Best Membership Plugins for WP Fusion (2020 edition)

We often get asked which plugins work best alongside WP Fusion for creating a membership site.

While WP Fusion officially integrates with 21 different membership plugins, some work better than others. As well, different membership sites have different requirements in terms of how transactions are processed, groups (or umbrella accounts), and social features.

In this post we’ll be looking at the most common membership site setups we see with our WP Fusion users, and exploring some pros and cons for each.

Contents:

TLDR? Check out either WooCommerce Subscriptions or MemberPress for registration and payments, paired with BuddyBoss for community features.

Note: If a plugin mentioned in this post has an affiliate program, you may see an affiliate link to their website. Our recommendations aren’t in any way affected by these affiliate programs— we’ve been recommending these same plugins for a long time, based on our experiences and those of other WP Fusion users.

Do you need a membership plugin?

WP Fusion has hundreds of options for controlling access to content in WordPress based on a contact’s tags in your connected CRM. In that way WP Fusion can be used as a very simple membership plugin.

For example maybe you just want to import your CRM contacts as WordPress users, send them a password, and then use a CRM tag to unlock a members-only page on your site. In that case you can build a very basic “membership site” just with WP Fusion.

However, WP Fusion doesn’t add anything to the frontend of your website. WP Fusion does not have:

  • A way to take payments
  • A login form or registration form
  • Profile forms
  • Member directories

Those are the features that we’d look for in a membership plugin, and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this post.

Selling memberships

Usually the first question when building a membership site is how you’re going to sell access. The two most common setups we see are using WooCommerce and MemberPress.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is by far the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, and as such it has a massive ecosystem of extensions that let you customize it in almost any way imaginable. WooCommerce is also supported out of the box on almost every theme, so you know it’s going to integrate tightly with the rest of your site.

The most common setup we see for selling memberships with WP Fusion is to use WooCommerce and the WooCommerce Subscriptions extension (for recurring payments).

WooCommerce Subscriptions includes support for recurring payments, free trials, signup fees, and saved credit cards

Using WP Fusion with WooCommerce is intuitive. You set up your WooCommerce products to apply tags in your CRM at checkout, and then those same CRM tags can unlock content in WordPress, or even auto-enroll users into courses or social groups.

In the case of a subscription cancellation or payment failure, those tags can be automatically removed, and the user would lose access to the membership content until they reactivated their subscription.

In this scenario your CRM tags act like membership levels, with WP Fusion unlocking content based on purchases and subscription statuses in WooCommerce. This is a really flexible system that gives you a ton of options for offering promotions, free trials, upgrades, group accounts, and bundles (i.e. a course bundle).

Pros:

  • Easy to get started (the core plugin is free), and lots of learning resources online
  • Huge ecosystem of available addons, extensions and themes

Cons:

  • WooCommerce is optimized for selling physical products, so the experience is sometimes not as intuitive for your customers as it would be with a dedicated membership plugin
  • The extensions can get expensive. For example if you want to sell group / umbrella accounts you’ll need the Teams for WooCommerce Memberships addon, as well as the WooCommerce Memberships addon, which brings your costs up to $527 / year

Price: Starts at $199 / year for WooCommerce + WooCommerce Subscriptions

See more at WooCommerce.com »

Read more about WP Fusion’s WooCommerce integration »

MemberPress

The second most common solution we see for selling memberships is with MemberPress.

MemberPress doesn’t have the same ecosystem of extensions or guaranteed theme compatibility as WooCommerce, but it also requires fewer extensions to get up and running, since it’s optimized specifically for selling memberships.

For example with WooCommerce you would need to create a new “Product” for your membership and remember to set it as “Virtual” so a shipping method isn’t required at checkout. With MemberPress you simply click “Add New Membership Plan” and enter the plan details.

MemberPress includes a lot of features specific to selling memberships that would require additional extensions with WooCommerce

In many cases MemberPress is more affordable than WooCommerce as well, which can cost over $1,000 / yr. depending on the extensions you’re using.

MemberPress includes recurring payments out of the box, and with the Plus license you have access to 50 different addon plugins, all for once fixed price.

Pros:

  • Already optimized for selling memberships out of the box, you just need to install one plugin to get started
  • Often more affordable than WooCommerce, especially when managing corporate / umbrella accounts or affiliates

Cons:

  • Not as universal as WooCommerce, smaller ecosystem of extensions, and may require some extra styling to make it look perfect with your theme

Price: Starts at $149 / year for the Basic plan (depending on the current offer)

See more at MemberPress.com »

Read more about WP Fusion’s MemberPress integration »

Honorable mentions

Honorable mentions go to Easy Digital Downloads and their Recurring Payments extension, as an alternative to WooCommerce Subscriptions.

And Paid Memberships Pro or Restrict Content Pro as alternatives to MemberPress. Both are solid membership plugins with similar features to MemberPress, but MemberPress is more popular with WP Fusion users and has a bigger community.

Avoid

I’d recommend staying away from s2Member, MemberMouse and WishList Member.

WP Fusion does include integrations for all three, but the integrations are very limited due to those plugins not being coded properly for interoperability with the rest of WordPress. It’s also harder to find compatible themes and addons.

Social features

On top of the “ecommerce” layer, you may also want to add social features to your membership site. That could include

  • Community forums
  • Activity feeds
  • Member-to-member messaging
  • Social groups

BuddyBoss

For that functionality, we recommend BuddyBoss. BuddyBoss works seamlessly with either WooCommerce or MemberPress to add a social layer on top of your membership site.

The main activity feed in BuddyBoss

You can disable and enable whatever modules you need based on your requirements. For example maybe you want to have discussion groups, but don’t want to have a public forum open to everyone. In that case you would just turn off the forum module.

The BuddyBoss Platform plugin is free, which provides all the underlying functionality for profiles, forums, groups, and activity. However the BuddyBoss theme is a premium theme.

The member dashboard in BuddyBoss can be customized to show relevant content for your membership

The theme is what gives you this really attractive visual interface, and without it BuddyBoss looks a little dull. You can try a live demo of the BuddyBoss theme here.

Pros:

  • Contains a bunch of common membership features (forums, groups, profiles, activity) in one plugin. Easy to turn modules on and off
  • The BuddyBoss Platform plugin containing all the functionality is free
  • The premium theme is super slick looking, has a ton of plugin integrations, and is infinitely customizable

Cons:

  • It doesn’t look very nice without the premium theme, which is an extra $228 / yr
  • Could be overkill if all you need is one component (for example if you just need a forum, installing bbPress on its own is simpler)
  • If you’re not careful and don’t put in some extra design time, you could end up looking like every other BuddyBoss site

Price: Plugin is free. $228 / yr. for a single site license to the premium theme

See more about BuddyBoss at BuddyBoss.com »

Read more about WP Fusion’s BuddyBoss integration »

Other options

BuddyBoss has a lot of features, and you may find it overkill for your site. Especially if your membership site is primarily built for selling courses, you may not need a social layer on top of your ecommerce and LMS plugin— that’s also totally fine.

One other plugin we’ve seen a lot of success with for membership sites is Gamipress. That lets you award points and badges based on site activity such as completing your profile, finishing a course, posting in a group for the first time, etc.

Gamipress is compatible and already integrated with everything we’ve mentioned here so far, and WP Fusion can sync Gamipress data bi-directionally with your connected CRM.

Team memberships

One important thing to consider is whether you will ever want to sell “team” memberships (sometimes called “umbrella” or “corporate” memberships).

For example maybe you sell a professional certification course, and a company needs to be able to purchase access for their employees.

That’s actually a rather complex component, and very few plugins do it successfully. If you think you might need to sell team or group access in the future, it’s important to start with something that will support that functionality.

With WooCommerce

Team memberships with WooCommerce comes from the Teams for WooCommerce Memberships extension,  which also requires WooCommerce Memberships.

This is probably the most powerful teams solution we’ve seen, as it’s compatible with everything else in WooCommerce. You have all the flexibility of WooCommerce Subscriptions in terms of billing, lots of options for taxes and payment gateways, and of course the best theme compatibility.

A team leader can manage their team from within their WooCommerce account page

However it does get expensive. Running WooCommerce Subscriptions, WooCommerce Memberships, and Teams for WooCommerce Memberships brings your costs up to $527 / year, just for WooCommerce extensions.

In terms of WP Fusion, the Teams extension is supported, and you can apply tags in your CRM when new members are added to a team.

With MemberPress

If you sign up for a Plus or Pro license to MemberPress, you automatically get access to the Corporate Accounts Addon.

This addon works similarly to Teams for WooCommerce Memberships. You can specify that a membership level is a corporate account, and then when someone buys that membership they will be able to invite sub-accounts to the membership (up to the number of seats you specify).

A corporate account user can manage their sub-accounts and send invite links from the MemberPress account panel

It’s not quite as intuitive as WooCommerce. For example a corporate account user can’t easily add additional seats to the membership without purchasing a new membership. But considering that it’s included in the $247 / year MemberPress Plus license, it’s also a lot more affordable, and in our experience it works really well.

In terms of WP Fusion, the Corporate Accounts extension is supported, and you can apply tags in your CRM when new sub-accounts are added to an account.

Honorable mention

The only other plugin we’ve seen used successfully for group / umbrella accounts is the Restrict Content Pro Group Accounts addon.

It does work well, but Restrict Content Pro is less popular than WooCommerce and MemberPress… and so it’s not something we encounter often.

WP Fusion also supports the Group Accounts addon and can apply tags in your CRM when new members are added to a group account.

In summary

When building a membership site with WP Fusion, we’ve seen our customers have the most success with either using WooCommerce or MemberPress for the ecommerce and membership layer, and (optionally) BuddyBoss or BuddyPress for social features.

(If you check out the plugin integration stats from our most recent Year in Review post, you’ll also see these plugins are also some of the most commonly used with WP Fusion. No surprises there.)

When choosing whether to use WooCommerce or a dedicated membership plugin like MemberPress, the main points to consider are:

WooCommerce:

  • Has the biggest ecosystem of extensions, and works with every theme. Infinitely customizable
  • Can be more expensive over time since you need multiple extensions to run a membership site
  • Is not optimized for memberships out of the box. Requires some additional setup / tweaking the signup flow

MemberPress:

  • Has a good number of extensions and works with some of the most popular membership themes (such as BuddyBoss)
  • One annual price gets you access to all addons and extensions, which is usually more affordable than WooCommerce
  • Is optimized for selling memberships out of the box, all in one plugin

Whatever plugins you choose, we hope you’ll consider using WP Fusion to deeply integrate your membership site with your marketing automation platform.

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5 thoughts on “Best Membership Plugins for WP Fusion (2020 edition)”

  1. Great roundup, Jack!

    From my experience running a membership site tech focused agency I would also add my 2c.

    1 – MemberPress is by far the most popular plugin we work with, and it’s a great piece of tech with its own Zapier zap (huge!), strong developer tools, and a super supportive team who gives direct access to them in Slack in order to empower us to help their (and our) customers!

    2 – There are a few hidden benefits of a WooCommerce stack:

    A) Access to alternative payment processors

    A lot of people don’t know this but you’re not stuck with Stripe and Paypal. There are plenty of payment processors in the US alone with better fee structures than Stripe.

    For these people, and for the folks using foreign payment processors, there’s usually a Woo extension to support it already. If not, you can have one coded (although that could be expensive).

    B) Total checkout control

    You mentioned CartFlows which from what we’ve seen in our few spurts of work with it is still a pretty immature product. The idea is solid: kickass funnels based on WooCommerce.

    By the way, BuildWooFunnels does what CartFlows is *trying* to do but already does it and does it extremely well.

    You can pretty much set up a totally custom shopping cart and replace ThriveCart / SamCart / PKS etc., and connect it with with all the apps in your stack via API. Totally custom affiliate program, cart abandonment, etc. It’s a lot of setup work but could be warranted once a biz reaches a certain level and needs the flexibility.

    C) GPL

    Pretty much all of the WooCommerce ecosystem is GPL so you can download the plugins, modify them, fork them, improve them, etc.

    You can also sign up to a quality GPL club and quickly test through dozens of different extensions and plugins and themes to determine what will suit your needs.

    I know GPL is a taboo thing for some developers as people often use it to get stuff without paying, but I think that being able to test out a bunch of tech quickly and cheaply without submitting CC info to dozens of different vendors is huge, especially in the analysis phase of a project when you’re trying to determine which solution would best serve a particular set of requirements.

    Incidentally, MemberPress stopped developing / supporting the MemberPress / WooCommerce extension they used to have. I don’t know the official reason for that but I theorize it’s because it’s a lot of work! And they can’t do everything themselves, so why not let the open source / GPL WordPress world have at it and develop / support one themselves?

    I feel like the membership tech and this space in general is reaching a certain level of maturity, with innovative plugins like WPFusion leading the charge. Giving folks the ability to choose from a bunch of different solutions, and then to be able to easily integrate those solutions across their entire business via WPF, Zapier, API, etc., means that you can basically use best in class tools for every business need.

    So cool! 🙂

  2. Hi Jack,

    My name is Tracy Childers. I’m the Co-Founder and president of WishList Products. I’d love to connect with you and talk about what you think needs to be changed in WishList Member.

    We’ve been continuing to innovate and add more and more to WishList Member since we did the complete overhaul in version 3.0 last year.

    I sent a friend request on Facebook. I’d love to connect and hear more about what areas you think we need to improve on. It wasn’t clear to me if your review was based on a current version of WishList Member or not.

    BTW, I’m impressed with what you have done with WPFusion. I’ve heard some really good stuff about it from others as well.

    Thanks,

    Tracy

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