Checkout for Digital Products

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In a recent post, we talked about the future of digital goods and the immense profit potential for ecommerce websites. However, one issue that we barely touched on was that of checkout and delivery. Although digital products can be sold with a traditional checkout process, they have very special requirements that this process may not address.

  • Streamline the process. Digital goods should have a specialized checkout process because shipping information (and often any physical address at all) is not necessary. Why make customers go through an additional step when that step is completely irrelevant to their purchase? Don’t make customers jump through hoops to give you money. In most cases, checkout for a digital product can (and should) be limited to one page and one easy step.
  • Cross-sell. If you are offering a digital and physical version of the same product—say, a book or a musical album—you should cross-sell these. Sometimes customers assume that the first format they found is the only one available; in a few cases, they would rather choose something different. This can also help them to get the best possible deal, something that everyone enjoys.
  • Use a single cart (in most cases). Is a separate checkout process necessary? Many sellers seem to think so. Amazon, for example, does not allow you to add digital products to your cart. Instead of an ‘Add to Shopping Cart’ button, digital goods have a ‘Buy and Download’ button. This may be inconvenient for customers buying several different digital products or a mix of digital and physical goods, so experiment before making this your official digital checkout policy. In Amazon’s case, this was done for tax reasons. Other retailers take a different approach for obvious reasons.
  • Explain the process. As with all checkout processes, customers want to know exactly how the checkout process will play out as well as how and when their product will be delivered. Give them this information, laid out in a step by step process with bullets or another organizational scheme. Be especially clear about when and how the product is delivered. 
  • Explain the product. You probably have a product page specifically dedicated to the digital item in question, but this is not enough. If special software or devices are required to use the digital product, make that exceedingly clear. Tell customers both on the product page and at checkout what they will need and where to find it. If you require a free program that can be downloaded, link to it both at checkout and on the product page as well. You will save immense time dealing with customer service issues and dealing with refunds if you take this single step.
  • Allow quick repeat purchases. Let customers save their information on your website so they can buy a product with one click. This is convenient for tangible goods, but imperative for digital ones. After all, the major benefit of digital goods is that they can be obtained faster and with less effort.