What Continuing Education Providers Should Know About eCommerce
Increasingly, education providers are looking for learning management systems (LMSs) with integrated eCommerce. This is particularly true in the professional continuing education (CE) space, where providers need the ability to collect registration fees for live events and webinars, or charge for access to on-demand content.
However, it’s one thing to know that you need eCommerce in your LMS. Determining what eCommerce features you require and how the eCommerce experience will impact learners is quite another.
Look for an intuitive, familiar interface – like a shopping cart!
eCommerce functionality should be easy for learners to use. In our experience, ease of use improves when providers use a shopping cart style interface. Learners, after all, already use a shopping cart when they buy things online. They’re familiar with the interface, and they’ll recognize it in your LMS.
Since Rievent focuses on the CE space, we have two different user types. One is the CE provider, and the other is the CE learner. Providers want to give learners as seamless an experience as possible. Likewise, learners want to log in, perform some action, and log out. They don’t want to think about the fact that they’re using an LMS. They just want the technology to work.
A shopping cart interface gives both of these user types exactly what they want. Providers can deliver an intuitive experience, and learners can complete tasks quickly. Here are specific examples of how a shopping cart interface can function within your LMS:
- Learners register for multiple live events at different price levels. Before paying, they can view all of the events and associated prices inside their shopping cart.
- A learner wants to access an enduring activity and also register for an upcoming event. She adds the activities to her cart, then makes a single payment for both.
- Some learners aren’t sure which activities they want to complete. They add several to their shopping carts and later remove the ones they don’t need.
These are just examples of what’s possible. What’s important is that all of these actions are easy for the learner to complete.
Using different pricing levels? Your LMS should accommodate.
You probably have different pricing levels for different types of participants. Maybe you host a monthly event that has different prices for members and non-members, or maybe you need to offer discounts to learners who complete a survey in advance of the event.
Whatever the case, look for eCommerce tools that can accommodate different pricing scenarios. More specifically, you should insist on:
- Participant type pricing: We just covered this one. Whether the different price points are visible or invisible to different participant types, the LMS should support them.
- Discounts or promo codes: Freebies and incentives can increase attendance. Look for an eCommerce platform that supports discounts and/or promos.
- Date-based price changes: As the date of an event draws near, many providers increase the cost of attendance. You should be able to automate the upcoming change inside the LMS before publicizing an event.
- Tokens: Many providers use a token-based system. Don’t feel like you need to abandon or modify yours when you switch to another LMS! Just look for one that supports tokens.
- Packages: Bundling activities as packages is common across in the professional education and training world, and your eCommerce functionality should allow for it.
Also – and this probably goes without saying – make sure you select a platform that supports common payment methods. Whether the platform achieves this through Paypal integration or another mainstream payment gateway, no learner should get to the checkout screen and realize she can’t use her Discover card to register for your meeting.
eCommerce should interface with reporting tools.
Making eCommerce hassle-free for learners is a major priority, but what about the provider’s obligation to identify which courses or activities generate the most sales?
Delivering an experience that learners are willing to pay for is important because it can affect participation levels, perception of value, and, ultimately, outcomes in the learner’s professional practice. However, it also impacts providers’ education budgets, which is why eCommerce should interface with your reporting tools and show you what’s working.
At the very least, verify that an LMS reports on eCommerce by activity (or course), date, and price so you can get a clear picture of overall sales performance. The longer you monitor these metrics, the more value you’ll ultimately receive from them. By comparing current sales to past ones, you’ll gain a clear picture of your most – and least – successful activities.
Remember: It’s not just about payments.
Ultimately, eCommerce functionality should do more than simplify the process of selecting and purchasing access to a course or activity. It should strengthen the relationship between the learner and the education provider.
When providers make the entire education experience as seamless as possible – this includes everything from browsing an activity catalog, completing pre-tests and post-tests, and responding to outcomes surveys – they increase learner affinity for their programs and their brand. After all, who wouldn’t want to get their education credits from the provider who makes the whole process easy?
At the CE organizations Rievent works with, eCommerce is a crucial part of the overall learner experience. For some learners, adding activities to their cart is also the first action they complete after logging in. It’s literally how providers make a first impression for many of their newest members, enrollees, or subscribers!
That’s why it pays to be picky about eCommerce. It could be the difference between frustrating your learners and showing them that you’re there to help.