WP eCommerce is one of the most mature eCommerce plugins for WordPress, and as a result, has a lot of options and configurations possible for different stores and selling models. Memberships are no exception. If you’re looking for membership plugins, you should check out our overview of Membership Plugins for any WordPress site. However, if you’re looking for an in-house integration, we’ll cover some features for the WP eCommerce Members Only plugin and what it addresses on our checklist for membership sites.
Usage is not quite intuitive, as you have to create a membership / subscription with a length in days, months, years, or unlimited, then determine how often members will be charged. You’ll then determine how content will be restricted: you’ll set which posts, pages, or custom post types will be accessible to that subscription by checking off the subscription level on each page or post and by checking them within the subscription setup. You then “link” a product to the subscription(s) by creating a product for the membership and adding all relevant subscriptions to the product in the product editor. However, this does provide flexibility for your membership model, as you can easily set up tiered or topic-based memberships since you can set up products with access to multiple subscriptions at a time.
There’s also a lack of documentation for the plugin, so you’ll have to play around with settings to figure out optimal setup yourself. Since you can’t automatically restrict categories, you may have to get creative in manually setting this up. I’d set up a subscription for the post category that you’d like to restrict, then filter all posts in that category while viewing all posts. You can then go through each to restrict content with your new subscription. The process will be a bit time intensive, but content restriction can be achieved.
Note that members can purchase more than one subscription for content-based models, but can only purchase them one at a time. This is common with a lot of subscription services, but you may want to clarify checkout instructions for customers so that they’re aware of the fact that memberships must be purchased independent of other products. Members will also have to be logged in so that a membership can be associated with their WordPress user account, so make sure you allow subscriber logins.
There’s also no way to offer discounts to memberships, and the add-on is geared towards content restriction and recurring billing alone. However, you can sell subscriptions for physical products as well as virtual products, as subscriptions don’t have to be tied to content restriction and are linked to a product.
Content restriction is possible for posts, pages, and custom post types. When you create a subscription, you can (optionally) add posts, pages, and custom post types that will be available to users who have purchased the subscription. You’ll also have to check the subscription restriction on the corresponding post or pages to complete setup.
Since you’ll be restricting individual posts, you can technically restrict post categories and tags as well, but will have to manage restriction manually, which may be prohibitive (or just tiresome) for sites with large numbers of posts being added to the category / tag.
Content dripping is not possible with Members Only, so for those of you selling access to courses and other evergreen content, you’ll have to couple it with another plugin, set this up manually, or find a substitute.
Recurring / Subscription Billing
One downside to using Members Only is the need to use PayPal for recurring billing rather than being able to select a payment processor of your choice. Subscription products can be billed in terms of days, months, or years, and can be applied for both memberships and physical products (such as subscription boxes). Billing cycles are set when the subscription is created and are fairly flexible.
However, Members Only does not support sign-up fees, free trials, or member discounts. You can create a pay-per-post system by creating a subscription product for each post, but this will be labor intensive for multiple posts. Since subscriptions have to be linked to a product, members have no way of upgrading or downgrading memberships without canceling and repurchasing memberships.
Support is not included, and support tokens must be purchased at $47 per incident. If you’ve purchased the Gold Cart add-on, however, a support token is included in this purchase and can be used for help with the Members Only module.
Since the WP eCommerce plugin has been around the longest out of all WordPress eCommerce plugins, tweaking and customizing the plugin is well-documented, and you’ll most likely be able to find a developer that could do what you require.
Want more info on membership sites? Check out the rest of our series on Setting Up a Membership Site Using WordPress.
Looking for More info on WP eCommerce Membership Sites?
Looking for more info on WP eCommerce Membership sites? Check out the following: