Leading with digital goods is the way to go in e-commerce. You don’t need to worry about shipping, manufacturing, or inventory. You can set the profit margins high because you don’t have to calculate in the fulfillment costs. And the best part? You can customize and change your products as much as you like.
The trickiest part of creating digital products is finding a niche market for them. If you’ll try to sell your products to everyone, you’ll sell them to no one.
People will buy a product if it has a quality they care about — be it a parrot pattern design or a printable poster with a giant whale wearing a swimsuit.
So how can you create and sell digital products that people will rave about? Before we dive into the fun process, let’s address what digital downloads are and what types of digital products you can create.
What are digital downloads?
Digital downloads, also known as digital products, are intangible goods that exist in a digital form. Some examples of digital downloads are music files, printables, and digital designs.
All digital downloads are easy to distribute, replicate, and sell without the need of physical materials. You just need a computer to create them on.
Digital downloads can be sold for a certain price, exchanged for barter, given away for a donation, or free of charge. The product price depends on its added value and the time and effort you put into creating it.
Types of digital downloads
Would you believe us if we told you there are hundreds of digital products you can sell online? Yup. And we bet there are even more. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creativity. Here are the most common types of digital downloads that you can create and sell yourself:
- Ebooks (recipes, guides, how-to’s)
- Printables (digital art, patterns, invitations)
- Video (lessons, stock footage, cinemagraphs)
- Audio (music, podcasts, audiobooks)
- Photography (stock photos, mockup images)
- Software misc. (game mods, presets, apps)
If you have something to share (knowledge, passion, or talent), you can turn it into a digital product to sell. How to do that? Read on as we share tips to create products that’ll sell themselves.
How to create digital downloads?
There’s a lot that goes into creating digital products — from finding the tools to make your files, to making sure your goods are actually downloadable. But these are all details we’re sure you’ll figure out while in the process of making.
Focus on the big picture: your digital product + its potential customers. To craft a digital download that people would actually buy, follow the three steps below.
1. Check the demand
Before you get all excited about your awesome digital product idea, check the demand for it. You want to be sure people need your product and are searching for it on the web. Otherwise, you can end up spending days creating your digital good and then nobody cares for it.
Use Google Trends (GT) to see the interest in your given product keyword or find related search queries.
Let’s say you’re thinking about selling printables but you don’t have a clear idea on the theme.
Type in printables, set the search region to your market (we suggest Worldwide for more search results), and define the search time. Since you want your product to be relevant and up to date with the demand, we suggest setting the period to Past 90 days. Hit Enter and scroll down to see the Related queries.
The related query results you see above are taken from May 20th until August 20th. During this time period, you see that school, 4th of July and Father’s Day printables were trending. Page two of the results display myfroggystuff printables, summer printables, toy story printables, emoji, and superhero printables.
You can take digital product ideas from the related query results or — if you already have multiple ideas in mind, use GT to distinct the product with most search interest.
Let’s say you’ve seen people selling school, wedding, and plant printables — and are now debating which route you’d want to take.
Place the three keywords in GT and see which one has the highest search volume (most likely the highest demand, too).
As you can see, the highest search volume is for school printables, meaning, people are actually interested in buying those. You’ll also notice there are two peaks where school printables have the highest search volume and that’s in August. So if you launch these printables in May, don’t expect killer sales just because it’s not the right season for them.
Wedding and plant printables are also searched for but they’re not as popular. At this point, selling school printables seems the way to go, but you’ll still need to check your competition and that’s step number two.
2. See what’s already out there
Selling ice cream in a market where everyone sells burgers is easy. Your product is unique and stands out from the rest.
Now apply this logic to your digital product idea. For the sake of example, let’s stick with the idea of selling school printables again.
In theory, selling school printables is a good idea because we saw a demand for them, right? Well, wrong. There are thousands of other clever people like you who did the same research and are now selling school printables. And that means: C O M P E T I T I O N.
To check the market saturation for school printables, you can do a Google search or check what people are selling on Etsy (a popular marketplace for printables).
You can now see that there are about 70k school printables to choose from. Each an every one of these products would be your competition. Yikes.
If you find your digital product idea surrounded by competition, you have two options for your products:
- Find a new, less saturated market — switch to selling fashion printables, for example;
- Define the market to minimize competition — sell unicorn school printables rather than just school printables.
Let’s stick with the school printables market and check the competition for selling unicorn-themed printables.
As you can see, we just narrowed down the school printables market from 70k to 1,5k. You’ll be far more successful if you sell your products for a special niche, like in this example — for kids who love unicorns.
Pro tip! Once you find your niche market and see the products you’ll be competing with, check their reviews! Those are a great source to learn about your target audience—what they liked about your competitor’s product, what they disliked, and then use this information when working on your own products.
Your main takeaway here is to check your competition on whichever platform you want to sell on. Make sure you enter a market with room for your products so your customers have an easier time finding you.
3. Create your product
The most fun part of creating digital products is the part where you unleash your creativity and actually create the products.
As we mentioned earlier, this part of the creation process is unique to every product type. We trust you already have the right tools to make your digital download. If you don’t, no worries — here are some free tools to start working with:
- Krita — an open source painting program;
- BeFunky — an online photo editor and collage maker;
- Fontstruct — an online font creator tool;
- Audacity — an open-source digital audio editor, recorder, and mixer.
Do you know any other free tools to create digital products? Or maybe some you’d love to share with fellow creators? Let everyone know in the comment section!
Now that you know how to create digital downloads, let’s figure out how to sell them.
Where to sell digital downloads?
When it comes to selling digital goods, there are a lot of platforms where you can do that. The choices are overwhelming but generally, it’s either an online marketplace or your own personal online store. Here are the pros and cons of selling on an online marketplace:
- Tough competition. The chances of customers buying your products are smaller because there are thousands of other products to choose from.
- Product listing fees. You’ll be charged a fixed price when you add a product.
- Transaction fees. Some marketplaces or their supported payment methods will charge a transaction fee.
- Lack of customization. Building a reputable brand on a marketplace is difficult. You can’t stand out from other sellers because there aren’t many options to customize your merchant’s profile.
- Difficult to build an email list. You can’t streamline the process of gathering your customer emails. Your only option would be to manually ask each and every one of your customers if they’d like to be added to your email list and then manually add their emails.
- Easy and free to sign up. Usually, you fill out a sign-up form and that’s it. Add your products, payment details, and you’re good to go!
- Existing traffic. People trust marketplaces and use them daily to find what they’re looking for. In theory, this means that more people are likely to go over your products.
So what about listing your goods on your personal store? Here are the pros and cons of selling on your online store:
- Subscription fee to start with a platform. Most e-commerce platforms work with subscription plans, around $20 a month if you want to sell on them.
- More work to drive traffic. You’ll have to invest time to preach about your store so people can find it and buy from you.
- You can build your brand identity. You can customize your shop as you want it.
- Build email lists. Gather your customers’ email addresses and connect with them via marketing campaigns.
- Keep all your revenue. You don’t share a percentage of your sales or pay for listing your products.
- No direct competition. When your customers enter your store—all eyes are on YOUR products. You don’t have to compete with anyone on your own website.
- Chance to connect with your buyers. You can add various tools for your online store to chat with your customers, ask about their experience with your goods, etc.
Here’s a more in-depth comparison between selling digital products on your own online store versus a marketplace like Etsy. Leaving the judgment call up to you! If you plan to open a store and start selling digital downloads, we’re here to help you out.
When you’re done with creating your very own digital products, click here to create your Sellfy store. We’ll give you a free 14-day trial so you can fully explore what Sellfy has to offer.
Ritvars is the marketing lead at Sellfy.