You can create a WooCommerce members only store in a matter of a few minutes. This article will walk you through what is entailed in having a members only store in WooCommerce (also called a private or hidden store) and shows you step-by-step how to create one using the WooCommerce Members Only plugin.

The WooCommerce Members Only plugin is a really easy way to create a private store. It will work out of the box and requires only a couple of mouse clicks from you, depending on how you want to set up your members only store.

What is a WooCommerce members only store?

First, let’s define what we mean by a members only store. This is a store where content and/or products are hidden from the user and you can only purchase products if you meet the membership criteria. We’ll discuss membership criteria shortly but for now it’s enough to understand that a members only, or private, store has its products hidden from general view. To view and purchase products, you need to be a member.

What are the benefits to having a members only store?

At first glance, a members only store might sound counter-intuitive. Most online stores are grateful to have as many customers as possible and wouldn’t wish to restrict access to a chosen few. However, there are a number of scenarios in which stores can benefit from a members only policy – because sometimes less is more.

For example:

  • You would like to incentivise membership to your site by offering exclusive, members-only products and deals
  • You’d like to offer different prices for members than non-members
  • You’re offering different prices for wholesale and retail
  • You only sell your products to company staff and not to the general public
  • You’re running a wholesale or warehouse club where you can only offer low prices to members paying an annual fee or subscription
  • Your club, e.g. a sports club, would like to reward its members with certain deals and premium products
  • You’d like the ability to pre-approve your customers – perhaps your products are restricted in some way, e.g. products for over-18s only
  • You’re offering branded goods or merchandise that you’d like to keep exclusive for your members – you don’t want just anyone walking around with your logo on their shirt

How to create a private store with the WooCommerce Members Only plugin

Let’s have a look at the specifics of working with the Members Only plugin and run through each of its settings so that you can achieve the results you want.

Works out of the box

The beauty of WooCommerce Members Only is that it’s the simplest plugin for creating a private store in WooCommerce.

It focuses on making the process of setting up your private store as simple and quick as possible. It will even offer you the option to create any required pages automatically so that you don’t need to worry about technical stuff like embedding shortcodes.

Default settings

When you install and activate the plugin, it will automatically hide your WooCommerce products from any user who is not logged in so, if this is the type of members only store that you require, you don’t need to take any extra action.

Updating the settings

If you’d like to tweak the settings, you can do so really simply from the ‘Members Only’ table in WooCommerce > Settings.

WooCommerce Members Only store settings page

We’ll take a look at each setting and see how it allows you to create your private area.

Deciding who can access your content

You can define membership in three different ways. The method you choose will depend on the type of private store that you’re running.

On the settings page, you’ll see an option called ‘Restriction Method’. The choices are:

  • Logged in users only – this is the most simple of the three options. Anyone who is logged into the site, whatever their user role, will be able to access the hidden content. Anyone who is not logged in will not be able to access the content. Simple.
  • Password protected – only slightly less simple than the logged-in option above, the password option allows you to password protect your WooCommerce store by creating one or more passwords. Users who have not entered a password will be locked out of the hidden content until they enter a password correctly. Having the ability to create more than one password allows you to set one global password or create multiple passwords, either unique to each individual or to groups.
  • User role – finally, the user-role option allows you the most fine-tuning of all methods. You can allow access to users according to their role so, for instance, only users with the ‘editor’ role can have access to your hidden store.

Creating passwords

If you select ‘Password’ from ‘Restriction Method’ above, you’ll see a couple of extra fields appear:

WooCommerce Members Only password settings

Creating a password form

The easiest way to create a password page and form is to ensure that you have selected ‘Password’ from ‘Restriction Method’ then click ‘Save changes’. You’ll see a notification to automatically create a page:

WooCommerce Members Only create page

Just click ‘Yes, please create a page for the password form’ and the plugin will automatically create a page and embed the password form in the page.

What happens when a user logs in or enters their password?

By default, the plugin won’t redirect the user once they’ve entered their password. However, if you’d like to send the user off to a different page, like the Shop page, you can do that by updating the ‘After Logging In’ setting to ‘Redirect’ and ensuring that the ‘Redirect Page’ is set to ‘Password Form’ (or whatever page your password form is called).

WooCommerce Members Only after logging in

What happens if a user tries to access a page that is hidden from them?

If a user tries to access a page that they’re not permitted to view, they are redirected to the log-in or password page.

How to decide what parts of your site are hidden

There are several options for which content you want to hide on your site. You define it in the ‘Restricted Content’ setting.

WooCommerce Members Only restricted content setting
Hide your WooCommerce product pages

If you would just like to prevent unauthorised users from accessing product pages, leaving all other WooCommerce pages accessible, then choose ‘All Product Pages’ in the ‘Restricted Content’ setting.

Make your entire WooCommerce store members only

You can hide all your WooCommerce store pages, including product pages, category and tag archives, the shop page, the cart and checkout pages. To do so, set ‘Restricted Content’ to ‘All WooCommerce pages’. This will leave other content on your site viewable but anyone who is not logged in or who doesn’t have the correct password won’t even know you have a store.

Hide WooCommerce categories

If you’d like to restrict access to specific WooCommerce categories, choose ‘Specified Categories’ in ‘Restricted Content’. You’ll get an additional field called ‘Restricted Categories’ where you can enter the names of the categories you’d like to protect.

WooCommerce restricted categories setting
Protect your entire site

If you would like to password protect your entire site, or require that a user must log in and/or be a certain user role, you can do by setting ‘Restricted Content’ to ‘Entire Site’. This will hide all pages, except the page with your log-in or password form.

Hiding widgets from users

Just as important as your main content are your widgets. Enabling WooCommerce Members Only ensures that unauthorised users don’t see any content in widgets. This is important because sometimes restricted content might be contained in widgets that are placed on unrestricted pages. For instance, your blog posts might include product widgets. You’re happy for users to read your posts but you don’t want them to see links to hidden products.

On the other hand, certain widgets might contain content that you’re perfectly happy for all users to see. In this case, you can just add the widget names to the ‘Widget Whitelist’ field.

Hiding menus from unauthorised users

Just as with widgets, you can hide menu items from being seen by unauthorised users. You just enter the menu item name in the ‘Exclude from Menu’ field to ensure they’re not seen by the wrong users.

Wrapping up

Hopefully this post has shown you how easy it is to create a private, members only WooCommerce store – it’s literally just a couple of clicks of the mouse. Click the banner below to find out more about the WooCommerce Members Only plugin.


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