Marketing, Design, Writing & More

What Free Ecommerce Platform Is Good For Digital Downloads

4-What-Free-Ecommerce-Platform-Is-Good-For-Digital-Downloads-300pxI have a couple stores that I sell downloadable goods and physical goods in. Sometimes selling digital downloads is the easiest way to go if you are a programmer selling plugins or a graphic designer selling some illustrations. The question is, what, where, and how do you sell them? Apple takes 30% commission rates for everything they sell on behalf if the content creators, and other marketplaces are very similar if not even more greedy when it comes to their cut. This might be enough to entice you to build your own or at least think about how you can keep a little more money in your pocket for your work.

I personally don’t use marketplaces for the reasons I mentioned above. I put a lot of hard work into my creations and giving someone 30-60% of the cut is not something I am not willing to do even if I can reach millions of people. That is probably just me though. I know plenty that are willing to part with a percentage. Let’s jump in and talk about what a digital marketplace is first.

Digital Market Place

A digital market place are websites or apps that allow many sellers to use the same platform to sell like-goods. Good examples of digital market places are iTunes, Envato, Google Play, Amazon, eBay, and even Alibaba. All of these heavy hitters offer 1 shopping cart for all in exchange for a percentage of your sales. Some are reasonable and some are not. I personally have used Amazon and eBay but none of the others. My experiences drove me to build my own and keeps my sales. I am not much of a sharer though.

The digital market places have advantages of large traffic pools and targeted customers. One of them being that people are there to buy and you don’t have to maintain the platform. Maintaining your own server, website, coding, and even SEO/marketing can be grueling. So of course they have a significant advantage over many people that don’t even know HTML or how SEO works. They just want to sell stuff and get rich quick at home (you can’t actually get rich at home quickly, unless you happen to sell real unicorns or something at that level). But, let’s say you are up to the challenge of doing it all on your own like me…

Self-Hosted Solution

Overall, you have choices, although not as many as everyone would like to have. It doesn’t have to be a digital market place that has multiple sellers. It can just be you and your products. So let’s talk about some of the free choices. You have osCommerce which is old and used to be the backbone of online businesses. It’s open source and something most don’t consider these days and has been forked to Zencart, and other platforms and I will just say that I don’t use any of them. I have used Prestashop and it’s a serious shopping cart, but one I don’t consider for digital goods. I don’t think they really have the framework for such but it is a function. Just one I don’t really care for. They do have 500,000 community members and are serving almost 200,000 stores so I am not taking that away from them.

Hikashop for Joomla and Woocommerce are other options that are free but plugins for Woocommerce can get expensive fast and I don’t know how their digital download functions are. I avoid using CMS’s that are converted to shopping carts. I try to stay with actually shopping carts for ecommerce. I am not trying to say they are bad, but I don’t want a jack of all trades; I would prefer to use an expert for a solution. This also goes for Drupal, vBulletin, and other forum software that has shopping cart plugins.

So lastly, (yes I know there are so many more) I will say Magento is a solution that has the best digital download function that I have personally used. It’s a robust platform that needs some great justification to use, but if you are serious and offer a lot of products then this is where I recommend.

Items to Remember

  • Server costs
  • Website costs: Domain, Coding, Plugins, Security, Upkeep
  • Graphic costs: Logo, banners, misc graphics
  • SEO: Links, Press Releases, Social Marketing…etc
  • Payments: Processing Fees, Vendor Commissions…etc
  • Customer Service: Emails, Phone Calls, Support Tickets…etc
  • Email: Email Server, Creating Newsletters, Managing Accounts…etc

Only a Few Products

If you are only offering a few eBooks for purchase then you probably don’t need a shopping cart solution. You probably need a 1-page website or something small then embed some Paypal buttons and email the sale after or utilize a third-party digital download site. I have never used any but normally you can use them to host the files and use their shopping carts to automate the process. I won’t even name any because I don’t have the experience and don’t want to point people to something I can’t recommend.

Wrapping Up

Selling downloadable products can be tough especially when it comes to security and protecting your assets. You can do it though and weighing the benefits to using a market place or a hosted solution is not easy. I will add this to my lineups for a podcast in the future as well to really dive deep into the topic. If you are already selling using either method, let me know how it’s working out for you below.

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