Many memberships sites want the ability to separate content access from the membership purchase in order to allow one purchaser to “give out” memberships to other users. For example, a company may want to purchase 10 memberships for employees, and allow employees to redeem the membership without submitting a separate payment.
However, there’s a new plugin to allow you to create a group membership system with iThemes Exchange: Exchange Umbrella Memberships from Iron Bound Designs. We’ll take a look at how the plugin lets you set up a group membership with billing managed by one customer, but access given out to several members.
Setting up Exchange umbrella memberships will allow us to sell a membership product, and if umbrella membership are enabled, purchasing multiple quantities of that product will let the purchaser “give away” additional memberships.
The memberships given away (I’ll call them “child memberships”) will still be tied to the purchaser’s billing: if the charge is cancelled or refunded, all child membership access will stop. The purchaser can also remove child members for the duration of the membership and replace them with others as desired.
This is a fantastic way to sell company memberships like course access, product purchasing access, or conference access (especially if the conference has associated online content), as child memberships can be managed, removed, and replaced very easily.
To create our setup, we’ll need a few different plugins:
- iThemes Exchange (free)
- Exchange Umbrella Memberships add-on ($119) from Iron Bound Designs
- Exchange Memberships Add-on ($97) — this also includes the Recurring Payments add-on (regularly $80) for free
- Optional: a payment gateway integration, such as Stripe for Exchange (free)
If your site will use other Exchange add-ons, I’d highly recommend looking at the Exchange Pro Pack ($197) as well, which will give you access to the Membership Add-on, Recurring Payments, and a bunch of other add-ons built by the iThemes team. You’ll still need to purchase the Umbrella Memberships add-on separately, but it gives you tons of other great tools.
If you’ve never used the Exchange Memberships or Recurring Payments add-ons, we previously reviewed them here. I’m going to assume you have these plugins set up (which can be done in a matter of 10 minutes or so), and then we’ll move on to setting up the Umbrella Memberships plugin.
Set up is super-simple, as you’ll only need to customize the plugin’s email content, and the documentation provides a great resource for additional details. You can change the content for:
- Invitation Email — sent to members when they’re invited to an umbrella membership and already have a site account.
- Invitation & New User Email — sent to members when they’re invited to an umbrella membership and have had an account created for them.
- Removed Email — sent to members when they’re removed from an umbrella membership.
- Expired Email — sent to members when their membership has expired.
The default emails are pretty good already, but if you want to change them, there’s a list of template tags that should help.
Once you’ve customized your email content, you can save the settings, and the hard work is over 🙂
Now you’ll need to create your umbrella memberships. An umbrella membership can be enabled for any membership-type product in your store, as the “Umbrella Memberships” menu will be added to these products. All you’ll need to do is enable umbrella memberships for the membership product.
Once this is enabled, anytime a customer purchases multiple quantities of this product, the customer will be able to “gift” out the additional memberships to other users by entering the user name and email to create “child” memberships. The child memberships will not have any control over their own billing, and will completely respond to the billing of the purchaser.
When purchasing an umbrella membership, the customer simply has to adjust the quantity of the membership product. This will trigger an umbrella membership (for purchases of greater than 1), and the customer will then be able to gift memberships.
Once the purchase is completed, the customer can now manage his umbrella membership from the account area. Under the membership, he can add child memberships based on the quantity purchased by entering the child member’s name and email.
If the user already exists for the child member’s email, the membership will be created and an email will be sent; as soon as the user logs in, the membership access will be available. If a user with that email does not exist, then a new user account will be created, and the invite email will have details to finish account creation and accept the membership.
Any child members will see who purchased the membership when viewing it from their own accounts.
The “account owner” (umbrella membership purchaser) can remove or add child members at any time for the duration of the membership.
The set up and ease of use of the Umbrella Memberships plugin is fantastic, and I was able to tie Umbrella Memberships into my existing Exchange store in minutes. The set up and simplicity is definitely a huge benefit to using the plugin.
In terms of downsides, there’s not really any admin management around memberships, though this is a critique of the core Exchange Memberships plugin moreso than Umbrella Memberships. You can’t manually add or expire memberships with Exchange Memberships, and thus you can’t add or remove umbrella memberships for a particular user (i.e., gifting an additional child membership to a company).
If a user wants to purchase additional child memberships, I do like that they can easily do so by purchasing more memberships, and the “seats” for child members will automatically be added in the customer’s account. However, the “umbrella” part of the membership is triggered by purchasing quantities greater than “1”, so seats will only be added if the purchaser buys 2 or more additional memberships.
The Exchange Umbrella Memberships plugin is a simple, intuitive way to sell “group” or company memberships so that one user can manage billing while giving out access to and managing “child” members. While it’s limited in some respects by the Exchange Memberships plugin (such as in terms of admin management of members), it fits into the purchasing workflow and customer experience very nicely, and makes it simple for your customers to manage their child memberships.
The integration will billing is great, and is even better than Exchange Memberships itself, as cancelled or refunded subscriptions will cancel child membership access seamlessly. Emails for membership invites and cancellations are also handy for notifying child members of changes, as they won’t have access to billing.
At $119, it’s a great tool for membership sites to expand their offering and make it flexible for companies or groups to manage their child memberships.