How to Build a Private WooCommerce Members Only Shop
WooCommerce is perfect for building any type of e-commerce website. That’s why it’s no. 1! One of its less obvious uses is to create a private WooCommerce members only store, which only pre-approved customers can access.
I’ll help you to choose the right members only plugin for your specific needs, and provide full instructions on how to set it up for your members.
Do I need a WooCommerce members only shop?
There are lots of reasons why you might want a private shop where members can buy exclusive products that aren’t available to the public. Here are some examples:
- Members buying club – Some stores offer membership plans in return for discounted access to their products. For example, you could use a plugin such as WooCommerce Subscriptions to sell membership on your public store. You can then use this tutorial to create a WooCommerce members only area containing the products.
- WooCommerce wholesale store – A trade-only e-commerce store might want a WooCommerce wholesale plugin to sell to approved members at trade prices.
- Branded products for members only – A trade association or membership group might sell branded merchandise which is exclusively available to its members. This might include clothing with the logo of the membership organisation.
Whatever your reason for needing a members only WooCommerce store, read on to find the right solution for you.
What sort of membership store do I need?
First, let’s look at the different types of WooCommerce members only shop plugin. There are a few methods for structuring a membership store, depending on which customers need access to which products:
- 100% private WooCommerce store with 1 membership level. With this option, your overall website will be public (e.g. the homepage), but the WooCommerce shop will be hidden from public view. Members must log into the private store to view the products and buy. Once logged in, all members will have access to the same products. Setup instructions…
- 100% private WooCommerce store with multiple tiers of membership. Again, your main web pages can be public but the whole of your WooCommerce store will be private and hidden. Different members will have access to different products. Setup instructions…
- WooCommerce store with public and members areas. With this option, you can have a public WooCommerce store which anyone can access and buy from. In addition, you can have 1 or more private WooCommerce members areas. All within the same WooCommerce shop! Setup instructions…
Method 1 – 100% private WooCommerce store with 1 membership level
This method uses the WooCommerce Private Store plugin. Use it to make all parts of WooCommerce private. Once a member logs into the hidden store, they can view and buy all your products.
Setup instructions for your private WooCommerce members only store
Before you start, I expect you to have a WordPress website with WooCommerce already installed and set up. Create all your products.
At this point, you will have a normal e-commerce store that is available to the public. Use the following instructions to transform it into a hidden members only store:
- First, get WooCommerce Private Store. Download the plugin files from the confirmation page or email, and copy your license key.
- In the WordPress admin, find Plugins > Add New and upload the plugin files. Activate the plugin.
- Go to the plugin settings page at: WooCommerce > Settings > Private Store. Add your license key, choose 1 or more passwords for your store, make any changes to the login page text, and Save.
- Now create a page that customers will use to log into your WooCommerce members only store. Use the shortcode
[store_login]to automatically add a login form to the page.
- Finally, link to the login page from your navigation menu, header, footer or keep it hidden and just send the link to your members. (This depends on how you want people to access your private store.)
And that’s it! That’s all you need to do to lock down WooCommerce and turn it into a members only store.
Public visitors can visit your website, view your main pages, and access the login page. Your WooCommerce products, categories etc. will be completely hidden from public view and won’t show up in search results or anywhere else. On entering a correct password, members can unlock the members only store and view and buy the products within.
Using individual user logins to unlock the members store
By default, WooCommerce Private Store uses password protection to protect your WooCommerce members only shop. There’s also a ‘Logged In Users’ box on the settings page. If you tick this, then instead of the password protection, the members shop will automatically be unlocked when customers log into their WordPress user account on your website.
If you use this option, then you don’t need to use the store login page that comes with the plugin. Instead, members can access the store simply by logging into their account via the default WordPress login page. (Tip: You can also use any other WordPress login or social login plugin, such as Theme My Login.)
Method 2 – 100% private WooCommerce store with multiple tiers of membership
This method uses the WooCommerce Password Protected Categories plugin. The shop part of your website is completely hidden from the public. Your members only WooCommerce shop is divided into multiple sections. Each member can have access to 1 or more areas within the shop.
This is a great opportunity to sell different products to different members. For example, if you have different groups or tiers of membership, then you can create a separate area of your store for each category.
Setup instructions for a multi-level WooCommerce members store
You should already have a WordPress site with WooCommerce and various products. At this point, your store will be fully public.
Use the following instructions to turn it into a multi-level members only store, with different products available to different groups of members.
(You can also use these instructions to sell customer-specific products, such as branded clothing for a sports team. In this case, you will have a different category of products for each member.)
- First, buy WooCommerce Password Protected Categories. Copy your license key and download the plugin from the confirmation email or confirmation page.
- In WordPress, go to Plugins > Add New and upload and activate the plugin.
- Navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Products > Protected Categories. Enter your license key, make any other changes (e.g. to the login form wording), and click Save. DO NOT tick the boxes to show protected categories in public parts of the store.
- Now, go to Products > Categories. Create a category for each membership level or group. For each category, select ‘Password protected’ and choose 1 or more passwords. You can add sub-categories if you like – leave these set to ‘Public’, as they will automatically be given the same password as the parent category.
- Next, go to the main Products page in WooCommerce. Put each product in 1 of your password protected categories. (I recommend using Quick Edit to categorise products more easily – hover over each product and click ‘Quick Edit’.)
- Finally, create a page which members will use to log into their area of the members only store. Add the shortcode
[category_login]. This will add a login form to the page. You can link to this from the public parts of your website as needed.
How the multi-level members store works
Once you have completed the above instructions, you will have a complete WooCommerce members only shop with multiple levels.
Customers can view the public parts of your website as usual. They can go to the members store login page and enter a password. Depending on the password entered, members will be logged into the hidden category containing the correct products for their level.
Members can only see the products that they have access to – the products are hidden from everyone else.
You will need to set up a process for giving the password to your members. For example, you might want to include the password for the appropriate product category in your members welcome pack or ‘new member’ email.
Can I sell the same product to more than 1 membership level?
Each product can only be in 1 protected members only category. If you want to sell the same products to 1 or more group of members, then you should clone these products and put one version in each password protected category. The Duplicate Post plugin makes it easy to clone WooCommerce products.
Method 3 – WooCommerce store with public and members areas
This method also uses the WooCommerce Password Protected Categories plugin. It builds on method 2 by adding a public shop as well as one or more WooCommerce members only areas. Some products are available to everyone, while you can also have private members only products.
Setup instructions for a public and members only WooCommerce shop
- To get started, purchase the WooCommerce Password Protected Categories plugin. Get your license key and download the plugin files from the confirmation page or order email.
- Go to Plugins > Add New in the WordPress admin, then upload the plugin files and click Activate.
- Thirdly, find the plugin settings page at WooCommerce > Settings > Products > Protected Categories. Add your license key, change any settings as needed, and Save.
- You’ll see 2 tick boxes for controlling whether or not protected categories and product should be visible in the public parts of the store. Choose whichever option works best for your store:
- If you tick the boxes then your members only products will appear in your public store, but if people click on them then they will have to enter the password to view the single product page or buy.
- Leave the boxes unticked to hide your WooCommerce members only products from the public shop.
- Next, navigate to Products > Categories. Add as many categories as you like to structure your WooCommerce store. This should include your public categories, plus 1 or more members only categories. For the members only categories, select the ‘Password protected’ option and choose a password. (Tip: If you want your members only categories to have different passwords, create each one as a standalone top level category. If you want them to have the same password, create a main password category and add sub-categories to it – they will automatically be protected with the same password.)
- Next, find the Products list in WooCommerce. Categorise each product as needed. (Tip: Use Quick Edit to categorise products more quickly. To do this, hover over a product and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link.)
Finally, we need to set up the navigation for your public and members only store. You’ll need to think carefully about how to make this intuitive for both members and non-members.
- Public store navigation – This bit’s easy. Simply add links to your public store in the usual way. For example, you might want to create menu links to your main WooCommerce shop page and maybe your public store categories. You can also use the widgets that come with WooCommerce to help people navigate the public store.
- Members only shop navigation – This requires a bit more thought. The public shop will remain visible to logged in members, so you need to create navigation links that make it clear when they’re in the members only shop. Here are some tips on how to get this right:
- Create a main page which members will use to log into their area of the members only store. Add the shortcode
[category_login]to add a login form to the page. You can link to this from the public parts of your website as needed. For example, you might add a ‘Members Store’ link to the navigation menu. Or if you want to keep it hidden, don’t link to it at all and just send the link to your members. Once someone enters a correct password, they will be redirected to the members only category for that password.
- If you add direct links to your members only categories to the navigation menu, then these will be hidden from public view. Once a member unlocks their hidden products via the category login page, these menu links will magically appear in the menu for them! This is a neat way of adding more complex structures within your members only WooCommerce store. Each member will only see the products that they have access to.
- Create a main page which members will use to log into their area of the members only store. Add the shortcode
Can the same product appear in the public and members only areas?
If you’ve ticked the box on the settings page, then your members only products can appear in the public store. When people click on them, they will have to enter the password in order to purchase.
However, each product can only be in a public OR a password protected category. If you want to sell the same products in the public and members only areas of the shop, then you will need to clone the products. The Duplicate Post plugin makes it easy to clone WooCommerce products. Then, you can put 1 version of each product in the different parts of your store.
Use WooCommerce to create a members only store
Using the above methods, you can use WooCommerce to sell exclusive products to pre-approved customers. Whether your entire shop is members only, or if you have a separate public store, there’s a plugin that will achieve what you need.