In our technological age, the majority of products (both B2C and B2B) have reached a stage where learning their use through trial and error is inadequate (and inefficient). I suspect that a significant proportion of the end-users of products do not know how to use the product properly, or to its full potential.
Repeat purchase, customer loyalty and maximisation of customer lifetime value will only be achieved if the customer is maximising their benefit from the product. But this does not happen if the customer does not have the requisite knowledge to use the product to its full extent.
Product manuals are dry and unattractive as a learning medium, but a video tutorial learning pathway, that does not assume any previous knowledge, and is short and punchy, will result in real connection with the customer. It might also be possible for a customer to enter their existing knowledge, and be jumped to the right node on the pathway.
Such resources should of course be free and not behind a login-wall (although an optional login will help users track their progress). They are an excellent promotional tool - a propective customer can learn about the product in depth before buying, and will buy with confidence that its the right choice for them. Learning resources are likely to be something users share will each other, increasing the extent of word-of-mouth communication about the product.
Companies that make money on training
Although many companies (particularly in the software industry) make money on training, opening up introductory training resources will probably increase sales and may cost-in long term. The learning pathway could actually lead users towards the true value-add paid-for modules.
Data and feedback
Online training provides an excellent source of data and feedback: what training modules are working, which need to be improved; what product features are really in demand; what product features are users not using; how the product should be improved; what training videos are being recommended between people; etc.
All of this information greatly enhances the customer relationship, which increases customer lifetime value, and hence profitability, etc.
Another angle to this is the opportunity for companies to include non-product-specific information as part of their training material. In fact, it would probably be difficult to prepare product-specific training without some non-product-specific training included, which helps to increase the general level of education of the workforce. Companies may want to extend and highlight this aspect as part of their corporate social responsibility programme.