Changing The Terms Of A Theme Store Membership Plan

in Blog

Theme store memberships are a great idea for those who are looking for a few designs or build website regularly for their clients. Usually the theme store grants customers access to all of their themes for a set period of time (e.g. 6 or 12 months) and either charge a fixed price for the membership or a monthly or yearly fee. Some stores use a combination of both and charge an introductory fee and a monthly fee.

Memberships usually ‘guarantee’ access to all of the companies designs and some promise the addition of a set number of designs every month or year too, but what happens if the company decides to change those terms and conditions?

I recently witnessed such an event on WooThemes after they announced the release of their new eCommerce plugin WooCommerce. At the bottom of their announcement post they wrote the following message for club members:

Club members get access to the new WooCommerce themes – WooStore, and Coquette, as well as of course the free theme Wootique. Our extensive, premium support is obviously included in these. Our WooCommerce child themes and extensions are not currently included with the club membership offering. We do however have plans to soon introduce a commerce add-on for a small additional monthly fee to gain access to the full catalog of commerce products. More on this soon.

A large number of WooThemes club members were vocal about their disappointment with this announcement. This is understandable as their monthly membership had guaranteed them access to all WooThemes designs though they were being told that the 6 new commercial themes and 9 extensions that were being released would not be part of their membership.

I believe Kudos have to go to WooThemes for the way they responded to their members concerns. They had a healthy debate about why they had to change their pricing structure. After listening to their members concerns they announced their revised changes to their subscription model. Instead of charging a separate fee for WooCommerce child themes they have decided to increase their membership prices from January 2012. Standard membership prices are increasing from $15 to $20 per month and development memberships are increasing from $20 to $25 per month. Extensions are not included in the membership though.

In their announcement post which detailed their club membership prices they explained their reasons for this price increase:

  • They haven’t changed their pricing structure since they launched a few years go. When they launched they only had a few designs but they now offer members over 107 designs.
  • They now have over 45,000 club members. As such, they have had to employ more staff to deal with all the support issues that have arisen.
  • Due to the technical nature of the WooCommerce plugin and it’s child themes, there will be a large increase in support queries from members.

Although I can understand the disappointment from WooThemes club members, I believe that the reasons WooThemes are increasing their prices are valid and justified. I imagine members who don’t plan on ever using WooCommerce may not be pleased with these changes.

People generally fear change. You only have to login to Facebook the day after they change some aspect of their design to see evidence of people liking things the way they are. This is even more true when someone has paid for a service and the company has moved the goals and changed the pricing structure or terms and conditions.

I think all theme stores that offer membership plans will have to cross the same boat as WooThemes did at one point. It’s just not feasible to choose a pricing structure and be able to stick to it for several years if development and support costs increase year after year whilst revenue remains at the same level.

Are you a WooThemes club member? If so, what are your thoughts on their upcoming changes of their membership plans.