Your learning management system alone can’t help you sell courses. It was never designed for that.
Similarly, not all shopping cart platforms are up to the task of selling training online. While they are often great places to market products to the public, attract new prospects, upsell customers and collect payments, they typically aren’t able to enroll users in a course, set up class schedules, or provide access to content.
However, with the right e-commerce solution, you can configure your platform to be able to sell courses online and streamline enrollments directly in the LMS.
That said, if you want to monetize your training there are five key considerations you should look at before committing to an e-commerce solution. The following will help you look before you leap.
The LMS is an excellent class and student management tool. Instructors can assign courses, set prerequisites and manage student grades to a set of known users. However, it has no way to attract traffic to the site, help visitors with intuitive navigation, provide for flexible sales models, or include tools that convert shoppers into buyers.
By design, an LMS is a closed environment. To sell courses, however, it is important that your site is designed with Search Engine Optimization in mind. That means making it easy for search engine bots to index the site, having pages that include metadata, using abbreviated keyword course descriptions, and making sure to include search friendly URL strings.
There is a number of e-commerce solutions available that specialize in the user experience, most notably the online giant Amazon. With some effort, some of these solutions can even be configured to sell training. But be careful as most are designed to sell physical products and have little or no concept of how to turn a purchase into an enrollment.
Managing class enrollment confirmations that include calendar integrations are a critical component when selling live classes. For on-demand courses, immediate access to course content upon purchase along with the means to review and access all purchased training is the expectation in today’s marketplace. Without a lot of customization, typical product-based shopping cart solutions have no way to send users a certificate of completion at the end of their training, offer downloadable transcripts, manage credit hours, provide for group purchasing, or manage live class schedules. These are critical features for organizations that monetize training.
Flexible Sales Models:
E-commerce solutions like Shopify, BigCommerce, or any of the other commercially available platforms are built to sell products with a limited number of sales models that often don’t fit the needs of the training market. When was the last time you bought a subscription to a pair of shoes or paid for a raincoat in installments?
Trainers rarely sell using a traditional shopping cart workflow. It is important that a course eCommerce system be flexible to accommodate the various sales models that educators require. Purchasing for others, membership levels, as well as course and site subscriptions are typical requests in the training market.
There are those that feel the DIY approach is the best and least expensive way to set up an e-commerce store. A free WordPress site set up and hosted on GoDaddy then paired with a WooCommerce plugin might seem an attractive alternative for those who are looking to save on costs.
However, in an era of high profile cyber threats and data breaches today’s buyers are hypersensitive to ensuring that all transactional data meet PCI compliance standards. To avoid costly, embarrassing and potentially risky security mistakes, it is a good idea to ask if the solution you are considering has been third-party certified for PCI compliance.
Most shopping cart systems support the creation and use of coupons or gift cards. However, when selling courses online, sellers often require an ability to provide discounts by recognizing premium members by a group or association.
Being able to automatically identify premium members and offer appropriate discount levels is not a typical function in many traditional shopping cart systems. The ability to assign users to groups based on profile information or expose content based on a “prerequisite concept” is standard when selling courses. Therefore, if offering system discounts based on user levels is something you are interested in doing, you will need to ensure that your solution offers this functionality.
Attracting customers and building a robust environment to market live and on-demand training is a specialty unto itself, so don’t stress if your LMS or off the shelf e-commerce platform isn’t all that you expected it to be. Think about some of the considerations above, apply them to your marketing needs, and then ask yourself if the e-commerce solution you are evaluating is going to meet those needs at a price point that doesn’t break the bank.
If it doesn’t, you might want to ask yourself if “good enough” is going to take you where you want to go. However, if you’re looking for a more robust e-commerce solution to sell courses, you might want to consider LMScheckout which provides the full range of these functionalities above and more.
Vice President/Co-founder, Envisiontel