Without some critical online course platform features, selling digital products is almost impossible.
Or a nightmare. Or the horror story you didn’t watch yet.
Some features aren’t just features; they are crucial as “motor skills” without which we humans can’t live or function normally — from both a technical and marketing perspective.
Then, there’s a hidden perspective: losing time you spend hacking away on something that might or might not work for you.
Spending energy (and frustration!): you could have used it for something else more productive (like creating online courses or promoting them).
When it comes to selling online courses and digital products, there are a few things specific online course platform features that I look out for.
The best online course platforms remove technical hassles while bringing out features that help you “create online courses” and “market online courses” well enough.
Of all the fancy bells and whistles, these are some of the most critical online course platform features you’ll absolutely need.
#1. Keep What You Earn [At least Most of It]
We course creators have their work cut out for us. The last thing you want is for a platform to “greedy-grab” your hard-earned money.
We are fine with teeny-weeny percentage cuts. We are also fine with paying a decent amount of monthly subscription fee.
Just because something is popular or easy doesn’t mean you should run for it.
Udemy is a horror story, when it comes to just how much it eats out of your plate. I priced my course on Udemy for $39. Udemy sells it for $10. Finally, it sends out $2 (not including PayPal or Stripe cuts].
See what you get when you sell a course at $39:
Online Course creation is hard. Just see how hard it is to sell Online Courses.
Of all the eCommerce platforms that enable to sell courses, Payhip takes the least cut [Up to zero if you upgrade. But that’s optional]
#2. Course Platform Affordability [Free or At least Simple Pricing, Please]
Upfront fees for “anything” is a risk. Most course platforms do come with a free trial. However, the amount of time you get (7 days, 14 days) isn’t enough for you to deep dive and test them out.
Affordable online course platforms are your best bet.
You don’t want to go all Kajabi (starts at $119 and goes up to $319 per month) and end up forking out as much as you’d if you got yourself a car.
Payhip and Gumroad are free to start (with a percentage of sales paid on total sales). Payhip has much simpler pricing (single tier or free, depending on the plans) compared to Gumroad (you pay more as you sell more).
Podia: Starts at $39 per month
Thinkific: Starts at $49 per month
#3. Custom Domains
You don’t want your store URL to look like: https://THEIRdomain.com/yourstorename — it’s hard to promote and market your courses this way. Even if you did, you’ll lose out on the benefits of branding and your store won’t be “your” home.
When you setup custom domains for your online course platforms, this is how it’d look like:
https://learn.fetchprofits.com [Where my storefront is at]
This way, your store front is your own. It reflects your branding, colors, logo, fonts, images, videos, and more.
That’s how you build an audience, grow your community, and pull up for playing the long-game.
#4. Video Hosting For Online Courses: Embedding, Uploading, & Managing Videos
Videos are big. Most online courses are incomplete without videos.
If anything, this should be among the top of the online course platform features you should be worried about.
Take the popular case of using WordPress for Online Courses (for perspective): You’d need:
WordPress hosting (starts from $30 per month)
WordPress LMS (like LearnDash) (yearly license)
A video hosting service: Vimeo or Wistia.
Note: Don’t use YouTube for embedded videos. That’s a terrible idea.
See how your costs add up?
Most online course platforms allow you to upload and manage videos for your online courses (with slight differences here and there).
Gumroad: upload (but will be delivered to your customers differently; just not the online course experience you are used to)
Payhip: The platform is free. You can use Vimeo or Wistia to upload and manage videos. Or use Payhip videos (starts at $9 per month) — gives you access to video hosting for online courses, other digital products (standalone videos), and a course player.
#5. Course Delivery & Customer Experience
How exactly your customers get to access their purchased courses, how the course player looks (and feels like), and the overall customer experience is paramount.
Often ignored (until it’s too late).
Podia (free trial + paid), Thinkific (free trial + paid) and Payhip (free + paid) have the best front-facing UX/UI, feel, and looks. They provide the best experience with online courses (among other things) for your customers/students.
Selling online courses on Gumroad is different: the entire set of videos you upload (as course modules) are delivered at one go that users can click on for streaming (or download, if you enable that option).
#6. Integration With WordPress [Or Insert Any Website]
Chances are that you won’t be using the online course storefront for anything else more than to reflect your branding, showcase your online courses, and to actually “sell” or “enable free downloads or free online courses”.
The magic of marketing really happens on something like your own WordPress website or a website you build using any of these 23+ nocode website building tools.
Most platforms such as Thinkific, Podia, Payhip, and even Gumroad allow you to directly create subdomains and continue to work with your existing digital marketing presence (website +social media + email marketing, and so on).
#7. Customizable Storefront: Add Pages, Edit & Customize
You should be able to customize, edit, add sections, add pages to your online course storefront.
Customizability of your online course site is critical: this is what lets you have the storefront the way you want it, complete with your branding elements such as logo, colors, and fonts.
On Gumroad, for instance, you can’t customize how your product pages and course pages look like.
See what I am getting at?
#8. Creating Landing Pages For Online Courses
You’d need landing pages to do marketing better. Period. I covered the need for landing pages, how they help boost your conversions, and more extensively on this blog.
Either the course sales pages you create with any of your chosen platforms should be decent enough (and customizable enough) to work as landing pages or you should be able to actually create landing pages (like Podia, Payhip, and Thinkific do).
No landing pages? Don’t even think of promoting online courses.
Note: If you have customizable online course storefronts, the landing pages you create (course sales pages) are more than sufficient to make sales). Upgrade to anything later.
#9. Email Marketing Integrations
Email marketing is another often overlooked (and brutally ignored) marketing aspect that online course creators just miss out on (overwhelm? Laziness? Lack of motivation maybe?).
Either way, your online course platform should have at least the basic integrations needed to help you pick up on your email marketing game.
Payhip Integrates with Mailchimp.
Thinkific gives you tons of integrations –including email marketing tools like Drip and ConvertKit — are available.
Apart from the basics of online course creation, there are challenges that course creators face, and that doesn’t even include the eCommerce platforms to choose or even making a choice between some of the popular online course platforms.
If you get past all of the above, what separates the most successful creators in the knowledge economy from the rest? How has the pandemic changed online learning?
And is it too late to put out a course on how to make your own sourdough starter?
The answers are here: Check out the 2022 Online Learning Trends
The team at Thinkific analyzed metadata from the top 20% of creators to discover what exactly it is they’re doing differently to make them so successful.
Now, you can see which trends set the trailblazers apart — and how you can use their tactics to bring in more business and better engage students in 2022.
Take a look to see for yourself…
- How do the top creators keep students engaged for longer?
- What is their secret to growing their business?
- Where do top creators focus their time?
- What takeaways can someone just starting out learn from them?
The report is chock-full of insights you can put into action today. Because if you’re still creating courses the same way you were two years ago — you might be missing out on some huge opportunities.
Which important online course platform features do you think are critical for your online courses as a content creator? Have I missed any? Let me know on my LinkedIn page . Or Follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter.