Selling digital products online is one of the best entrepreneurial ventures, whether you see it as a side hustle or a long-term business.
You benefit from high profit margins and low overhead costs. There’s also great potential to earn a passive income. The lion’s share of the task involves creating the digital product and getting your business set up. From then on, you’ll just need marketing and a little maintenance to keep the sales rolling in.
That’s not to say that it’ll be a piece of cake. You must build a trustworthy presence on the web and demonstrate your expertise if you want people to buy from you.
As such, it’s a good idea to invest in a professional website of your own to build that necessary credibility. We recommend Shopify as a user-friendly, highly-customizable commerce platform with tons of apps and integrations. There’s much more to the popular website builder than e-commerce.
If you want to get started right away, get a three-day free trial for Shopify today.
Crazy Egg’s Favorite Tools for Selling Digital Products
We think Shopify is the bee’s knees. But you may want to check out some of our other top recommendations before you make a final decision:
More Top Tools for Selling Digital Products
To sell digital products, you’re going to need some real estate online. Lucky for you, we tested the top online commerce platforms and software to filter out the best of the best. We compared fees, supported business models, plans, and their limitations, among other key factors. Take a look at our list of the best online selling platforms for in-depth analysis and reviews of these tools.
Step 1 – Come Up with a Digital Product Idea
You may already have an idea for a digital product. For example, it could be something related to your existing business, website, career, or hobby. It’s something that your audience consistently asks for or perhaps is the logical choice to grow your online business.
But if you’re stumped, here are some ideas for inspiration:
- A membership site – a site that provides access to gated content, a community of experts in your niche, a library of digital products, etc.
- A paid newsletter – a subscription to an email newsletter that contains useful resources, exclusive interviews, long-form content, and so on.
- An online course – usually a video series with access to a community, worksheets, assessments, and the like.
- An e-book – a compelling educational resource with content users won’t find elsewhere.
- Craft patterns – templates and designs people can download and use at home, e.g., a cross-stitch pattern
- Templates – a high utility resource for any niche e.g., spreadsheets, business plans, web design, email design, resumes, social media content
- Stock media – includes video, music, photos, graphics, design elements
- Software and tech – examples are web and mobile apps, online tools, website plugins, indie video games
Step 2 – Research Your Audience
Carry out audience research to validate your idea, i.e., the level of demand for your product and its potential for success. Also, a deep understanding of your audience means you’ll create the best product for them that addresses their pain points and meets their needs. It will also help you market your digital product in a way that appeals most to the audience.
First, you could set up a pre-launch campaign for your digital product. Create a landing page with a signup form for users who wish to be notified when the product drops. The number of signups you get gives you an idea of how many people are interested overall. It’s also a good way to generate buzz prior to launching.
You can also look at online trends to assess the level of interest in a product, topic, or niche and to narrow down your product idea.
Here you can see there’s growing interest in the topics “side hustle,” “Shopify apps,” and “core web vitals.”
You may have been toying with the idea of creating an online course for starting your own business. This would not only confirm there’s interest but direct you to the side hustle niche specifically.
Furthermore, keyword research will help you identify what particular products and topics people are searching for, as well as how many people are searching for these queries. Use Google Keyword Planner or an SEO tool.
A quick search for “cross stitch pattern” on Keyword Planner provides a ton of insight. First, there is demand for the product:
But you can also see the specific cross-stitch patterns people search for the most:
Again, this provides direction, helping you go from a broad idea to more specific concepts for digital products.
Understanding your audience and what they truly care about involves listening. This means going to forums, social media sites, and similar to monitor discussions around your topics and niche. You can also gather information by running email surveys and social media polls.
Step 3 – Get Started with Shopify
It’s better to have your own website from which to sell your digital products. That way, you can create a brand and build up a following to attract repeat customers.
You’re also likely to earn more via your own website. For instance, Shopify takes a transaction fee of $0.30 + 2.9% on the Basic plan. Online marketplaces for digital products may take a much larger fee. Envato, for example, charges authors up to 55% of each transaction.
To get started with Shopify, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Start your free trial – Enter some personal information, it takes just a few minutes. Choose a name for your store (name.myshopify.com) or add a custom domain (name.com).
- Create pages for your website – Go to Online Store > Pages. Add the important pages and fill them with information to legitimize your site: About, Contact, FAQ, and Policies.
- Design your website – Choose a theme from the Shopify Theme Store.
At this point, it pays not to overthink it if you want to get started quickly. You can always customize the design and layout later. However, you must consider the layout from a sales point of view. If you’re selling one key product, e.g., an e-book, you may want to build the site around a landing page. If you have multiple digital products, e.g., design elements, then you’ll split them into product “Collections” and pull a few to feature on your homepage.
Step 4 – Install Shopify’s Digital Downloads App
You’ll need the Digital Downloads app to be able to upload and sell digital products from your website. Here’s how to get it from your Shopify dashboard:
- Go to Settings > Visit the Shopify App Store
- Search “Digital Downloads”
- Click Add channel, then Install app
One important setting to take care of right away is the fulfillment options. This will govern how users receive their digital products. On the Digital Downloads app page, go to Settings by clicking the gear icon. Here, you’ll have two choices:
- Automatically create fulfilments – Upon purchase, customers automatically receive a download link by email, and the order is automatically marked as fulfilled.
- Manually create fulfilments – You’ll manually send the link to the customer and mark the order as fulfilled. This makes sense for customized digital products, e.g., a graphic design commission.
Step 5 – Add Digital Products
You add and manage digital products as you would physical products within the Shopify platform. The Digital Downloads app is for uploading and delivering said products.
Here’s how to add digital products on Shopify:
- Go to Products > Add Product
- Enter the product information—Title, Description, and Pricing
- Under Shipping, uncheck the box labeled This is a physical product
- At the top of the page, click Manage next to Sales Channels, then uncheck all boxes next to your sales channels (this ensures your product won’t be published until you upload the digital file)
- Click Save product
- Under the title, click More actions > Add Digital Attachment
- You’ll now be on the Digital Downloads app page. Click Upload file and select your digital product
- Click View in your Shopify Admin
- Go back to Manage next to Sales Channels and re-check all boxes
- Click Done
Rinse and repeat for any more digital products you wish to add.
At this point, you should organize your products into categories called Collections. Say you sell stock videos. You may want to separate your digital products into sections under “people,” “nature,” “food,” and so on.
You can do this by setting up automatic collections. Then every product you tag with “people” goes into the same group. Or set up a collection manually.
Either way, you’ll need to go to Product > Collections, create a new collection, and add conditions (tags) if automatic or products if manual.
Step 6 – Utilize Sales Tactics
To increase the likelihood of purchase, employ sales tactics that draw the audience in and encourage them to click buy.
One idea is to offer an “early bird” price or time-limited discount to your email subscribers or Twitter followers etc. This adds a sense of urgency, boosting early sales.
For instance, when you register interest with BBC Maestro, an expert-led online course platform from the BBC, you receive a 20% discount “for a limited time only” via email:
Another sales tactic – offer a free sample or freemium version of your digital product. Give users a taste of honey, and they’ll want the whole beehive.
Entrepreneur Adam Enfroy, for instance, offers his audience a free blogging masterclass:
This acts as a taster for his premium digital product that costs upwards of $1500, the Blog Growth Engine Program, which provides access to a more in-depth online course, a membership community, and 1:1 coaching calls:
Other ideas include offering a free sample, such as the first chapter of your e-book, the first week of access to your digital product membership for free, or a limited version of a tool/software. Determine what makes sense for your product or audience. You may want to A/B test multiple offers to discover which has the greatest conversion rate.
Step 7 – Promote Your Digital Product
At this point, you have a fantastic digital product and effective sales strategies in place. Yet, these are no use if nobody knows your digital product exists. For this reason, you must implement marketing tactics that increase awareness.
SEO and email marketing are pillars of a good digital marketing strategy. They allow you to build a loyal audience over time.
Paid advertising on Google and social media sites drives traffic quickly. Yet, it can be expensive. Therefore, it only makes sense if you sell high-ticket digital products in order to get a good return on your investment.
One tactic that works incredibly well for digital products is to partner with influencers in your niche. It allows you to extend your reach into their existing audience. What’s more, this audience trusts the recommendations of the expert or influencer.
Another solid marketing technique for digital products is to build credibility through reviews and customer stories. For instance, this membership site for freelance writers shares success stories on its blog:
The use of real data, i.e., the fact that the writer increased their rate by 166%, makes the content particularly compelling. It acts as proof the digital product gets results.
All in all, the best marketing techniques for digital products involve building legitimacy and trust.