Selling Digital Content Online


Most articles offering tips on running an ecommerce website are focused on those that sell actual products—tangible goods that must be packaged and sent. However, retailers selling digital content online probably make up a sizeable fraction of the total. In addition, the market for digital goods is growing. A recent analysis predicted that the market for these produces will be $36 billion annually in 2014, which is more than double the amount from 2009. This makes digital goods one of the fastest growing sectors on the globe.

What is a digital product?

Basically, it is a product that can be downloaded or otherwise experienced through technology upon sale, rather than packaged and shipped by traditional methods. You have probably bought these in the past yourself. EBooks are a great example, as are music downloads. There are also newspapers and magazines that can be downloaded and online courses that you can take… the possibilities are endless. People are performing more and more functions on their computers or smartphones; digital content serves this need.

However, many ecommerce website owners completely ignore the possibilities of this product, often to their detriment. While there are many companies that specialize in digital content, there is no reason that a typical ecommerce website retailer cannot get in on the action. Many of the top retailers of physical books are now selling eBooks, for example. These are making up an increasingly large proportion of online book sales. Even consumer goods giant Walmart is selling downloads of movies and music via its website.

What are the limits of digital sales?

Books and music are not the limit of digital sales. There are so many options that it is almost impossible to name them all. While these may never make up the majority of your content, it is nonetheless important to give customers what they are seeking. Consumers are willing to pay for high-quality digital content and in many cases are actually specifically looking for it. In addition, once a digital product is created, it can be sold over and over, padding your profit margins a little and providing a source of passive income.

If you are like many of the people reading this post, you are feeling a burning need to add digital products to your inventory right now. Is there a downside? Actually, there are several. First, you have to make sure that your digital product makes sense within your current ecommerce website brand. If you are selling gadgets, for example, do not try to add your garage band’s latest single to the product line. Second, digital goods require a specialized checkout and delivery process, a topic that we will address in its own post. Last, quality is just as crucial as it is with any other product. If you are selling a twenty page PDF document as an eBook, customers are going to feel ripped off even if they only paid fifty cents for it. This will reflect poorly on the rest of your ecommerce website. In general, make sure that your digital products do not undermine your brand or your customers’ goodwill.