While many membership plugins focus on only restricting content (like Restrict Content Pro, which we recently reviewed), some sites will sell products aside from memberships, and can even require memberships to access products or discounts in the shop.
These eCommerce sites operate similarly to Costco or Sam’s club. To create a purchasing club, you’ll need the ability to both sell access to the club and to restrict how products can be purchased from your shop. This article will show you how to create a purchasing club using iThemes Exchange and a premium add-on.
The ability to restrict product purchasing to members was added to Exchange Memberships in July. This allows you to display products to non-members, but require a membership to purchase, which is how we’ll create our purchasing club. You can use your memberships to restrict any content in your shop, such as pages and blog posts, in addition to your products.
We can create our purchasing club for as little as $97 — here are the plugins I’ll be using in my demo:
- Free: iThemes Exchange
- $97: Exchange Membership Add-on (includes Recurring Payments) OR
- $197: Exchange Pro Pack (includes all Exchange add-ons)
- (optional) free: Exchange Membership Product Restrictions
- (optional) in Pro Pack: bbPress Memberships add-on
The central piece of our purchasing club puzzle will be the Memberships Add-on. This will handle selling the memberships as well as restricting our content and products. Once this plugin is installed and activated, it can be configured under Exchange > Add-ons and by clicking the “configure” button.
Here you’ll do some very basic setup — create messages to display to non-members or members who do not yet have access to your content. Bonus points if you direct them towards purchasing in these messages. I use a product category for memberships that I can link to in this message.
Once your basic membership settings are configured, you’ll then create some products. My purchasing club will be part of a book club membership, so I’ll create some books. I’m going to sell them to members at a steep discount so they can purchase them as part of the club. I’ll create each book product that I’ll be selling to members at my discounted price.
Once these products have been created, we can move onto creating our membership and restricting products to members-only purchases.
Now that we have our Exchange Membership settings configured and our products added, we’ll create our membership products and restrict some content through them. To do so, you’ll need to add a new membership product (not a simple or physical product). By adding a membership product type, you’ll be able to assign content restriction rules that apply when it’s purchased.
First, add your pricing and description. I’m going to add some more description details that only members will see, but I’ll tell you more about that when I talk about restricting content. You’ll also want to add your pricing and determine whether this membership uses recurring pricing or will only be valid for a set length (i.e., one year).
Once the basic information has been entered, you’ll want to add your restriction rules. Here we can restrict pages, posts, post categories, and most importantly: products. You can even delay access to these products so book club members can’t buy everything at once.
This product is what non-members will have to purchase to access any membership content and purchase members-only products. It will be displayed in your shop alongside of all other products, and purchases will trigger an active membership for a customer once the order is paid.
Now this is where our purchasing club takes form. Once a product has been restricted to a membership, it can no longer be purchased by a non-member. Non-members won’t see “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” buttons, and will instead see your restriction message (which we created in setup). I’ve also included a notice in the product’s extended description on specific memberships that will grant access and what else they provide.
If a member views your product, he or she will be able to purchase it. In this case, I’ve also added some extra content to the short description for members so they can read more about the book.
This forms the bulk of your purchasing club, and can be set up in as little as 22 minutes (unless you’re faster than me of course 😉 ). This will obviously increase if you’re selling lots of products or memberships, but setup is very simple, and as long as you create all products before memberships, you won’t have to backtrack to your memberships to add new products to the club.
With that said, we can take our purchasing club a bit further to polish it up and cross the finish line.
You can restrict other content (such as blog posts or pages) as part of this membership aside from product restrictions. This can be really helpful if you’d like to display a “discounts” page for members or to include members-only blog posts and content.
You can restrict these pages and posts while you’re creating the membership, or you can easily do it afterwards while editing or adding a post. A new meta box will be created that lets you restrict your content and optionally add a dripping / delayed release schedule.
Blocks of content within posts or pages (such as members-only videos) can be restricted as well using a shortcode:
[it-exchange-member-content membership_ids="231,142"] Restricted Content [/it-exchange-member-content]
This is what I used to show an extended product description to members above. You can manually add these shortcodes by inserting the post id of the correct memberships, but I hate looking up the id while I’m trying to write something. Thankfully there’s a “Member Content” button that will let you select the right membership and generate the shortcode for you to restrict this content.
There are also a couple of ways you can take your purchasing club further. First, we mentioned the bbPress add-on that’s in the Exchange Pro Pack. When this is coupled with bbPress, you can create members-only forums to supplement your purchasing club. In my book club example, I can create forums for my members to discuss each book that can’t be accessed by non-members.
You can also get a bit more control over the product restrictions using the free Membership Product Restrictions plugin.
This plugin will allow you to also gift products to members by making them free if a certain membership exists.
Membership Product Restrictions is also very helpful if you want to allow non-members to purchase your products, but want membership to receive a discount. You can add a non-member fee to a product instead (without restricting it to members-only).
Members will see your discounted price (the product price), but non-members will be charged the price plus the non-member fee.
This is a really useful plugin for adjusting your purchasing club rules. While it doesn’t let you gift products to multiple memberships (and will also charge non-member fees to all but one membership), it’s a great little addition to your membership setup for free.
Note that the restricting functionality isn’t needed, as the Memberships add-on now handles this itself.
Creating a purchasing club with iThemes Exchange was simple, and setup can be done in less than a half hour if you’ve already got an Exchange store set up. This allows you to create your own eCommerce Sam’s club or Costco, as purchasing certain products is restricted to members. You can also delay access to some products as part of the membership, which requires members to wait a certain time before purchasing.
My favorite part about this is how easy it is to create restriction rules for your memberships: add a product rule, select the right product, and optionally set an access delay. If you’ve got your members-only products already created, it’s even easier.
An Exchange purchasing club can be set up for as little as $97, but I’d recommend getting the Pro Pack instead at $197, which includes all official Exchange add-ons. Again, here are the plugins I used or referenced in this guide:
- iThemes Exchange – $0
- Exchange Membership Add-on (includes Recurring Payments) – $97
- (optional) Exchange Membership Product Restrictions: $0
- (optional) bbPress Memberships add-on – in Pro Pack
I’d love to hear feedback if you end up using this setup!