Debating creating a WooCommerce members-only store?

Offering special members-only perks is a popular ecommerce strategy, with some well-known examples being Amazon Prime (shipping perks) and Costco (restricted purchasing club).

With the right plugins and tools, you can easily add members-only functionality to your WooCommerce store, including restricting access to products, offering special discounts or shipping methods, and more.

In this guide, you’re going to learn the best ways to create a WooCommerce members-only store, along with how to choose the right approach for your WooCommerce website.


When To Consider a Members-Only Store

A members-only WooCommerce store can work well for a few different situations.

Before jumping into setting up your store, it’s important to think about which strategies you want to employ, as these choices will dictate the best approach for your store.

There are two broad buckets of members-only functionality:

  1. Content restriction
  2. Special offers
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Members-Only Content Restriction

With content restriction, you can restrict who can view and/or purchase some or all of your products.

Here are a few examples of when you might use this type of members-only functionality:

  • Wholesale stores where only eligible customers can access wholesale products.
  • Special products that are only available to VIP customers. This can encourage people to shop more and boost your store’s sales.
  • Purchasing clubs where only members are allowed to shop (e.g. Costco).

Members-Only Special Offers

The second type of members-only functionality is offering special deals to members.

Here are some common examples:

  • Giving members a discount on some or all of your products. For example, you could give them 10% off. This is similar to many customer loyalty programs.
  • Offering lower fixed prices for members. This also works well for wholesale stores.
  • Giving members special shipping perks, such as free shipping (e.g. Amazon Prime). You could even combine this with a multi-vendor marketplace for a true Amazon Prime clone.

You can also mix and match both strategies – many members-only WooCommerce stores will restrict access and give special discounts or shipping methods.

3 Ways To Create a WooCommerce Members-Only Store

If you want to create a WooCommerce members-only store, there are a few different methods that you can use:

  • WordPress/WooCommerce membership plugin
  • WooCommerce role-based pricing plugin
  • The built-in WordPress password functionality

The best method for your store will depend on the type of members-only setup that you want to use.

For example, whether you want to restrict access to your products or just give members special perks, like product discounts.

1. WooCommerce Membership Plugin

The most common strategy for creating a WooCommerce members-only store is to use a full-service membership plugin with a strong WooCommerce integration.

These plugins handle everything related to membership functionality, including creating free or paid membership levels, adding customers to those levels, and using those levels to restrict access to your store and/or offer members-only perks.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits of a WooCommerce membership plugin:

  • Flexible content restriction – you can easily restrict some/all of your content/products based on a user’s membership level.
  • Discounts and shipping methods – beyond restriction, you can also offer special members-only discounts or shipping methods.
  • Charge for membership – you can charge for access to members-only benefits to build an additional revenue stream (e.g. your own version of Amazon Prime).
  • Member management – you’ll get tools to manage all of your members that go beyond WordPress’s built-in features.

Drawbacks of a WooCommerce membership plugin:

  • Adds complexity – for simple use cases, a full membership plugin might have more functionality than you need.
  • Limited pricing rules – while these plugins do let you offer members-only discounts and/or shipping methods, you don’t get as much flexibility for configuring your pricing rules as you would with a dedicated pricing plugin.

4 Top WooCommerce Membership Plugins

If you want to use a membership plugin to create your members-only store, here are some of the top options:

1. WooCommerce Memberships
WooCommerce Memberships plugin.
WooCommerce Memberships

WooCommerce Memberships is a membership plugin specifically built on top of WooCommerce, which helps it offer the most flexibility for setting up a members-only store (though it works for non-WooCommerce content, too).

You can create unlimited free or paid membership levels and use them in a number of ways:

  • Restrict access to viewing and/or purchasing products.
  • Offer special discounts to members.
  • Give members free shipping or shipping discounts.

WooCommerce Memberships cost $199 for use on a single site. If you want to charge recurring subscriptions for your memberships, you’ll also need to purchase the $199 WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, which lets you sell subscription products.

2. Paid Member Subscriptions
Paid Member Subscriptions plugin.
Paid Member Subscriptions

Paid Member Subscriptions is a good budget option for creating a members-only store.

It lets you create unlimited free or paid membership levels and restrict access to viewing or purchasing your products.

You can also set up product discount rules to give members special discounts on some/all of your products.

However, there’s no way to offer shipping perks to members.

If you’re ok with that limitation, it’s the cheapest option on this list as it starts at just €69. There’s also a free version, though the free version doesn’t let you offer members-only discounts.

3. Restrict Content Pro
Restrict Content Pro plugin.
Restrict Content Pro

Restrict Content Pro is a full-featured membership plugin that lets you easily restrict access to some or all of your products using unlimited free or paid membership levels.

Beyond product restriction, it also lets you set up members-only perks by linking a WooCommerce coupon to a membership level.

This gives you a lot of flexibility because you can make use of all the coupon options, including product discounts and shipping discounts.

However, the downside of this approach is that it means members can’t see their discounts until they go to the cart page, which might lower your conversion rates. For example, you could give them 10% off all products, but the price on the single product page wouldn’t reflect the discount yet.

For the WooCommerce functionality, Restrict Content Pro costs $99 for use on a single site. There’s also a free version.

4. Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro plugin.
Paid Memberships Pro

Paid Memberships Pro is another full-service membership plugin with strong WooCommerce functionality.

It also lets you create unlimited free or paid membership levels that you can then use to…

  • Restrict access to viewing or purchasing products.
  • Offer special discounts.
  • Give free shipping.

There’s a free version of the plugin that offers core functionality, as well as a free WooCommerce integration to offer members-only discounts.

In order to offer free shipping perks and access more advanced membership features, the premium version starts at $247.

WooCommerce Membership Plugin Comparison

Here’s a quick comparison of the key WooCommerce members-only features in each plugin.

Plugin Product Restriction Product Discounts Shipping Perks Price
WooCommerce Memberships $199
Paid Member Subscriptions Free / €69
Restrict Content Pro Free / $99
Paid Memberships Pro Free / $247

 

If you want to see even more options, you can read our full roundups of the best WordPress membership plugins and the best membership themes. However, keep in mind that not every single membership plugin offers WooCommerce support (though all of the plugins that we’ve singled out above do).

If you’re using a membership plugin to create your site, you’ll also want to read about some important dos and don’ts for hosting membership sites. If you’re a Kinsta customer, we also have a guide on optimizing membership site performance with Kinsta APM.

2. WooCommerce Role-Based Pricing Plugin

If you want to use your members-only store to offer different prices to shoppers based on their membership status, you can also use a WooCommerce pricing plugin.

These plugins let you change the price of products based on a range of different criteria. For a members-only store, the most common approach would be to adjust products’ prices based on a shopper’s user role and capability.

For some members-only stores, you might use just a pricing plugin. In other situations, you might want to pair a pricing plugin with a membership plugin to unlock even more flexibility.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits of a WooCommerce pricing plugin:

  • More flexible pricing rules – in addition to changing prices based on a user’s role, you can also add in other conditions such as offering role-based bulk discounts. That can make this approach a better option for wholesale stores or other members-only setups that need more advanced pricing adjustments.
  • Use existing user role functionality – if you’ve already assigned members a special WordPress user role, these plugins make it easy to target that role. That is, you don’t need to set up any additional membership levels like you would with a membership plugin.

Drawbacks of a WooCommerce pricing plugin:

  • No user registration functionality – pricing plugins don’t include features to register members on your site. For this reason, you’ll typically want to pair this approach with a dedicated user registration plugin to create a separate registration form and a secure login form.
  • Only works for free memberships – using a pricing plugin alone wouldn’t let you charge a one-time or recurring fee for members-only access like a membership plugin.
  • No content restriction – you usually won’t be able to restrict access to any content/products on your site with this method.
  • No separate member management – you don’t get any separate area to manage members and control membership levels. Instead, you need to rely on the built-in WordPress user role system, which can be cumbersome if you have a lot of members.

3 Top WooCommerce Pricing Plugins

If you want to use a pricing plugin to create your members-only store, here are some of the top options:

1. WooCommerce Fees and Discounts
WooCommerce Fees and Discounts plugin.
WooCommerce Fees and Discounts

WooCommerce Fees and Discounts is a premium plugin that lets you set up all types of role-based pricing adjustments, including the following:

  • Adjust prices up or down for some or all of your products. E.g. 10% discount.
  • Set fixed product prices.
  • Offer bulk discounts.
  • Exclude tax.

It costs $59.

2. Discount Rules for WooCommerce
Discount Rules for WooCommerce plugin.
Discount Rules for WooCommerce

Discount Rules for WooCommerce comes in both a free version and a paid version, but you need the paid version to access the user role-based pricing adjustments.

The plugin is quite flexible – you can create any type of discount rule and then make the user’s role a condition to access that discount.

If you want the most flexibility for setting up special members-only deals, this is one of the top options.

The Pro version costs $59.

3. Role Based Pricing for WooCommerce
Role Based Pricing for WooCommerce plugin.
Role Based Pricing for WooCommerce

Role Based Pricing for WooCommerce is another quality option. You have a few different options for adjusting pricing:

  • Fixed price based on user role
  • Percentage increase or decrease
  • Fixed increase or decrease

If you only want members to be able to purchase products, you can also hide the price and add to cart button until a user logs in, which adds some basic content restriction functionality.

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Role Based Pricing for WooCommerce costs $79.

3. Password Protection Without a Plugin

The last method for how to create a WooCommerce members-only store is the simplest strategy but also the least flexible.

Instead of installing a plugin to make a WooCommerce members-only store, you can just rely on the built-in WordPress password protection feature.

This feature lets you restrict access to one or more products on your store using one or more passwords. You would then share these passwords with members who you want to have access to the restricted product(s).

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits of password protection:

  • Core feature – there’s no need to install any plugins.
  • Very simple – all you need to do is add the password and share it with members.

Drawbacks of password protection:

  • Very limited – you can only restrict access to products – you can’t offer other perks.
  • Not great user experience – forcing users to enter a password is a bit awkward when it comes to user experience.
  • No user-based restrictions – anyone with the password can access the products, which is a problem if someone shares the password with an unauthorized shopper.

How To Add WooCommerce Password Protection

To use password protection, open the editor for a product that you want to restrict access to.

Then, click the Edit link next to Visibility.

How to enable password protection.
How to enable password protection.

This should expand some new options:

  1. Choose Password protected.
  2. Enter the password that you want to use for that product.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Update or Publish that product to save your changes.
How to add the product password.
How to add the product password.

When someone tries to view that product, they’ll now be prompted to enter a password.

An example of a password protected product.
An example of a password protected product.

One neat trick with this method is that you can reuse the same password on multiple products. If you do this, the shopper will only need to enter the password once to unlock every single product that uses that exact password.

However, if you use different passwords for each product, then the shopper will need to enter the unique password for each product.

How To Choose the Right Approach for Your Members-Only Store

Choosing the optimal approach for your WooCommerce members-only store will depend on your unique situation.

Here are 5 things to consider when choosing your store’s approach…

1. Type of Membership Benefits

Do you just want to give members access to products (content restriction), or do you want to offer special perks such as product discounts or free shipping?

If you want to restrict access to products, you’ll typically want a dedicated WooCommerce membership plugin. Or, for very simple use cases, you could use the built-in password protection feature.

If you want to offer special discounts or shipping perks, you could use either a membership plugin or a pricing plugin.

The pricing plugin will give you more flexibility if you want to also use non-membership pricing rules, while the membership plugin gives you more robust member management, content restriction, and the ability to charge for membership.

2. Number of Members

Another factor is the number of members that your store will have.

For example, let’s say you want to restrict access to some or all of your products.

If you’re only going to have 5 members, you could just use the built-in password protection feature and call it a day.

On the other hand, if you’re going to have 500 members, you’ll definitely want the more robust member management functionality of a dedicated membership plugin.

3. Number of Membership Levels

Beyond members themselves, the number of membership levels might also affect your decision.

If you only have 1 or 2 membership levels, working with the existing WordPress user role system might work fine.

However, if you’re planning to have 3+ membership levels with potentially overlapping restriction rules or perks, you’ll probably appreciate the more streamlined level management of a membership plugin.

4. Free vs Paid Memberships

If you want to charge for access to your memberships (e.g. Amazon Prime), then you’ll typically want a dedicated membership plugin.

The pricing plugins can work fine for free memberships because you just need to use WordPress’ built-in user role system.

However, that won’t work for paid memberships because the role system alone has no way to differentiate between free vs paying members.

5. Public vs Private Content

If you want to restrict access to products and/or other content on your site, you’ll almost certainly want to use a full membership plugin.

The one exception would be if your store’s needs are very simple, in which case the built-in password protection feature might work.

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Summary

If you want to create a WooCommerce members-only store, you have 3 main options:

  • Membership plugin
  • Pricing plugin
  • Built-in WordPress password feature

For many stores, the membership plugin will be the best route. However, the other methods also might work better for your store in some situations.

Finally, it’s worth noting that in some situations, you might want to use both a membership plugin and a pricing plugin. You can use the membership plugin to manage membership levels, members, and content restriction, while still using the pricing plugin to get more control over your members-only pricing rules.

For some other ways to improve your WooCommerce store, you also might want to check out our full roundups of the best WooCommerce plugins and the best WooCommerce extensions.


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