Prepaid credit systems are the norm for digital products. If you’ve come across websites like iStockPhoto, you know what I’m talking about. Such websites use a credits system in which, a customer needs to purchase credits to download products. To give you a better idea of how such websites work, I’ve listed down steps an interested customer would have to follow, to make a purchase on a website, like iStockPhoto:
- An interested customer selects an image he wants to download.
- He then sees the cost of the image, which is set as credits. For example, ‘Image-ABC costs 10 credits’.
- If he is a first time visitor, he has to purchase credits to download the image.
- To purchase credits, he has to register, and then buy credits in packs. For example, ‘A pack of 50 credits would cost $100’, or ‘a pack of 120 credits would cost $200’, and so on.
- Once the customer purchases credits, the credit amount will be added to his account.
- He will be then able to download the image, and the credits points (the image is worth), will be deducted from his account.
- Registered customers, have to login to download images
- If a customer does not have sufficient credits to download an image, the image download option will not be shown. Instead he will be prompted to purchase more credits.
It’s a simple approach. And it works well when micropayment transactions are involved. That is to say, the main application of a credits system, is for stores, which have products priced at a very low cost. Such stores prefer not to make a transaction for every purchase (because of fees incurred). Instead a credits system is preferred, because it involves a one time transaction.
Creating a Prepaid Credits System with WooCommerce
Now that we have an understanding of how such systems work. Let’s take a look, at how we can create a prepaid credits system website on WordPress. Instead of creating such a website entirely from scratch, you could use an existing WordPress e-Commerce plugin, like WooCommerce. With WooCommerce, you have the option to sell some products for a set price, or some using credits. Since a credits system is not a default functionality of the WooCommerce plugin, you would need some customization.
Allow Customers to Purchase Credits
As we’ve learned, to download products from a prepaid credits store, a customer has to register and purchase credits. So when you think about it, credit packs are, essentially, products. But such packs have to be set up in your WooCommerce store as a custom product type, to have more control over the pricing and purchase of these packs. In fact, payment gateways should be made available only for credit packs, while other products, will be purchased using credits. You will have to also add a custom field, which specifies the credit value received when a product pack is purchased.
These credit packs should not be shown on your WooCommerce Shop page. Instead, you should add them on a separate page. You can then add a menu option to provide customers a quick link to purchase credits.
Allow Customers to Download Products using Credits
Products, which can be downloaded from your store, can be set up as usual (Simple, Variable) products. There should be a custom field added, where you can set the credits needed to purchase the product. You do not need to set a price for these products. Other product settings can be provided as usual.
These products will be visible on your Shop page. On the product page, the customer will be shown the credits needed to purchase a product. And there will be a download option right on the product page.
If there are sufficient credits available in the customer’s account, he will be able to download the product. If credits are not available, a ‘Buy Credits’ button will be shown, instead of ‘Download Now’.
The credit balance, should be shown on the customer’s ‘My Account’ page.
Virtual Wallets v/s Credits System
A variant of a credits system is one which uses a virtual wallet. Your store is set up in the usual way, where products have a stated price (not credits). Instead of buying credits, a customer has to deposit a fixed amount of money into his ‘wallet’. He can then use the money from his wallet, to then buy a product. The Account Funds plugin can be used to create a Virtual Wallet for WooCommerce, in your WordPress website.
A prepaid credits system has several advantages. It improves customer loyalty, because an initial investment has been made. A credit system also ensures that product purchases (or downloads) happen quicker, since transactions are not made at the time of purchase. What are your thoughts about a credits system? Does your idea differ? Feel free to leave your thoughts and questions, for the benefit of fellow readers, using the comment section below!