Membership pricing models for different products

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to pricing your memberships, the types of products you create can point you in the right direction.

Different pricing models tend to be popular within certain niches, and some product types demand a certain pricing model to be profitable; a SaaS membership site will have different requirements than a membership site centered around written content or downloadables, for example. Similarly, digital products and physical products bring specific pricing factors to light.

In this post, we discuss some different membership pricing models for different products, to give you a better idea!

Single tier memberships

The single tier membership pricing structure is perhaps one of the longest-running models out there; the premise is that members pay one flat monthly fee for access to all of the membership content.

One of the simplest pricing models, single tier memberships work well for a variety of product types. If your goal is to give all of your members the same value and access, and you also want a simplified pricing structure, single tier memberships are for you!

Smaller scale / simple content websites

If you publish content like articles, blog posts, and other written content, or other common media formats like video and audio, having a single tier model can make a lot of sense. Maybe your membership site is a smaller-scale operation and you’d like to keep things simple.

Or, perhaps you’re just starting out and you want to see how people respond to your membership offering. It’s easier to fine-tune your site when you’re working with fewer variables, after all.

Physical product subscriptions

Subscription boxes are all the rage these days! Hugely popular sites like BarkBox and FabFitFun are great examples.

Usually priced as single tier memberships on a monthly or quarterly basis, these memberships sometimes come with an annual payment option that saves the customer money.

Subscription box example (FabFitFun)
Subscription box (FabFitFun)
Annual pricing option (FabFitFun)
Annual pricing option (FabFitFun)

Since these kinds of memberships tend to serve a specific purpose or deliver niche goods, single tiers can be a simple solution for people who don’t want to stress over options and decisions. On the other hand, some subscription boxes like HelloFresh offer several pricing plans, based on how many items members want delivered per week.

Subscription pricing plans (HelloFresh)

Digital courses

Membership sites designed around digital courses are commonly priced as single tier memberships. However, some sites let customers choose between paying for courses individually or buying an all-access pass, as is the case with MasterClass:

All-access pass option (MasterClass)
All-access pass option (MasterClass)
Individual course option (MasterClass)
Individual course option (MasterClass)

Udemy, on the other hand, offers individually priced courses, alongside membership tiers for different business needs:

Membership tiers for business use (Udemy)
Pricing plans for business (Udemy)

This brings us to…

Tiered memberships

Implementing tiered memberships into your pricing structure can give you a lot to work with in terms of speaking to different member segments, personalizing and facilitating those member journeys, and expanding your revenue avenues.

Tiered memberships may use an anchor offer – or a top tier that “anchors” the customer’s expectations to a higher price point. This psychological effect has not only been proven to promote desire for the higher tiers; it also drives sales toward mid-range tiers.

Membership tiers can be something you add later (once you’ve established your membership business and you want to give your members more options) or they can make up the core structure of your membership pricing, guiding your content strategy and product creation process entirely.

Downloadables

If you make downloadable products such as graphic elements, stock photos, documents, and other digital assets, tiered memberships can be a good way to structure your pricing in order to expand your reach to customers with varying needs and budgets. It also allows you to restrict your content in different ways.

For example, your membership tiers could cover:

  • Different types of products
  • Different numbers of downloads
  • Different access to supplemental content, advanced features, or other extras

Web Apps / SaaS

Pricing tiers are extremely common among SaaS products, as these products are best tailored to individual member needs. For example, MailChimp offers four different tiers (including a free tier), and gives you the ability to calculate your monthly price for each paid tier, based on the number of mailing list contacts you have.

Pricing tiers (MailChimp)
Pricing tiers (MailChimp)
Price calculator (MailChimp)
Price calculator (MailChimp)

Another example is FreshBooks, which offers tiers that are specifically designed for different types of individuals and businesses:

Pricing tiers (FreshBooks)

On-demand streaming services

On-demand streaming services like subscription-based video on demand (SVOD) are very popular, giving users the freedom to consume any available content at their leisure. Often times there are several tiers – one or more for customers on a budget, and one or more for customers who want a higher-end viewing experience.

Netflix and Hulu both offer different tiers that cover things like advertising, HD streaming, and use on multiple devices, for instance.

Software

Whether you make themes, plugins, or desktop software, you can use tiered memberships to offer things like different software versions (like basic and pro versions), levels of access to additional content and add-ons, as well as different terms of use – such as the ability to use your plugins on multiple sites, etc.

When it comes to themes and plugins in particular, there’s almost always more than one option. In the case of Volatyl Themes, there are three tiers available for single site use, 2-5 sites, or unlimited sites:

Theme pricing tiers (Volatyl Themes)

Metered billing memberships

If you want your members to pay based on how much they use, download, or consume, you’ll probably prefer the metered billing model. Things like utilities are some of the most basic examples of metered billing, but there are some other product types that also work well with this model.

Services

Services can be well-suited to metered billing, as custom jobs tend to be highly variable in the time, skill, and costs required. If you want to run a membership site dedicated to services, metered billing could be a good option for you.

Downloadables

As we talked about earlier in this post, memberships centered around downloadables are often priced in single or multiple tiers. However, you might decide that you prefer to charge your members per download, with or without a monthly minimum to retain a membership.

Or, perhaps you run a content website featuring video, audio, or articles, and you want to charge your members based on what they consume. As long as you have some kind of metric (like GB of data, minutes of audio, number of articles, etc.), you can utilize the metered billing model.

VIP memberships

This model has also been around for a while, and is the business model that discount clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club use. But, the VIP membership is flexible, and can be applied in different scenarios.

Amazon Prime is a great example of how the VIP membership can work. Members pay a monthly or annual membership fee in order to have access to special features like free and fast shipping, on-demand video, and other benefits.

There are also plenty of VIP membership websites that focus on specific physical products – clothing, jewelry, and pretty much anything you can think of! They all tend to share one thing in common, which is the recurring VIP membership pricing with discounted rates.

VIP membership example (ShoeDazzle)
VIP membership example (ShoeDazzle)

While it’s perhaps most commonly used with physical products, the VIP membership model can be used for digital products and services as well.

What’s the right model for you?

While all of the industry niche precedents are helpful when it comes to deciding on a membership pricing model, don’t forget to consult your own goals and values, too. What do you like best? What do you want your site to look like, and how do you want it to function? What model works for your organizational and accounting needs?

Maybe you decide to emulate existing membership businesses that have become particularly successful, or maybe you want to tailor one of these models to better suit your business. Regardless, hopefully this post has provided some guidance to help you make the decision that feels right for you!

What membership pricing models have worked well for your own products? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think!

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a content writer at Sandhills Development and founder of Looplicious. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she's a world traveler and animal lover with a passion for creativity and maker culture. When she’s not writing blog posts for Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, and AffiliateWP, she can be found hanging out with other people’s dogs, or writing, recording, and performing music.

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