When people want to talk about their site, it's easy for them to jump between membership and eCommerce. Both are transactions involving money. Both allow a person to purchase something.
But one is focused on content protection. The other is focused on product delivery (whether it's digital or physical).
So which one do you need?
Are you creating an online course?
If you're creating an online course, all you may need is a membership plugin, like MemberPress, where you capture payment and provide access to the content of your course.
There's very little about an online course that requires more than a membership plugin, so you don't necessarily need a full eCommerce solution.
Are you creating a video course?
An online video course should be the same thing right? Well, almost. Because some online video courses allow the customer to download the videos. And once you allow that, you need to distribute digital downloads.
So this one is a toss-up. If you provide people with digital downloads, you may need an eCommerce platform like Easy Digital Downloads. They have an integration with Restrict Content Pro, if you need to add content protection for pages or posts.
Are you creating a platform?
Of course, maybe you're doing something much more than a simple membership site. Maybe you're building a platform – where eCommerce, eLearning and Memberships all come together.
Wondering what I mean by “platform”? I wrote about it this past summer. Here's five posts that might help you see that you need more than a website.
- Part One: You need more than just a website
- Part Two: You need to start with a plan
- Part Three: You need to pick the base of plugins you’ll use
- Part Four: Building an Author Site with iThemes Exchange
- Part Five: Building a Band or Musician’s Site with Easy Digital Downloads
In either case, if a Platform is what you're going for, then you'll want an eCommerce plugin that can support the kind of extensions you'll want to use, to expand your platform.
So, like always, it depends.
What you need totally depends on what you plan to do. Your plans, your goals, dictate the right call for you.
The good news is that you have more options today than ever – from several eCommerce plugins (WP eCommerce, WooCommerce, iThemes Exchange and Easy Digital Downloads).
And when it comes to membership plugins, you have several options as well.