Integrating Membership Sites with eCommerce Plugins
We’ve recently written several articles on creating membership sites using WordPress eCommerce platforms that we’d like to summarize and compare side-by-side for those of you that aren’t currently tied into a platform, or are looking to switch.
Before we get started, I’d like to point out that we published an article on general membership plugins for any WordPress site that you can check out if you only want to sell memberships. There are some truly great plugins available, and many are only getting better. This set of articles is more for those of you that want to sell products in addition to memberships, as integrating membership functionality with an eCommerce plugin is probably the one of the best solutions for this setup.
So for those of you looking for a solution or looking to switch, here are some points to consider.
Which platform should I use for my store + membership site?
If you haven’t check out our eCommerce Platform guide, I’d take a look to consider what you’ll need for the product sales side of your store. Consider how much weight to give the product sales side of your site versus the membership side while evaluating with plugin will be the right one for you. If the membership side of the coin is more important to you, then you may want to compare what each platform can do (you can view the spreadsheet below here as well).
Are you selling subscriptions to a physical product? I’d consider WooCommerce or Cart66 Cloud. WooCommerce subscriptions offers a lot of functionality and flexibility in setting up billing cycles and user capabilities concerning subscriptions. Cart66 Cloud is easier to use, but isn’t nearly as extensible as WooCommerce, so you’ll have to determine what you prefer. Pricing for the first year is comparable between the two (solely based on this functionality), and WooCommerce licenses renew at cheaper prices each subsequent year. Really though, both are good choices. Exchange‘s Recurring Payments add-on will also allow you to sell subscriptions to physical products, but the billing features are not as strong.
Even though we didn’t cover it in this series, Shopp will also allow you to sell subscriptions to a physical product, but there’s no way to assign members to groups for content access. You can set free or paid trial periods, but cannot set sign-up fees with free trial periods. The only way to assign a set-up fee is to set a price for a one-day trial, so you have choose which you want to use. One of the benefits to Shopp is that the shipping settings and discounts are pretty flexible, so if you don’t need to put members into groups with a subscription, you can also look into using Shopp for your site.
Want the simplest to use? You’ll probably want to check out Exchange. You’ll be limited some by the recurring billing side of things, as you can’t set sign-up fees or free trials, but content restriction is extensive and super easy to use.
Easy Digital Downloads does a good job covering the rest of the bases for sites selling only virtual products. Content restriction is very easy to use, recurring billing is flexible, and EDD is also pretty extensible. WooCommerce can cover much, if not all, of the same functionality, but will probably be overkill for stores with only virtual products, and the Groups integration is a bit difficult to use. Cart66 can also be used for virtual products as content restriction is easy to use, but again, it won’t be as extensible as other platforms.
Restricting logins is also not possible with Cart66, as user accounts are not assigned as WordPress users. Other eCommerce plugins use WordPress user roles for subscribers, so you can restrict logins using the free WP Bouncer plugin. Logins are restricted to one IP address at a time, which is not foolproof, but is a good deterrent from sharing site credentials. I’d also be curious to see actual statistics on how often user credentials are shared to determine how much revenue is lost from shared credentials – anyone actually have hard data for this?
Need content dripping? You’ll have to go with Cart66 Cloud or Exchange. Billing is more flexible with Cart66 and the cart system is hosted for easy setup and security, while Exchange offers more detailed content restriction, very simple usage, and is better for stores with physical products as well.
To summarize, if you only want membership functionality, check out our article on WordPress membership plugins. If you want to integrate an eCommerce store with memberships, then you have a lot of great choices available. Selecting a platform will solely depend on what you need / prefer for your store. Since we like you all so much, we’ve tried to simplify this into a “Integrating Membership Sites with eCommerce Plugins” infographic (full size here – open in a new tab):
As I mentioned before, selling shippable subscription-based products is easy with both WooCommerce and Cart66, so I’d recommend giving both a shot. As for virtual products or content, please let us know if you have suggestions or experiences to share with any other platforms!