This post is now outdated, there’s a plugin to do it for you! Check out WooCommerce Memberships and the Teams for Memberships add-on to sell corporate or group memberships.

When you build a membership site with WordPress, you have lots of good options to choose from when searching for the right plugin. However, almost all membership plugins assume that the customer is buying the membership directly from the site.

In the case of corporate or group memberships, one individual may be purchasing memberships for several people. In this scenario, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to create a membership system that allows one person to purchase memberships, but the recipients of the membership to create an account and gain membership access. Billing is almost always required to be tied to the member account.

There’s still no easy way to achieve this kind of setup, but today we’ll show you a work-around that can let you sell group memberships with WooCommerce. This method will require some manual work on your part as a site owner, but you could automate this with custom code.

The good news is that there’s also a plugin on the way from Prospress, who built WooCommerce Subscriptions, that will allow you to “gift” subscriptions to another person (due out in a few months).

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: Overview

This workaround will let you sell corporate memberships with WooCommerce, as one person can purchase the membership, and then employees (or members of the group), can gain membership access.

We’ll need three plugins to create this group membership system:

There are two ways we can create this system: employees or group members can be responsible for renewing their own memberships, or the business can be responsible for renewing the membership.

This kind of setup works best for memberships that have a long billing period, such as semi-annually or annually, as it’s not entirely automated and requires some manual management from the store administrator. The shorter the billing period, the more work that’s put on the shop administrator.

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: Employee Renews

This workflow is easier to set up when selling group memberships with WooCommerce: the “account” owner (whoever is purchasing the memberships) will buy the initial membership, then employees or group members will renew it themselves in the next billing term.

This works really well for companies that want to give employees a certain length of membership, and then employees can choose whether they’d like to renew or not.

In fact, this exact setup is used by Post Status to sell memberships for the Post Status club. Members get access to certain areas of the site and the member newsletter, and can choose to renew themselves once their initial term (which is paid by the company or an account manager) is over.

Here’s how we can set up an employee or member-renewal system:

  1. Create a simple product in your WooCommerce shop; this is what you’ll sell to the whoever is purchasing the group of memberships (it may even have a lower price for a bulk discount). You can password protect this product or remove it from your catalog if you don’t want just anyone to come along and buy it.

    The person or company purchasing will buy a quantity of this product equal to the desired number of memberships.

    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: group product

    Simple Product for Group Purchase

  2. Create a subscription product in your shop; this will be the product that the member “purchases”. The first billing term will be paid for already so it’s not truly a purchase, but then the member will pay for each term after this to renew the membership. This could be your public product that members purchase to gain access.

    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: member product

    Subscription Product for Members

  3. Add the subscription product (the one the employee will sign up for) to the desired membership plan under WooCommerce Memberships. This ensures that, when the member signs up, the membership is activated and is tied to the member’s subscription. If the member cancels or chooses not to renew, membership access is stopped.

    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: membership plan

    Tie Member Product to Membership Plan

Now lets talk about how the purchasing flow works, as this is where the final steps come in. The employer or person buying the group of memberships will buy the desired quantity of your simple product — say, 20 memberships.

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: purchase group

Buy Group of Memberships

After that purchase, you’re going to set up a coupon that they’ll send to employees. This is where URL coupons makes this very easy to do, as the company can just send a link to employees or group members, and the right item along with the coupon will be added to the cart immediately. I recommend creating a coupon with the company name to make it easy to remember and use.

  • Since 20 memberships were purchased, the coupon limit will be 20 uses. We can also set a usage restriction to limit this coupon to our membership subscription — that way, the discount doesn’t apply to anything else purchased.
    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: coupon limit

    Set Coupon Limits

  • The coupon will be a 100% cart % discount, because we want to give the initial purchase (first billing period) for free since it’s already paid for, but the employee will have to pay for renewals.
  • Create this discount, and have the coupon add the subscription product to the cart. You can even send the new members to the checkout or cart page immediately.
    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: coupon setup

    Complete Coupon Setup

  • Members will have to enter payment details, as the first term of the membership is free (since it was paid for by the company), but renewals are charged to the member. See the total here — “$0.00 now and then $129.99 per year”.
    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: member signup

    Member Signup

This process could be automated if you’d like, as you could automatically create the coupon and send it after checkout rather than taking this step manually. This way, the person purchasing the group of memberships can send the link to members immediately. However, this depends on how many group purchases you’ll get and whether this custom code justifies the investment.

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: Company Renews

You can also let the business or the group purchaser renew for employees, but a system like this is harder to set up, and requires more manual actions. The general idea is the same as the method we’ve just outlined above, but with a few key differences:

  • We’ll need to reverse who gets the simple product and who gets the subscription product so that the company / purchaser is in charge of renewals. You should sell a subscription product to this person, and a simple product to the member. The quantity of subscriptions purchased will equal the quantity of memberships to give away.
  • This means that the recurring billing will go to the company, and the employee or member will not renew the membership themselves.
  • Members will purchase a simple product instead:
    Group Memberships with WooCommerce: member simple product

    New Member Product

As a result, we can’t exactly tie membership access to the billing; the membership access is tied to the member account, but the billing is tied to the account manager / whoever bought the membership group.

This poses a problem, and this is why the “business-renews” setup is more complicated. When you create your simple product for the member to purchase, we’ll add that to the membership plan instead. We’ll also set up an expiration length for the membership:

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: plan expires

Set Expiration length

You’ll still create a URL coupon for a 100% cart discount, and you’ll apply it to this simple membership product instead so that members get a free account. The company will still give this link to employees for an easy sign up process.

We expire the membership after one year so we can keep track of billing; this is a manual process, but it works. You’ll have to pay attention to the company’s subscriptions.

  1. If the subscriptions are cancelled, you would then need to manually cancel the membership that were purchased from it. As these memberships are not tied to the billing account, this process does not happen automatically.
  2. If the subscriptions are renewed, you’ll need to extend these memberships for another year manually.
  3. If the subscription isn’t renewed, you can simply let the memberships expire after the year is up and access will stop.

Is this simple? Not at all. My point is that it can be done, and if you by chance mess up and miss a subscription cancellation, the worst that happens is that the membership expires at the end of the year.

As an aside, I do have a WooCommerce plugin that might help out with this sort of management, as it lets you filter orders by the coupon used. This could give you a list of all members for a particular company easily, as they would have used the company coupon to sign up.

You could also automate membership statuses by the billing subscription via custom code if your site grows large enough to make managing this manually too cumbersome.

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: Gift Subscriptions

While these solutions aren’t pretty, they work to let you sell group memberships with WooCommerce. However, this can be much simpler. Prospress has a Gift Subscriptions Extension in development that will allow one account to purchase subscriptions (and therefore memberships) for another account that’s due out in a few months.

We’ll definitely be reviewing this when it’s available, as it solves a very unique need for membership sites that’s quite difficult to meet now.

Group Memberships with WooCommerce: Summary

Selling group memberships with WooCommerce is possible, and these memberships can be renewed by employees or the purchaser of the group of memberships.

Memberships that are renewed by employees are far simpler to set up, as the billing and membership are part of the same account. The company or purchaser effectively buys a 100% discount for the first terms and shares it with everyone.

Group memberships renewed by a company are also possible, though more difficult to set up and manage. Since the billing and access are part of different accounts, this requires manual management on the part of the shop administrator, or custom code to automate changes in billing.

Personally, if you want to sell a membership that the company or purchaser renews, I’d keep an eye out for the Gift Subscriptions extension, as I think this will make managing group memberships with WooCommerce much easier.


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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.

2 Comments

  1. Great article! I’m in the process of creating a website that offers group memberships and you provide some useful pointers. I have one question relating to your comment about automating the coupon process. How would go about setting this up?

    This process could be automated if you’d like, as you could automatically create the coupon and send it after checkout rather than taking this step manually. This way, the person purchasing the group of memberships can send the link to members immediately. However, this depends on how many group purchases you’ll get and whether this custom code justifies the investment.

    Thanks!
    Carl

    1. Thanks 🙂 To automate the coupon process, you’d need the help of a developer to create the some custom code that would run when your group membership product is purchased. The code would need to create the coupon by generating the code, setting the usage limit to the quantity purchased, and creating the URL for the coupon via URL coupons. You’d then need to output the coupon URL on the thank you page or in the order confirmation email. Basically, it would do the coupon creation steps for you so that the coupon would be immediately available.

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