Selling Courses
with Shopify: Your
Ultimate Guide

Topics Covered

Selling Courses on Shopify

As one of the premier learning management systems (LMS) for training companies, Firmwater is often asked how online training providers can reach a wider audience to sell and deliver more eLearning courses to their customers. The first bit of advice we give to anyone who asks is to use an LMS to host and control your courseware and use Shopify as your eCommerce platform to sell and deliver it.

This article offers best practices on topics from online store setup to effective pricing, bundling, and marketing strategies to help boost your eLearning business with Shopify. We’ll review several tools to improve sales and automate delivery and point you to related resources for more detail along the way. Learn why Shopify is the best eCommerce platform for online training, why you need LMS integration with Shopify, and why the Firmwater LMS should be your first choice.

Selling Courses with Shopify
Selling eLearning courses and building a successful training business is a three-step process.

  • Step 1: Build your courses to the highest adult learning standards in your industry using interactivity, gamification, exercises, and testing.
  • Step 2: Choose the right LMS to host and deliver your courses.
  • Step 3: Engage an eCommerce provider to help sell your courses to remote learners.

Step One is up to you to create the best possible eLearning experience, although we highly recommend using authoring tools that publish to SCORM so your content can be created once and used on any SCORM-compliant system. Step Two, well, that’s where an LMS like Firmwater comes in, providing a secure digital home to test, perfect, and host your eLearning courses. Now you’re ready to put your products out for sale on the internet. For Step Three, we recommend Shopify. There are alternative eCommerce platforms to choose from including Square, WooCommerce, WordPress, and several others, but Shopify is far and away the best.

Shopify quickly evolved from a simple shopping platform for small businesses to market goods and services online into one of the world’s largest eCommerce providers with millions of customers operating in over 175 countries and revenues counted in the billions. It offers an intuitive interface that makes it easy for business owners to design beautiful virtual storefronts in minutes, instantly post content for sale, deliver it automatically, and get paid quickly and securely.

For end users, Shopify makes it easy to browse products online and make seamless purchases with just a few clicks. An entire ecosystem of native and third-party apps has grown around the platform to enable advanced marketing functions such as custom pricing, product collections, SEO, Buy Buttons, personalized emails, customer feedback, social media integration, in-depth reporting, upselling opportunities, and much more.

The Shopify service is extremely affordable with free trials, introductory promotional pricing, and basic packages as low as $39 per month. The organization itself offers outstanding customer support with experts ready to help businesses build, grow, and maintain their online presence. Plus, the Shopify service is completely cloud-based, so you never have to worry about hardware and software updates. Your store never closes, and with automated delivery and payment capabilities, you can make money while you sleep!

So Why Do I Need a LMS with eCommerce Integration?

Shopify helps training companies sell courseware by accelerating sales at customer contact points and streamlining checkout activities. It provides unfettered access to customers across the globe – your store can present courseware descriptions in multiple languages (your content remains in its native tongue) and is open 24×7. Shopify provides easy-to-interpret data analytics showing which ads and content are performing best to optimize your marketing efforts.

At this point, you may be asking why bother with an LMS if Shopify can handle all these marketing tasks and fulfillment directly. The truth is you might not. If your business model consists of selling one-off courses to the general public without any testing, feedback, or post-sale follow-up you could get by with a simple Shopify virtual store. There are several eLearning apps in the Shopify ecosystem you can add to your site such as Inflow Kit and Courses Plus to provide basic eLearning sales and delivery, but there are no controls to limit access or the number of seats purchased, for example. That’s not the way a professional eLearning company should operate. You need to be able to control access to your content and capture customer data regarding course usage, completion rates, test scores, and other metrics so that you can monitor sales performance and improve courseware based on real-world feedback.

Selling Courses with Shopify

That’s exactly what you get with the Firmwater LMS and Shopify integration: total control over your intellectual property plus access to a rich environment of features for training providers to build a successful eLearning company. This includes the scalability to add white-labeled client sites as your eCommerce business grows, the flexibility to sell courseware B2C and B2B, and the visibility to monitor performance and capture user data to help improve course effectiveness. The Firmwater LMS is SCORM-compliant and supports all authoring tools. But with Firmwater, you get access to people, not just course-building software. Leverage our 20+ years of LMS and eCommerce expertise for professional advice on best practices, proven course-building techniques, and strategies on how to optimize your LMS through your dedicated Firmwater customer success manager. You can’t get that from a plug-in app.

To build a truly viable, scalable, online training business with access to larger audiences, returning customers, and comprehensive analytics, you need to migrate your content into a training-focused LMS that integrates directly with Shopify. Here are ten reasons why you should host your content in a Shopify-compatible LMS:

10 Reasons to Choose a Shopify-compatible LMS

  1. Convenience. Shopify offers near-instantaneous purchasing and the world’s best checkout process, giving customers immediate access to your training courses with minimal clicks to increase conversion rates and revenues.
  2. Ease of use. It is a very straightforward process to link your Shopify products to courses in your LMS. Automated administrative tools streamline back-office tasks and minimize human error.
  3. Scalable. Your store can grow with you as you add more courses, customers, and users.
  4. Rich Shopify ecosystem. Access to a wide range of marketing tools and integrations optimized for use with the Shopify platform.
  5. Automated course control. LMS integration means Shopify merchants retain control and access over their intellectual property. You manage the length of time customers have access to your courses.
  6. Automated course delivery. Enable automatic course access at the point of sale or based on payment status without administrative overhead or manual enrollment.
  7. Automated secure payments. Get paid immediately upon purchase. Shopify handles the checkout process, accepts all major credit/debit cards, and deposits revenues into your bank account.
  8. Reach a wider audience. Market globally, reach mobile users and handle international currencies.
  9. Reach larger customers. Sell to corporate clients that purchase multiple seats on behalf of groups of employees and allow them to assign training and monitor progress directly.
  10. Advanced analytics and sales reporting. Analyze trends, track sales by course or geography, and capture customer information for marketing purposes.

For a deeper dive into these factors, read 4 Strategies to Sell Your Training Courses on Shopify.

Why is Shopify the Best?

Shopify provides everything a seller of eLearning needs to set up shop including diverse store themes, over 100 payment gateways, and integration with complementary services like Intuit Mailchimp for personalized email marketing capabilities. Plus, Shopify has the world’s best-performing online checkout app with conversion rates far surpassing every competitor. Head-to-head comparisons of Shopify’s key features against the top 20 competing e-commerce platforms can be found here:

A Service Versus a Product

When evaluating which eCommerce platform is right for you it is critical to understand what you’re buying – a service or a product. Shopify is a service that is hosted, updated, and secured by Shopify. WordPress and WooCommerce, for example, are open-source software products that the purchaser must host, customize, and maintain themselves, or subscribe to a third-party service that specializes in supporting online stores.

High-value benefits like 24×7 support, GDPR compliance, PCI DSS compliant eCommerce, automatic fraud prevention and other functions are baked into Shopify whereas these security precautions must be implemented and managed by merchants using WordPress or WooCommerce.

Why Firmwater LMS?

With a Shopify-compatible LMS like Firmwater, you can immediately begin selling eLearning course sales online. The Shopify platform provides rich functionality to support multiple marketing channels and strategies including email, discount codes, quantity-based pricing, buy buttons, and much more. Need added functionality? The Shopify App Store offers thousands of certified third-party apps when you need specialized features not available as a native Shopify function. The Firmwater LMS not only automatically fulfills Shopify-based eCommerce sales, but it also supports delivery to additional customers with dedicated customer sites, SSO and offers external LMS integration capabilities for enterprise sales. Shopify and Firmwater are a perfect match!

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Building Your Shopify Store

Creating an online presence using Shopify is easy. If you don’t have a website for your business, they offer a fully customizable website builder tool with options to create your own brand, starting with domain name selection and registration. Shopify offers hundreds of paid and free design themes to organize and present your content in an upscale fashion with access to over 8,000 tested, certified apps in the Shopify ecosystem to make your store unique.

We recommend you design your store – color schemes, fonts, layout, graphics, etc. – to match the elements used in your business branding. The Shopify web builder tool uses a simple drag-and-drop interface, so you don’t have to be a coding expert to create your store. No matter which options you choose it will guide to professional results that make it easy for online shoppers to browse product pages and purchase training from your store, right down to a secure checkout process.

If your company already has a robust online presence, Shopify makes it easy to integrate your existing website into its eCommerce platform. You’ve got two choices:

  1. Use the Shopify platform to create an eCommerce site linked through your website. When a visitor to your website clicks a “Shop Courses Now” or similarly titled link added to the main navigation menu bar, they are instantly taken to your store’s Shopify landing page where the checkout process is completed. You have access to the full ecosystem of Shopify themes, marketing tools, and integrations to create your store.
  2. Market your LMS-hosted courses on your own website and use Shopify strictly for secure transactions and checkout. In this scenario you are not building a Shopify store – all marketing is done through your website and LMS – you are just using the Shopify eCommerce integration to facilitate checkout and sell courses using Buy Buttons, more on that in a minute.

Whichever is the right choice for your training business, consider these tips when promoting content on your website/store:

  1. Provide enticing course descriptions. Your main catalog landing page should present all course titles with pricing and perhaps a summary description. Each title is linked to a detailed subpage for that course. These individual product pages should describe the benefits and outcomes of the training, and not simply present a list of modules. Tell customers what they’ll get out of the training, like certifications or continuing education credits.
  2. Use the Shopify Collections feature. Have too many courses to put on one page, or courseware aligned for different industries or user groups? Organize your products into collections to make it easier for customers to find them by category. Grouping courses into a Beginner/Intermediate/Expert hierarchy, for example, is a great way to present multi-course curricula and encourage repeat business for learners to achieve the next level. Add new collections of related products and services as you grow.
  3. Add the Buy Button sales channel. Buy Buttons help you link your Shopify products to your external website and blog posts. They make purchasing your courses easier by removing the need for customers to go to a separate page to finalize their order. Think of them as shortcuts to the checkout counter. Create a blog post announcing your latest course offering and embed a Buy Button with pricing and a description right into the post.Buy Buttons can show product pictures, descriptions, and prices, all while letting customers purchase products without leaving the current page or post they are visiting. Any updates to a course’s details in your Shopify description will also appear on the product’s Buy Button. The Buy Button sales channel is included in all Shopify subscription plans.

Learn How to Build a Shopify Store

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Maximizing Revenue with Shopify eCommerce Features

LMS eCommerce integration lets training providers sell their content directly to consumers online. It provides a digital storefront for users to browse and purchase courseware over the internet using secure payment gateways for a completely self-directed shopping experience.

Because the Shopify platform is global and the sun is always shining someplace, your store is always open for business. Combined with all the automated administrative and course delivery tools of a tight LMS/eCommerce integration like the Firmwater Shopify App, you really can make money while you sleep.

Much of what Shopify eCommerce integration can do essentially puts your online training business on autopilot – that can be a good thing. But here are some ideas to tweak your online presence to better align with your business goals and maximize revenue:

8 Ways to Maximize Revenue with an eCommerce LMS

  1. Create a professional storefront. Arrange courses by category and make it easy for learners to find the right product. Remember to include compelling course descriptions.
  2. Offer bundled and split courses. luster related courses together into a single program at a discounted price, or go in the other direction and offer customers the choice to purchase just one or a subset of modules from a larger series at a reduced price.
  3. Target different levels of learners. Divide courseware into beginner, intermediate, and expert classes to attract learners with different skill sets. Create a point system with rewards to encourage repeat business by moving students through a tiered curriculum.
  4. Target learners in different geographies. Enable multi-language support to sell courses globally. Course content remains in its native language, but the platform can display descriptions and landing pages in various languages with pricing set for local currencies.
  5. Target enterprises with large populations of employees requiring training, certification, and/or re-certification. Offer volume-based pricing discounts and allow customers to purchase multiple seats to a course(s) on behalf of the enterprise in a single transaction and assign them to employees as needed.
  6. Offer multiple payment options. Reduce barriers to transaction completion by accepting payments through the customer’s preferred method. Shopify supports multiple secure channels to make payment as convenient as possible.
  7. Create a sense of urgency. Use limited-time discounts, coupons, and expiring special offers to get customers to buy now.
  8. Take advantage of the marketing tools and extensions in the Shopify ecosystem. There are abandoned cart emails, social media integrations to link your courses to posts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and others, and of course, the Buy Button to expand your sales opportunities.

For a real-world example of how a leading provider of online training in the residential construction energy efficiency field is leveraging the Shopify eCommerce platform to maximize revenues through Firmwater, read our Blue House Energy case study.

Selling Courses with Shopify

Marketing Strategies for Selling Courses on Shopify

Leverage the features and marketing tools baked into the Shopify eCommerce platform to promote your online courses and help customers find you. Here are a few ideas:

First, go to the Shopify Solutions page to find links to apps and integrations to do things like:

  • Advertise on social media (Facebook/Instagram/TikTok/LinkedIn) channels and create a buzz for your courses. Don’t forget the Buy Buttons for integrated checkout!
  • Help people find your store with search engine optimization (SEO) tools that provide guidance to editing course titles and meta descriptions that help put you at the top of the search engines.
  • Execute automated email campaigns using tools to segment contacts, personalize messages and nurture customers with Shopify Email and related apps like Mailchimp.
  • Identify customer metrics such as location or industry, for example, to make communications more targeted with Shopify’s powerful reporting tools.
  • Easily capture customer data for lead nurturing with pre-designed forms and pop-ups in the Shopify Forms toolbox.
  • Chat with customers either in real time or create automated messages to encourage two-way communications using the Shopify Inbox app.

In addition, consider the following:

  • Join online user communities and associations related to your courseware. If you sell training to the food service industry, for example, considering joining the National Restaurant Association. Advertise on their site and get a booth at their conference expos and attend industry events.
  • Ask for and post positive customer reviews. Demonstrate to prospects that previous customers found your training valuable and worthwhile with endorsements from satisfied customers.
  • Conduct surveys. Ask for user feedback on the learning experience upon course completion. This information can be used to improve future courses. If the review is glowing, use a quote as a source for an endorsement on the product page, as above.
  • Publish an eNewsletter. Keep your customer base informed with news and notes about upcoming course introduction or updates.
  • Publish a blog. Update readers with articles about changing industry standards, tips to get the most out of online training, and thought leadership pieces to establish your brand as an authority on training for that industry.
  • Send follow-up or course completion emails. Perhaps a customer took a few individual modules from a larger series. Encourage them to complete the training. When a learner has finished a course, customize the course completion and certificate email that is automatically sent by the LMS to include a promotional code for a discount on a related course. Add a note that says, Congratulations! You just completed [Title]. We think you might be interested in this [Title] next, and link it to the Shopify landing page for that course on your store.
  • Create and display a Related Products page on your Shopify Store. This is the place to offer study aids, videos, physical tools, uniforms, or specialized safety equipment that may be used in conjunction with your training. Be the one-stop shop for knowledge and training support materials and generate incremental revenues.

eLearning Pricing Strategies

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on the topic of pricing. It’s easy to post your content, set a price, and let nature take its course. However, there are several important factors to consider when you set the price for your courses:

  • Price your courses based on the value they deliver to clients. Remember that consumers often associate lower prices with lower quality and lower value. On the flip side, too high a price may severely reduce sales.
  • Length and Complexity: Factors such as expert insights, multimedia elements, and interactive features improve learner knowledge retention and therefore increase the value of your course. Longer or more intricate courses may justify a higher price point, but the quality of your content sets you apart.
  • Market Size: What is the size of your target market and how many course sales do you need to break even and then profit from your course sales?
  • Pre-Sales: Consider pre-selling the course and only forge ahead with development once you’ve validated there is sufficient demand to realize a profit.
  • Benchmark the competition. Who is selling similar training, does it match the quality of your content, and how are they pricing it?
  • Consider the full lifecycle cost and set a realistic budget!

Budget considerations might include:

  • Time spent on testing your courses on the leading web browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari) and platforms (desk/laptop: Windows, Mac OS, mobile tablet and phone devices)
  • LMS hosting and delivery fees
  • Marketing, advertising, and sales costs such as credit card transaction fees
  • Support costs
  • Maintaining your courses both from a technical (web browser) and content perspective. Web browsers and eLearning authoring tools are constantly evolving. Republishing your content on an annual basis may help both avoid and fix issues that stem from the fluid nature of this environment

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Choose the Right LMS

We built the Firmwater Shopify App from the ground up to leverage to the full spectrum of what Shopify has to offer. Tight integration with native as well as numerous third-party extensions help you sell eLearning courses more effectively while reducing your administrative burden to boost ROI. Interaction between the Firmwater LMS and Shopify is seamless and transparent to users.

The Firmwater LMS with Shopify eCommerce integration is the perfect choice for small- to medium-sized training providers seeking to tap into the huge eLearning market. Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell a LMS solution and leave you to your own devices to figure it out. Whether you’re training internal employees, customers, or partners, we’ve got you covered. We’ve been doing this for 20 years and have a true appreciation for the challenges you face.

As a small business ourselves, we recognize the value and importance other small businesses place on service and support. We partner with our clients to give them the tools and insights they need to implement best practices in eLearning course development and eCommerce.

We care too much about our customers’ businesses to have them wade through forums and chatbots for help. In fact, the developers who built the Firmwater LMS and Shopify software integrations are still here today and ready to handle any support issue. You don’t get access to that kind of expertise and personal attention from other LMS providers.

With Firmwater and Shopify, you get the best of all worlds: a robust eLearning platform to host deliver your courses from a partner that cares about your business combined with the industry’s leading eCommerce platform to market and sell them.

Contact us today and book a personalized demo to learn how you can build a successful online training business aligned with the way you work using Shopify and the Firmwater LMS.