81% of shoppers research online before buying, according to RetailingToday. They conduct research via search engines, compare prices, read reviews and product information. They also turn to independent evaluations such as Which? to support their decision making. Typically the pricier of the purchase, the more inclined we are to invest in understanding our choices.
In the learning technology market there has however, not been enough independent research in Europe to illuminate buyers’ decisions. Who do customers believe provide them with the best customer service, business impact, innovation and consistently provide value for money?
At Fosway Group we have been collating insights about the market for 20 years, tracking who works with whom, what they think of them, the total costs of ownership and assessing the impact/benefits from different providers and their solutions. We share these insights in our vendor profiling and Fosway 9-Grids™. But now we have strategically partnered with Europe’s leading workplace learning event, Learning Technologies, and its supporting community, the Learning and Skills Group. Our joint aim is to create a definitive market barometer which will give buyers like you transparency in a market that can be clouded in spin and opinion, but not a great deal of data.
The first phase of research was delivered for Learning Technologies in February 2016. Over 900 respondents contributed to the initial survey. So what did we learn?
1) Buyers need to set clear expectations when they engage with suppliers. Customers reported that suppliers only ‘always’ or ‘frequently’ understand their needs 60% of the time. With LMS providers, that falls to 50%. Whilst it would be easy to blame the vendors, in reality it is potentially more symptomatic of buyers failing to communicate their requirements. With LMS providers the added complexity can come from learning departments struggling with legacy systems, but that’s not to excuse the sentiment that 1 in 10 feels their LMS provider never understands their needs.
2) There is room for vendors to compete on quality of service. Whilst service levels are good (62% of customers report consistently getting ‘great’ service), only 15% of respondents always believe this to be the case. Learning content tops the ranking (76%) and LMS providers the lowest (41%). Definitely room for improvement…
3) Buyers need to shop around for innovation. Of all the themes within the survey, innovation received the lowest overall rating. Only 55% reported positive innovation from their providers. 61% of learning content providers and 74% of LMS providers occasionally, rarely or never innovate their offering… What’s surprising about this, especially for LMS providers, is that Cloud based solutions typically offer quarterly upgrades and do offer a high cadence of new functionality. In fact we hear many concerns about organisations’ ability to keep pace with updates. So this might be more representative of the focus of innovation rather than the pace. Customers reported a suprisingly low rate of only 6% of learning content providers always innovating their offering, with two thirds believing they don’t consistently get innovations in content. With such a small proportion providing higher levels of innovation in their solutions, you clearly need to scour the market for fresh thinking.
4) If you want to consistently exceed learners’ expectations – set learner experience as your top selection criteria and involve learners in selection process. Of all the results this is potentially the most concerning. Less than 50% of learning technology consistently exceeds learners’ expectations. It’s an interesting debate about how often we should be looking to exceed learners’ expectations and how much that might cost. But with only 10% of providers always exceeding learners’ expectations, I know who I would prefer to work with – and it’s not the other 90%.
The challenge is how we bring more transparency to the market as a whole and highlight what the best providers are doing. We all have a role to play in that. Yours is to take an active part of the next phase of the 2016 Learning Technologies research and share your experiences. This insight and feedback will help deliver better transparency and more independent data to your decision making – and that of others. So please, be open and be involved when the next survey comes to your door.
This article, written by Fosway’s Director of Research, David Perring, first appeared in E-learning Age magazine.