We live in a digital age, so I thought it would be rather fitting to tell you about a great way of monetizing your website, which is to sell digital downloads on WordPress.
What Are Digital Products?
Selling digital products can often make better sense economically than selling physical goods. This is because not only is it possible to create and distribute digital products more quickly and cost-effectively, but they don’t have the logistical issues that physical goods have, such as storage or shipping.
You may ask which types of files can you sell (or give away) on your website. The short answer to that is “many.” Here are some examples of products that are often sold in digital form, and this list is by no means exhaustive:
- Electronic publications such as eBooks, journals, magazines, etc.
- Online courses and training
- Software, including WordPress themes and plugins
- Mobile applications (commonly called “apps”)
- Photographs and other images
- Templates and patterns
Usually, digital products are presented in the same way as physical products on a website, for example, with a “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now” button alongside the item. Next, there will be a payment process, except perhaps where the download is free. But that is where the similarities end.
In the case of physical products, the order must be manually fulfilled. That involves retrieving the item from its storage location, then packing and shipping it. With digital products, order fulfillment is immediate using several methods:
- Display a download link in a popup which the customer clicks to download the files directly to their device.
- Email the download link to the customer. The advantage of this is you can capture their email address and use it for future targeted marketing purposes.
- If the file(s) are not too large, they can be sent by email directly to the customer. This method, too, captures their email address.
How to Sell Digital Products using WordPress
Adding the capability to sell digital downloads on your WordPress site is easy, thanks to plugins designed purely for that purpose. To help identify the best one for you, I have scoured the internet to find the best available ones, and I also looked at the main pros and cons of each.
Easy Digital Downloads
I’m kicking off this list with Digital Downloads, a free plugin that will let you sell digital products directly through a WordPress site. It has excellent functionality, with various tools to set up a shopping cart and manage your customers. Furthermore, it is possible to create and process discount codes, plus a range of analytics tells you how well your products are selling.
- Sell any type of digital product
- Collect payments via PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon Payments
- An extensive range of free and premium extensions is available to tailor the plugin to your precise needs, e.g., software licensing, additional payment gateways, recurring payments, Mailchimp, reviews, etc.
- Supports several languages
- The “Buy Now” button bypasses the shopping cart and transfers the customer directly to the payment page, allowing instant purchases
- Support is available through a globally distributed full-time support team and an IRC chatroom, forums, documentation, etc.
- The code is open source and developer-friendly, allowing greater flexibility with customization and integration
- Free downloads are only possible using a premium extension ($49)
- The cost of adding multiple premium extensions soon mounts, possibly making this free plugin expensive compared to other digital download plugins. However, extension bundle subscriptions are available starting from $199.50 per year to cap the cost of adding premium extensions
- Only suitable for selling digital products, so if you also sell physical items, you may want to look at other options
Easy Digital Downloads is a well-liked plugin, with over 50k downloads from the WordPress plugin directory plus a 4.7/5.0 stars user rating. It is an excellent option for creating a digital download store or adding digital download capabilities to other site types.
Dokan is a multivendor marketplace platform that allows you to create any type of marketplace, including digital ones. A marketplace is precisely what the name says – a place where many vendors can sell their wares, in this case, digital products.
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The plugin works in conjunction with WooCommerce, so your site will need to be running that. However, the two together are a powerful combination, and you will soon be selling your digital products alongside other people’s (for a fat commission, of course).
Dokan is a freemium plugin, with the free version offering enough functionality to get you started, e.g., unlimited vendors, frontend vendor dashboard, order management tools, and store widgets. But, of course, the paid plans have lots more features for managing your vendors and products. Those plans cost between $149 and $999 per year, with the number of features and site licenses included being dependent on the plan purchased.
- The free version has great functionality and would be an excellent starting point for those wanting to create a digital product marketplace
- Paid plans are competitively priced and structured to scale with your business
- It can be used for any type of marketplace and is not restricted to digital products only
- Paid plans have a 14-day moneyback guarantee
- Support for the free version is only available in the WordPress support forums
- Only works on WooCommerce sites
Dokan is an excellent option for creating a digital marketplace to sell goodies such as software, apps, electronic publications, MP3s. The plugin has attracted an impressive 4.5/5.0 user rating with WordPress users, and the free version alone has been downloaded over 70k times from WordPress.
WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart
WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart gives you a clean, simple way of selling digital products on your site. It does this by embedding an “Add to Cart” button wherever you want it, and customers can easily view and amend their cart contents before completing the purchase at the PayPal checkout.
- Sell digital or physical products or both
- Customers automatically receive an email containing the digital files or instructions on downloading their purchase
- Lightweight code means it will not significantly impact site performance
- Optional smart PayPal payment buttons
- Create and process discount coupons
- Helpful online video tutorials make setting things up super-easy
- PayPal is a highly trusted payment gateway
- Limited to PayPal only
- Minimal support
WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart is entirely free, and even though it is minimalist, it does precisely what it is supposed to. Sure, it only works with PayPal, but that supports several payment methods and is trusted by millions worldwide.
More than 30k active downloads of this plugin are currently operating, and WordPress users rated it 4.5/5.0 stars.
WordPress Download Manager
WordPress Download Manager is a freemium plugin for tracking and controlling files downloaded from your site. Access to the files can be password-restricted to specific user roles, plus users can be required to accept your terms and conditions before being allowed to download. However, to license and sell digital products, you will need the WordPress Digital Store Solution – Premium Package add-on, but thankfully that is free.
The free version only provides access control and password protection of files. The premium plans add much more functionality, such as custom templates, bandwidth control, sidebar widgets, pay-as-you-want (discretional) pricing, and multi-file downloads. Those plans cost between $99 and $499, depending on how many domains you have.
- Thanks to the ‘single step’ checkout process, purchasing digital files is quick and efficient
- The plugin uses a PayPal shopping cart to collect payments. PayPal is highly trusted and is used widely for online purchases
- Create custom update access periods. These allow you to create subscriptions, for example, one year of free updates for software downloads, with a regular subscription payable for subsequent years
- The premium plans add lots of extra functionality
- Only for digital files, not physical products
- You need to add both the plugin and the extension to your WordPress to sell (as opposed to just managing) digital products
- Supports only PayPal, although premium extensions are available for other payment methods
- Restricted features and limited support with the free version
The free version of WordPress Download Manager coupled with the free WordPress Digital Store Solution – Premium Package add-on will allow you to start selling digital items on your site with no financial investment whatsoever. However, the extra functionality offered with the premium plans does provide greater flexibility, control, and security.
WordPress Download Manager has been downloaded over 100k times from the plugin directory, and it has a 4.1/5.0 stars user rating.
The Download Monitor plugin is an interface that enables you to upload and manage single or multiple downloadable files and then sell them via download links placed in your posts. It comes with a Gutenberg block, so using it is a breeze if that is your page builder of choice. Alternatively, the you can embed the download links using shortcodes, as with most other plugins.
A free version of the plugin is available. However, as is often the case with freemium offerings, it lacks functionality, and certain key features are likely to be strategically absent. Therefore, it would be best to purchase a paid plan, which costs $39 to $159. Those cover up to five sites and include features such as CSV import and export, ability to add terms and conditions, Captcha spam prevention, email notifications of when customers have downloaded their purchases, download duplicator, premium support, and more.
- Capture email addresses for future targeted marketing campaigns
- All paid plans cover up to five domains
- The premium plans add extra functionality and won’t break the bank
- Paid plans have a 14-day moneyback guarantee, so trying them is risk-free
- Only for digital files, not physical products also
- Restricted features and limited support with the free version
- Only the most expensive plan offers priority support
Over 100k people have downloaded this plugin from the WordPress plugin directory alone and have given it an average of 4.4/5.0 stars.
WP Express Checkout
WP Express Checkout comes from the same developer as WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart, which I covered earlier. However, whereas the latter plugin allows users to browse and add digital products and add them to a virtual shopping cart before completing the purchase process, WP Express Checkout instantly captures sales of individual items. Therefore, a “Buy Now” instead of an “Add to Cart” button takes the customer directly to PayPal to complete the purchase rather than going through a cart first. The result: a straightforward, fast purchasing process.
- The plugin avoids abandoned carts. These can be a problem with plugins that use a shopping cart between browsing products and payment
- Lots of configurable options
- Completely free
- Supports PayPal’s “Pay in 4” buy now, pay later feature
- Ideal for single product sites
- Customers can only purchase single products at a time, unlike plugins that use carts
- Limited support, although the developer does provide some excellent video tutorials
As WP Express Checkout does not use a shopping cart, it only allows customers to purchase one product at a time. Therefore, it is best suited to sites that offer only a limited number of products. For example, you may be an author with a website promoting your new book, and that could have a “Buy Now” button for people to instantly purchase and download the eBook version.
Over a thousand active downloads of WP Express Checkout are in operation, and the full 5.0/5.0 user rating shows that people really like it.
Digital Goods for WooCommerce Checkout
Digital Goods for WooCommerce Checkout is a helpful addition to your WooCommerce store as it removes fields on the checkout page that are irrelevant to digital product purchases. That keeps customers happy, as they won’t need to add unnecessary details like shipping or billing addresses, something many folks resent doing. Furthermore, it is effortless to use.
The free version has plenty of features to get you up and running. Not only can it exclude multiple fields from the checkout form, but it allows you to add quick checkout buttons on shop or product pages. The premium version costs from $29 per year or $99 lifetime and adds the facility for customers to enter extra information if they wish after they have paid, plus user role restrictions.
- Detects digital (or virtual) products and tailors the checkout process accordingly
- Lots of configurable options
- The free version has much of the functionality you are likely to need, although I do recommend using the free 14-day trial of the premium version first
- Only works on WooCommerce sites
Digital Goods for WooCommerce Checkout is an excellent addition to eCommerce stores that sell both physical and digital products, providing the most appropriate checkout experience for each.
Downloads-wise, 7k people have downloaded the plugin from WordPress, and the average user rating is 4.4/5.0 stars.
What Is Your Favorite WordPress Plugin to Sell Digital Downloads?
In my honest opinion, digital products are a great way of monetizing a blog or other site with little or no financial outlay. For example, photographers and artists can sell digital versions of their work, use social media to promote them. Another idea would be to create a range of downloadable craft or business templates and sell them through your website, thereby avoiding paying fees to marketplaces like Etsy or Creative Fabrica. With digital downloads, the world is your oyster.
Do you sell digital products on your WordPress website? If so, have you used any digital download plugins to help with that? If not, have any I covered in this article of interest to you? Were you aware that such plugins exist? I know I wasn’t until I started delving!