Investments in online customer education are growing. A research report by Forrester found that organizations increased spending on customer education by 80% between 2017-2019 and planned to more than double spending over the next two years.
With benefits like improved customer onboarding, increased product usage, and faster time to value, digital customer education is a no-brainer. The question is: When adopting a customer education platform (CEP), is it better to build or buy?
There are lots of factors to consider when making the decision to buy vs. build, including your organization’s priorities, goals, access to resources, cost, and content.
Building is a viable, smart decision for some companies, including those that want full control over what the platform looks like and how it operates—and those with a smaller user base.
Buying a world-class customer education platform is right for some companies, including those that want a proven method of educating on complex or constantly evolving products and services—and those with a larger user base.
Let’s dive deeper into the reasons why you might choose to build or buy a CEP.
One of the first considerations when making your decision to build or buy falls into the “organizational priorities” bucket. Ask yourself whether you prioritize a fully customized user interface or a top-of-the-line educational process that ties to business outcomes.
Many companies that choose to build their own CEP do so because they can design it to look 100% how they want. And while this can be great from a brand perspective, these sites often miss the mark when it comes to users achieving learning outcomes.
At the end of the day, a CEP’s purpose is to drive results for your business by educating your customers, employees, and partners. To do this effectively, your platform must:
Many companies don’t have the resources to build such a sophisticated platform on their own.
So, if you prioritize complete creative freedom, you might want to build a bespoke solution. If you want a solution that can match your brand's look and feel but prioritizes the delivery of educational content, consider buying a CEP that’s optimized for education and engagement. (And there are vendors out there that can deliver a solution that aligns well with your brand aesthetic.)
Besides being able to completely customize the interface, building has other benefits, which makes it a great choice for certain companies.
Building a customer education platform might be right for you if:
Building doesn’t mean starting with a blank canvas. Companies that build CEPs fall into two categories: they either build everything from scratch (which is rare) or they purchase a content management system (CMS) and customize it to their unique needs.
The Predictive Index chose to build their own customer education platform by combining their CMS (WordPress) with a learning management system (LearnDash). The team responsible for building the platform consisted of a product manager, user experience designer, and web developer. They were assisted by the company’s business systems architect and engineering teams for logins, transactional emails, and other backend work.
By leveraging existing content and systems, the team was able to launch their first iteration of a learning platform in six months. The first iteration organized content based on persona (customer, prospect, or partner) and offered three certification paths.
While this solution fit their business needs at the time, the team at The Predictive Index ran into a common problem with custom builds: issues with personalization and customization of experiences based on user activity.
While some companies choose to build their own CEP, others buy. Here’s a list of reasons when buying is a wise decision:
One question to ponder might be: Do we have the resources to be a successful customer education platform, or do we want to focus our creative energy on producing the content?
Whether you choose to build or buy, the most important part of any successful customer education initiative is the content. Keep that in mind when budgeting resources and cost of the overall project. Expend all of your resources on building a platform and have nothing left for content production, and the entire initiative is at risk.
Some of the highest-rated CEPs include Intellum, Skilljar, Docebo, Thought Industries, and Thinkific.
While each CEP has its own pros and cons, Intellum stands apart from the crowd for several reasons.
Think about your most engaging learning experiences: Was it the content itself that got you interested? Or was it the way the content was presented over time?
Through engagement and personalization tactics (like machine-driven recommendations, notifications, and awards), we’ve created a platform intentionally designed to keep people learning.
This active learning results in deeper knowledge retention and promotes positive behavioral changes in users.
The Intellum Platform leverages an approach based on decades of industry experience and a proprietary methodology informed by the Science of Learning. This helps your customers achieve the learning objectives you set out for them.
Intellum also includes a powerful, native report writer that allows customers to track user activity, engagement, and performance. Whether you’re looking for an off-the-shelf report or want to export data to your business intelligence tool, Intellum offers unparalleled access to user activity.
We’re not just a platform—we’re a tool for connecting your learning initiatives to measurable business outcomes.
There’s a difference between a platform that’s custom-built and one that can be customized.
The choice to buy or build a CEP largely depends on your own unique situation. What are your organizational priorities and goals? Do you have the resources to function as a customer education platform? Etc.
Of course, if you choose the “buy” route, we sincerely hope you’ll consider us as a partner.