In the old days, selling digital products typically involved having a landing page and recruiting as many affiliates as you possibly could to advertise your products. It was a development that gave rise to countless low-quality websites all doing much the same thing – getting people to buy the affiliate product no matter what it took. Soon enough, spam proliferated en-masse to the point Google had to do something about it to avoid this so-called ‘thin content’ poisoning the search results.
Since then, the barriers to entry when selling digital products have risen steeply, but it’s also become a thriving and respected industry.
What types of digital products can you sell?
Then last decade has seen digital products evolve from the realm of low-quality get-rich-quick guides and the like to a driving force behind the global economy. As the world shifts towards a more service-based economy characterised by cloud computing and digital media, there are more opportunities than ever. And we’re not just talking about eBooks and other informational content.
Here are some of the other things you can make money selling online:
From WordPress themes to digital downloads, software is one of the most diverse categories of all. And who installs software from CDs these days anyway?
Similarly, mobile and desktop games are now primarily sold online as digital downloads instead of on hardcopy media.
Many indie musicians and other artists are funding and selling their creations online through platforms like Patreon.
With premium photos being highly sought after as an alternative to the overused stock photos, many photographers are also selling their photos online.
Graphic designers and digital artists are selling everything from 3D assets for video game developers to website templates for other businesses.
Online courses may take the form of a single eBook download or ongoing virtual seminars and coaching sessions.
7. Professional services
From business consultancy to legal advice and everything in between, this is perhaps the fastest-growing sector of all.
On top of that, you’ve got countless smaller niches from fonts to event tickets. In other words, if it’s possible to digitise it, it’s possible to sell it online!
How to start selling digital products?
Having something that people want isn’t going to be enough. In fact, many creators end up spending more time marketing their digital products than actually making them. There’s a lot to think about, and simply setting up a free website and hoping people will come flocking isn’t going to cut it. To sell digital products, you’ll need to think about the following factors:
1. Start fundraising
Many digital products cost money to develop and support. For example, software may require paid graphical interface elements or code library dependencies. An eBook-based course may require professional editing and design.
2. Prepare your marketing plan
You’ll probably spend most of your time trying to find your target audience and hold their attention. While digital marketing comes in many forms, it’s also a highly competitive area, especially if you’re relying on search and social media.
3. Plan your support
Far too many small businesses and entrepreneurs seem to think customer relations start and end the moment a sale is made. In the age of online reviews and social media, it’s more important than ever to think about post-sales support.
4. Ensure quality control
One of the reasons digital products used to have such a bad name is that the industry was largely unregulated, and there was far more junk than useful stuff. To ensure your product is ready for market, it should undergo third-party review.
5. Remember about security and privacy
When you’re selling anything online, you’ll end up collecting data from your customers. At the very least, you’ll need to be GDPR-compliant, but further regulations may apply depending on what type of information you collect.
6. Optimise payments
You’ll obviously need a way to get paid, but rather than taking payment card information directly, you can use a third-party platform like PayPal or Stripe to manage everything for you.
Ideally, you’ll want to choose a solution that helps you do all of these things together. We’ll be exploring some of the options below.
Which platforms can you use to sell digital products?
It’s theoretically possible to do everything yourself through your own website, but unless you have a vast amount of resources, it’s not going to happen. That’s why most people sell their digital downloads and other content through an existing platform. Here are some of the most popular:
Shopify is a dedicated eCommerce platform with integrated email marketing services and a wide variety of plugins for popular website content management systems. It’s used by more than a million businesses around the globe, and you can sell any type of product through it.
Although Kickstarter isn’t for eCommerce, it’s one of the most popular fundraising platforms, and you can provide various rewards tiers depending on how much people donate. You can use Kickstarter to fulfil these rewards, effectively selling your digital products while you’re still making them.
FetchApp originally started as a Shopify app, which also means it offers simple integration with the eCommerce giant. With unlimited bandwidth for digital downloads, it caters specifically to those selling eBooks, audio, and video files, or any other kind of digital content.
Generally, Amazon only allows third-party sellers to sell physical products, but there are some important exceptions: you can sell self-published books through the Kindle Direct Publishing network and digital music downloads through several Amazon affiliates.
Gumroad lets you sell eBooks, videos, and music at the click of a button. And, unlike any of the aforementioned platforms, you can also offer rentals with unlimited bandwidth. It also offers integrated social media and email marketing functions.
What is the best way to sell digital products?
The above platforms all have a vast reach and can undoubtedly become extremely valuable in helping you run your online business. But they all lack something fundamental – the ability to build and nurture a community around your brand. With a strong online community, people come for the content and stay for the network and, when they stay, they buy. That’s why having a community mobile app providing social networking features and integrated sales is a one-stop-shop for many small online businesses.
Disciple was created to make it happen. Far away from the noise and competition of the major social channels and online shopping platforms, our clients, such as the world-renowned yoga teacher Rod Stryker, author Derrick Jaxn, and fitness instructor Lucy Mecklenburgh, have been able to expand their communities and open up new streams of revenue.
Sell Digital Products with Disciple
People are moving away from Twitter and Facebook in search of a better way to create and nurture brand communities. They’re also looking for effective ways to sell digital products and market their physical products, now that Google has taken a hatchet to most affiliate websites.
A Disciple App provides a simple and effective way to address both issues, by A) allowing you to turn your fan base into a vibrant brand community and B) providing numerous ways for you to market digital goods and sell physical goods without having to rely on affiliate sites.
How We Do It
While developing the Disciple Community App we baked several monetisation options right into its digital DNA, including:
In-app purchases – The in-app purchases (IAP) option is an ideal way to capture one-off purchases of downloadable products, but can also be used to unlock other benefits such as discounts on subscriptions, and premium membership access.
Subscriptions – Speaking of subscriptions, Disciple provides a variety of subscription options for your membership site including free (unfettered access for anyone who signs up), freemium (the subscriber obtains membership but limited access to content and features), and premium (members pay a monthly fee for community-wide access).
Sponsorship – Besides being an ideal platform for selling digital products, the Disciple App is also designed to accommodate several types of sponsorship placement. You can choose to have a sponsor right out of the gate, or you may want to wait until your community has proven its viability.
Linking to online stores – Whether you have existing online stores, a store on a B2C or C2C platform like Amazon or eBay, use an on-demand model, or have a branded store managed by a supplier, you can link to them via your Disciple brand community.
Apple or Google Pay – You can use either to sell digital products and handle payment of physical purchases, or you can use Apple Pay to accept donations for your non-profit.
In addition, you may opt to require users to pay for the app upfront, and you can incorporate affiliate links and receive payment for purchases originating from your branded community.
Are you ready to start selling to your community? Contact us today to request a demo.
Watch our community monetisation webinar to up your game.