Selling Your eLearning Courses: 6 eCommerce Problems
In 2016 the worldwide market for self-paced eLearning was around $50 billion. According to a report by Research and Markets, the global eLearning market will grow by 17.8% between 2016 and 2020. But how does eCommerce work in this market? Are there any eCommerce problems to address?
With eLearning, there is no physical product to ship. Courses are delivered via Learning Management Systems (LMSs), many of which operate in the Cloud. Learners can log in and start studying as soon as they have paid and are given their login credentials to the Learning Management System.
The payment processing itself can be as simple as PayPal or another hosted payment gateway, but linking sales to Learning Management System courses can involve considerable admin work, especially when sales volumes are in growth. Research on to how to improve the buying experience for eLearning shoppers revealed the following limitations of most Learning Management Systems:
1. The Learning Management System Typically Maps One Sale To One Enrollment
This is fine when the purchaser is the learner and they are buying themselves access to one seat on a course. However, in the corporate world, there are many different buying behaviors. For example, an administrator needs to purchase a seat on behalf of an employee. Or perhaps a Training Manager wants to purchase 50 seats on a course for a group of employees.
There is therefore a need for eCommerce capability that allows flexible licence management, including the ability to allocate one seat at a time, allocate a small batch of seats to a small batch of learners, or allocate a large number of seats to a large cohort in one fluid import, for example by uploading a CSV file of names and email addresses.
2. The Learning Management System Typically Maps One Product To One Course
Most Learning Management Systems are not capable of "bundling" courses into a single product. Course vendors often encounter the need to sell multiple courses with one simple payment as a bundled item. This need arises for discounting purposes, for offering promotions, and for selling a series of courses as a package that leads to a qualification. Course vendors frequently find the lack of such capability to be an obstacle when using built-in Learning Management System eCommerce.
3. The Learning Management System Has Overly Simple Payment Methods
Of the Learning Management Systems that have eCommerce capability, most offer support by one or two payment methods, typically PayPal and maybe one other payment gateway. Additionally, most Learning Management System eCommerce capability is limited to instant access upon successful payment, and does not support other payment use cases such as "Pay on Account" or "Pay by Invoice".
There is therefore a need for eCommerce systems that support a wide range of payment options and the ability to delay Learning Management System access until payment has been processed, e.g. by invoice.
4. The Learning Management System Has An Inappropriate Workflow When Selling Courses
To allow the sale of a course, the Learning Management System generally requires the user to create an account into the Learning Management System first. This course sale journey is the opposite of the usual eCommerce flow in which users browse a catalog of products, add them to cart and then register during the checkout flow.
There is therefore a need for a separate eCommerce store outside the Learning Management System where users can browse products and add them to cart before proceeding with registration. Ideally, this requires an eCommerce system which seamlessly creates an account into the Learning Management System as part of the buying process and has single sign-on (SSO) so that users arrive at the Learning Management System in a logged-in state.
5. Learning Management System Design Is Not Aligned To The Needs Of Online Marketing
Where the Learning Management System provides its own native eCommerce, the store design is typically part and parcel of the Learning Management System interface and/or menu structure. There is rarely a separate product catalog. The design of the store areas will typically be driven by the Learning Management System design templates. These will be optimized for the needs of the learners within the Learning Management System rather than the marketing needs of a ‘normal’ eCommerce store.
There is therefore a need for an eCommerce storefront outside the Learning Management System which can be design-matched to an existing website. Such stores give users the impression of staying on the same website rather than being redirected to an unfamiliar eCommerce environment, which can increase shopping cart abandonment. Furthermore, a separate eCommerce store linked to the Learning Management System can use metadata and keywords in the course descriptions for SEO purposes, which is not possible within restricted Learning Management System areas.
6. The Learning Management System Has Insufficient Integration With 3rd Party Business Applications
Companies making large volumes of course sales will be looking for integrations to Accounting and Finance systems, CRMs, and other 3rd party applications that demand more sales order type data than the Learning Management System typically collects.
There is therefore a need for eCommerce systems that can customize product data to allow the recording of internal Nominal Ledger / General Ledger type accounting codes and pass these through to a suitable system. Additionally, it is desirable that other cost codes and internal project codes may be appended to a line item for more effective business related reporting and analytics.
Further reading: Choosing An eCommerce Platform For eLearning: 30 Questions To Ask