Selling Digital Products on Shopify (Sep 2020): Everything You Need to Know

If you're on the fence about selling your own digital products on Shopify, here are a couple of stats to bear in mind:

What does this tell us?

In short, creating and selling digital products on Shopify could undoubtedly pay dividends.

So, in this article, we're going to cover:

  • How to generate ideas for digital products to sell
  • The kinds of digital products you could create
  • How to sell digital products with Shopify
  • Apps that will help you sell your digital products on Shopify

That’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in!

How to Generate Ideas for Digital Products to Sell

If you're unsure how to figure out what digital product(s) to sell, heed the advice below:

Start Brainstorming

Don't think just do.

That's the premise of successful brainstorming. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and just jot down any and all ideas that spring to mind.

If you're stuck for inspiration, ask yourself the following questions, and allow your answers to fuel the process:

  • Could you teach your customers something? If so, what subject, and how would you teach them? One-to-one masterclasses? An e-course? An eBook? A mini video series?
  • What are the core values of your online business? What topics are related to that?
  • Could you bring your customers together? Perhaps, an online event? Or, a forum, Facebook group, or even a membership area?

💡 Top Tip: If you’re unsure about what topics your audience wants information about – ask them. This is the easiest, and often, the most effective way of deducing the sorts of digital products your customers want to consume. Create a short survey and send out a quick email marketing campaign to encourage subscribers to engage with your questionnaire; you might be surprised at the results!

Get Researching

Keep the same piece of paper you’re brainstorming on to hand. Then as you go about expanding your research, add to your ideas.

Below we’ve listed some of the best places on the web for gleaning inspiration:

Head to Facebook. These days there are Facebook groups dedicated to near-on every niche and industry on the market. So, there's a good chance you'll find your customers there. Are the same questions appearing again and again? If so, could you create a course or an eBook addressing those queries?

Trawl through industry forums. There are tons of niche-specific forums out there. The majority of which are dedicated to a vast array of hobbies, interests, professions, etc. Again, these are fantastic resources for familiarizing yourself with your customer’s wants, hopes, dreams, and struggles.

Product reviews. Do you have an inkling about the kind of product you want to create? If so, read some reviews about similar existing products. What are they missing? How could you innovate and improve upon them? Can you bring anything fresh to the table with your product?

Bear in mind, that as you go about your research, you're trying to find answers to the following questions:

  • What do your customers struggle with?
  • What pain points do they have?
  • What do they want to overcome?
  • What excites them?
  • What are they passionate about?

Again, these questions work wonders for bringing you a step closer to a winning idea for your digital product.

Validation

Now you have a few initial ideas; you’ll want to validate any potential topics for your digital product before sinking hours of your life into creating it.

There are tons of ways you can go about validating your ideas:

Google Trends: Like you would with your keyword research (see below), head over to Google Trends. Plugin the kinds of keywords you think your customers will search for. Google Trends highlights the popularity of any given keyword over a set period of time. Needless to say, you want to find topics that demonstrate a growing interest, as these tend to be the most lucrative.

Keyword research: There are loads of keyword research tools, both free and paid, that enable you to see how many people a month are searching for words and phrases relevant to your product. When done well, keyword research will provide a decent insight into whether there’s a demand for your product idea. If you're on a budget, start out with Google’s Keyword Planner -it's free and accurate, making it a fantastic first port of call.

Start small and build up: If you're still unsure, try creating something smaller – just to test the waters. Say, for example, free downloadable products, like a mini eBook or a video course? This should give you a feel for whether your audience is interested in the topic.

The Kinds of Digital Products You Could Sell

By now, you may have a topic or a niche in mind. But how are you going to package it into a digital product to sell?

Below are some ideas:

Educational Products: eBooks and/or Online Courses

📣 DISCLAIMER: Creating high-quality digital learning products requires a fair amount of effort and dedication.

But, providing you boast a caliber of knowledge people are willing to pay for, online course creation can be incredibly lucrative.

High ticket e-courses delve deep into the subject matter, so be prepared to create outstanding content. If the prospect of writing an entire course is a daunting one, start at the beginning. Simply list out what you envision learners to take away by the end of the course.

For example:

  • The foundations of setting up and launching a freelance writing business
  • How to run profitable Facebook ads
  • How to start living a healthier lifestyle

…you get the idea.

Once you've nailed down the core learning objectives of your online course, you're then better positioned to divide it into modules, and then lessons. Before you know it, you'll have a complete outline to work from! Exciting, right?

To make your online course more engaging to your students, consider including:

  • Quizzes
  • Homework
  • Interactive activities
  • Forums

Boosting student engagement helps ensure customers work through your course and retain the valuable information you teach them!

💡 Top Tip: Use an online course builder like Podia, Thinkific, or Teachable to help you design and market your online school. SaaS products like these are by far the easiest way to hit the ground running with digital course creation.

selling online courses with Podia

👉 Read our comprehensive Podia review.

What About eBooks?

Image credit: Julia_Tim/DepositPhotos

Writing an eBook isn't quite as involved as creating an online course, but it still takes time and effort. During the research phase, you may find there's already a sea of free content on the topic you’re considering- blog posts, YouTube videos, free downloadables, etc.

So, to get people to commit their hard-earned cash to your eBook, you'll need to offer them something more than just education…i.e., transformation.

What will the customer be able to achieve after they've consumed your content? That's your selling point. This USP is well-worth mulling over. Once you have that in the forefront of your mind, you’re far more likely to produce something people want to buy!

Sell Membership Access to Exclusive Content

Do you have tons of digital content already? Or, are you planning on releasing lots of blog posts, videos, downloadables, etc.? If the answer’s yes, you could package these materials up inside a membership area. Then for customers to get exclusive access to your premium-level content, they’ll have to pay a monthly subscription.

Needless to say, if you have the time to keep up with the demands of running an online membership area, it’s a fantastic way of building a passionate audience and generating a recurring income.

Digital Asset Licenses

Are you a photographer? Graphic designer? Videographer? Music maker? If so, consider selling the licenses to your digital assets so that customers can use them in their own content.

Busy entrepreneurs often don't have the time (or the skills) to shoot their own snaps or record their own music, etc., for their marketing materials. As such, they look for high-quality content creators, like potentially yourself, to purchase digital assets from.

If this is an avenue you’re considering, we recommend launching your own e-store and selling your work on online marketplaces. Although these marketplaces are great for getting some much-needed exposure, it’s not uncommon for them to take a commission on the sales you make. In some cases, this can be as high as 50%!

This is just one of the reasons why it's worth utilizing your own online store and digital stock libraries.

To get started selling digital assets via Shopify, you can use SendOwl. This handy plugin enables you to generate unique auto-generated license keys – which undoubtedly come in handy (but more on Sendowl below).

💡 Top Tip: Stamp watermarks on all of your digital products to protect them. This especially important for assets that are easily copied and pasted – like photos and graphics.

Creating and Selling Digital Templates

By ‘digital templates,' we mean tools that help customers complete tasks that either fall outside of their expertise or take up too much of their time.

Take a moment to think about whether you could create a template or checklist to resolve a common problem your audience faces?

For example:

  • A diet plan for those wanting to lose weight
  • A pitching template for newbie freelance writers
  • A professional-looking invoice template for new business owners
  • Icons, fonts, animations, etc., for web designers
  • A social media posting schedule for wannabe influencers

The best thing about creating and selling digital templates is that once you've made and marketed them, they just sit there, potentially generating passive income!

How to Start Selling Digital Products on Shopify

For the uninitiated, Shopify is a leading online store builder. If you don't already have your own eCommerce shop, this solution provides everything you need to create:

  • A variety of different web pages (product, contact, home, about, etc.)
  • Write a blog
  • Sell both physical goods and digital products

To start selling, you'll need to subscribe to Shopify's Basic plan (or higher). We love the freedom Shopify gives you to customize your online store’s design. Here are just a few of the things Shopify makes simple:

  • Building custom menus visitors can use to navigate through your products and content
  • Connecting a custom web domain to your e-store
  • Publishing dynamic checkout buttons for your product pages
  • Laying a solid foundation for your web design (when you use one of the Shopify themes)

selling digital products on shopify

With regards to selling digital products on the Shopify platform, follow the steps below:

Firstly, you'll need to add a new product to your store. As you go about doing this, you can uncheck the shipping checkbox. This communicates to Shopify you're selling either a digital product or a service – not a physical item.

To do this:

  1. Head to your Shopify Dashboard.
  2. Select ‘Products,' followed by ‘All Products'
  3. From the ‘Products' page, select a product you've already added to your store, or create a fresh product.
  4. Then in the ‘Shipping' section of the product page, uncheck the box next to ‘This is a physical product.’
  5. Finally, select ‘Save.'

Voila, that's it!

You'll then need to use a third-party app from the Shopify App Store to provide a link where customers can download your product once they've purchased it. (Below, we outline a couple of suggestions).

Lastly, you'll need to fix your email templates. Inside your email message, provide customers with information about how they can access the digital product they’ve just purchases. For instance, if you plan to sell digital downloads, you’ll need to include a link or a button where consumers can easily download your product.

Once you've done all of the above, we suggest placing a test order. That way, you can double-check that each of the three stages mentioned above is running smoothly. This is vital for creating a pleasant user experience.

📣 It's also worth noting: EU customers are required to pay VAT on digital goods (as per the rate set by whichever country they reside in); this is regardless of where you, as the online merchant, are located. So, before you hit the ground running, delve into your Shopify tax settings to ensure that everything’s in place to legally sell digital products to EU consumers.

👉 Read our comprehensive Shopify reviews.

The Best Shopify Apps to Consider While Selling Digital Products on Shopify

As we've just said, you'll need a third-party Shopify app to generate downloadable links so that customers can access your digital products. Two of our favorite apps for doing precisely that include SendOwl and FetchApp.

Below, we explore each of them in turn:

SendOwl

SendOwl markets itself as ‘easy-to-use' – so far so good, right?

This app enables you to sell digital products from your Shopify website. At the time of writing, SendOwl is the highest-rated digital delivery app on Shopify's app store.

With SendOwl, you can sell literally any kind of digital download via Shopify. From videos to ebooks, to photos, and audiobooks – you name it; the SendOwl app empowers you to sell it.

Just download the app, and simply upload your digital product to SendOwl's servers. You'll then need to indicate to SendOwl which of your Shopify products associates with the content you've just uploaded. Then SendOwl handles the rest.

When someone makes a purchase, SendOwl automatically delivers a secure and time-limited download link directly to them, providing customers instant access to their purchase. This is an entirely automated process, which means you, as the business owner, don’t need to spend any time or effort managing order confirmations.

Another massive perk is that SendOwl is also completely customizable. You can modify the web pages where customers download your digital products to ensure they reflect your brand’s aesthetic. You can also set how long the download links are valid for.

If you like the sound of this plugin, you’ll be happy to hear, installing it is incredibly straightforward. Just head to the Shopify App store, and locate the SendOwl plugin.

Then hit the ‘install app' button. Once installed, SendOwl prompts you to enter some basic account details – and that’s it. Once you’ve done all of that, you’re ready to hit the ground running!

👉 Read our comprehensive SendOwl review.

FetchApp

Like SendOwl, FetchApp seamlessly integrates with your Shopify store to automatically deliver digital products to your customers. FetchApp has a pretty impressive client roster, including the likes of Robbie Williams, Beck, Ryan Adams, David Blaine, A Book Apart, Ghostly, and MerchNow. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.

Best of all, the free plan doesn’t require your credit card information – so rest assured, FetchApp’s freemium version is a totally risk-free way of seeing whether the plugin’s a good fit for your business.

There are tons of benefits to using FetchApp:

  • There’s no need to purchase separate web hosting.
  • The team at FetchApp is always improving and updating its systems.
  • FetchApp’s high-speed servers ensure your customers enjoy quick transfer speeds.
  • Multiple users can access the same FetchApp account.
  • You can import all your digital products from Shopify with just a click.
  • You can attach multiple files to a product.
  • FetchApp automatically generates PayPal buy buttons.
  • FetchApp enables you to sell digital items anywhere around the web.
  • FetchApp permits previous buyers to download updated files.
  • You can add new orders directly from your FetchApp account.
  • You can restrict customer access to your downloads by time and/or quantity.
  • You can manually expire, reopen, and resend orders at any time.
  • You can edit orders after customers receive them.
  • You can customize the automated emails sent to your customers.

…these are just a few of the many features FetchApp boasts.

To use this plugin, you’ll need to register for a customer account. Head over to your Shopify App store and hit ‘install,’ once you’ve located the FetchApp add-on. You’ll be asked to provide a few basic details. Then you’ll receive an email containing login instructions for your FetchApp account.

Click the unique confirmation link inside the message body for the email. This redirects you to a form where you’ll finish your account registration. Once completed, you can log into your FetchApp admin panel.

Before you can start receiving and processing orders, you'll need to connect FetchApp with whatever payment processor(s) you’re using on your Shopify store. Head to the ‘carts and payments’ settings page inside of your FetchApp Dashboard. From here, FetchApp will tell you what info they need to integrate with your desired payment processor.

Now, it’s time to start creating products and uploading your digital files. To do this, go to your FetchApp admin panel and select the ‘products’ option. Now, click the ‘Add product’ button. From here, you can import all the digital products you have on your Shopify store by clicking the import button on the products page.

Alternatively, if you don’t have your digital products on your Shopify store yet, you’ll have to provide the following information:

  • A product title
  • SKU
  • Product price

You’ll then need to upload the necessary file(s) from your device.

That’s it – once you’ve done all of the above, you can start selling. Now, you don’t have to worry about a thing, from this moment forward, FetchApp automates everything for you!

Are You Ready to Start Selling Digital Products with Shopify?

Having read this guide, we hope you now have a clear starting point for selling digital products with Shopify. Will you use either FetchApp or SendOwl to help you? Or, are you considering one of their competitors like the Digital Downloads app or Sky Pilot? Either way, let us know in the comments box below, we’d love to hear about how you get on. Speak soon!

Featured image credits: enotmaks/DepositPhotos

Rosie Greaves

Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist who specializes in all things digital marketing, B2B, and lifestyle. In addition to e-commerce platforms, you can find her published on Reader's Digest, G2, and Judicious Inc. Check out her website Blog with Rosie for more information.