Published On: October 25, 2015By
What LMS ecommerce features should you look for if you want to sell courses online? Analyst John Leh explains

Selling online learning content is a huge and rapidly growing business.  Corporations, associations, universities, training companies, public institutions and individual subject matter experts are all creating and selling educational content on every conceivable topic.

Online content providers are in fierce competition for learners, which in turn has led to significant industry innovation in marketing tactics, content design, user engagement and learning technology.  Plenty of reasons are driving the demand for the content, but I believe the two biggest factors are:

1) Closing the gap between the world’s educational system and the skills actually needed by employers and

2) Ongoing professional continuing education.

The business of selling content, not to your own employees, but to others is called extended enterprise learning.

There are two main business models for selling learning content:

  • Business to Consumer (B2C) — Sell content to individual learners directly
  • Business to Business (B2B) — Sell content in bulk to organizations for their learners

To sell online content in either model, you need an extended enterprise LMS with ecommerce capability.  Over the last 20 months I have conducted in-depth reviews of 102 LMS solutions and have found 85 that promote some level of ecommerce but there is a wide diversity of capabilities.  The biggest difference is primarily due to whether the LMS is designed to sell to individuals, organizations, both or neither.

For this post, I’ve consolidated and organized all the ecommerce features I have found in the industry to illustrate what is out there for either business model.  If you are shopping for an ecommerce LMS, it is really important to find one that specializes in your ecommerce business model.

B2C LMS eCommerce Features

Selling to individual consumer learners is typically the first level of ecommerce support that LMS vendors develop because the features are very similar to the ecommerce features that exist to sell anything from books, laptops to tractor parts with existing ecommerce platforms.  Typical features in B2C LMS ecommerce include:

Basic Features

  • Deep-linking directly to content from anywhere outside the LMS
  • Browse the catalog of content before logging in or creating an account
  • Sell any type of learning of any media uniquely or in a bundle
  • Product reviews and ratings
  • Coupons, promotions discounts
  • Credit card, PayPal or Stripe payment types
  • Add to cart, checkout and integration with payment gateways for credit card authorization
  • Immediate access to purchased content
  • Emailed receipts, notifications
  • Fiscal reporting, sales analysis, reconciliation reporting

Advanced Features

  • User-specific content recommendations
  • Dynamic grouping of users based on actions recorded in LMS
  • Sell physical products, manage shipping rules, fulfillment and inventory management
  • Recurring and automated billing
  • Language localizations and multi-currency support
  • Manage unlimited tax rules including global VAT
  • LMS PCI compliant (vs. only payment gateway)

Most LMSs develop the above features natively but several integrate with pure ecommerce engines like Shopify or Magento to provide the above.  The integration approach provides for rich pure commerce functionality but mandates the administration and maintenance of two applications resulting in higher costs.

B2B LMS eCommerce Features

Selling content in bulk to organizations for their employees is tougher than it looks.   For example, if a hospital buys 100 seats of a continuing medical education course, how do they get their doctors to find the LMS, the course and consume it?  Just that learner provisioning piece alone causes administrative nightmares if an LMS hasn’t developed workflow to support.

To further complicate matters, the actual “commerce” transaction can happen in an external system and passed to the LMS via API integration or the organizational purchase can happen directly in the LMS.  B2B ecommerce features include:

Basic Features

  • Client domains and branding
  • Bulk purchase of content
  • Credit account – organizations are invoiced after content is consumed
  • Prepaid debit account – organizations prepay for content and account 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.
  • Bulk purchase discounts
  • Purchase order support
  • Subscriptions – timed access to content

Advanced Features

  • CRM, ERP or AMS Integration to create accounts, users and content assignment when organizations purchase in third-party system
  • Tight integration into existing corporate order fulfillment, ecommerce, taxation and data warehouse ecosystem
  • Delegated client level administration and reporting
  • Third-party content sponsorship, ads and promotions
  • Bill me later ala Amazon, electronic invoice or paper invoice


Like never before, educational content providers of all types have the tools and technology to run a first-class ecommerce business.  Innovation and competition are rampant. When reviewing LMS vendor websites, at first blush it appears that they all have the same ecommerce features — and to an extent they do.  The big ecommerce differentiator is if the LMS is geared towards selling to individuals, organizations or both. However, there are many other factors to consider if you want to sell content.  My best recommendation is to fully develop your business model, LMS use case scenarios and resulting requirements before engaging LMS vendors so you can find the best-qualified options to drive your online learning business.

Thanks for reading!


Do you need expert guidance to choose a modern LMS that will help you drive revenue and profit?  Check out our services for LMS Buyers!


To Charge or Not to Charge? Strategies for Pricing Customer Training

How much should customers pay for training? How should you choose the best price? And when does it make sense to educate customers at no extra charge?

Join experts John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, and Barry Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder at Thought Industries, as they clarify the economics of customer education. You’ll learn:

  • The true cost of content – free vs. fee
  • Where the “freemium” fits in
  • Why timing is a key factor
  • How to test your price points
  • The value of bundles and other packaging methods



Need Proven LMS Selection Guidance?

Looking for a learning platform that truly fits your organization’s needs?  We’re here to help!  Submit the form below to schedule a free preliminary consultation at your convenience.

Share This Post

About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Related Posts

  • Business Case for Customer Learning

The Business Case for Customer Learning

June 15, 2022|

Building the business case for customer learning is easy. All you need to do is compare trained vs. untrained customers and their buying, renewing and customer support habits to see the measurable benefits. Here are ...

  • Learning tech industry investments have been on a wild pandemic-era ride. What should we expect next?

Learning Tech Industry M&A: What a Ride!

May 17, 2022|

At the start of 2021, I predicted that mergers and acquisitions would intensify. No one could have predicted the epic M&A tsunami we've seen since then. Read more!

  • Talented Learning Reviews

Training Orchestra Review

March 3, 2022|

In this Training Orchestra review, see how a training resource management system solves complex challenges around balancing live and VILT training logistics.

  • Talented Learning Reviews

Authentic Learning Labs Review

February 18, 2022|

In this Authentic Learning Labs review, learn how the company makes your existing LMS work better for learners, instructors, administrators and business owners.

  • Talented Learning Reviews

Learn Amp Review

February 10, 2022|

Learn Amp is driven by its goal to help make work life better for everyone involved. From the newest person joining the business, to the employee who has been there the longest, they want to improve the work experience...

  • Talented Learning Reviews

Growth Engineering Review

February 10, 2022|

Growth Engineering wants to make the learning experience better and more engaging in a way that proactively and measurably shows a return on investment.




Call for Entries - 2022 Talented Learning Awards


Talented Learning LMS Recommendation Service


Become a Basic Member