How to Sell Digital Downloads Like Never Before


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Key Takeaways

  • You can sell digital downloads on a platform, marketplace, or through your website.
  • If you don’t have an audience to sell your product to, sell it on a marketplace that has free organic traffic.
  • A website or an online store like Shopify is preferred when selling a more expensive digital download.
  • To make sales, you need to do marketing or otherwise drive traffic to your product.

Selling Digital Downloads Online

You can choose to sell your digital download on a platform, marketplace, or through your website. All options have their pros and cons. If you are short on the audience, I suggest you start by selling your digital download through a marketplace that offers organic traffic.

If you have an audience (social media, email list, SEO traffic), you can try selling digital downloads through a platform or your website by driving the traffic to a sales page or straight to the product page.

Each solution, whether it’s marketplace, platform, or your website functions the same way. You upload the digital file (digital download) to the platform of your choosing and serve your customers a download link to the file. Between the file and the customer is a payment gateway (Stripe, PayPal, FastSpring, etc.).

Check out: How to create digital downloads

Below is a table showing with the x mark which solution you should preferably choose based on your specific situation.

SituationPlatformMarketplaceYour Website
You have an audience (social media, email list, SEO).xx
You don’t have an audience.x
You are selling a low-cost product (niche dependent).xxx
You are selling a high-cost product (niche dependent).xx
You like to build a brand and have complete control.x
You just want to make money online and have a set-it-and-forget-it business model.x
You have a website but no audience.x
Table showing the options best suited for a specific situation.

Selling Digital Downloads On A Platform

Below are the best platforms to sell digital downloads:

Pros and cons of selling digital downloads on a platform:

The file is always available for download.You don’t own the platform
File delivery is handled by the platform.Your account can be suspended (applicable to some platforms like Gumroad, for example).
You need to drive traffic (SEO, social, ads, email, etc.) to the platform.
You have to pay extra fees to use the platform.
Limited upsell, downsell, and cross-sell opportunities.
Table showing the pros and cons of selling digital downloads on a platform.

Selling Digital Downloads On A Marketplace

Below are the best marketplaces to sell digital downloads:

Check out: How to sell digital downloads on Etsy

Pros and cons of selling digital downloads on a marketplace:

The file is always available for download.File delivery is handled by you (applicable to only some marketplaces like Etsy)
Marketplaces offer organic traffic.Your account can be suspended (applicable to some platforms like Etsy and Gumroad, for example).
You can use a set-it-and-forget-it strategy.Competition is fierce.
The platform handles file delivery (most of the time).You have to pay extra fees to use the marketplace.
Limited upsell, downsell, and cross-sell opportunities.
Table showing the pros and cons of selling digital downloads on a marketplace.

Selling Digital Downloads From Your Website

I count Shopify and Sellfy stores as your own website, as they are essentially websites that reside on a platform. WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace sites are often the most used way to sell digital downloads from your website.

When selling digital downloads through your website, you must install a plugin like WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads. Squarespace has these capabilities built in. However, Squarespace is not the best solution when building a brand or a blog.

Pros and cons of selling digital downloads from your website:

You have complete brand control.File delivery is dependent on the site being operational.
You fully own the content.You need to drive traffic (SEO, social, ads, email, etc.) to your website.
Fewer fees as you only have to pay the payment gateway fees. For example, Stripe (alternative to PayPal) takes 2-3% as transaction fees.
You can build long or short sales pages.
You can track conversions.
You can drive sales through email marketing and ads with better conversion tracking.
You get to keep the customer data for future sales and promotions.
You can do upsells, downsells, and cross-sells.
Table showing the pros and cons of selling digital downloads from your website.

Execute High-Converting Marketing

Nobody knows about your awesome product if you don’t have an audience or do effective marketing. Below are some high-converting digital product marketing strategies you can use to promote digital downloads more efficiently.

  • Build an audience before creating the product:
    • Focus on understanding the target audience’s problems and needs.
    • Use email marketing to reach customers directly and build an email list.
  • Run a pre-launch campaign:
    • Generate demand for the product through social media, website, and email marketing.
    • Highlight the benefits and offer special pricing for early adopters.
  • Partner with bloggers and influencers:
    • Collaborate with content creators who have established audiences.
    • Utilize sponsored posts or affiliate programs to promote the product.
  • Join an online marketplace:
    • List the digital download on popular marketplaces like Etsy, CodeCanyon, Creative Market, Gumroad, or Amazon.
    • Gain access to a wider customer base and increase visibility.
  • Host an online challenge:
    • Conduct challenge funnels to engage potential customers and build an email list.
    • Offer a chance to win a prize related to the product, creating interest and promoting app usage.
  • Present at an online summit:
    • Participate in online conferences or summits to reach a larger audience.
    • Deliver webinars related to the digital download, promote them directly, and provide special incentives.
  • Create a content marketing funnel:
    • Develop high-quality content that addresses the target market’s needs.
    • Direct traffic to a lead magnet, collect email addresses, and build trust before promoting the product.
  • Gather persuasive social proof:
    • Share customer reviews, ratings, and testimonials to build trust and influence purchasing decisions.
      Conduct case studies to showcase the positive impact of the digital download.
  • Price and package the product strategically:
    • Determine the value of the digital download based on its transformative potential.
    • Avoid undervaluing it due to its intangible nature and consider competitors and existing offers.
  • Start a membership site:
    • Offer digital downloads as part of a membership with exclusive content.
    • Charge a subscription fee to access the membership site.
  • Add marketing campaigns to the website:
    • Promote the digital download prominently on your website to increase visibility and sales.

Sales Message And Selling Digital Downloads Successfully

Digital download, your product is made to solve a problem. A problem arises when a customer has a specific goal in mind. The customer wants to achieve something but either doesn’t know what he/she needs, or she/he doesn’t know where to find the solution to the problem.

Marketing is done to showcase a solution to a potential customer, and the sales page is made to convert the prospect to a paying customer.

Sales message in this context is the last push to get that sale.

Craft your sales message from the perspective of what your customer will get, how it will impact her/his life, and how your digital download solves a problem they have. Remember, you’ve created a digital download to solve a specific problem.

Bring that problem to the surface with copywriting, agitating the problem, and making the customer feel how your product can alleviate the current pain and problem.

A sale will happen when your sales message, sales copy, overall message, and solution are too hard to resist that the customer can’t help but pay you.

The pricier your digital download is, the stronger and more enticing your sales copy should be. Social proof, testimonials, and your personal results (using the product you are selling) help you make the sale.

My Experience

“If you don’t have a ready-made audience to sell your digital download to, I suggest you sell your product on marketplaces. Marketplaces offer free organic traffic. If you are selling a more expensive digital download, then using Shopify or Sellfy and driving traffic with Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok ads is the best way. If you have a website but not an email list, build an email optin to build an audience, and launch an email campaign to your email list.”

Feature image credits.



Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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