Do you have a Shopify store and are now thinking of creating an online course?
If so, you’re probably wondering how exactly you can sell online courses on Shopify, or even if it is the best online course platform to use.
In this post, we’re going to look specifically at the option of selling online courses through Shopify, one of the leading ecommerce platforms on the market.
Which Shopify apps and integrations are most worth using? What are the overall pros and cons?
Most importantly, perhaps, how does it stack up against other services that are geared specifically towards selling online courses? Let’s begin.
I suggest using Digital Downloads because it’s a Shopify original and is thus the most reliable, though you’re free to choose an alternative if you’re looking for something specific.
If you want to do interesting things with discount codes, for instance, you should consider something like SendOwl (though it will cost you, starting at $9 per month).
In addition to providing great support for offers, it makes it significantly easier to update your digital product range, and adds native streaming (very useful for course videos).
And if you’re hugely concerned about piracy, you can try an app like Digital Content Sales with DRM.
It grants each user a unique and limited license, and can be used to offer course materials for purchase or rental (giving you interesting new sales options).
If you think your courses might get very popular, investing in DRM could be a good idea (and the one-time app fee of $99 isn’t too onerous).
Don’t try to use multiple digital product apps simultaneously, as it’s likely to cause major conflicts. Pick just one and run with it.
Another option instead of hosting your course lessons on Shopify is to integrate with a purpose-built online course platform.
Shopify listings don’t need to be native to the Shopify system: they can be drawn from external inventories using third-party integrations.
This is exactly how dropshipping works, for instance.
If you can’t find an app that provides the features you need, or you’d simply rather save time by storing your course materials in a system designed for them, you can use your Shopify store to market and sell your courses, and then your customers access the course lessons which are hosted elsewhere.
Thinkific is one example of this: add the Thinkific app to your store and you can create courses and course materials from your store dashboard, with all the materials being stored through the main Thinkific platform.
The paid Thinkific Pricing Plans are relatively expensive, going from $49 to $499 per month depending on the features and support you need, but there is a free tier that allows up to three courses with unlimited users.
Another option is the LearnWorlds integration.
It doesn’t work through an app, so you do need to go directly to the platform, but the process is simple once you’ve done so: you just need to add Shopify as a payment gateway, confirm the connection through your Shopify login, and see all your courses imported as products.
Choosing a combination of Shopify and one of these systems can work very well, but it depends on what you’re looking for.
Which user interface do you prefer using? Do you intend to offer your courses through other marketplaces as well? What price are you willing to pay? The answers to these questions will point you in the right direction.
Now that we’ve looked at using apps and integrations with Shopify, let’s run through the main pros and cons of using it as a platform for selling online courses.
Whether you already sell products or you think you could do well by selling some items alongside your courses, there’s a lot to be said for offering everything through the same platform.
You could then make some relevant items available at discounted prices when purchased with a particular course: sell an art course in a bundle with some drawing tools, for instance.
If you build a strong brand around providing courses, you can even throw in branded merchandise quite easily using the various print-on-demand services with Shopify apps such as Printify or Amplifier (formerly known as Merchify).
Available through any paid tier, Shopify’s 24/7 support is renowned for its speed and consistency, so you can get assistance whenever you need it.
Other platforms can offer solid support, but it’s easy to understand why someone might opt for Shopify for this reason alone.
We noted it right out of the gate, and it is a significant factor because software updates could cause issues.
Since Shopify is a SaaS platform, you don’t get to choose when you install updates: using a native Shopify app will protect you, but if you use something like SendOwl then you simply can’t know with absolutely confidence that it will work tomorrow.
Dedicated online course platforms like Thinkific or Learnworlds can provide huge ranges of convenient features that are guaranteed to work because they’re native. That makes Shopify a risky option.
Though you could stop at using a digital download app, you likely wouldn’t.
You’d probably want various additional apps to add things like marketing integrations or subscription options (through apps like Recurring Order & Subscription) in an effort to make your Shopify store rival a course platform.
The more apps you add, though, the more probable it becomes that two or more of the apps will overlap somehow and cause problems — problems that you might not notice until weeks or even months later when you discover that orders haven’t been tracked properly.
This needs you to pay close attention and be very delicate.
You can customize your homepage, tweak your pricing, use marketing services, take orders, and track your performance.
The question we need answer, then, is this: should you choose Shopify to sell your online courses?
It’s difficult — well, impossible — to reach a firm conclusion that will apply to everyone, because it really depends on your circumstances. Here’s how I’d frame it, though:
The simple addition of a digital product app can allow you to create online courses that fit neatly into your existing store lineup. Group up digital materials and physical products to create interesting bundles.
Maybe one of the service apps in the Shopify App Store has a dashboard that really makes sense to you. If so, you can get the best of both worlds: the flexibility and SEO potency of Shopify with the course-centric design of the chosen service.
Shopify wasn’t designed for selling online courses, and it will never be as graceful as any of the most popular elearning platforms. Instead of trying to figure out various apps and integration, just go directly to one of those platforms and sell your courses that way.
Author: Rodney Laws
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. He’s worked with the biggest platforms in the world, making him the perfect person to offer advice on which platforms to build your website with. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.
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