The Membership add-on for Exchange is one of the newest membership solutions to hit the market, and provides one of the most non-developer friendly solutions available. Membership integrates with your Exchange store so that you can sell memberships, subscriptions, and whatever other recurring purchases you want.
Setting up a membership site with Exchange from iThemes is simple, intuitive, and fast. If you haven’t used Exchange, you probably want to check out our detailed review for some more information and some details on basic store setup. In order to set up a membership site, you’ll need to purchase the Membership Add-on for Exchange, which includes the Recurring Payments Add-on, for $97 (2 site license). However, if you plan on using Exchange as a solution for your entire store, you’ll probably want to invest in the Pro Pack for $197, which gives you access to all add-ons released for a year.
So what do you need to know to set up your membership site? We’ll go through the process of setting up a membership site with Exchange and what it addresses on our checklist for membership sites.
Memberships are created as products using Exchange, you you can set an unlimited number of membership levels and restrict content differently for each membership. This will also allow you to set up tiered or content-based memberships, but won’t provide an upgrade-path for customers since memberships aren’t tied to one another. Since memberships are products, customers can purchase more than one membership for topic-based membership sites. You can also set up products so that customers are billed once and the membership expires, or to bill customers on a recurring basis.
Update Feb 27, 2014: Upgrade and downgrades are now possible using Exchange.
Before setting up membership products, I’d make sure I’ve generated content or planned out structure to make setup fast and easy. For instance, in the examples I have I’m using a tiered-membership system in which each membership provides access to more categories. You could also use this to sell chapters of ebooks, individual posts, and more. Once you’ve determined your membership structure and possibly generated the content you’re going to protect, you can start setting up membership products.
Membership products are created easily and the process is similar to setup of physical products. You can’t offer member discounts or tiered-pricing based on memberships. However, you could set up a duplicate product with appropriate pricing and different tags for wholesalers or members since you can restrict product categories / tags to do discounts this way. Add your info and pricing (more on this under “Billing”), and then you can move on to your content restriction.
Last, you can display your memberships on the frontend by going to Appearance > Menus > iThemes Exchange and adding your products, memberships, and other pages to your navigation so that customers can view and purchase everything you’ve just set up.
Content restriction with Exchange is extensive, awesome, and easy to use. Using Exchange, you can restrict anything — posts, pages, post categories and tags, custom post types, as well as product categories and tags (for example, if you only want wholesalers to see bulk products since you can’t do membership discounts). When you create a membership, you can set content restriction rules for the membership product:
Anything you protect won’t be available to non-members on the frontend. A title will be displayed, along with the notice you configured under the Membership Add-on settings (no snippets / teasers though). Be sure to select everything you want your members to be able to see when setting up restrictions.
Update: You can now show teasers or excerpts for non-members using the newest version of Memberships, as it supports using shortcodes to restrict content.
Notice that content dripping can also be set up based on the membership. You can also configure dripping settings within an individual post or page, and can change dripping settings based on each membership if relevant. For example, some members can get access to content quicker than others if needed.
Drip rate can be configured in terms of days, weeks, months, or years, and the settings for restriction and dripping are available and identical for both posts and pages.
Last in terms of protection: You can’t restrict logins for memberships within Exchange to prevent membership credential sharing.
Recurring / Subscription Billing
Memberships can be set to one-time purchases that will expire (set price to “forever”) or set up as continuously billed products in terms of monthly or yearly billing (no custom cycles like “7 days” or “every 3 months”). When you set up your membership product, you’ll configure this very easily when you set pricing:
Since Exchange is an eCommerce platform and includes shipping options, you can sell digital content or physical products for memberships. Sell subscription boxes, other physical products, rentals, or whatever else you can think of. You can also create a pay-per-post system, but it will be difficult, since you’ll have to create a new membership product for each post you want to sell individually.
While set-up for pricing is easy, there are a few limitations as of yet. The Stripe add-on is free with Exchange and recurring billing is supported, which is a huge bonus since we’re fans of Stripe. However, you can’t set free trials or sign-up fees for membership products. Since memberships are individual products, this also prevents upgrades or downgrades along a membership path. Members will have to cancel a membership and purchase a new one, and you’ll have to determine refund / prorated fees yourself. Customers also have no way to pause memberships from their accounts.
If you purchase the Pro Pack, you’ll be covered for support from iThemes for one month, or you can purchase ticketed support for $47 per month. There’s also free community support available or documentation (though nothing on Membership since it’s fairly straight-forward). If you just want to know more about product development, iThemes has a public roadmap for Exchange so that you can check out and vote for potential features, including additions to the Membership add-on.
Tweaking and customizing Exchange and Memberships may not be as easy as other platforms at the moment, but iThemes has been very responsive each time I’ve contacted them, and I anticipate this will get easier as the user-base grows and more developers work with the platform.
Looking for More info on Membership Sites with Exchange?
Here are some other posts to check out about the Exchange Membership Add-on:
- Chris Lema wrote a great overview of setting up a membership site with Exchange and said it was the easiest solution to use. Check it out if you want more detail of the setup process.
- iThemes has a post that announced and gave an overview of the Membership add-on.
- James Dalman has a review of his experiences using Membership with Exchange.
Disclosure: iThemes provided a copy of the Exchange Membership Add-on at our request for this article. However, this is not a sponsored article and solely reflects the opinions of the author.