive Apprentice so that access is automatically granted / removed where necessary

Thrive Apprentice + Membership Plugin

With this setup, Thrive Apprentice is used to create your courses. Your membership plugin controls access to your Apprentice courses and integrates with your payment tool of choice.

  • Thrive Apprentice handles the content of your courses.

  • You create all your module, chapter and lesson content inside Thrive Apprentice

  • Your membership tool handles access restrictions to Thrive Apprentice courses (there are various ways of setting this up depending on which membership tool you use)

  • Advanced access restriction logic, such as dripping content over time, is handled by your membership plugin.

  • Your payment solution is integrated directly with your membership tool, rather than with Thrive Apprentice directly.

  • If you run an affiliate program for your courses, your membership tool would usually integrate directly with your affiliate platform of choice.

Should you Integrate Thrive Apprentice with a Checkout Tool or a Membership Plugin?

As Thrive Apprentice matures, more and more membership features will be built in. Therefore, over time, the need to integrate with a membership tool becomes unnecessary for most businesses.

However, at the time of writing, there are still currently some reasons why you’d want to consider integrating with a membership tool.

Use a checkout tool if...

Use a membership plugin if...

  • You have standard access management requirements. For example, you want to offer a standard course or membership product for one time or subscription payments.

  • You need more advanced access management features such as drip feeding content (not yet built for Apprentice, but on the roadmap), trial periods, advanced content locking etc.

  • You are happy to manage billing inside the checkout tool of choice. If a refund is requested, for example, you’d manage that inside your checkout tool and not Thrive Apprentice.

  • If you have other areas of your site that need to be protected by the same “engine” that protects your courses.

    For example, you may be planning to build a full membership site with the need to protect content across your whole site, not just content that sits inside your courses.

  • You want to get things up and running as fast as possible without too much difficulty. (Membership tools have a learning curve if you're not used to them).

  • More advanced billing management - some membership solutions allow you to manage the billing directly from within your WordPress site.

    MemberMouse, for example, allows you to refund a customer in your WordPress dashboard by sending a request to PayPal behind the scenes.

  • You want to take advantage of conversion features such as one click upsells, funnels, order bumps. (Not all checkout tools offer these features, but others such as ThriveCart do)

  • Your payment processor of choice (Stripe, for example) does not integrate with your checkout tool.

What's the 80/20 Solution to Create my Course and sell it Quickly?

If you just want to create a few courses and charge people either a one-time fee or a membership fee for access to your content, then you don't need to worry about using a membership plugin.

Simply hook Thrive Architect up to either SendOwl or ThriveCart, create your course content and start taking payments. This is the exact strategy we teach in Course Craft.

Once your business is up and running, you can always move to a membership solution in the future if your requirements dictate.

What Checkout Tools and Membership Plugins does Thrive Apprentice Currently Integrate with?

Click on any of the integrations below to learn more about its capabilities with Thrive Apprentice:-

Please note that WooCommerce and Thrive Apprentice are now fully compatible.

You will not need another membership plugin to sell your Thrive Apprentice courses, everything can be handled from within these two.

Moreover, if you're also using Thrive Theme Builder, you'll be happy to hear that you can create your own WooCommerce templates to be applied to the Shop/Checkout/Cart/Product and Account pages.

Please check out these resources, for more information about using WooCommerce alongside Thrive Apprentice and Thrive Theme Builder:

If you're still not sure what technical setup you'll need then we're happy to advise to the best of our ability. You can open a support conversation here.

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