One of the most important differences between an employee LMS and an extended enterprise LMS are the ecommerce capabilities. There is rarely a need to sell content to your employees, so many employee LMSs have the barest minimum of ecommerce capabilities – if that.
An extended enterprise LMS is designed from the ground up to sell content to individuals, organizations and even through reseller networks. Extended enterprise LMSs are the system of choice for organizations to train their prospects, customers and partners, but also for training companies, associations and any other entity that is selling content as a core business.
What Level of Learning System eCommerce Do You Need?
As part of my ongoing efforts reviewing over 250 learning technology providers and helping over 100 extended enterprise LMS buyers select a solution, I’ve consolidated all the ecommerce requirements and capabilities that I’ve seen recently and then categorized them in three increasing levels of sophistication.
- Level 1: B2C – Business to Consumer (Sell to Individual Learners)
- Level 2: B2B – Business to Business (Sell to Organizations)
- Level 3: B2B2B – Business to Business to Business (Sell to Organizations who Resell to Organizations and Individuals)
Every extended enterprise LMS vendor provides varying levels of ecommerce capability, so it is important to accurately define your audience personas and use cases to find the right solution for your needs.
Each level is discussed in detail below. Some features are needed or are useful at multiple levels, but they’re listed and defined only once, at their most basic level.
Level 1: B2C
Business-to-Consumer (Selling to Individual Learners)
The first level of ecommerce is the ability to sell content to individual learners. This is where most LMSs start with ecommerce and unfortunately where many stop. Below are key B2C ecommerce features, defined in one sentence:
- User-Oriented Interface – Modern interface designed to entice and engage learners and potential learners
- Deep-Linking – Link directly to content from anywhere outside the LMS
- Public Content – Learners can see available content without logging in
- Ad-Hoc Pricing – Put a single price on any piece of content
- Coupons & Discounts – Ability to create, distribute and track promotional offers to entire learners to purchase content
- Email Gates – Free content requires learner identification with email and basic profile info
- Free Lessons –Designate any lesson as a sample preview (with or without email gates)
- Pre-Roll – Advertising mechanism allowing for a short video promotion for any piece of content
- Collection – Create a collection of content and allow buyers to choose some or all of the collection at different price points
- Bundle – Group content together for sale as one content object like a certification or learning path
- Audience Pricing – Set different price points for the same piece of content for different audience types
- Subscription Pricing – A monthly or annual reoccurring cost to access content
- LMS Shopping Cart and Checkout – Just like Amazon, the ability to select, add to a cart and then pay for content
- Continuing Education Management – Assigned credits for content completion that learners can use to maintain their individual professional certifications
- 3rd Party Shopping Cart and Checkout – eCommerce via integration to Magento or Shopify vs. intra-LMS capability
- Payment Gateways – Processing of learners’ credit cards via 3rd party solutions like Stripe or Paypal
- Content Reviews and Ratings – Learners can leave feedback for future learners considering a purchase
- Fiscal Reporting – Revenue analysis, transaction reports and dashboards for administrators and delegated administrators
- Single Currency – Set one currency – U.S. $, for example – for all domains in the LMS deployment
- Content Recommendations – Ability to use a combination of user metadata, past content preferences and sometimes artificial intelligence to personalize learner content
- Physical Products – Ability to sell real books, or any product, manage shipping rules, inventory management and fulfillment
- Global Tax Management – Charge and collect taxes appropriately and automatically in any country – concurrently
- PCI Compliant –Industry standard certification for handling credit cards transactions most commonly provided by the payment gateway but also sometimes the LMS
- Analytics – Combining LMS, Google Analytics and business data to study trends in learning business
Level 2: B2B
Business-to-Business (Selling to Organizations)
Selling content in bulk to organizations is the typical next-phase capability that training content sellers need. However, selling content to one or many organizations takes an additional level of capability that most LMSs do not have.
Generally, if an LMS can provide the B2B functionality listed below, it can be assumed that they can also provide the B2C functionality listed above, as well.
B2B ecommerce functionality should include:
- Bulk Purchase – Ability for an individual to purchase content access to more than one individual
- Client Domains – Specialized client areas in an LMS that have their own delegated administrators, learners, content, functionality and branding
- Delegated Administration – Buying organization has administrators that can assign training and see usage and progress of learners in their group
- Manual Learner Upload – The delegated administrator of buying organizations enters learners into the system one-by-one or through the upload of spreadsheet who are then individually notified of access via email
- Automated Learner Upload – Using an integration with CRM, AMS or ERP, learner accounts are automatically created and then notified via email
- Organizational “Code” New Learner Creation – Delegated administrators buy bulk content access and then distribute a unique code to potential learners that “puts” them in the right domain in the LMS
- Credit Account – Organizations are invoiced based on their organization’s consumption of content
- Debit Account – Organizations prepay for content and account balance depletes as content is consumed
- Tokens (Registration codes, enrollment keys, vouchers) – Purchased in bulk and distributed to the user for one-time use, timed use, per course or per organization access to LMS and content
- Purchase Order – Ability for organizational content buyers to enter a PO# and pay through traditional corporate methods outside of an LMS
- ACH – Wire transfer payments made by organizational buyers that are automatically deposited in the selling organization’s bank account
- Google or Other Ads – A widget that allows sellers to automatically insert pay-per-click or another type of promotional ads within the UI of LMS and/or content
- Bill Me Later – Similar to purchase order process where invoicing happens outside the LMS and then access is granted upon receiving payment
- Organizational Management – Create hierarchies of organizations based on client type, location, or other demographics and then be able to manage the rights, privileges, UI, content, roles and other items of each buying organization
Level 3: B2B2B or B2B2C
Business-to-Business-to-Business (Selling to Organizations who Resell to Other Organizations or Individuals)
In addition to B2C and B2B, many larger-scale training providers distribute their content through a reseller network. Each reseller partner sells the content to their B2C and B2B clients.
There is only one LMS requirement twist you need to run a B2B2B business – the ability for your sub-domains to have sub-domains. But that is more like a tornado than a twist.
For an interesting, real-life B2B2B case study, check out my recent interview with Ha McNeil, COO of BSA | The Software Alliance on the Talented Learning Show Podcast Series.
What is needed to support your reseller network? A lot. Below are some of the significant features you’ll need to facilitate B2B2B extended enterprise LMS ecommerce:
- Nested Domains – Provide resellers their own domain structure and then provide delegated administration rights and areas for the reseller’s B2C and B2B clients
- Multi Third-Party Commerce – The sale of the content occurs outside the LMS and through integration immediately provides learners access to purchased content
- Detailed Role Management – Create and assign custom roles based on profile metadata, actions that occur inside and outside the LMS that provide granular access to edit, view or manage content and/or capabilities
- Multi-SSO Support – Concurrently support multiple single sign-on technologies (SAML, LDAP) for the different B2B and B2B2B organizations
- Multi-Currency – Ability to sell content in different currencies in different global locations simultaneously
- Multi-User Data Feeds – Concurrently support multiple feeds of learner profile data for different B2B and B2B2B organizations
- Multi-Gateway Support – Concurrently support multiple ecommerce payment gateways for different B2B and B2B2B organizations
- Microservices Support – Ability to send and receive JSON notifications to/from aggregators like Zapier or Workato for simple, yet custom integration with any other supported 3rd party application
- Strong API – The easy and industry-standard ability to integrate any business application to the LMS ecosystem indirect (no microservice aggregator) manner
- Professional Services Support – All B2B2B initiatives require a partner vendor who provides the guidance and helps buyers succeed
More than ever, the gap is growing between employee and extended enterprise LMSs. A few years ago, it was easy (and common) to limp by with an employee LMS that offered minimal ecommerce capabilities. But not today.
There is too much to lose or miss-out on if you are still using a talent management LMS for extended enterprise ecommerce. Creating content is expensive and all content has a shelf life. A good extended enterprise LMS will empower you to maximize the value of your content and compete strongly in the market.
Thanks for reading!