A members-only store on WooCommerce is an exclusive entity where only registered users can view content and make purchases.
With online business booming on WooCommerce, creating a store where you can selectively decide what products ought to be shown to whom can be a great asset. In addition to controlling product display, you can also offer free trials, coupons and other discounts to premium users.
Members-only stores not only give customers the satisfaction of belonging to an exclusive group, but are also useful for generating funds.
Why do we need a Members-Only Store?
There are several reasons why opting for a members-only store on WooCommerce is a better option instead of developing a public one. Building separate public and private areas of your store can be beneficial if your site hosts products that you sell exclusively to members.
Consider an online learning course or a college website for that matter. While everyone might be able to view a particular course on your site, only a member with a particular membership plan can enrol or even avail of discounts for the said course.
With some information generally available to the public and the rest to logged-in members only, it is possible to reach users in a more targeted manner.
Creating a Members-Only Store on WooCommerce
There are three different ways to convert your WooCommerce store into a members-only store, viz.
- Without the use of external plugins
- Using a Membership plugin
- Using a Pricing Plugin
Let us discuss the pros and cons of each further.
WooCommerce Store without External Plugins
After creating your store, you add products to product pages as usual and add a password-protection field for user access.
This can be done by changing the privacy settings while editing the page and publishing it.
Perhaps the most trivial way of limiting product views for users, this ensures that you need not download and install any other plugin for hiding your products.
This functionality can be extended to Product Categories and Posts. Several WordPress themes from WooThemes and ThemeForest are compatible with WooCommerce and provide various display options for product images and layouts.
A drawback is that this is suitable if your product list is small or clientele limited. Handling a large number of products becomes tedious when every page has to be encrypted, managed and accessed separately. Also, data access is only limited to a password, the sharing of which, can’t be controlled.
Using a Membership Plugin
Membership plugins are the most logical choice for setting up a members-only store.
With varied content visibility and access as per the membership plan, you can effectively control what your members and non-members see. This can range from an exclusively all-member store where it is mandatory to purchase a plan before any content can be viewed or product purchased, to an open site where all products are visible and freely purchasable for everyone.
A good option is to offer free trials for new users for, say a fortnight, with additional access possible only on the purchase of a membership.
The drawback here is that it is fairly difficult to grasp creating membership plans, adding products to these and assigning members, immediately. The process takes a while and even then is not completely manageable.
Also, membership plugins are immensely useful for mega-stores with a lot of subscribers, but for smaller stores, having a limited clientele, too many functionalities can be largely useless. The plugins are also priced rather steeply and though the service is worth the cost, investing in them is economically feasible only after your store has established a decent profit margin.
Using a Pricing Plugin
Membership plugins allow for restricting content access and purchase according to the membership plan purchased. However, to assign special discounts to premium users or specific clients, a separate plan needs to be created and assigned every time.
To avoid this hassle, we can use a pricing plugin like Customer Specific Pricing for WooCommerce to decide distinct product costs for individual customers, different user roles or for groups.
The way the plugin works is that, you can add as many products as you want to your store and then assign different product values for individual customers, roles or groups.
Product prices can be updated by importing bulk values rather than updating them manually.
The advantage of setting up a members-only store with a pricing plugin rather than a membership plugin is that specific prices can be allotted without having to create membership plans and adding members to it. User roles can be employed for this purpose. Special prices can be offered to certain customers.
A more compact solution, it is ideal for small to medium stores alike, though it falls short of advanced functionalities that a membership plugin might offer.
If we have to lay down a rule of thumb,
- Password protecting products is suitable for a personal website or blog, where you sell a handful of products
- Using a membership plugin is suitable for high-end stores where you want track member purchases and want to award member rewards
- A pricing plugin is for small to medium scale businesses which want to offer member-only access while still maintaining pricing flexibility for certain users
Well, these were my thoughts.
I’d like to hear yours. What path would you prefer?