Here’s all you need to know on how to price digital downloads

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How to correctly price digital downloads? This is one question every digital product entrepreneur struggles with during every product launch. After all, how you price your digital products pretty much determines how many sales you’ll generate and what profits you’ll make. Said another way, getting your pricing right is fundamental to your digital products business’s success. 

If your digital products are too expensive, your sales will suffer. When they’re cheap, your profit margins will take a hit. Worse, low pricing can discount the value your products bring to your customers.

The pricing has to be just right. The optimal price — one that works for both you and your buyers — makes buying and selling easy.

So how do you determine the right price tag? To put a figure on your digital products, you can draw from the traditional pricing approaches. In this article, we’ll go over these approaches and see how they tie to digital products. We’ll also outline the exact process you need to follow and look at a few digital product pricing best practices.

How to price digital downloads: 3 fundamental approaches 

The best guidance on how to price digital goods comes straight from conventional pricing models that apply to physical products. So let’s go over these pricing models in detail.

1. Cost-centric pricing

This is a fairly simple pricing model. Here, you use the costs that go into producing a product and add a markup — and that’s your product’s price. Your costs are inclusive of everything right from your initial setup and production costs to your advertising expenses, infrastructure investments, and staff salaries, and represent your product’s base price. The markup is your profit margin.

How to price digital downloads using the cost-centric pricing model:

  • Add up costs to run your digital store (including costs toward your domain name, hosting fees, expenses toward plugins like Download Monitor that power your store)
  • Include ad hoc expenses like using a custom Gmail id, if you use one to engage with your customers.
  • Factor in costs to build your product (Do you need an annual Photoshop subscription to create your product? Do you need Grammarly? Do you need a watermarks solution to protect your products like printable digital images?) 
  • Expenses toward PayPal or credit card transaction fees or other shopping cart checkout commissions
  • Taxes!

On top of these, pay yourself some hourly fee toward maintaining your products, updating them, offering support, and managing other aspects of your online business (like SEO, blogging, etc.). Think X hours a week at $100/hr or so for your hard work.

Now sum up everything and add a standard profit margin to it, say 50% of the cost price.

The result you get is your digital product’s price. 

As you can sense, this is a fairly reasonable approach to pricing a digital product where you make up for your costs while making profits, but without overcharging.

2. Audience-centric pricing

This pricing model factors in the pricing sensibilities of the target audience. In this case, you set a price for your product based on what you think your audience will willingly pay for it.

So if a product costs you about $100 when you use a cost-based pricing approach, you can still charge $300 for it because your audiences will pay a premium price to own what you’re offering. (Think Starbucks rather than a local cafe!)

Naturally, this pricing approach doesn’t cater to cost-sensitive audiences. So you won’t be able to market your product to everyone who’s looking for it. If you’re in a niche where digital products compete on pricing, this isn’t the right approach for you. 

How to price digital downloads using the audience-centric pricing model:

  • Calculate your product’s pricing using the cost-based pricing approach, and you’ll get your product’s base price.
  • Now review your most expensive competitors and see what they’re charging.
  • Name a price!

Digital art is one digital product that works well with this pricing model. If you go over premium digital art pieces on Etsy, you’ll see that hundreds of buyers pay a premium price to own them. Such consumers have an appetite for art and happily pay a good amount for it. 

This pricing model can work in other digital product markets as well. Take the WordPress templates space, for instance. Despite being so crowded, it still has shops that sell for premium prices.

3. Pricing based on competitor pricing

The competitor-based pricing model is another straightforward option that uses market data to price a product fairly. This model is prevalent in all consumer markets. Most brands anchor the price points of their products closely in line with similar products from competing brands.

This pricing model ensures that you price your products at a going rate, and so it’s within the reach of most of your target audience. 

How to price digital downloads using the competitor pricing model:

  • Create a spreadsheet and note what competing products sell for (include sellers that sell independently and ones on marketplaces like Etsy)
  • Highlight the outliers (the highest- and lowest-priced products) 
  • Calculate the average, and that’s roughly your product’s fair price

Now that we’ve covered all the guidelines on how to price digital downloads using the different conventional pricing models, let’s see how the entire pricing process works like.

3 steps to pricing digital products just right

Here’s a quick three-step process of how to price digital downloads that helps you get your prices right, each time.

Step #1: Research your audience 

The most fundamental advice on how to price digital downloads is conducting audience research.

Understanding your audience is the first step to pricing your digital products right. Why? Because when you know who you’re selling to, you can make educated guesses about their pricing sensibilities. As a result, you can choose the best pricing model to use across your online store.

To know your audience intimately, answer these questions:

  • Who are you selling to? Build audience personas for data-backed answers to this question. If you’re a niche WordPress theme seller, knowing that you’re selling to a 35-year old woman solopreneur with a certain dollar-value turnover is much better than knowing your customer to be a WordPress website owner.
  • What are their pain points? What are they looking to solve? Answers to these questions help you develop better digital products. If you’re planning on offering online courses or tutorials, what exactly do your users want to learn? Find out.
  • How can your digital download make their lives better? Knowing this answer helps you understand the value your product brings to your customers, which in turn helps you peg correct price points. For example: would a small business owner shell out $35 on a downloadable digital planner? Yes!

Step #2: Research your market

Next, do some in-depth pricing analysis of your market. Review your competitors’ pricing schemes and the market rates. This exercise helps you understand the general cost vs. value mix currently working in the market and position your new product in a way that makes sense pricing-wise. 

Answer these questions to get a headstart:

  • How do your competitors price their digital products? 
  • How are their digital goods different from yours?
  • Is your digital download of a higher quality? How? 
  • What kind of support do they offer?
    How much has the price of similar products changed over the years?
  • What are the external factors affecting the price point? (Changes in laws, technological advancements, etc.)

Step #3: Calculate your costs and expenses

Now that you know what your target customers currently pay for a digital product like yours, the value they get/expect, and the going “market rates,” it’s time to work out some more pricing logistics.

To start with, you need to calculate your product’s base price. Use the inputs from the cost-based pricing model for this math.

Selecting a pricing model gets easier once you find out how much it costs to make copies of your digital product. So decide if you want to add a profit margin to your base costs or price it for what you and your consumers think it’s worth or simply using competitive benchmarking.

At this point, you should have a dollar value for your product. But don’t tag your products just yet.

Another aspect of digital downloads pricing is working out scenarios when you want to charge a little less or more than the market average. Specifically, if you’re charging a higher price, be prepared to explain how you’re offering more than similar, competing products.

On the other hand, if you’re charging lower, explain how the low pricing doesn’t mean a toned-down product or fewer features and that the customers are getting the same value but for a lower fee.

How to price digital downloads: Looking at the big picture

Each sale of your digital product can lead to increased reach, more upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and the collection of invaluable feedback. For these, you need to mix pricing with a few growth hacks:

  • Build your email contact base. Make your customers subscribe to your email list before they can access their products.
  • Boost your social reach. Make your buyers share a tweet to access their purchase.
  • Gather insights to improve. Make your users fill up a feedback form to unlock access. 

With a plugin like Download Monitor, you don’t just get to build a full-blown digital products store but can also implement all these growth hacks without writing any code. In addition to these, Download Monitor’s Core Extensions Bundle helps you extend the store’s functionality to support your other ops. For example, you can use it to host your downloads on Amazon S3 so that you can serve secure, expiring download links. You can also impose a set of terms and conditions upon your users. It’s even possible to design a custom downloading page experience.

A few best practices on how to price digital downloads

Most digital product entrepreneurs launch an entire line of digital products once one of their products is a success. Therefore bundle pricing works well for digital product businesses. Ever noticed how instead of selling a burger, soda, and french fries separately, McDonald’s sells them as a combo meal? In the same way, you can club your digital downloads and offer the bundle for a price lesser than the total price when bought separately.

You can also develop a very budget product to build your initial customer base. And then make profits from upselling and cross-selling higher-value products to the same customers. Using Download Monitor’s addons helps you quickly build your email contact base to facilitate this. This concept is somewhat like penetration pricing.

 Another pricing hack is to play with cognitive biases. For example, instead of offering a single pricing option, offer three pricing options. Users tend to gravitate toward the option that matches their spending personalities with such anchoring. You can also highlight the best price option or the most popular one. Knowing others buy a certain plan makes it instantly more buyable to most users. Or try the left digit hack — pricing a product $39 is better than pricing it $40 as users tend to focus the most on the left-most digit and perceive the amount to be lesser than it is.

Wrapping it up… 

Although we saw the process of how to price digital downloads in detail in this article, you might still feel overwhelmed when you try it. It’s natural — pricing a product is tricky. 

So it’s important to validate your pricing points. After you set prices for your digital files, keep an eye on your sales or downloads. These are naturally the best validation of your pricing strategies. A plugin like Download Monitor makes tracking these seamless. 
If you feel that people are hesitant to buy because of how your products are priced, set up experiments and test multiple pricing options.

Also, to convert each sale or download into an opportunity to add new customers and make more upsells and cross-sells, make your customers do more than just complete the payment process. Ask for their emails, social media shoutouts, and inputs. Download Monitor is all you need to do all this and more. It lets you set up your eCommerce store in just three easy steps and saves you dozens of hours that go into building and maintaining a WooCommerce store. You can start with Download Monitor today and get the Core Extensions Bundle to maximize your digital product sales.

How to start selling software online (directly from your website)

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Selling software online is a lucrative online business niche. Many developers have turned into successful software entrepreneurs using only their programming skills. Online entrepreneurs, too, who have an idea for a software product (but aren’t coders themselves) team up with developers to take care of the software coding part while they work on the business side. 

Software companies — in particular those with a purely downloadable product like a local Mac screen-splitting application, a native Windows screenshot tool, or a downloadable Chromebook distraction-free writing program — often run without needing a complex tech ecosystem (unlike SaaS companies). Therefore, they’re more profitable for the business owners.

Successfully selling downloadable software online comes down to 1) finding a software idea people will pay for, 2) making buying easy, and 3) offering excellent customer service. So what exactly do all these entail?

In this guide, we’ll find out the steps you need to take to start selling your software products online, along with some considerations and best practices to help you succeed. We’ll also discuss how you can set up your very own WordPress store for selling your software (and why you must!). First, though, let’s look at how selling software online is different from setting up a SaaS software business.

Selling software online vs. selling a SaaS solution

Setting up a software business broadly means creating a downloadable software that users download to use locally on their systems or applications, or launching a SaaS solution that users access via the cloud.

Of these, creating downloadable software is the best way to break into the software industry, as it’s pretty straightforward to launch. Here, you can write your app on your notepad and put it up for sale on your website. Your users can download it to install on their systems. 

You don’t need to build a complex cloud tech ecosystem. All you’re required to do is release updates from time to time so that your software app stays compatible with your users’ systems – and new features, of course. 

Downloadable software products are usually built for a particular platform — Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, or iOS, to name some. Consider a VPN for Mac as an example. Downloadable software is also often built on top of an app — for example, a plugin for WordPress.

If you launch a downloadable software business, you’ll typically charge your users a one-time fee for the initial download and a monthly payment toward receiving support, updates, and newer features.

A SaaS business, in contrast, needs you to build a complex — and an often expensive — app infrastructure. You need to ensure that your software works well in the cloud and that all the downloadable apps you offer stay in sync at all times, even if you provide offline access. In this business model, you charge a flat monthly, quarterly, or annual fee.

This guide focuses on downloadable software products. So let’s see three key steps to successfully selling software online.

Step 1: Discover a profitable software idea (and validate it)

When it comes to selling software online, the first step is discovering product ideas to develop. There are three ways to go about this.

In this case, you choose a popular application and build a software product that adds a piece of needed functionality to it. 

Ex-Apple engineer turned indie developer, Rony Fadel, built an email client for Mac for the Zoho solution enabling users to access multiple accounts. (Fedel’s product, Mailbox for Zoho,  is a good case study, by the way.)

If you scan community forums of your target solutions, you’ll find people complaining about missing features that can be developed into a profitable software add-on. 

A downside to this is that a solution might eventually ship what you’re offering, making your product obsolete. (The solution to this is to keep delivering more and more value with your software and offering an experience better than the proprietary tool.)

2. Pick a platform and launch a “mass market” product.

Here, you just pick a platform and build a product that caters to a large user base. 

This is like building an email client for Mac. In addition to Apple’s official email client software, you’ll find yourself competing with many established options (like Thunderbird) in this case. 

Also, you’ll have to compete with web apps (many of which come with free access) and open source alternatives. The market is crowded, and so the competition is enormous.

3. Pick a very niche industry.

Another way to come up with a software idea is to pick a niche. For example, you might develop software for tarot readers or astrologers.

You could also choose the gaming niche and launch games. 

Niche software is often a good option as it allows you to solve a very specific problem for a select user segment. Both the problem and the target audience are well-defined in this case.

Whatever approach you go for, when you choose a product idea, consider how you could expand your product suite in the future for making upsell and cross-sell revenue.

Once you have an idea for creating your software, it’s time to validate it. Digging user forums is an effective way to validate ideas for software products. If you have many people ranting about a missing functionality, it’s a go. Niche community groups, too, can offer insights into the demand for an idea. Search volume analysis (discussed in detail here) is yet another way of validating demand.

Step 2: Build your product

Next comes the coding part. You’re already the pro here! Just keep the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept in mind when developing your product. 

An MVP is a “launchable” version of your software that ships only the must-have features — in your software’s case, it’s delivering the unique function it promises to deliver. Building an MVP isn’t as time- or resource-consuming as coding your entire (planned) software. So, for example, if you want to develop an automatic time tracker software for Windows, first start with only offering automatic time tracking. Features that boost productivity or offer analysis into the time spent or support for APIs can wait.

When selling software online, an MVP helps you bring your product to the market sooner and enables you to gauge the demand for your product, collect feedback (and loop it back to the development), and deliver a better product. 

Step 3: Set up your eCommerce store to sell your software product(s)

Many software entrepreneurs look for ways to sell Mac apps outside the App Store. Likewise, Windows software developers want to sell independently too. They often do so to avoid the hefty commissions these marketplaces charge and the lack of control over their product’s release cadence. For these same reasons, selling on digital marketplaces like Amazon, too, doesn’t make sense. 

Building your own software store for selling your software online is the best option. If you sell your software on your website, you:

  • Don’t have to pay any commission on your sales to the app stores
  • Can experiment with pricing as you please
  • Get to establish yourself as a brand from the start and build your own user base (and you can maintain your own CRM)
  • Can engage with your customers directly
  • Get total control over your product release schedule; you don’t have to wait for weeks to get your updates published
  • Can sell software products for multiple platforms using the same storefront

Using WordPress and Download Monitor to set up your software store

The easiest way to set up your website for selling software online is to use WordPress and a plugin that allows you to sell and distribute software. One such plugin is Download Monitor, which is specifically designed to simplify the sale of software products. With Download Monitor, you can start selling your software products online in just three easy steps. (We’ve described the process in detail here.)

In brief, once you activate Download Monitor, you get a Shop tab added to your website. 

Adding a new product is easy with handy settings for uploading the downloadable and setting the pricing:

Plus, you get detailed insights into your downloads:

Automatic tracking of file downloads on WordPress

Download Monitor also makes enabling payments, maintaining version history, and access control effortless. By streamlining your entire sales process, it does all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to selling software online. 

Because software can be easily pirated and redistributed without your authorization, you might want to implement some form of verification to ensure fair access. Download Monitor, for instance, captures users’ IP addresses. If necessary, you can even limit the number of installations.

Investing in user experience

Another aspect to successfully selling software online is offering a good user experience.

To start with, create high-quality installation resources. Installing downloadable software is quite an exercise, more so when it’s purchased from an independent seller. First-time users can find it even more difficult. So to ensure that users can install your software, write easy-to-follow installation and starter guides. Also, write support docs explaining the different functionalities of your app and how to use them. 

Set aside time for offering maintenance and support. Most downloadable software products need routine updates to stay compatible with the users’ systems or applications. Maintain a release calendar accordingly. Also, work on bug fixes that get reported. Your customer support quality has a direct bearing on your user retention. Also, follow up with your customers and request feedback — this can guide your product development.

Prioritize product development as well. Keep adding new features to your software so that your users see the value in their subscription.

Marketing your software business 

Your product’s landing page (and, by extension, your store website) is your single biggest marketing asset for selling software online. It works as the linchpin of your marketing strategy.

Ideally, your need a landing page that includes:

  • An explanation of what your product does — the unique value proposition.
  • Features (and benefits)
  • The pricing
  • An overview of the installation steps
  • The platforms the software’s compatible with along with other technical specifications. 

And naturally, a download/buy button! 

Also, include a release log so that users can see that you’re invested in the solution and that it’s actively maintained. Users often don’t prefer buying from independent software sellers if they think the project might get abandoned.

In addition to using elements that boost conversion rates, your landing page must also use the right SEO keywords. Doing so allows you to generate organic leads consistently. If you Google “astrology software for Mac,” you’ll see several organic results that aren’t from the official web store. On-page SEO can get you similar exposure subject to the competition in your niche.

Content marketing and writing SEO blog posts on topics relevant to your audience also help with such organic lead generation.

Engage yourself as your product’s marketer and promote your product on software review websites, reach out to software bloggers, and engage with your target user groups on social media platforms and forums. All these can boost your software sales.

Try free trials too:

Offering a free trial is another great way to entice potential customers into using your software and demonstrate how it works. Users are more inclined to click on the “Buy” button after they have experienced the product.

Make sure to review metrics like your traffic (both organic and referral), conversions, the length of your typical sales cycle, and others that sales teams of software companies or general salespersons religiously measure.

Wrapping it up…

There are many ways to start selling software online, but choosing the right one for your business is essential.

Selling your software through your own website (instead of using a platform’s marketplaces) gives you higher profit margins and complete control over your product’s pricing and release/update schedule. Plus, you build your own customer base that you can use to grow your business. On top of everything else, you can launch versions of your app for all the popular platforms and make all of them available right on your website. Thankfully, you now know exactly how to build a store for your software venture with this guide on selling software online.

The process of selling software online becomes considerably easier with Download Monitor, given how it makes payment management, access control, and product delivery hassle-free. With its many extensions, Download Monitor’s extension bundle helps you deliver an even more premium software buying experience for your users. From creating beautiful download pages that offer a better checkout experience to catchy download buttons, the extension bundle has you covered. So do check it out!

How to create digital downloads to sell? Here’s all you need to know.

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The best part about making money from selling digital downloads is that anyone can do it. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to build a consistent income on the side.

If you’re a freelance writer, you could create a Google Sheets-based digital editorial calendar to sell. A printable meal journal is something you could sell if you’re a dietitian. If you work as a wedding planner, you could create a wedding milestone card set.

You get the drift.

You could be doing any work and still consider ways of creating digital downloads to sell and diversify your income.

With virtual products, you don’t need to worry about managing inventory or shipping logistics. You don’t even need to make a significant upfront investment to “set up” your business. Just create your product and put it up for sale on your own website — and done. Creating high-quality digital products doesn’t require many resources, either. These make the digital goods business model a top choice for anyone looking to build a sustainable income stream.

So how do you start with the creation of digital downloads to sell? From ideation and production to marketing, let’s understand all the steps you need to take to set up a profitable digital products business.

How to create digital downloads to sell? Start where you are and with what you know.

It is much easier to come up with profitable digital product ideas when you know where you fit in the digital sellers’ mix, because each type has different business insights about the target audience, their needs and pain points, and ideas about downloadable products that could help them.

  1. As a freelancer, you might be interested in selling digital products related to your activity to complement your already established business and earn passive side income. Here, you already know your target audience  — the same people as your current and potential customers — so you know what kinds of digital products they’ll find helpful.
  2. If you’re a creative/creator, you might want to make a fulltime income from monetizing your work. Here, too, you are likely aware of your target customers and the value they may find in what you offer. If you’re an icon illustrator, you already know who you sell to and what kinds of icon packs sell well. Or, if you’re a SAP developer, you know the addons that companies need and can deliver them. If you work as a business consultant, you will know what planners, SOPs, or process charts businesses can benefit from.
  3. If you want to break into entrepreneurship, you might consider a low-risk digital products venture. In contrast to the two previous scenarios, this one does not have a set target audience, so it’s impossible to know what they need. Therefore, you also don’t have any product ideas. Here, you’re free to pick any product in any niche based solely on its sellability and revenue potential. 

This is one of the most critical steps to create digital downloads to sell.

Brainstorming product ideas

When it comes to launching a new digital product, coming up with the product idea to develop is just as important as building a physical product. But many creators rush through this step and end up creating a digital product that’s just not “sellable.”

While creating digital products doesn’t take the same resources as developing physical ones, it can still be exhausting work depending on the product you build. Imagine creating a 20-hour online course only to realize that users aren’t interested in it or spending 40 hours coding an app that just doesn’t click or investing in creating a paid newsletter that fails to get subscribers. 

If you only take the time to research a sellable digital product idea, you can avoid all these failures.

To get a headstart, review the different types of digital products:

  • Educational (eBooks, courses, workshops, swipe files, paid newsletters, masterclasses, digital content packages, tutorials, templates)
  • Digital files or tools (planners, trackers, calculators, journals, SOPs, checklists)
  • Membership websites
  • Printables (wallpapers, posters)
  • Software (apps, plugins, code snippets, games, overlays, presets)
  • Artwork (digital paintings, patterns, wallpapers, posters, mockups, digital design files)
  • Creatives (audio, video, stock photos, illustrations, graphic design elements, ringtones)

Next, review your skills.

Are you good at teaching? You could create a course.

Can you commit to offering value and building an engaged community? You could create a niche membership website.

Can you team up with a creative and get a great product made? Think taking your productivity planner and engaging an illustrator to transform it into a beautiful, downloadable product that your target audience will love. Or, if you have the know-how, you can use a tool like Canva or the Adobe suite to do the same.

Each product type comes with a different level of commitment. For example, a downloadable planner is more or less a 100% passive digital goods business. To some extent, even the digital course is, unless you engage students with interactive assignments. The membership website, though, is regular work. Keep these in mind when brainstorming ideas.

Successful digital entrepreneurs underline this step as the most crucial one in their advice on the creation of digital downloads to sell.

Validating product ideas

Once you’ve zeroed in on a few product ideas, it’s time to validate them. Validation is important because you don’t want to build a product with no market or need. The goal is to create a product that people want and are willing to pay for. 

Many business owners go to great lengths to validate their product ideas. A common tactic is putting up a landing page with a waitlist for the “upcoming” product. So if a hundred people or so sign up, you’d know that the interest is there.

But of course, if you don’t have an existing audience, you can’t use this method. In which case, you can do generic market and competitive analysis.

Suppose we want to validate the idea for a digital planner.

We can begin by googling the product. 

As you can see, you have a few premium digital downloads for it already on the first results page. So other businesses have invested in the ideal already — a good signal.

Next, we can repeat the search on digital product online marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon.

In our case, we can see that Etsy, too, has many offerings for the product. The best-selling products seem to have good sales volumes, too  — again, an upvote.

We can use search volume analysis to see how many people use search engines to look for the product in a month to be surer. Try a tool like WordStream for this analysis. 

For our product, WordStream shows decent demand — some solid validation. 

Based on these, we can conclude that the demand for our product is there.

Be wary of a very saturated market

If you realize during this research that a few dozen digital businesses already “own” the market, you might want to pick some other idea. Establishing a product in a saturated market is more challenging than you can imagine.

Alternatively, you can target a segment in the market. For example, going with a digital planner for entrepreneurs instead of just targeting a digital planner.

Market differentiation and positioning are vital parts of the “how to create digital downloads to sell” mix. Such research also offers guidance on pricing your products just right.

Creating your digital downloads

This naturally makes the core step of the how to create digital downloads to sell process.

Once you’ve validated your product idea and are sure that your product has demand, you can start creating it.

Depending on the product you develop, you can need different resources and several hours for this part. For example, if you’re writing an eBook, you might need a week or two to do the content and then another week to team up with a designer to take your Google Doc or Word doc and make it look good like a slick digital downloadable.

When developing a course, you’ll need time to write your curriculum, lesson scripts, and exercises. After that, you’ll look at production, editing, and the launch itself.

In case you launch a paid newsletter, you’ll be looking at committing a few hours each month after taking care of the initial setup.

Despite popular belief, you can’t create virtual products for free. You are typically investing a lot of time, which translates to money. In addition, you need to invest in tools to create them. Making a course requires, at the very least, a camera, lighting kit, tripod, microphone, and editing software. Podcasting will take some initial investment, too. In contrast, if you are creating an icon pack, all you need is a Photoshop or Illustrator subscription, whereas the free Microsoft Excel program might suffice for creating a downloadable checklist.

Working out the logistics

Logistics plays a major role in the process.

Unlike a physical product business, a digital products business doesn’t need you to work out complex shipping or inventory logistics. Nevertheless, you do need to figure out a few things so your business can run smoothly. 

To start with, you need clearly defined usage terms. In most cases, you will allow only personal, non-commercial use. This means forbidding reselling, altering, sharing, and redistributing.

A refund policy is also needed as the nature of digital products precludes most sellers from offering refunds. 

If you offer customizations, you might want to cover the number of revisions and their scope as well in your policy.

You can closely mirror Etsy shops to get this part right.

Additionally, you will need a legal policy governing the use of your digital products. It’s also important to defend your business against piracy (a common issue for digital product businesses). More on this here.

Setting up a digital downloads store

If you are serious about running your digital goods business and want full control of how your storefront works, consider building your own online store using WordPress. 

When choosing WordPress over the many all-in-one digital product store solutions out there, you’ll not just save time and money but also get to customize your store in the way you want it to work. Here, you’re not confined to any platform.

Moreover, a plugin like Download Monitor can help you build a digital products eCommerce store in three easy steps. It offers more in its free version than alternatives like WooCommerce (that also takes forever to set up, by the way). We’ve covered the steps to build a digital store with WordPress and Download Monitor in detail in this post. You can use our plugin to place download links anywhere on your website. Plus, when you’re ready, you can get our extensions bundle and unlock additional functionalities to power an even more robust digital product store.

In addition to following these directions, make sure to customize your website to offer branded customer experiences. Doing so will help you stand out even in a crowded niche.

Marketing your digital downloads

Let’s now talk about marketing your digital products. To successfully market your digital items, you need to tap the right digital marketing channels.

Start with your store website because it’s your most important business or sales channel. Add a page for each digital product you sell. Remember to use the right keywords on each for SEO.

Also, try blogging: do a monthly or weekly blog post on topics that can bring search leads to your store. 

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to generate eCommerce sales, so set up email campaigns to drive sales. To build your email list, offer a store-wide coupon code. Many digital product entrepreneurs even give away a lite version of their product as a signup freebie. You might want to try giving away a chapter of your book or the first lesson of your course.

Social media platforms can also make you more discoverable to your target audience, so post regularly using the right hashtags.

Also, keep your existing customers engaged so you can generate more revenue by upselling, cross-selling, and generating repeat purchases. Sending thank you cards and regular emails helps with staying on top of their minds. You can also offer discounts in exchange for reviews. Reviews are excellent social proof and are effective at gaining new customers. 

(Check out our previous post for step-by-step instructions on marketing your digital products business.)

Wrapping it up… 

As you can tell from this guide on how to create digital downloads to sell, there are three essential parts to it. 

First, you need to come up with a sellable digital product idea. Next comes the creation and logistics part. And finally, you need to look at the marketing side of the business.

So start by researching digital product ideas that already have an audience and need. And then factor in the investment and effort each takes to finally pick the one(s) you can create. 

When reviewing eCommerce platforms to sell your digital products, go with one that’s affordable and easy to start with and maintain. A solution like Shopify can charge you a hefty monthly fee (in addition to the transaction fee on every sale), whereas WooCommerce can come with an exhausting setup. Plus, you need to set up a myriad of addons to enable credit card payments or use gateways like PayPal. Download Monitor, on the other hand, lets you start selling in three easy steps. Its free version is enough when you’re just starting out; you can get our core extension bundle as you scale.

How to manage, track, and control file downloads in WordPress

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Businesses that sell digital products often track their downloads using Google Analytics. They do so even when they use WordPress to build their eCommerce store. While Google Analytics can be used to keep an eye on product downloads, there’s a more straightforward method to make WordPress track downloads automatically.

When you use a plugin like Download Monitor, you don’t just bring all your file download analytics data right to your WordPress dashboard, but you can also use it as a lightweight file management system as it doubles up as one. It’s a minimalist file manager for WordPress that lets you efficiently manage, track, and control your file downloads. You can use it to sell your files or downloadable products too.

So let’s see how you can track downloads on WordPress and manage your files with Download Monitor. But first, let’s look at why tracking downloads is so essential and how tracking them on WordPress itself is better than tracking them via Google Analytics (or any other web analytics suite).

Why tracking downloads is essential for selling digital goods 

Download tracking helps you discover your best selling products. Using this data, you can develop and launch products that are more likely to succeed instead of investing in ones that may fail.

Additionally, you can enforce usage terms by tracking the number of downloads of your products. For instance, you can set limits and enable a patron to download only a certain number of files each month. 

Tracking downloads makes fighting abuse easier as well. By monitoring downloads, you can apply restrictions such as allowing customers to download their digital purchases just once a day.

From gaining business insights to ensuring fair use, download tracking is an integral part of the digital goods business. While web analytics solutions like Google Analytics do the work, they aren’t the best solution to track downloads on your WordPress website.

Why Google Analytics isn’t the best solution to track downloads on a WordPress website 

With Google Analytics, you can track your users’ actions on your website, including tracking file downloads. 

With goal tracking, you can make a ‘Click’ on the download button on your product page a goal so that each time someone clicks the button, the product download is recorded as a goal completion in your Google Analytics account. 

But this needs you to set up goals each time you add new products to your store. 

If you sell, let’s say, a hundred products, you’ll also need to create a hundred goals. Also, if your products have different versions, you’ll need to implement tracking independently for each version. This can make goal tracking more challenging.

In short, setting up goals is a little tech-savvy and incorrect implementation can leave your data useless.

Alternatively, you can use event tracking to track the number of downloads of your digital products in Google Analytics. In this case, you’ll need some basic coding skills to implement it, and you’ll encounter the same challenges as goal tracking.

So while you can use Google Analytics to learn where your customers are coming from, how much time they’re spending on your different product pages, or where they abandon your website, it is not the ideal tool for your file or product download tracking needs.

The ideal way to track your product downloads is to make your WordPress website track them. 

So that brings us to the question: Can WordPress track downloads by default?

Out-of-the-box, WordPress can’t track file downloads as it doesn’t come shipped with any file download tracking mechanism. But with a plugin like Download Monitor, you can easily extend it to include file management functionalities.

Making WordPress track downloads with Download Monitor

Download Monitor is a WordPress plugin that lets you sell digital products directly from your website. It’s a WooCommerce alternative in a sense. With it, you can start selling all kinds of digital offerings in a few easy steps and settings — but unlike WooCommerce, you don’t have to set up a full-blown store.

Download Monitor also doubles up as a file and download manager for WordPress. It lets you manage, track, and control file downloads right on your WordPress website. Below you can see how Download Monitor brings your product download statistics right to your WordPress dashboard:

How Download Monitor’s download tracking works

Once you add a digital file or product to your WordPress website via Download Monitor, the plugin starts tracking its downloads —  automatically.

You don’t have to do any coding or settings to track it. Download Monitor is easily the best WordPress plugin to make WordPress track downloads. It’s like adding a download counter to every single downloadable file and its different versions.

Below, you have a product that was just added via Download Monitor. As you can see, its download stats are already showing up inside Download Monitor’s Downloads tab. By default, Download Monitor considers your initial file uploads as version v1 for tracking, unless you specify another convention. 

This download tracking data is also available on the individual product pages:

With Download Monitor, you can use shortcodes to add Download Buttons for your different products anywhere on your WordPress website — inside your website’s pages, posts, and other widget areas. 

So if you’re blogging about a certain digital art you produce, you can add download buttons to your products right inside your post on the frontend via Download Monitor’s shortcodes. 

Since Download Monitor ties each product to its unique product ID, it knows all the download links that point to a particular product and can capture each of its downloads no matter which button or text link a user clicks. Each download is correctly tracked and reported.

Plus, Download Monitor comes with some excellent reporting. With it, you can:

  • View your downloads over any period.
  • See in an instant your top downloads, including your store’s MOST popular download.
  • Analyze your daily average download count.

If we were to add another version of this product — an updated one — Download Monitor would start registering its downloads also automatically. 

Tracking additional download data

Download Monitor doesn’t just track your WordPress site’s file downloads but also logs data like the users’ IP addresses and agents (browsers) in its Download Logs. It also timestamps the download event and notes the users’ statuses (Member/Non-member):

As you can see, Download Monitor doesn’t just help you make WordPress track downloads but also collects more data for you so you can know more about your users.

You can unlock all of this and more with Download Monitor’s free version

When you’re ready, you can go with Download Monitor’s core extension bundle to:

  • Set up a proper downloads page on your WordPress website (in addition to the product pages that the free version supports)
  • Host your downloadable files on Google Drive or Amazon S3
  • Add terms and conditions to govern the downloading and use of your digital products

Download Monitor’s Advanced Access Manager extension (part of the core bundle) is also very valuable when it comes to enforcing file download limits.

You can also do custom coding to make WordPress track downloads on your website natively, but it’s only an option for those who can code. 

The best option is to go with a plugin like Download Monitor that lets you set always-on download tracking on your WordPress digital products store without touching a line of code on the backend. 

Can you use WooCommerce to make WordPress track downloads of your digital products?

Yes, you can use WooCommerce to track your downloads. 

But if you’re only selling digital downloads, opening a WooCommerce store is like building an infrastructure of which you’ll only use 20% or less. 

In contrast to using such a heavyweight eCommerce plugin, you can use Download Monitor. You can start selling digital downloads in three simple steps and some configuration with it. 

We’ve covered a detailed WooCommerce vs. Download Monitor comparison before. So do check it out.

Wrapping it up… 

A lightweight plugin like Download Monitor doesn’t just help you make WordPress track downloads of your digital products but also serves as an excellent WordPress download manager.

Plus, it brings all your file download tracking right inside your WordPress admin area. So from selling to monitoring downloads and gaining business insights, all your core digital product business ops happen right on your WordPress site.

When you have WordPress track downloads of your products, you gather invaluable data to guide your product development. This validation helps you in building products that are more likely to sell more, irrespective of whether you sell ebooks, files, PDFs, games, templates, or videos.

Tracking downloads is helpful to you even if you offer free downloads (for building your email list or for lead generation purposes) because it helps you discover the content your users need the most.

So download Download Monitor and make WordPress track downloads automatically on your website. Also, explore our core extension bundle that unlocks more features to run your digital downloads business. As this extensions bundle subscriber, you get all the existing extensions plus all the new addons that we develop.

Should you open a WooCommerce digital downloads store to sell your digital products?

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Selling digital products is a profitable business and a relatively risk-free way to tap into your entrepreneurial side. Getting started with a digital products business isn’t just easier logistically but it’s also very accessible given the many SaaS and open-source store builder solutions.

Most digital commerce entrepreneurs choose WordPress to power their digital product stores. It’s an intelligent choice as, unlike SaaS eCommerce platforms (that come with a monthly subscription fee), WordPress (being an open-source platform) is free to use.

These users often default to WooCommerce for selling their products. You can understand why: WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress plugin for building online stores. But while it is so, it’s not the only option when it comes to selling digital products on WordPress. There are better and simpler alternatives like Download Monitor for selling downloadables. 

If you, too, are considering WooCommerce to set up your digital downloads store, this article is for you. In it, we’ll see how WooCommerce works as a digital products store builder and how it compares with Download Monitor.

Selling digital products via a WooCommerce digital downloads store vs. Selling via an alternative like Download Monitor

Both WooCommerce and Download Monitor are WordPress plugins that you can use to sell downloadable items. You can access the basic versions for both for free. The WordPress community is also available to help you with both, just like with other free WordPress repository plugins.

But while both of these plugins let you create a digital products store, they are fundamentally different.

The main differences: WooCommerce vs. Download Monitor, when it comes to setting up an online digital product store

Setting up a WooCommerce digital downloads store:

WooCommerce is the go-to solution for building eCommerce stores that sell physical products. It comes with exhaustive settings for shipping and logistics, inventory management, taxes, and even point-of-sale setups.

Sure, you can use it to sell digital products — but it’s just another use case in the case of WooCommerce. As a result, you don’t get a clean, lean setup process, even when selecting your product type as digital. Also, your WordPress dashboard feels bloated as the several dozen settings and options that don’t apply to you still live on it.

Plus, you’ll eventually need a host of WooCommerce extensions to power your digital product sales.

If you ask us, the choice between opening a WooCommerce digital downloads store and selling digital products via a plugin like Download Monitor really comes down to how much you can invest in maintaining a bulky infrastructure of which you use, say, just 20% or less. You get the drift.

Selling digital products with Download Monitor:

Download Monitor is a lightweight plugin that does just one thing — help you sell digital products — and does it well, without overwhelming you with functionality, features, and settings that you simply don’t need. 

With Download Monitor, you can start selling your downloads in three easy steps and a few settings. You don’t even have to open a full-fledged online store like required by WooCommerce.

It’s an alternative to WooCommerce, but for users who want to exclusively sell digital products. You can think of it as a lightweight digital products-first online store solution.

Since Download Monitor is made from the ground up for selling digital items, it offers several digital sales features, including:

  • IP address tracking of the users who access your files 
  • Monitoring of the number of downloads of each of your digital files/products
  • Tracking of the visitors’ country, among other details

In contrast to WooCommerce, Download Monitor focuses exclusively on digital/ downloadable products. 

So what can you sell via a WooCommerce digital downloads store or Download Monitor?

Both WooCommerce and Download Monitor let you sell all kinds of digital offerings, including:

  • Digital files (digital art, music, PDFs, etc.)
  • Digital products like courses
  • Software
  • Subscriptions

So how do you decide which is the best solution for building your digital products business? 

Choosing the best solution for selling your digital products

Though built originally as a store builder for physical goods sellers, WooCommerce supports digital goods sales, too. You can set up a WooCommerce store and start selling your digital products on this platform. 

However the many settings available within WooCommerce — that are related to physical items — can be pretty distracting. You’ll be saddled with an infrastructure and a dashboard that has an overwhelming number of options.

In contrast, with an alternative like Download Monitor, you get a clean interface for powering your digital sales. Just upload your digital products, manage them (versioning, setting access and download limits, etc.), and enable easy purchasing and downloading — and done.

If you’re still keen on opening a WooCommerce digital downloads store, keep these evaluation guidelines in mind.

Evaluating WooCommerce for usability 

There are three parts to assessing a WordPress digital products store builder for usability. Here’s a look at how WooCommerce and Download Monitor measure up on the usability front.

1. Setting up your store. 

Here you’re concerned with how easy or difficult the initial product setup is. 

Being a complete online store solution, WooCommerce comes with dozens of initial configuration settings. Also, if you read the docs to set up a WooCommerce digital downloads store, you’ll find that you need to get your hands dirty with some PHP coding as well. 

If you want to use your cloud storage (like Google Drive) to host your files to deliver via your WooCommerce digital downloads site, there’s additional setup and configuration to do. 

On top of it all, you might be forced to go with a WooCommerce-compatible WordPress template to set up your WooCommerce store. In its getting started tutorial, you’ll see that choosing a WooCommerce theme for your WooCommerce store is one of the first five customization steps for setting it up.

But you aren’t done just yet.

You may find as you set up your store that you need to add extensions to make up for the digital selling functionality that WooCommerce misses in the core plugin. 

With Download Monitor, on the other hand, you don’t have to set up a store at all! You can start selling your digital products directly on your WordPress site in a few simple steps and some settings.

2. Stocking it up. 

The next important thing usability-wise, is how easily you’re able to add new products to your store.

With a WooCommerce digital downloads store, adding a new product is like adding a blog post. Adding product pages works the same way even with Download Monitor, but it’s more straightforward as Download Monitor only deals with digital downloads. 

Both the plugins treat products as custom post types. And both let you bulk import products to your online store. 

3. Managing your store.

Managing your store includes not just managing the core plugin and the customizations you do to it, but also the whole ecosystem you build with it. In the case of WooCommerce, this means managing your WooCommerce products, all the extensions that you use, your WooCommerce theme, and hosting (if you use a specialized one).

If you go with a plugin like Download Monitor, all this is simplified as you’re only adding a lightweight plugin and a bunch of extensions to your website. 

Looking at WooCommerce’s out-of-the-box functionality (for selling virtual products)

Again, because WooCommerce is primarily an eCommerce solution for selling physical products, it lacks some of the key features that make digital product sales easy.

For example, WooCommerce doesn’t offer out-of-the-box functionalities like tracking the number of file downloads or creating ‘Members only’ or ‘Subscribers only’ downloads that require users to be logged in to download the files. This is something that Download Monitor offers even in its free version. And this is just one example.

WooCommerce offers a lot of ecommerce capabilities, but Download Monitor offers a lot of digital product sales capabilities. With Download Monitor, you get to display download links on the frontend using shortcodes, link to files hosted on Amazon S3, serve expiring download links, among others.

Because Download Monitor is a focused digital product sales solution, it’s a lot cleaner and lightweight. As a result, it doesn’t generate a lot of caching or impact your website’s loading time and performance as much as running a full-blown WooCommerce store does.

Reviewing WooCommerce for updates and new extensions

WooCommerce comes from the WordPress family and powers millions of online stores. It’s an actively maintained plugin. WooCommerce also has a huge marketplace with extensions to help you add more functionality to your WooCommerce digital downloads store.

Different companies and independent developers offer these marketplace extensions. So while they’re vetted for quality, compatibility issues can arise. You might also experience some struggle to get everything to work together.

Likewise, even Download Monitor is an actively maintained plugin. 

At Download Monitor, we don’t just develop our core plugin and add more functionality to it but also actively release new extensions based on our users’ feedback. Since our users comprise just digital sellers, we only invest our bandwidth in developing stuff that makes the lives of digital sellers easy. 

For example, with Download Monitor’s extensions like Amazon s3 and Google Drive, you get to host your files on your preferred storage solutions. The Terms & Conditions extension lets you enforce terms before your users can download your digital products. The Page Addon enables you to showcase all your downloadable files with their categories and tags and create a beautiful “Downloads” page.

A Downloads Page powered by Download Monitor

If you subscribe to Download Monitor’s Core Extension Bundle, you get access to all the existing extensions and the future ones as they get released; you don’t have to buy them one by one.

Assessing a WooCommerce digital downloads store’s viability price-wise

The core WooCommerce plugin is free. But to add specific payment gateways (other than the free ones like PayPal and Stripe), subscription services, inventory management features, etc., you’ll have to purchase extensions. Each extension can cost you anything from $29 to $79/year. Depending on the functionalities you need, you could be looking at 4-5 extensions to run your WooCommerce digital downloads store.

Just like WooCommerce’s plugin, the core Download Monitor plugin is also free. If you happen to need several extensions, you can purchase the Core Extension Bundle. Download Monitor’s Core Extension Bundle subscription doesn’t just give you instant access to all the existing extensions but also to all the future ones that get developed. Licenses are yearly subscriptions, and you can cancel at any time.

The final word: Opening a WooCommerce digital downloads store or using a plugin like Download Monitor

As a digital goods seller, you don’t need the hundreds of functionalities WooCommerce comes with. Instead, you can use a plugin that lets you do what you want to do — sell digital products — without overwhelming you.

Wrapping it up… 

WooCommerce and Download Monitor are both great plugins that let you sell digital products. But if you want to launch a purely digital products store, Download Monitor is the better option. And it’s so because it’s built for just that. It doesn’t come with the bells and whistles that WooCommerce comes with, simply because you don’t need them as a digital seller.

When you try setting up both the plugins, you’ll realize this for yourself. Selling digitally with WooCommerce needs you to build a full-blown online store. Whereas with Download Monitor, selling digital products is as simple as uploading your files and doing a few settings.

That said, if you think that you could eventually expand to a hybrid business and physically ship products as well, you might want to start with WooCommerce. 

It comes down to your unique needs.

So if you’re clear that you want to start a business selling digital products and stick to digital goods only, start right. Get going with Download Monitor — a lightweight plugin that’s easy to set up, use, and maintain. And when you’re ready, get our Core Extension Bundle