If you've shopped with any major online retailers in the last year, you're probably familiar with the concept of membership-based benefits. Sites like Amazon, Zappos, and Costco offer paid memberships with exclusive benefits for customers who sign up, including free gifts, site-wide discounts and special offers!

As you can see, it pays (literally) to have incentives for your customers. This article will help you harness some of Volusion's built-in features to create a paid membership structure.

Membership Products

While the Volusion software doesn't contain products that are pre-designated as "membership" items, you can easily create them yourself. Some merchants like to offer various levels of membership (for example: silver, gold and platinum) that come with varying benefits.

You can always offer memberships without requiring a fee, but most sites use membership fees to help pay for the benefits their members receive. Additionally, most retailers offer memberships on an annual subscription basis. Here's how to create annual membership listings:

  1. In your Admin Area, go to Inventory > Products and click Add at the top of the page.
  2. In the Name field, enter a title for your membership product. You can create a custom name for your membership club, or use common membership words such as "Select", "VIP", "Priority", or "Insider".
  3. Enter an appropriate Product Code for the membership product.
  4. Since you'll be configuring recurring (subscription) pricing for this item, enter "0" in the Price field.
  5. Enter "0" in the Weight field. This will identify the product as "downloadable," so that no shipping is charged at checkout.
  6. Enter a Description that briefly details the benefits of purchasing the membership.
  7. Select the Categories this product will appear in. Note that you can also choose not to assign it to a specific category, since you can link to the membership product from a promotion on your homepage.
  8. Add an appropriate image (optional) in the Image Management section.
  9. In the Recurring Pricing tab under Advanced Info, enter a Recurring Price for the membership.
  10. In order to have the membership subscription renew annually, enter "12" in the field labeled Recurring Frequency (in Months).
  11. In the Recurring Pricing Text field, enter a brief description that describes the recurring price (for example, "Annual Subscription Fee").
  12. Click Save.

Your customers can now add the membership item to their cart! They'll be billed annually on the date they originally purchased their membership. For more information on recurring pricing, see Products and Recurring Billing.

Membership Benefits 💐

Before your shoppers purchase a membership, they'll need to know what's in it for them! Below are several types of benefits you can offer shoppers as incentives.

Site-wide Discount for Members

One of the most common membership benefits offered by retailers is a site-wide percentage discount on all items. You can easily apply this benefit when you receive an order that contains a membership purchase.

  1. On the Order Details page for an order including a membership purchase, click the Customer ID link that appears below the order total.
  2. Under Special Privileges, enter the discount for this customer in the Percent Discount field.
  3. Click Save.

When this member views products while logged in to their account, they'll see a Sale Price reflecting their discount on all products. Note that you can modify the percentage discount for a customer account at any time by going to Customer > Accounts and clicking the ID number for the account you want to edit.

Discount Levels for Members

If you'd rather offer discounts on specific items only, or if you have multiple membership tiers that should receive different discounts on the same item, you can also assign a Pricing Discount Level to each member.

This method allows you to assign members to one of five levels, then assign up to five different price points for each product in your store. You can control how much less a certain member pays for a specific item, simply by entering the Special Pricing Level prices for that product. You can also ensure that certain items are never discounted, an option that isn't available when using site-wide percentage discounts.

See How to Create Special Discount Prices for Customers and Products for more information.

Targeted Newsletters with Member-Specific Promotions 📰

Newsletters are a great tool for offering exclusive content or deals to your membership subscribers. Once a customer has purchased a membership, you can add them to a specific special interest group within your newsletter subscriber list, then send specifically targeted newsletters to members only. Note that if you offer multiple tiers of membership for purchase, you use special interest groups to send a single newsletter to all members at once, or to send separate newsletters to separate membership groups.

Your Volusion store has 20 reserved special interest groups that you can rename and assign customers to. For more information, see Newsletters.

The newsletters themselves should offer something unique to your shoppers who've paid for a membership. This might include special coupons and discounts that are only offered to members, early-bird sale and contest announcements, or even exclusive access to your newest products.

Exclusive Product Offerings

Everyone likes to feel special, and customers who pay for a membership with your site are already interested in the products you offer. One of the most meaningful membership benefits you can offer is early or exclusive access to certain products in your store!

To do so, you'll need to create a private category and set your membership subscribers' accounts to have access to private pages.

To create a private category:

  1. In your Admin Area, go to Inventory > Categories.
  2. Click Add.
  3. Define a Category Name and assign it to a menu from the Show in Menu drop-down.*
  4. Under Misc, enable the Private Section Customers Only option.
  5. When finished, click Save.

*Note that if the Menu Type for the selected navigation menu is set to Rollover Colors Popout, the category will not be blocked from view; it will still display in the menu to all customers. However, customers will be unable to access this category unless they are members with private category access.

To grant members access to private categories, a special setting will need to be configured within each member's customer account:

  1. Go to Customers > Accounts.
  2. Click on the Customer ID you want to edit.
  3. Under Special Privileges, select Allow Access To Private Sections.
  4. Click Save.

Now you can populate the private category with products that may not appear in your main store for some time, or that may never be offered to regular customers at all.

Note that you must also check Private Section Customers Only on individual products if you want to ensure that these private products do not show in internal store search results for non-private customers. For more information, see How to Create Private Pages for Customers.

Other Benefits 😍

There are many other benefits you can offer as part of a membership. For example:

  • Gift at sign-up (Configure a free accessory on your membership product, or use a custom field drop-down to let members select from several free gift options at checkout.)
  • Members-only content, videos and downloads (Use private categories rather than articles.)
  • Birthday gift or special birthday offer (Use custom fields to collect birthday information at checkout.)

Summary

Memberships work their magic by keeping your store constant in a shopper's mind. You've probably experienced the phenomenon yourself, any time you chose to shop with a retailer based on the benefits you already received from them.

Memberships also serve as a reward for loyal shoppers, giving them an opportunity to add tangible value to their relationship with your company!

Did this answer your question?