Episode 219

How WooCommerce Plus a WordPress LMS Plugin Can Create a Great Learning Management System

Learn about how WooCommerce plus a WordPress LMS plugin can create a great learning management system in this episode of the LMScast podcast with Ali Mathis and Chris Badgett from the LifterLMS team. In this episode Ali and Chris dive into WooCommerce 2.0 and what it means for the LifterLMS platform.

LifterLMS has four payment gateway options provided by the company: Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.Net, and WooCommerce. We recommend sticking with Stripe, PayPal, or Authorize.Net, because it allows you to use the LifterLMS access plan system, and it keeps everything centered around the LMS which makes the whole process very simple to manage.

If you are interested in integrating your courses or memberships with a cart system, if your payment processor is unavailable otherwise with LifterLMS, or if you are striving to create a multi-vendor setup, then WooCommerce may be a great tool to integrate with. One key thing to note about the LifterLMS WooCommerce integration is that in order to do recurring payments you will need WooCommerce Subscriptions.

For those new to the WordPress ecosystem, WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin for businesses to sell products on their WordPress website. It was founded by a company called WooThemes out of South Africa in 2011. It was later acquired by Automattic, the main company behind WordPress itself.

Another reason you may want to use WooCommerce for your learning management system website is if you have some complicated tax laws you have to comply with. WooCommerce has integrations with Taxamo and TaxJar to help take care of automatic tax calculations. 

How WooCommerce plus a WordPress LMS plugin can create a great learning management systemThe LifterLMS WooCommerce integration was in beta for about three months. We have a beta testing group at LifterLMS where you can try out the products we have in the development pipeline. The beta testing group is a great way to give feedback on what you want to see added into the LifterLMS platforms in development. It is not advised that you use the beta products on your live site, as all of the kinks may not have been fully worked out of the system yet.

You can find the WooCommerce extension for LifterLMS in our store hereIt is also included in the Universe Bundle and the Infinity Bundle.

Head over to LifterLMS.com to find out more about how you can use LifterLMS to build your own online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom, LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name’s Chris Badgett. I’m joined by a special repeat guest, Ali Mathis from the LifterLMS team. How’s it going, Ali?
Ali Mathis: Good. I’m so excited to be here again. How are you?
Chris Badgett: Good. I’m doing well. Well, welcome back.
Ali Mathis: Thanks.
Chris Badgett: I know today we’re gonna talk about WooCommerce. LifterLMS has always integrated with WooCommerce, as in a lot of new things have come out in that regard. So where do we want to take this conversation?
Ali Mathis: Well, I thought first we could talk a little bit about WooCommerce from a big picture and talk about why somebody might want to choose WooCommerce for their core site and about some of the differences and tradeoffs, pros and cons between using WooCommerce and some of the other LifterLMS gateways, because WooCommerce is an eCommerce system, correct?
Chris Badgett: Yes. So, a history lesson on WooCommerce, I believe it’s approximately seven years old, maybe eight. It’s been around for a long time. It came out of South Africa by a company called WooThemes. They used to make themes then they got into the eCommerce plug in business. So, in the earlier days of WordPress, WooCommerce evolved as the leader in eCommerce for WordPress. Fast forward to recently, like a year or two ago, WooCommerce was acquired by Automatic, the main company behind WordPress itself.
So, WooCommerce has been on quite the ride. It’s one of the largest eCommerce systems on the entire Internet. There’s other solutions like Shopify and stuff out there, but in the WooCommerce or in the WordPress ecosystem, WooCommerce is the dominant player. When we first launched LifterLMS, we had our own stripe in PayPal payment gateways, but WooCommerce has been around for a long time and there’s all kinds of different reasons that people would want to use WooCommerce to sell. Yeah, that’s the history lesson.
Ali Mathis: Okay. So, what are some of the reasons that people would want to use WooCommerce on their LifterLMS site? Can you get into some specifics?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. So, the first thing is I don’t recommend using it if you don’t need it. So, if you live in a country like the United States, Canada, a lot of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, these are countries that Stripe works in and a Stripe is for taking credit card payments, and LifterLMS has its own eCommerce system. So, you probably just need our Stripe add on. But if you don’t live in a country that Stripe supports, I think there’s about 18 countries that stripe supports, perhaps there’s another payment gateway besides Stripe. They can process those credit cards that WooCommerce has an extension for. I don’t have it up in front of me right now, but if you go to the WooCommerce website and you go in their extensions and you go into the payment gateway category, you can type in your country and you can see which payment gateways they have that will work in your country.
So, if you need a payment gateway besides Stripe or PayPal or authorize.net, which is what we offer through Lifter natively, then you should check out what’s possible with WooCommerce. And maybe there’s an add on either for free or paid over there that can help bring the payment processing to your site. That’s one reason, payment gateways. Another reason is that you sell more than courses and memberships. If you have equipment, if you have physical products that need to be shipped. Let’s say you have some books, other kinds of just products that you sell that require physical shipping, that go with whatever your program is all about, you may want a full on eCommerce store, which WooCommerce can bring to you and not just selling courses and memberships. Then you can add courses and memberships to your existing product catalog in your WooCommerce store.
Woo commerce is better situated to handle all those kind of product details around shipping and adding extra for different types of shipping and all this kind of stuff that we see in a physical products business. That’s another reason to use WooCommerce. A third reason is there are other add ons or plugins or extensions that WooCommerce has that you might want to use. For example, in the tax arena, WooCommerce has integrations with [Kwaderno], Taxamo, TaxJar of Avalara. These are tools that handle all the nuances of international tax, which some people wanna work with.
So, we don’t have that at Lifter, but if you need that, you can use that through WooCommerce. There’s also other plugins, like they have a plugin called Vendors. I think another one called Teams, where you can create a course marketplace on your site that has all the commission structures and the dashboard for eCommerce sales. That’s basically to the point that you could create like Udemy style clone with the product vendors and on in addition to WooCommerce. Those are really the main reasons to not use LifterLMS, Stripe, PayPal or authorize.net. If you need another payment gateway, you want a full on eCommerce store that sells all kinds of stuff or you need some other niche tool that’s already available in the woo commerce ecosystem.
Ali Mathis: I know you’re not an accountant, but you mentioned taxes. Is that just really an international consideration for people outside of the U.S. or people in the US have to be concerned about taxes on their course and need to use WooCommerce for that as well?
Chris Badgett: It’s a good question. I’m in the process right now, for this podcast getting someone to come on and talk to the issue of taxes with digital products and programs like you create with courses and memberships, and what the implications are both inside the United States, Canada and all countries. Whether you’re selling just in your country or internationally because it’s a little bit of the Wild West when it comes to the online space and e-business, if you will. But certain countries, like in the European Union, they have a more mature tax system for online businesses where they need to have what’s called VAT, value added tax, added to sales from these kinds of websites.
And some people prefer to use a tax management system, like some of the ones I mentioned instead of just doing it on their own. You can absolutely do it on your own with the … just take your sales, go to your accountant and figure out how much you owe to who and what government and all that stuff or you can work with these automated tools that help do some of that work in advance. So, there’s different ways to do it, but yeah, definitely consult with your accountant on what you think is the best path for you. A lot of it, it varies.
If you’re just getting started and you just have an idea and you haven’t really validated or you’re not getting like tons of sales in tons of countries, that’s a different situation than being in like a mature expert business where you’re selling internationally, you’re making over seven figures a year. You really want to have your tax stuff figured out.
Ali Mathis: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. I would say before going to the tools, consult your accountant and figure out the best strategy.
Ali Mathis: Yeah. Do you have any idea about what percentage of LifterLMS users choose WooCommerce commerce as opposed to using the LifterLMS payment gateway options?
Chris Badgett: I’m not sure because we don’t necessarily have optics into our bundles and what people are using inside of the bundles or the individual products. We know what the sales are like, by far more people buy the LifterLMS, Stripe or PayPal add on, and just do it simply all with Lifter without bringing WooCommerce to the party. But there’s a good percentage of people that sell with Woo. If I had to wager a guess, I would say somewhere around 20%, 25% are selling with Woo for the reasons we discussed.
Ali Mathis: Right. WooCommerce as well as our Stripe and PayPal add on, those all come in both of our bundles.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. You can get [inaudible] cart for 99 bucks or get it via the universe bundle or our big infinity bundle.
Ali Mathis: But just to super clarify, you can’t use WooCommerce and, for example, LifterLMS Stripe, correct?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I wouldn’t do that. You’re just kind of creating unnecessary mess. WooCommerce does have its own stripe add on, but another thing that surprises people is sometimes if you do decide to use WooCommerce, you can use their Stripe add on. But if you want recurring payments, which Lifter Stripe can do, if you do that through commerce, you’re gonna need to get the WooCommerce subscriptions plugin, which I believe costs $200. They might’ve raised the price. But Woo subscription, if you decide to sell your Lifter stuff with Lou and you want recurring payments, you are gonna need to also get the Woo Subscriptions add on from WooCommerce.
Ali Mathis: Gotcha. Now, the big news here at LifterLMS, of course, is that we just rolled out a major update to our WooCommerce add on. Can you talk a little bit about how the Beta process that we went through first and the Beta period and what that was like and if we learned anything from that and then with the process of like transitioning from Beta to the stable version was like?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. That’s a great question. So, about maybe eight months ago of this recording, we introduced a more formal Beta testing program where people can opt in to participate in Beta versions of our various products. And we put Woo through that system. It was in Beta for about three months, I believe. And during that period were several releases and we were collecting feedback from people that were using the Beta version as well as testing it ourselves to make sure that we ironed out any kinks to make sure we conceptualize the new features that we were adding correctly and fulfilling the need that was in the marketplace.
It was a great experience. Beta testing is really meant for not using on a production site, although in full transparency, we did see people using the Beta version on their production sites. I mean, it was stable, but we got some good feedback and added some more features and fixed any issues that popped up while it was in the Beta period and then we released it here recently. And that new release was WooCommerce 2.0. There’s already been some more improvements that have come after that, but 2.0 being a major number increased from 1.8 or whatever it was up to 2.0 had other some huge improvements to it.
Ali Mathis: Yeah, and we’ll get into that in a second. We got a substantial amount of feedback from the community that participated in the Beta period. Do you have any idea about how many people did participate in that?
Chris Badgett: I’m not sure of the exact number. That’s actually a better question for Thomas, but I did see some chatter and sell some stuff and it comes through multiple channels. It comes through our slack community. It comes through the support ticket system. I think, in reality, the way I was left feeling is like, I’d like to have more people participating. There were some, but I’d love to have more. So, if you are using a good web host, like WPEngine or [Kenster] that has a staging environment where, not your live site, and you want to test new versions of Lifter or the add ons, I’d recommend joining our Beta program.
It’s also not just about finding bugs or whatever, it’s about making sure that we have product market fit. So, Beta testers actually have a unique opportunity to influence the product and get the features that they want in there. So, if you are that kind of person that has an opinion about what you need and your tools, I would encourage you to join and participate in the Beta programs of some or all of our products.
Ali Mathis: Cool. Let’s get into WooCommerce LifterLMS 2.0 a little bit. I was hoping you could give our audience an overview of some of the top benefits and features that have rolled out along with the new version of WooCommerce and some of the cool new things that they can do with it.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. We actually have to start with a story about LifterLMS before we get into WooCommerce. I think it was probably around LifterLMS 2.0 where you rolled out … we rebuilt our version of eCommerce into what we call the access plan system. This is one thing I’m really proud of is the reality is the way that system worked, it was more powerful than what you could do with by using WooCommerce and Woo subscriptions. We had essentially created the … we combine the needs of what membership plugins do, in terms of locking down content, to what eCommerce plugins do to allowing that checkout experience and payment transaction to happen and simplified it all so that it was easy to use for courses and memberships. And no matter what pricing model people come up with, it could handle that, which is amazing.
That was an innovation several years ago at LifterLMS. What ended up happening is if people wanting to use WooCommerce, they would use our WooCommerce integration and start selling with Woo, but then they started realizing that they don’t have all the raw power of Lifter’s native eCommerce and membership protection access plan system. They had a lot of it, but what they realize is they still had to potentially buy a payment gateway from Woo, buy Woo subscriptions if they wanted recurring payments and we didn’t have as fine tune access controls if you decide to sell at Woo.
You would make this sale through Woo and whatever WooCommerce add ons you were using, but you didn’t have the granularity and fine tune access controls that Lifter had in terms of exploration and the ability to just do more fine tuned variations of what different access models and pricing models you could use on the same course to create like a pricing table that had all these different options.
Ali Mathis: And was there … sorry to interrupt, but was there like a substantial amount of feedback from the community on that, I’m guessing? That’s probably where these [inaudible] came from.
Chris Badgett: There was. Yeah, so for example, like someone in Europe would be like, “I have to use WooCommerce because I want to do the VAT tax plugin that WooCommerce has, but I want the full power of Lifter. You couldn’t do those two things at the same time, but now with LifterLMS WooCommerce 2.0, you can. Essentially, at the access plan level and LifterLMS language, you can associate a WooCommerce product with a particular access plan to a course or a membership, and even to a particular WooCommerce product variation, which gets kind of geeky into the nuances of what WooCommerce does. But, pretty much anything that was possible I Lifter, in terms of eCommerce and access, can now happen if you decide to use WooCommerce to sell. So, that makes a lot of people happy that are, for whatever reason, wanting or needing to stay in the WooCommerce ecosystem.
Ali Mathis: Yeah. Cool. So, getting back to some of the new features and benefits specifically to WooCommerce LifterLMS 2.0, are there any others that you want to highlight?
Chris Badgett: I just think they can work really well together if you have a clear vision for your store and you know what’s possible in WooCommerce. So, we talked about the product vendors add on that WooCommerce has. Now, you could literally build Udemy clone, which I forget how many millions of dollars of funding Udemy has had to build that company. You can now build a website like that with LifterLMS plus WooCommerce and some add ons from WooCommerce, which is really quite amazing.
Ali Mathis: And how complicated is that to do? Can you be a beginner and do it? Do you need to be a developer or somewhere in between?
Chris Badgett: You could do that without being a developer. You just need to know how to drive WordPress and use WordPress plugins like Lifter and WooCommerce and WooCommerce add ons, and follow documentation. But that’s the crazy thing when I think about it is, you could build a Udemy clone or some kind of course marketplace, is pretty advanced from an LMS perspective and eCommerce perspective and a multi-user role perspective, really fast. Essentially, one of these days I’m gonna put together like how to build the Udemy clone. So, to build the prototype …
Ali Mathis: I have you seen that question a lot in presales?
Chris Badgett: Well, Lifter is flexible you can do a one course website, you could do multiple courses, you can start getting into memberships, you can get multiple instructors all the way on up to this of course marketplace where each seller has their own dashboard and an affiliate program and all this stuff. So, Lifter your can scale up with you from simple to complex. But to go back to the course marketplace, I can put together a prototype with that if I had the content together in a day, easily.
Ali Mathis: It’s like an hour a day or 24 hour a day?
Chris Badgett: Well, as anybody listening out there knows building websites, we always underestimate ourselves, so maybe it would take me two days, but two, eight hour days. But, if I had like 20 courses and the content was all done and I’ll load it in the videos and I had the worksheets and whatever else went with the course and the achievement badges, without getting into like heavy design, I would probably use like the astro theme, which also has integration into Lifter and WooCommerce. I’d put together a nice looking site fast. That’s what just blows my mind is let’s possible with these tools. You go back to it and the core LifterLMS and the core WooCommerce is actually free. So, to get started between, if you’re going to join the two, you need that $99 bridge to sell with Woo Lifter stuff. And then you can go from there.
Ali Mathis: I mean, you need at least … I was trying to say sort of like a WooCommerce payment gateway add on as well, right?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. You need to get …
Ali Mathis: Like WooCommerce, Stripe for WooCommerce or PayPal.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, or authorize.net or all the other ones that they have that work in all kinds of different countries.
Ali Mathis: Those are all free from WooCommerce or are those paid add ons too? Do you know?
Chris Badgett: Most of their payment gateways are paid, but they do have some free ones. It’s important to check the WordPress repository, for whatever you’re looking forward to see if they’re offering it for free. Also, look at, if you’re getting into WooCommerce add ons, look at who makes the add on and how many installs are there. Like, if WooCommerce itself makes the add on, you know it’s really, really solid. Or in this case, it might even say automatic now that Automatic acquired WooCommerce. And then there’s third party companies and some of them are fantastic that create payment gateways to that aren’t affiliated with WooCommerce or Automatic. They’re entrepreneurs and typically in the country that is not able to sell and WooCommerce will create a payment gateway to unlock eCommerce for their country. So, it’s a really cool thing.
Ali Mathis: But generally, we try to advise people not to build, what you like to call like Frankenstein websites, right? To try to minimize the amount of add ons, if you can.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. So, the number of plugins and the number of products made by different companies, I definitely recommend a minimalist approach. So, when I’m talking to somebody, the first thing I try to do about their project requirements is if they’re coming at me with memberships or I need WooCommerce, at first I try to talk them out of it. Like, I don’t think you need our memberships functionality yet if you just have like a course or a couple of courses. I don’t think you need WooCommerce if you have STripe and you’re just selling courses and memberships. So, it’s really a consultative process of let’s keep it simple and add layers as we need them and absolutely nothing extra.
Ali Mathis: Right.
Chris Badgett: For example, to build that Udemy or course marketplace clone, if I were to list out the plugins that I would approach that project with, I would use the astro theme. I would use the astro pro plugin, I would use LifterLMS, I would use LifterLMS WooCommerce, I would use WooCommerce, I would use the Stripe and PayPal payment gateways, and I would use the vendors plugin. Basically, with a plugins, I’m good. You don’t need a reason to have like 40 or 50 plugins on a site.
Ali Mathis: Right. And so, you would call like a small number of plugins then?
Chris Badgett: I would, but for a simple Lifter our site, if you’re just doing courses, I would literally have like Lifter and the Stripe add on. And then I would start adding, if I wanted to get into the advanced features, like the social learning or the coaching, I would start bringing those other Lifter tools in. But to start, like at its very simplest, Lifter, plus a payment gateway is plenty fine to start for a lot of people.
Ali Mathis: Cool. Just to reiterate or just to, not reiterate, but sort of hit back to the details of how People get LifterLMS WooCommerce 2.0. If you were already subscribers in the universe bundle or the infinity bundle, they just need to upgrade from their dashboard and/or otherwise they can go out and grab the single plug in or grab it as part of one of our bundles.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Yeah. As of this recording, and may have already happened when you’re listening or maybe not yet, but we’re going to be doing a demo Webinar of this. So, a lot of what we’re talking about, maybe you’d like to see what we’re talking about. So, we’re gonna demonstrate all this on a webinar and maybe that webinar has already happened. So, if you go to the LifterLMS website and scroll down to the bottom of a website, you can find a webinar’s link and just find the one about WooCommerce and we’ll have a lot of visuals about what we’re talking about here today.
Ali Mathis: Cool. Well, thanks so much Chris. It’s always fun talking to you.
Chris Badgett: Thanks. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. Ali, you’re gonna be excited about WooCommerce, it’s a great tool and I am happy to have our companies partner together to give course builders and education companies and institutions the tools they need to build these learning programs. So, thanks a lot.
Ali Mathis: Yeah. It’s exciting. Thanks Chris.
Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMSCast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging results getting courses on the internet.

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