We’ve talked many times about how to get your ecommerce site up and running within just a few minutes, but you’ll start to notice that the majority of content online is about selling physical products, and we want to fix this. Some of the best ecommerce platforms provide options to sell your own digital products such as eBooks, music and video courses, but they don’t particularly focus on these digital items. There are only a few platforms out there that do, and Easy Digital Downloads – aka EDD – is one of the more highly respected ones.
Why? It works seamlessly with WordPress, and you really don’t have to start paying for anything until you feel like expanding your store. Let’s take a look at an in-depth review of the Easy Digital Downloads system to see if it’s the right option for you.
Easy Digital Downloads: Features
EDD is a simple plugin for WordPress. Unlike many other plugins you’ll stumble upon, it’s rather lightweight and it doesn’t overpower your website. You can expect the site to move quickly without any problems.
It also provides a state-of-the-art checkout system which is nice for those customers who want to download multiple files at one time. The entire interface is pretty darn smooth, so you don’t have to worry about people getting frustrated and leaving the site before buying anything.
What else comes with Easy Digital Downloads? Your customers receive their own profile so they can always come back and download what they bought.
You can post discount codes for those special summer or holiday discounts. You can also easily track all the payments that go through your site and manage your reports with ease.
Data Reporting Features
EDD has some excellent data reporting tools so that you can view your earnings based on date ranges and categories. All of the statistics can be filtered by searching for specific products.
The reports are stored on the WordPress dashboard, with clean graphs and tables so that even a beginner can understand and feel comfortable with reading the information. The data reporting tools include buttons for exporting your store data. All of the exports are transferred into a CSV file. We also like the fact that you can monitor all of the downloads from your website, and check on potential abuse or spam. All of your sales are also detailed in the data reporting module.
The Discount Codes
Customers love a good discount. That's why it's essential to provide the occasional discount codes for special events or holidays. Luckily, EDD has its discount code functionality built into the plug-in. For instance, you could choose a percentage-based or flat rate discount to offer to your customers.
Some other settings include the option to limit a coupon's usage by a certain number of times used or by the type of user. Automated start and end dates are possible, along with the ability to include or exclude certain products from the discount codes.
Finally, you might find it advantageous to require a minimum purchase total for the discount to work. For instance, you might say that the customer gets 20% off after spending $50.
Customer Management Tools
We mentioned a little bit about how customer management tools are included with EDD. But now we want to take a deeper look into what these customer management features can do for your business. First of all, just about all customer details are shown in the WordPress dashboard. This includes information such as an email address, customer name, and all recent purchases.
You can manually create a customer page and even link some of these records to other profiles. One of my favorite features is that the EDD dashboard shows you a customer lifetime value so you can identify some of your VIP customers.
The Shopping Cart Experience
The shopping cart is one of the main reasons EDD became so popular in the first place. Not only can it support both guest and registered user checkouts, but you can customize your shopping cart with Buy Now or Add To Cart buttons.
It truly is one of the simplest checkout processes for customers. In addition, users can save their carts and come back to them when they are ready to purchase. Other than that, the only other standout feature would be that you can require your customers to agree to terms and services before they buy.
Easy Digital Downloads: Ease of Use
The first time I started playing around with EDD I really thought it would be a little amateurish, since it’s completely free and I usually think that the paid premium plugins are the ones that are worthwhile.
However, the plugin was rather simple to download and put onto my site. You just go to their website and click on the Download button. This places the file on your computer which can then be uploaded and activated on your WordPress website.
There’s also a nice product demo for checking out the front end of the site, but this didn’t really tell me anything about the backend and how to setup your products.
Needless to say, the plugin is quite easy to use, since they provide a thorough instructions page right off the bat.
There is a little Downloads tab on the left-hand side of your dashboard, and that’s all you really need to know in terms of moving around the plugin.
This tab provides options to add a new product, check your payment history and to see your reports. The only thing that’s a little tedious is combining your current theme with the plugin. You basically have to figure out how your theme works with the plugin, so you may have to jump to a page and place a certain amount of products on this page or set your homepage to feature some of your more popular items.
Easy Digital Downloads: Pricing
The Easy Digital Downloads plugin is completely free. This is one of the main reasons it’s so popular for selling digital products. You might have to pay a little money for your payment processor, but this depends.
The main area where you might have to pay some money is if you go to the Extensions page.
This lets you power up your site a little more with items such as email reports, payment gateways, and invoices.
If you pay for three or more extensions you get a 10 percent discount, and they also package together some of the extensions with huge discounts.
As for WordPress themes that are compatible with easy Digital downloads, you can find several free themes on the EDD website. The developers also recommend many community themes that play well with the EDD plugin. Having said that, you may decide to buy a premium theme from a place like ThemeForest. If that's the case, you should factor the cost of that theme into your overall budget for running a digital product website.
A Look at Some of the Extensions
EDD comes with plenty of features for you to get started selling digital items online. In fact, basic stores shouldn't have to purchase any extensions to expand functionality.
However, the extension library has some excellent tools for those companies that need unique features such as recurring payments, frontend product submissions, and software licensing.
The categories for the EDD extensions are listed below:
- Payment gateways
- Email Marketing
As mentioned before, you also have the option to purchase some extension packages that may make it cheaper and provide a better value for a large group of extensions.
The pricing for these extensions varies drastically. I would argue that you should expect to pay around $50 to $100 per extension. For example, the Stripe Payment Gateway extension is listed at $89 for a single site license. The MailChimp extension is a little cheaper at $49 for a single site license.
To give you an idea, here are some of the most popular EDD add-ons to choose from:
- Recurring payments
- The Stripe payment gateway
- Software licensing
- Front end submissions
- The PayPal Pro and PayPal Express gateway
- Free downloads
- A checkout fields manager
An All Access Pass:
Similar to companies like Elegant Themes, EDD also has “membership” pass options so that you can pay a certain amount per year for access to some or all of the EDD products.
These packages are excellent for developers with clients and for people who might be running multiple websites. We also like it if you just want access to all of the extensions for one website.
Here are the passes to give you an idea of how much you'll have to pay and what comes along with each package:
- Personal Pass – $99 per year for single site licenses to all email marketing integrations.
- Extended Pass – $199 per year for support to sell recurring subscriptions and use all payment gateways. Each extension you receive comes with a single site license.
- Professional Pass – $299 per year for access to all premium extensions and marketplace functionality. All extensions get single site licenses.
- All Access Pass – $499 per year for access to all extensions and unlimited license key usage. This is ideal for an agency or a network of websites.
Updates and support are included with all of the passes.
Easy Digital Downloads: Setup and Design
Since 65 percent of ecommerce traffic comes from mobile devices, you should definitely consider using a platform that offers mobile responsiveness. This is another reason Easy Digital Downloads works so well.
Although it depends on the theme you are using, if you opt for a responsive theme, the plugin seems to work quite well so that everyone who uses mobile devices can see your products okay.
The only word I can use to describe the Easy Digital Downloads design is minimalistic. They don’t have any bells and whistles included, so you can work on your own CSS styling to make the site look the way you want.
All you have to do is upload an image, punch in a description for the products and implement a button for people to buy from you.
Easy Digital Downloads: Managing Your Inventory
Let’s say you want to add a few digital products to your website. All you have to do is click on the Add New button under the Downloads tab in your WordPress toolbar, and then it gives you a WordPress editor page just like you were about to write a blog post.
At the bottom of the page, you can type in a price for the download and include various other details such as product type, notes, the download link, and an image. Feel free to also change how many times a single person can download the file.
SEO and Marketing
EDD doesn’t seem to have any built-in SEO or marketing tools, so you either have to add your own WordPress plugins or purchase some of the items they sell in the extensions store. This isn’t a huge problem since WordPress allows you to add pretty much anything and this plugin is completely free.
Payments and Security
If you go to the Settings page you’ll find a Payment Gateways option to play around with the payment systems you can use. Once again, various other payment gateways are available in the Extensions Store, but by default you can implement a PayPal payment gateway.
It’s pretty simple to set up, and from what I’ve read you shouldn't have to worry much about security, although I had some trouble finding documentation about security on the Easy Digital Downloads website.
The Easy Digital Downloads support is incredible. In short, the company provides Forums, FAQs and an area to submit your own tickets if you have any questions.
The Easy Digital Downloads plugin is extremely lightweight and easy to use, so it would be my first choice if I were planning on selling some eBooks or songs, so feel free to give it a try, since you can always just uninstall it if you find it isn’t a fit for your site.
Let us know in the comments section if you have any questions about this Easy Digital Downloads review.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on February 11, 2015 and has completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.