WooCommerce is one of the most powerful ecommerce solutions available in the web development industry. It’s also one of the most popular with a usage rate of 21% among the top 1 million (out of 9.1 million) ecommerce sites on the web, the highest of any platform in this category, according to BuiltWith. This is largely due to WooCommerce’s open-source nature, which allows it to be one of the most versatile options out there when it comes to building an online store.
We could go on and on about the many different features built into WooCommerce natively as well as the thousands upon thousands of third-party solutions available for it, but that’s not what this article is about. Instead, we’re going to focus on one specific solution, and that’s adding a private store to WordPress using WooCommerce Private Store, a plugin developed by Barn2 Media. Let’s get into it.
The Purpose of a Private WooCommerce Store
Creating a private store isn’t customary among WooCommerce users nor is it common in ecommerce sites in general. Sure, you may want to create a few hidden products here and there, but an entire store hidden from public view is a far-fetched idea for most. However, there are a few different scenarios in which this type of ecommerce setup would be beneficial. Let’s go over two.
The first benefit is for wholesale sellers. Let’s say you manufacture products and your website acts as a hub to promote, offer details and provide customer service for them. You don’t want to sell to the public, but you do want wholesale buyers to be able to purchase them without needing to make outdated transactions via phone or catalog. A private store would allow you to provide access to your products to a specific group of customers while hiding it from your site’s visitors.
The second benefit is for membership sites. Let’s say you offer a free service, such as free tutorials, on your website but also offer premium content for paying members. You can add an additional perk to your membership suite by adding a private store only members have access to.
The Difference Between Private Stores and Private Products
A private WooCommerce store is not to be confused with the act of making specific products private. A private store means every product within the store as well as the store itself (pages and links) are hidden unless access is granted. Making specific products private does not hide your entire store. Instead, only specific products will be hidden from view until access is granted while the rest of your store remains available for all customers.
We recommend WooCommerce Private Store if you want to make your entire store private. If you only want to make part of your shop private, we recommend a plugin called WooCommerce Protected Categories instead. It allows you to make part of your store private by hiding individual categories. We actually have a tutorial that shows you how to do just that.
For now, let’s go over how to add a private store to WordPress with WooCommerce Private Store by Barn2 Media.
About Barn2 Media
Barn2 Media is a family-run WordPress development business based out of England. The company was founded as a WordPress development agency in 2009. They developed client sites for years and perfected their expertise in WordPress development by developing private, one-off plugins on a client-by-client basis. They offered their first premium plugin to the public in 2016 and completely redesigned their business structure to focus solely on developing premium WordPress plugins anyone could purchase. Their healthy collection of over seven plugins is being used by over 5,000 websites so far. Plugins include WooCommerce Private Store, the star of this tutorial, as well as WooCommerce Product Table, which we offer a tutorial for as well, and WooCommerce Protected Categories.
Overview of WooCommerce Private Store
Disclaimer: This article was originally written in October 2018 and may not reflect current pricing/features.
WooCommerce Private Store is a unique plugin that allows you to make your entire store, including every product and category within it, private. You have two options when it comes to protecting your store. The first is to block access by forcing customers to enter the correct password in order to view and purchase from the store. The second is to simply hide the store from anyone that’s not logged in. Like we said, it’s designed to make an entire store private. If you’d simply prefer to make a few products or categories private, try WooCommerce Protected Categories, which you can find a tutorial on in our post How to Password Protect WooCommerce Categories.
As far as this plugin goes, here are its top features:
- WooCommerce 100% Hidden – This plugin hides all of WooCommerce’s pages, including Shop, Cart and Checkout, as well as your products, product categories and product tags from the frontend of your site.
- Hide From Navigation Menus – It also hides your shop page and WooCommerce links from your navigation menu(s) and sidebar(s).
- Special Login Form – Protect your store with a password with the built-in login form that allows access without the need for users to create separate accounts. All they need to do is enter the correct password when prompted.
- Unlock for Logged-In Users – Require users to log in to view your store. This overrides the password option.
- Hide from Search Engines – Prevent your store, product and archive pages from appearing in search engines.
The Limitations of WooCommerce Private Store
WooCommerce Private Store provides an incredibly easy to way to make your entire store private, but it does have its limitations. Fortunately, those limitations are solved in WooCommerce Protected Categories, so it’s important for you to consider the type of ecommerce experience you’re shooting for before purchasing one of these plugins.
Like we said before, WooCommerce Private Store is designed to make your entire store private in one fell swoop, and that’s one of the two limitations we’re going to discuss. You can’t simply make part of your store private by applying this plugin’s functionality to specific products or categories. That’s what WooCommerce Protected Categories does. It allows you to hide product categories in various ways, giving you a way to make specific products private without needing to hide your entire store.
The second major limitation we’re going to discuss is the lack of control over who has access to your store. At this point in time, WooCommerce Private Store allows you to provide access to two types of users—those who enter the password and those who are logged in. You cannot limit access to specific user roles or specific users, a setting available in WooCommerce Protected Categories.
If you have a membership site and would like to limit access to specific membership levels, you’re better off going with WooCommerce Protected Categories. The same is true if you’d like to limit access to specific users without asking them to enter a password.
Now that you’re familiar with what this plugin does (and doesn’t do), let’s get into it how it operates.
Installing WooCommerce Private Store
Fortunately, installing WooCommerce Private Store works the same as installing any other premium plugin. Speaking of which, this is a premium plugin, so you’ll need to purchase a license for it prior to downloading. Their prices are listed as $79/year for one license, $129/year for five and $279/year for 20. Once you purchase a license, you can download the ZIP folder and either upload that to to the WordPress admin area or extract the files and upload the unzipped version via FTP or your host’s file manager. Activate it once it installs.
Configuring WooCommerce Private Store
Next up is activating your license key. Go to WooCommerce → Settings → Private Store. The License Key setting is listed as the first one. Just paste your key into the box, and save. Read Barn2 Media’s troubleshooting knowledge base article if you run into any errors.
Next up is setting up a password your customers can use to access your store. When they enter this password, they’ll have access to your Shop, Cart and Checkout pages, products, product categories and tags as well as the My Account area. You can set up more than one password for customers to use. However, they’ll only need to enter one of them correctly to gain access to your store.
Choose how long customers have access to your private store for before the password expires in the next setting. Choose a page to direct users to when they log in after that. By default, customers remain on the login page when they attempt to log into your store and enter the correct password. They’ll simply receive a “store is unlocked” message. With this setting, you can choose to redirect them to the Shop page or the My Account area.
You can choose to unlock the store automatically (without the need to enter a password) for all logged-in users with the next setting. Just be careful with this setting. If you use WordPress’ native comment system and force your site’s visitors log into your site to comment, they’ll have access to your private store when they do so. If you’re only intending for certain membership levels to have access to your private store, lower-tier membership levels will have access to it as well if you use this setting. Only use it if the only users who will be creating accounts for your site are the only ones who will be using your private store.
The next set of settings are self-explanatory and have to do with the text and labels that appear on the login page your customers will use to access your store. You can add forms to any page or text widget with the shortcode “[store_login]” but without the quotes. The form will use the text you set up on the Settings page, but you can customize this text on a per-form basis with the information in this knowledge base article.
That’s all there is to it when it comes to hiding your store with WooCommerce Private Store. It’s a simple plugin that hides your store as soon as you activate it. Again, if you want more control over which content gets hidden and who has access to it, check out WooCommerce Protected Categories and our tutorial How to Password Protect WooCommerce Categories.
WooCommerce Private Store is available for as low as $79 for a single site license. One year of updates and support are included in that price, and your purchase is protected by a 30-day, money-back guarantee. A demo is available on Barn2 Media’s website.