If you’re selling anything digital on WordPress, you probably know that your potential customers need to have a way to confirm their purchase and to collect the item.
That’s where tools like embeddable shopping carts and plugins come in, as they facilitate the collection of multiple digital items (much like a real basket in a physical store) and the process of checking out with whatever it is that the customer wants.
In addition to this, you as a store owner should want a tool that is customizable, because having a one-size-fits-all cart may not work well for your particular WordPress layout and color scheme.
Thankfully, since there are so many WordPress eCommerce tools for selling digital downloads out there, we’ve compiled a list of 18 of the most relevant ones with their pros and cons to make it easier for you to decide which one is best suited to your needs in 2021.
First option – our own Sellfy. Using Sellfy is the fastest way you can start selling digital downloads on WordPress.
What sets Sellfy apart from the rest of the tools on this list is that it’s not a WordPress plugin. There are no plugin downloads or installations, and you don’t need to paste or understand huge blocks of code.
All you need to do is simply copy a short snippet of code into a WordPress post or page where you want to put in a (customizable) “buy now” button. That’s it. When somebody will click on the “buy now” button an iframe with a checkout will appear and they will be able to purchase your products without leaving your website.
And if a “buy now” button is not enough for you, you have the option of adding a shopping cart widget to the whole site that either float (follows you around) or stays static next to a product.
Plus, in addition to a shopping cart with Sellfy you’re also getting many built-in marketing features that you would normally have to use a 3rd party app for. Such as email marketing, upselling, or discount codes.
- No transaction fees
- Good customizability
- Excellent digital file security
- A dedicated mobile app
- All-in-one marketing features like email, upselling, discounts, and analytics
- App integrations like Zapier
- Easy product management
- Won’t slow down your WordPress site
- Premium support
- No free version
- No reviews management
- For some, two payment gateways (Stripe and Paypal) may not be enough
Easy Digital Downloads, AKA EDD, is often considered to be one of the best plugins for WordPress because of its pure focus on digital file distribution. Unfortunately, what you gain in the software you lose in other ways. For instance, support for this plugin is already relatively lacking, so EDD’s solution to this is to charge a whopping $299 a year for online-only priority support—that’s a lot. Finally, payment gateways are quite expensive for a single site.
- Highly customizable because it’s built with developers in mind
- Customer management
- Discount code management
- Plenty of payment gateways in the paid versions
- Affiliate capabilities
- File access control
- Many useful extensions
- In the free version, Paypal is the only gateway available
- It’s a little more technical than the other options out there
- The community is relatively small, so the support is lacking
- Additional plugins are expensive
#3. Download Monitor
This is a light-weight plugin that controls all your WordPress site’s files, even allowing you to sell your digital downloads through PayPal. It is not only customizable but also intuitive to use.
- It’s free by itself
- File version management
- Clean interface
- Customizable with developer-friendly code
- Extensions are relatively expensive unless bundled together
- Relatively basic in its function
- Only one payment gateway (Paypal)
If you’re using WooCommerce to sell digital goods, your buyer shouldn’t have to enter every single detail like shipping information when buying a download of something. That’s the point of this plugin: it simplifies the checkout process, making it faster and less cumbersome for customers to get what they want.
- Excludes unnecessary fields
- Has a quick checkout option
- Has a free version and the paid one is not expensive, either
- Easy to set up
- Only works with WooCommerce
- Quick checkout is a paid-only feature
#5. WP EasyCart
You’ve probably heard of WooCommerce (mentioned at #11). WP EasyCart is like a lighter yet still feature-rich version of it, allowing all the customization you need while not being overwhelming.
- There are a free version and a 14-day trial on the pro version
- Excellent payment gateway selection
- Integrated with Amazon S3 for large files
- Has marketing tools and integrations
- Can do any digital product (even subscriptions!)
- Much less expensive than WooCommerce
- The free version doesn’t allow the selling of digital downloads
- Certain users may need more features than what’s there
- Many Pro extensions are geared towards physical products
This shopping cart, like some other integrations, is a self-contained suite of features. What’s particularly nice about it is that it allows migration from other shopping cart plugins like WooCommerce and it lets store owners host file sizes up to 25 GB.
- Multiple sales channels (sell almost anywhere)
- Has promotion and marketing capabilities
- Unlimited file bandwidth
- The best digital file security and unlimited store backups
- Near-zero maintenance
- Excellent customer service (email, chat, phone)
- Digital files can only be hosted on paid plans
- Visual customization may not be enough for some
One interesting way to sell digital downloads is to do it Patreon-style with a subscription or membership level. Whether you want single or recurring payments for your content, this plugin gives you full control over that.
- Its free version has a good amount of features
- Lots of free and paid-only add-ons/integrations
- It has flexible pricing and trials features
- Allows you to have user access control over digital files
- SEO optimized
- Innovative with constant additions and updates
- Add-ons cannot be purchased individually
- Pricier than some other competitive options
- Advanced uses may require CSS trickery
#8. Sell Downloads
If PayPal is your preferred gateway and not having a ton of options is what you’re after, then look no further. Even though Sell Downloads is slim in its feature set, small-scale artists may find that it meets most of their needs.
- Excellent security (SCA-ready)
- Allows social network sharing / promoting
- Has file previews (demos) and product filtering
- Has a shopping cart for multi-item checkout
- Relatively inexpensive (one-time payment)
- Insertable product and product lists
- Has discount/coupon settings
- Only PayPal buttons available
- Only PayPal as the payment gateway
- It may be too basic for some users
MemberPress is said to be the best all-around membership-based software for WordPress, but you need to try it to find out. It has an attractive price, it’s the easiest one to manage according to their developers, and it comes with many extensions that are already included in their pricing plans.
- Can easily sell digital downloads with it
- Over 40 useful extensions
- Highly secure on all fronts
- Allows timed control over the release of content
- Allows you have your own affiliate program
- Competitively priced
- Excellent support and documentation
- No free trial, only a 14-day money-back guarantee
- Just three payment gateways: PayPal, Authorize.net, and Stripe
- No login/signup form customization
- Extensive options may be confusing
#10. Sunshine Photo Cart
This plugin is the only one on this list that’s specifically for selling photos, but it can be used to sell any digital download behind an image (like zipped up videos) with a workaround.
- Has a well-functioning free version
- Works with all WordPress themes
- Can pull files from Amazon S3
- Customizable, automatic watermarking
- Favoring of galleries/photos
- No limits on galleries, images, or products
- Can share on social sites
- Allows control of access on galleries
- Digital photos can only be sold with a separate annually-licensed extension
- Not ideal for but works with files other than just images
RomanCart is one of the less-popular full-feature tools out there. While it’s good for its features (marketing tools, advanced embedding capabilities, sales reports, etc.), it’s the most expensive for selling digital goods because at this price point you get very little bandwidth and hosting space compared to competitors. Still, some find that it has its uses thanks to having other features that somewhat make up for this.
- Highly customizable layout
- Sales analytics
- Social media promotion
- Storefront embedding
- Floating cart
- At the most expensive tier, you get 100 GBs of bandwidth rather than unlimited
- You only get 1 GB of digital file storage to store all your digital files
- Awkward plan pricing: if you’re not in the UK, you’ll be paying a premium
- The cart doesn’t automatically recalculate prices
#12. Download Manager
For pure digital download sales, Download Manager does this really well. It has a customizable, integrated basket and plenty of other options to manage downloads with plugins to extend its innate functionality.
- Has a free version
- Great file security
- Free cloud storage
- Store management tools (coupons, invoices, sales reports, etc.)
- Social promotion tools
- Many payment gateways (eve cryptocurrencies)
- Not the best support or the fastest update rollout
- The free version may be too basic for serious stores
If there was ever a dedicated platform for turning WordPress into an e-commerce site, the free e-commerce platform WooCommerce would be it because it’s built specifically on WordPress, for WordPress. It is, in short, a comprehensive and open-source suite for selling anything you want (like digital downloads), no matter what you do or who you are.
- Open-source (free) and completely customizable
- Ratings and reviews management
- Intuitive and flexible storefront
- Hundreds of extensions
- Many different forms of payment
- Can calculate taxes on any product
- Good documentation and support
- Google Analytics, Facebook, and Mailchimp integration
- WooCommerce digital downloads’ security is excellent
- Some may find that it has an overwhelming number of options
- The initial learning curve is very steep
- All software maintenance and updates must be done by the end-user
- Advanced paid features can make your store prohibitively expensive to run
ShopConstruct is an enhanced e-commerce solution for WordPress sites, featuring a nice, customizable shopping cart that is very easy to set up. It is, for the price, a great tool for selling digital downloads.
- Super simple because it’s designed for lazy people
- Product rating and review management
- Automated emails
- Supports digital downloads
- No page-loading (uses Ajax)
- Doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other tools
- Not many payment gateways
PayKickstart is a software as a service for stores that has an all-in-one sales, customer, and affiliate management system, allowing you to sell literally anything (especially digital goods like trials). Depending on what you’re looking for, it may or may not be excessive.
- Very secure
- Allows subscription management
- Has revenue retention and booster management
- Advanced reports/analytics
- A mobile app
- Payment gateways aren’t as many as competitors’
- Too many features and a confusing interface
- Expensive compared to what competitors offer at the same tier
- No free version
#16. Paid Downloads Pro
If “simple” is your go-to and hundreds of options is not your cup of tea, then you may just want something that gets the job done like Paid Downloads Pro.
- Several payment gateways
- Encryptable and time-limited download links
- No cloud hosting integration (e.g., Amazon S3)
- No shopping cart
- It’s very basic
If you’re looking for something that’s not overly complicated and that works with PayPal to take cards, you can’t go wrong with this kind of shopping cart because of how lightweight it is.
- Quite customizable for what it does
- Works with coupons
- Totally free
- Since it’s a plugin, it’s only as fast as your site
- It (obviously) only works with PayPal
- No advanced features outside of what’s offered by WordPress
This is one of the few plugins that is designed to do just one thing: to sell digital downloads via PayPal. It’s also completely free—that is to say that there’s not a premium version of it. Despite the lack of features, its open-source nature, ease of use, and compatibility warrant its mention on this list.
- Handles very large and off-server files
- Extendable by developers
- Handles custom orders
- Constantly updated
- Link encryption
- Unlimited products with thumbnails
- Uses the existing WP UI
- Limited support
- Limited controls on downloads