Whether you are new at course creation or you are looking for the perfect platform for selling online courses, you should know the difference between online course software and marketplaces.
There is a place and use for both platforms, but in our opinion there is one clear better choice: online course software offer higher opportunities for growth and a better learning experience for students.
In today's article, we will describe what online course platforms and marketplaces are and give you the pros and cons of both approaches, so you can make an informed decision and find the right place to start selling online courses.
Online Course Software VS Marketplaces: Where Should You Sell?
Online Course Software vs Marketplaces
When we talk about "online course software" we refer to
hosted platforms, where creators can build their own online space or website to host and sell their online courses.
Course creation software platforms offer features specifically designed for course creators to enhance the learning experience, such as the ability to create and structure complex programs, large media uploads, payment settings and so on.
Heights Platform is an example of an online course platform: as the creator, you have full control over your business, branding and pricing. Heights Platform lets you build a website for your online courses by your own rule, and you retain full ownership of your content and revenue.
A hosted platform lets you build your online course and retain full control over your business. You’ll handle your own marketing, and you can create a
personal brand. With online course platforms, creators can access information about their students and interact with them.
On the other hand,
online course marketplaces are extremely different from hosted platforms. However, it is common for creators to confuse these terms.
Marketplaces are websites where creators can upload or create their online course and sell it through a third-party site. As the word suggests, marketplaces are types of eCommerce sites for online courses, where visitors can browse through thousands of courses from other creators.
If you are still confused about the difference, think of marketplaces like the Amazon of online courses, while online course platforms are more similar to Shopify.
Udemy and Skillshare are examples of online course marketplaces. Creators who choose these sites can upload their courses and get discovered by a large audience thanks to the marketplace.
While an online course platform allows you to build an online course that is truly your own and to have full control over your business and revenue, a marketplace offers you access to its pre-existing customer base and gives you a head start with marketing, usually at the cost of a percentage of your sales.
Both platforms have pros and cons, let's see them in detail below:
Pros of Online Course Platforms
#1. Full Ownership of Your Content and Branding
The main benefit of an online course platform is the control they offer over your content and business in general. You can create an online course site that reflects your style and branding in full: these platforms let you upload your logo, change the style and colors of your page, create landing pages and much more.
Creating a clear and recognizable brand is an essential part of any business, especially for solopreneurs and course creators.
#2. No Commissions on Your Earnings or Transaction Fees
When you create your online business using a hosted platform, the revenue you gain from selling your online course is 100% yours to keep. The platform does not take any commission on your earnings and does not charge any type of transaction fees.
This is true for most online course platforms, however, some may be exceptions to this rule. When you are
choosing the right online course platform, make sure to check the pricing page carefully to avoid unnecessary fees.
If you want to be sure,
Heights Platform never charges anything more than its monthly fee. #3. Total Freedom for Your Business Model
Using an online course platform can open a world of possibilities in terms of the way you structure your business selling online courses. Do you want to sell online courses individually and charge a one-time flat fee? Do you want to create a membership site where students pay a monthly fee and get access to your content? Do you want to create bundles of courses and charge installments?
All of this and much more is possible when you choose
online course software like Heights Platform.
If you are curious to learn all the types of business models you could use to sell online courses, check out this article from our blog:
Find the Right Business Model to Start Selling Online Courses #4. Higher Value for Learners
An online course platform offers you all the tools you need to create high-value content for your students. This is why online courses created on these platforms are sold at a premium price, while marketplace courses generally are sold for much less than $100.
Online course software like Heights Platform gives you tools like gamification techniques to increase students engagement, different types of courses to fit your business model (such as our game-changing feature called
Challenges), community-building tools such as discussion boards, drip features to grant access to lessons at a rate that is beneficial for your students and so on.
All of these features contribute to creating extremely valuable online courses that can actually help students achieve their goals and potentially make a real impact in their lives.
#5. Information and Insights About Your Students
Online course platforms offer detailed insights about students who join your program. From their most basic info like their names and email addresses to
complex analytics about their level of engagement, activities on your site, course progress and so on.
This information can make a huge difference in the way you run your business. By accessing students' email addresses, you can add them to your email list, interact with them and build a relationship based on trust.
This can help you to grow an active audience, gain more positive reviews and keep promoting your products in the future.
#6. Higher Potential to Grow and Scale Your Business
With online course platforms, there are no rules to tight you to the ground. It may be harder to get started a first, but once you manage to gain an audience and attract the first students, there is a huge potential for growth.
The fact that you get to decide your own pricing and no one takes a percentage of your sales can help you to grow your online course business exponentially, without worrying about competition.
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Cons of Online Course Platforms
#1. Harder to Find Customers a the Beginning
The biggest drawback about selling your online course through a hosted platform is marketing and building an audience. On the contrary, marketplaces offer access to their huge customer base.
With an online course platform, you are building your own business, which means that you have to do all the marketing.
This can make it harder to get started and gain your first few sales, especially if you are a new course creator without an audience. However, once you start building an audience, collecting leads and email addresses, it will become easier and easier to attract new customers and make your online course a success.
So although marketing can be a hassle at the beginning, it will be well worth it in the long run and the result you achieve through an online course platform cannot be compared to the one made by selling through a marketplace.
#2. Harder to Validate Your Idea
If you have no audience, it can be harder to validate your course idea and understand the level of demand for your online course topic.
Many creators like to
pre-sell their online courses, which allows them to gain a few sales before the launch, but more importantly, validate their idea and collect feedback from potential customers.
You cannot ask for feedback or validate your idea if you have no one to ask.
#3. Time Consuming
It takes time to create a qualitative product. Compared to building your online course through a marketplace, with online course software you will need more time and effort to put your content together, build landing pages, email campaigns and so on.
If you don't have a lot of time on your hands, or you are planning to sell online courses as a side income only, online course platforms may not be the right choice for you, at least at the beginning.
However, if you are willing to invest the time to create a successful online business, online course software like Heights Platform offers you all the tools you need.
Pros of Online Course Marketplaces
#1. Marketing is Done For You
The main reason why many creators choose marketplaces over online course platforms is marketing. These platforms usually don't charge you anything upfront and let creators upload their content for free: once you get a sale, the marketplace charges you a percentage of the sale.
So the marketing you get from marketplaces
is not free but is definitively easier to start selling an online course through these sites compared to creating your own website with a hosted platform.
Marketplaces open the door to thousands of potential customers who can easily access your course or search for it on the site.
#2. Easier to Gain Customers Trust
Selling an online course through these platforms can be seen as a "quality mark" from the eye of potential customers. Even though it is not always the case, the marketplace offers a safe place for customers to browse and purchase online courses.
Marketplaces have developed strong credibility among their audience. If you are selling online courses through these marketplaces, it might be easier and faster to gain customers' trust.
On the contrary, you would have to try much harder to convey trust if you were to create your own website with an online course platform.
#3. Faster to Get Started and Set Up Your Course
As marketplaces often offer fewer features to build online courses, it will be faster and easier to upload your content to these sites.
Even though fewer features mean lower quality and value, marketplaces can be a good solution for creators who do not have a to of time available to focus on building a state-of-the-art course.
Cons of Online Course Marketplaces
The cons of marketplaces are exactly the opposites of the Pros of online course platforms. To summarize, these are the major drawbacks of choosing a marketplace to host your online courses:
#1. No Control on Business Model, Pricing, Branding
Marketplaces have strict rules when it comes to pricing your online course. These sites often have limits on the price you choose for your course and take high commissions on your earnings. The business model opportunities are also very limited and there are no options to offer branding in your program, as you are selling it through a third-party website.
#2. They Take High Commissions on Your Earnings
One of the biggest drawbacks of marketplaces is the limited earnings opportunities. In exchange for handling marketing and offering a large pool of customers, marketplaces take a high cut of your revenue, sometimes as high as 75%.
#3. Limited Value to Students
Since marketplaces lack in offering specialized tools to online course creators, the result is courses that lack the learning value they need. Oftentimes courses sold through these sites are not much different from a collection of YouTube videos, organized in a clearer and easier way.
#4. No Students Interaction or Information
When you sell through a marketplace, you do not get access to students' emails and analytics about students' performance. So it is much harder to create an audience, interact with students and potentially create an online community.
#5. Higher Risks and Less Control
From a creator's perspective, selling through a marketplace can be extremely risky, as you are dependent on these sites and at the mercy of their ever-changing policies. Your business is totally dependable on the marketplace in order to be successful, so you better hope that they won't change their pricing, commissions or users base!
Online Course Software vs Marketplaces: Which is Better For Selling Online Courses?
Online course platform and Marketplaces both have their pros and cons. So which one is best for you?
Ultimately the choice depends on your business model and your goals. If you are just getting started and your main goal is to create a side income by not investing too much time and effort into building a proper business, marketplaces offer you a great solution to easily get started and get sales. This can help you validate your idea and gain the initial feedback you need.
If this is the case, you could always start with marketplaces and move to an online course platform when you are more confident about your business.
If your goal is to create your own business, according to your own rules, we highly suggest choosing
online course software like Heights Platform.
It might be harder to get started at first, but in the long run, the rewards offered by an online course platform are much greater.
There is also a third option:
using other marketplaces to sell your online course, alongside your marketing strategies.
There are many sites that do not offer the option for creators to build an online course, but give you access to a diverse marketplace of software and services.
AppSumo allow you to list your online course in their marketplace and access their audience, while still maintaining your branding and identity. You can simply list your course on their marketplace and link to your personal website for people to purchase your course.
These marketplaces will of course still take a percentage of your sales in exchange for the exposure, but you won't have to compromise to their terms.
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