Using eCommerce to Sell Your eLearning Products
We live in the age of "e". eLearning, eCommerce, eTrading, eBay - almost anything you want or need can be accessed by eSomething. So, why not sell your eLearning using eCommerce? Your potential buyers are online, the people who will be taking your eLearning will be online. It's a perfect fit! But, where do you start and what should you know?
This article covers the basics and provides tips and links to other articles that will help you on your way. We'll look at how eCommerce works, help you choose the right eCommerce platform, and provide you tips for selling eLearning online.
Using eCommerce to Sell Your eLearning Products
1. How eCommerce Works
eCommerce is not something new and is not much different from traditional commercial transactions. A vendor has a product that he or she wishes to sell. That vendor needs to find customers who want to buy the product, so a marketing strategy is developed. Marketing helps connect the vendor to potential customers, some of whom will purchase the product. Product and payment are exchanged and the transaction is completed.
What you need to make eCommerce work is:
- A product - for our purposes, this is eLearning.
- A website - this replaces a traditional "bricks and mortar store" and, with proper marketing, establishes your presence on the Internet, creates interest in the product and, ultimately, generates sales.
- A way for customers to place their orders - the "shopping cart" is a widely-used device, consisting of a separate screen with editable fields for purchase information (e.g. item purchased, quantity, etc.). Some vendors use an on-screen form for purchasers to complete.
- A way for customers to make payments - A payment gateway is usually a third-party service that processes, verifies, accepts or declines payments for online transactions using credit cards or other forms of electronic payment. You need to make sure that your LMS has the capability to handle eCommerce payments. Examples of eLearning courses payment gateways include: PayPal, Moneris, Stripe.
- A way to connect your customers to your eLearning product - this is where your LMS works as your distribution network.
- Customer support - while you won't be dealing with returns on eLearning products, you will have customer who have difficulties with course access, functionality and compatibility issues. Your IT department needs to have a dedicated help desk to support these customers.
Now that you know the basics, how do you pull all of the bits together? You choose the platform best suited to your needs.
2. Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform to Sell eLearning Courses
There are several eCommerce software and platforms available.
Let's take a closer look at four commonly used types. For more detail, check out Christopher Pappas' The Six Types of Ecommerce Platforms for Your eLearning Course.
- Basic - This type of platform is a simple, yet affordable no frills eCommerce option. It requires a website and is ideal for vendors with a small inventory of eLearning products. An example of a basic platform is SendOwl.
- Open source - Like Basic eCommerce platforms, open source platforms are an affordable choice (often free), and are both scalable and customizable. User community support is usually available with this type of platform, but there is no customer support. Examples of open source platforms are explained in greater detail in Shaun Fyffe's article Top 11 Open Source eCommerce Platforms.
- Enterprise - An enterprise eCommerce software is suited to large organizations and budgets. It provides accounting, eCommerce, order processing and other business functions. SkillBuilder LMS® is one example of an Enterprise eCommerce platform.
- Hosted - As the name implies, Hosted software, also known as "software as a service" (or SaaS) is provided and operated by the vendor. They look after your website for a fee, leaving you to concentrate on course development. Examples of hosted eCommerce platforms include SkillBuilder LMS®, BigCommerce, Shopify and PrestaShop.
For more help on choosing the eCommerce platform that's right for you, read Choosing an eCommerce Platform for Learning: 30 Questions to Ask and Insider Secrets To Use An eCommerce LMS To Monetize Your eLearning Course Catalog.
3. Tips for Selling eLearning Online
1. Take care of your website design
Get the basics down first:
- Make sure your logo is clear and easily recognized
- Make sure that your "shopping cart" or "payment gateway" is easily found
- Provide a product demo - try creating an eLearning course to promote your courses
- Provide a site "search box" to help customers find the products they want
- Provide contact information and, if possible, online help or "chat" service
2. Describe your products clearly
Product descriptions will help your visitors make purchasing decisions. Consider:
- Providing a brief synopsis of each of the courses you are offering including descriptions of the audience for which the course is best suited
- Listing course titles and module titles - if individual modules can be purchased rather than the entire course, say so
- If you create custom eLearning or have material that can be customized, advertise it
- Using video or animation to describe the benefits of your eLearning products
3. Describe how the products will be delivered and when
Shipping eLearning is usually done through downloads, so:
- Provide clear downloading instructions
- Test your downloading system frequently
- Explain when the products will be available for download if they cannot be delivered the same day
4. Resolve complaints
You won't be able to please every customer, so:
- Explain clearly what you will and what you will not do for dis-satisfied customers
- Provide your refund policy in writing on the same screen where the purchase is ordered
- Provide a contact phone number and email address
And, that's the basics of eCommerce for eLearning vendors. As with selling any product, eLearning products need to be marketed and made readily available to customers who want the product. The vendor needs to be able to accept payment and deliver the product.
eCommerce will continue to grow as a way for people and businesses to shop for what they need. Don't be left out. Do your research and find the best type of website, eCommerce platform and payment gateway for your business needs.
Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.