How to Build a Private WooCommerce Members Only Shop

Published on: Updated: June 19, 2019

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, members only WooCommerce store, which restricts access so only pre-approved customers can enter. Read more on how to add a membership plugin to create your membership website today.
Private WooCommerce Members Only Shop WordPress Plugin

This is the complete guide to building a WooCommerce members only shop. We’ll look at 2 plugins: WooCommerce Private Store and WooCommerce Protected Categories.

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.

WOO PRIVATE STORE WOO PROTECTED CATEGORIES

Do I need a members only WooCommerce 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:

  • WooCommerce wholesale pluginMembers buying club – Some stores offer membership plans in return for discounted access to their products. For example, you could use a WooCommerce extension/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 WooCommerce stores – 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 plugin, 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 members only WooCommerce extension plugins. There are a few methods for structuring a private area and membership store, depending on which customers need access to which products:

  1. 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…
  2. 100% private WooCommerce store with multiple membership  plugin tiers. 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…
  3. Members only 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.

WooCommerce Private Store

Create a private WooCommerce members-only store in under 2 minutes.

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Setup instructions for your private members only WooCommerce 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:

  1. First, get WooCommerce Private Store. Download the plugin files from the confirmation page or email, and copy your license key.
  2. In the WordPress admin, find Plugins -> Add New and upload the plugin files. Activate the plugin.
  3. Activate WooCommerce Private Store licenseGo 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)

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Method 2 – 100% private WooCommerce store with multiple tiers of membership

This method uses the WooCommerce 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.

WooCommerce Protected Categories

Create a private members-only store with multiple membership levels.

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Before you start, 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 user-specific products, such as branded clothing for a sports team or school. In this case, you will have a different category of products for each member.)

Setup instructions for a multi-level WooCommerce members store

  1. First, buy WooCommerce Protected Categories. Copy your license key and download the plugin from the confirmation email or confirmation page.
  2. In WordPress, go to Plugins -> Add New and upload and activate the plugin.
  3. Navigate to WooCommerce -> Settings -> Products -> Protected Categories. Enter your license key, make any other changes (e.g. to the members area login form), and click Save. DO NOT tick the boxes to show protected categories in public parts of the store.
  4. WooCommerce school category visibilityNow, go to Products -> Categories. Create a category for each membership level or group. For each category, select one of the ‘Protected’ options:
    • Password protected – Members must enter a password to access each members-only product category. This WooCommerce password protection is separate from WordPress user logins. It’s a good option if you don’t require separate accounts for each member.
    • User roles – Automatically unlock the members-only category for logged in users with a specific role. (Tip: The free User Role Editor plugin makes it easy to create additional membership plugin levels, which you can then protect using WooCommerce Protected Categories.)
    • Users – Alternatively, select the individual member accounts that should have access to the members-only WooCommerce category. This option is probably best for smaller WordPress membership sites. I’d recommend the password protection or user roles options for WooCommerce stores with lots of members.
  5. Next, add any sub-categories to your members area categories. Leave these set to ‘Public’, as they will automatically inherit the same protection as the parent category.

Now add your protects and allow members to login

  1. Next, go to the main Products page in WooCommerce. Put each product in one of your members-only categories. (I recommend using Quick Edit to categorize products more easily – hover over each product and click ‘Quick Edit’.)
  2. Finally, create a page which members will use to log into their area of the members only store. Add a ‘Member Login’ link to your navigation menu. This depends on what type of protection you’re using for your membership plugin categories:
    1. If you’re using password protection, then use the shortcode [category_login] to add a login form to any page. You can link to this from the public parts of your website as needed. When someone logs into a members-only category, the plugin will instantly redirect them to the category matching the password entered.
    2. If you’re using user roles or user restriction, then you should link to a user login page such as the main WooCommerce Account page. To make your WooCommerce members store more user-friendly, you can use the free Peter’s Login Redirect plugin to automatically redirect each user or role to the correct category page after logging in.

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 either enter a password or log into their WP user account.

Members can only see the products that they have access to. The restricted products are hidden from everyone else.

You will need to set up a process for giving the password to your members, or allowing new members to register for the store.

Giving the password to your members

For password protected membership areas, you might want to include the password for the appropriate product category in your members welcome pack or ‘new member’ email. The plugin supports multiple passwords, or you can use the same one for each user.

Creating a user account for new members

The WooCommerce ‘Account’ page turns into a login and registration form for logged out users and guests. If you have enabled user registration, then you can let new members register here. Once they have logged into their new WP user account, they can access the members-only store.

Alternatively, you can use any WordPress front end registration/login plugin to create a fancy registration form. The Theme My Login plugin has a useful feature to hold new member registrations for approval by an administrator before they can access the members-only store.

If you’d rather sell membership via your website, then you can do this by creating a public product that everyone can buy. To find out how, skip ahead now.

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 WooCommerce protected category. The Duplicate Post plugin makes it easy to clone WooCommerce products. (If you want to manage inventory across each version of the product then we recommend the Group Stock Manager plugin. This lets you share stock levels across multiple products.)

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Method 3 – WooCommerce store with public and members areas

This method also uses the WooCommerce 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.

WooCommerce Protected Categories

Create a WooCommerce store with public and members-0nly areas.

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Setup instructions for a public and members only WooCommerce shop

The instructions for this use case are identical to method 2. The only difference is that as well as creating protected members-only categories, you should create some public product categories.

The next step is to create a user-friendly navigation structure for your public and members only store. We’ll look at this now.

Store navigation

Think carefully about how to structure your WooCommerce store. It needs to be intuitive for both members and non-members:

  1. Public store navigation – This bit’s easy. Simply add links to your public store in the usual way. For example, you might add menu links to the 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.
  2. Membership plugin: Members only shop navigation – 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 WooCommerce shop. Some tips:
    • Create a page which members will use to log into the members only store. If you’re using password protected categories, then use the shortcode [category_login] to add a login form to the page. If you’re using role or user protection, then use a front end user login page such as the WooCommerce Account page. You can link to your members store login page from the public areas, such as a ‘Members Store’ link in 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 store 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.

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 WooCommerce 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.

How can I sell access to my WooCommerce members only store?

Finally, I’ll reveal how you can sell access to your members only WooCommerce store with this membership plugin. Skip this section if you don’t want to charge for membership.

  1. First, create a public category under Products -> Categories.
  2. Now add a product to this category – Products -> Add New. Call this ‘Buy Membership’ or whatever you like. Add a price and other information about joining your WooCommerce membership purchasing club.
  3. Create more than one membership product if you want to sell different membership tiers on this membership plugin.
  4. Link to your membership products from prominent places on your public website, such as the navigation menu.
  5. Lastly, consider how to give new members access to your WooCommerce members only store. This depends on the type of protection you’re using:
    • Password protection – Use the Follow-Up Emails plugin to automatically send an email containing the members area login link and password to everyone who buys the membership plugin. This plugin provides fine-grained control, and you can create different emails for each membership product.
    • Role protection – The easiest way to do this is to automatically unlock the hidden membership plugin for all logged in Customers. Disable guest registration in the WooCommerce settings (WooCommerce -> Settings). When someone buys a product, including membership, they will receive the logins for a customer-level account. They can log into this account to unlock the WooCommerce members only store.
    • Individual logged in user protection – Finally, is your members only store is restricted to individual logged in users? If so, then you will need to manually give each user access when they purchase membership. Just head to the ‘Edit’ screen for the members only category, and select them under the ‘Protection’ options.

Use WooCommerce to create a members only store

Using the above methods, you can use WooCommerce to create content restrictions and sell exclusive products to pre-approved customers. Whether your entire shop is members only on WooCommerce, or if you have a separate public store, there’s a members only WooCommerce plugin which will suit your needs.

WOO PRIVATE STORE WOO PROTECTED CATEGORIES

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