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Until very recently, selling a product online generally meant delivering a physical, material item.

Today, many of the largest, most profitable businesses in the world are built around items that exist only in code, in 1’s and 0’s on a computer.

There are some key advantages to selling digital downloads- no shipping, manufacturing, or storage costs, for example; making this kind of product the perfect solution for many businesses.

Starting to sell digital downloads requires a different setup and strategy from a traditional store, but it can pay off big-time.

Read on for an exploration of the best ways to start a digital download store this year.

5 Tips to Selling Digital Downloads

1. Choose an Angle
2. Establish and Maintain Authority
3. Take Advantage of Repeat Customers
4. Presentation Matters
5. Beef Up your Customer Support

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1. Choose an Angle for Selling Digital Downloads

If you’re going to sell digital downloads, the first thing you’ll need is a great product.

This is true of any business, though- the trick with selling digital downloads is to also find a great promotional angle to convince potential customers that your product is worth buying.

There’s enough excellent free content on the internet that many consumers struggle with the idea of paying for a download.

With a physical product, good images and a killer product description is generally enough to give consumers a sense of exactly what they are buying.

Downloads are tougher. You need to walk the fine line between showing the customer enough that they see the value of your product and know what they are getting, without sharing so much that they have no need to purchase the full download.

Luckily there are a ton of product-angle combinations you can use to overcome this dilemma.

Let’s start with some popular digital products:

Popular angles for marketing these products include:

  • Offering a free, basic version of the product
  • Offering a free trial
  • Providing an in-depth, optimized product description
  • Putting together a reel of short video clips or offering a free chapter

When you go to sell digital downloads, think about ways to create extra value for your customers.

Writing an ebook? Consider also creating an audiobook version.

By creating a great product and coupling it with an innovative promotional angle, you’ll be able to convince customers to purchase your download even if there are similar free options on the market.

2. Establish and Maintain Authority

Consumers don’t necessarily need to view you as an authority in your niche if you are selling bracelets or board games. Selling an eBook of gardening tips, or a web course on tax policy? Suddenly, positioning yourself as an expert is significant.

There are a number of ways to establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche.

Start by researching and digging deep into the existing literature in your area of interest. You’ll have a much easier time providing value to your customers if you have a broad range of knowledge on your chosen topic, and this will both enrich the product you create, and provide a powerful reason to buy from you.

Ready to establish your authority for selling digital downloads?

Content is the name of the game. Blogging, creating videos, and building up a social media presence all give you opportunities to prove your experience in your field.

Remember: on some level, the product you are selling is you.

Look into guest posting and connecting with other organizations in your niche. Having a broad online presence not only brings more customers to your store, it also increases the chance that they will take the ultimate step of buying your product, and even come back for more.

3. Take Advantage of Repeat Customers

Repeat customers account for 40% of sales.

This is the lifeblood of most businesses, and selling digital downloads is no different. Offering a range of products is a great start, but an alternate model employed by many digital businesses is upselling.

Upselling involves creating tiers within your product. Let’s say you’re selling an educational course for entrepreneurs.

You can start with a free option offering great content- this will help you get your foot in the door with hesitant customers. A silver tier, your cheapest paid option, can offer the same content along with a helpful tool. A gold tier, which costs a little more, gives you all of the above, plus access to exclusive resources.

This is an image on Founder U, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs open an online store and start selling online. This particular post is covers 5 tips to successfully sell digital downloads. This image is an iphone sitting on a white desk with some text relating to selling digital downloads such as ebooks, videos, and more. If you want to sell digital downloads, read the rest of this post on Founder U.

The more basic levels of your product (free/silver) work as great introductions to your work, while the more lucrative (gold, or even platinum) options help serious customers get more engaged.

When building up your product base, remember that selling products across a range of mediums can be particularly helpful.

In the example above, offering ebooks, workbooks, video, and audio downloads could differentiate the tiers and target your content more specifically to the needs of your customers.

4. Presentation Matters

It’s easy to forget that even when selling an intangible digital product, presentation has a huge impact on the way that online shoppers will view your store and products.

Product images and descriptions don’t just give customers a sense of the look and feel of a product.

Instead, it’s a window into what they are receiving. A professional presentation gives consumers a sense that they are buying a professional product.

Likewise, a sloppy presentation makes it tough to trust the quality of the product itself. In particular, when you sell digital downloads the customer knows that they are receiving something created by the same person as the site. Weak presentation reflects directly on the product.

Read: 6 Ebook Cover Designs to Make your Ebooks Stand Out in the Crowd

As you’re figuring out how best to sell digital downloads, research ways to present your product.

Consider hiring a graphic designer to create covers or thumbnails. Quadruple check the spelling and grammar in your copy.

A web designer can be helpful if you are building a site yourself, but remember that platforms like Selz also make it incredibly easy to create a professional storefront without a lot of technical expertise.

5. Beef up Your Customer Support

When you sell digital downloads, you won’t necessarily require any more customer support than a physical product- that is, depending on the kind of download you are selling.

For example, selling an ebook likely won’t flood your inbox with questions and concerns. A software solution or app, on the other hand, is likely to require a much more involved customer support process.

At first, this can seem like an extra hassle, and it is an added expense.

It’s also an absolute necessity. Strong customer service ensures a significantly better experience for the consumer, giving you a much better chance of good reviews and new business.

Remember that a bad review can have a disproportionately large impact on your store.

This is an image on Founder U, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs open an online store and start selling online. This particular post is covers 5 tips to successfully sell digital downloads. This image is a man working on his computer, likely to represent his work as an ecommerce store owner, working to sell digital downloads online. If you want to sell digital downloads, read the rest of this post on Founder U.

Good CS also allows you to build a stronger relationship with anyone using your product. Again, repeat business is vital.

Customer service is a key element of building up a client base that will continually come back for more. Concerned about the cost? Keep in mind the money you’ll save by not needing to ship your products.

Not sure how to get going? Check out this great post about creating a satisfying customer service experience for your ecommerce site.

The Takeaway

Choosing to sell digital downloads is a great way to get started in ecommerce while skipping a lot of the front-end hassles and expenses that come with manufacturing, inventory storage, etc.

Spend some time exploring your niche and getting a sense of what already exists. How will you stand out? What knowledge, experiences, and skills can you draw on?

The tips listed above will get you going, and over time you can hone your business model.

Keep learning, keep marketing, and remember that growth happens over time. We’re with you the whole way.

Happy selling!

About the author

Bryce Patterson

Bryce is a writer and content marketer at Selz, and a freelance writer for tech companies including Churn Buster and Evergreen. He gives ecommerce business and non-profits a more human, relatable voice. He has written a novel, worked on a comic book, and played in a handful of bands. Bryce lives in Colorado.


  1. Mark alsop

    I want to start selling my dance mixes, I have a platform for free dance mixes, I upload 1 every week for free on mix cloud , my mixes are professional and I feel like they should pay for the mix , because I feel the mixes are the same same as superstar djs ,that earn millions. So do I get audio book & upload my music to it?

  2. Josiah

    Good stuff. I think I’ll see about offering a free “trial” of my ebook. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Kristen DeCosta

      Awesome! Thanks for commenting, Josiah. Hope this tip helps you out :)

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