On any journey you’ve taken around the web, you’ve probably been greeted by a pop-up here or there offering an eBook or a guide or an online course.
These are prime examples of digital products, and they seem to be everywhere. But there’s good reason for that.
Almost half of consumers spend more than 15 hours week online:
People are spending more and more time online, creating digital worlds that mean they don’t ever really need to leave their houses if they don’t want to. With so many people hanging out online, the customer base for these digital products is huge. But, more than that, the low overheads of creating something that lives on the interwebs, that requires no packaging, postal payments, or inventory checks, is a business’s idea of heaven.
Not only does the ease and accessibility of creating these kind of products mean more people are jumping on the bandwagon, it is also an incredibly scalable model – much more so than selling services, for which there are only so many hours in a day.
So, the benefits of creating a digital product and selling it online are self-explanatory, but what does the future hold for an industry that has blown up over the past few years?
Why Selling Digital Products Is Getting Harder
Selling anything is never a walk in the park. Persuading people to part with their hard-earned money isn’t easy, and that’s the same for online purchases – maybe even more so, in fact. With nothing tangible to hold at the end of buying a digital download, customers can often feel like they’ve spent money on nothing. But that’s not the point.
Even if your digital product is the most valuable thing on the planet, it’s still an uphill struggle trying to get it off those metaphorical shelves. Here’s why.
The Digital Product Industry Might Just Be Fit to Burst
Like any popular trend that catches on, the whole world and his wife wants a piece of the action – and who can blame them?
Digital products can be created by anyone with a computer and an idea, which means there have been a ton of businesses crop up in the past few years that are solely devoted to making and selling eBooks, software, online courses, videos, and anything else that can be consumed from behind a screen.
While this is great and empowering knowing that anyone and everyone can set up a business from the cupboard under their stairs if they want to, it also means that the industry is oversaturated. This makes demonstrating your value particularly difficult. Though anyone can create a digital product, it takes a great deal of time and effort to make a business out of it.
Nudging buyers to the sale usually involves more planning and explaining than for physical products.
This tends to be because digital products aren’t “real” in a can-hold-them-in-your-hands sense, so they therefore come readymade with a lower perceived value. This also isn’t helped by the fact that lots of digital products are given away for free in order to build up email lists.
Often dubbed the “freemium model”, the idea is that businesses give something of value away for free in exchange for the downloader’s email address. As a result, consumers are hesitant to buy something they can potentially get for free elsewhere.
An example of the freemium model in action
It’s a Competitive Battlefield Out There
So it’s relatively easy in the great scheme of things to create digital products because there are no overheads and it’s within everyone’s reach, which means that there are literally millions of online products out there. Cue competition.
In his book, Digital is Destroying Everything, Andrew Evans poses an interesting point. Apart from monolithic beasts like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon which are, essentially, immune to the problems smaller businesses face, digital product businesses “nearly all play a rather desperate game of one-upmanship and product positioning that often baffles” the buyer.
He touches on the freemium model, adding that small businesses are forced to play along because it’s incredibly difficult to flag the attention of consumers amongst the melee of products, and harder still to get them to part with their cash.
Digital Product Development is Time-Consuming
We mentioned before that it’s possible for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to put together a digital product, but to make something truly valuable that people actually trip over themselves to buy? That’s a different story entirely.
Creating a digital product that’s worth it takes a lot of time, effort, and foresight. There’s the planning stage, testing, creating, and then the whole marketing hoopla that follows.
Creating something high-value is no easy feat, and it’s the reason why a lot of digital product companies struggle to get their businesses off the ground – along with the heavy competition, many people think that putting a few pages of content together, prettying it up with a front cover, and slapping it up on their site is enough to start the money pouring in. What they realise very quickly is that this is nowhere near enough.
The heavily saturated industry means it’s vital to make your product the best on the market and position it in a way that showcases its benefits and makes consumers think “I can’t live without this!”.
By no means is this a way to dissuade you from the digital product industry, it’s just a warning about what you’re wading into (and wading really is the right word here).
How You Can Make Selling Digital Products Easier
So, with that in mind, let’s jump right into how you can make the whole process easier. Let’s forget about how long it takes to create the product to start with and focus on what you can do once you have it finished and ready to go. We’ll assume you’ve spent a significant amount of time and effort creating something amazing (because, why wouldn’t you?!), so let’s get to the good bit.
1. Express the Value of Your Product
You know your product is awesome, but potential customers might not.
Think about it: they see a plethora of similar products out there and assume yours is just the same. But it’s not, right? Yours is truly valuable and is worth the money it’s being sold for.
Before you even think about taking money from people, it’s important you know the value of your product and what makes it better than others like it out there. Just because your product lives online, doesn’t mean it can’t change people’s lives.
Think about how your product in particular will solve a key problem for your target audience or how their lives will be different after they’ve bought it. This is the kind of information you need to clearly express on your sales page.
It’s the information people are looking for. They don’t want to know what’s included or why your product is the best of the best of the best. They want to know how it’s going to help them.
By focusing solely on your customer and what your product can do for them, you’re putting yourself way ahead of the businesses that aren’t doing this (and there’s a lot of them out there).
2. Make the Buying Process Easy-Peasy
The hardest part of making a sale is that very last step when the consumer hands over their hard-earned cash. Because digital products aren’t tangible, people are likely to be a little more hesitant to put in their billing details, which is why it’s vital to make that step of the process incredibly safe and simple.
As well as considering the customer buying experience, like how they’ll get from simply visiting your site through to the sales page, you’ll want to make sure that, when they click that all-important “buy” button, they are in safe hands.
Providing options for payment methods is one way to make consumers feel comfortable about paying for your product, but you might also consider going a step further and offering payment solutions in their desired currency and language. Anything that helps the consumer feel good about buying your product is a win-win situation.
Selling Digital Products Can Be Incredibly Rewarding
We’ve spoken a lot about why it’s getting harder and harder to sell digital products here, but that shouldn’t hold you back. In fact, creating something that helps people is an incredibly rewarding experience, not to mention a great business model to put in place.
As long as you make sure you’re putting your customers first and ensuring your product is as valuable as it can be, you can make waves with your idea quickly and lucratively.
In Action: Digital Product Businesses That Are Rocking It
Jason and Cinnamon of Pixie Faire originally began their business selling clothing for dolls. Over time, they maxed out a USD 1,000 a month and struggled to scale their physical product business, which is when they had the idea of simply selling sewing patterns as digital downloads.
In the first month, they gave away numerous free patterns and sold eleven – a humble start. But things quickly soared, and today they’ve sold more than two million patterns and have opened up online training courses on design, pattern-making, and sewing.
Another digital brand, Mastin Labs, has also seen great success by selling digital products. The photography software company sells preset Lightroom filters that look like film photography, an idea that was born from a passion for old-fashioned photos by founder, Kirk Mastin.
To build a buzz around the brand, Mastin Labs created a Facebook community that is now home to more than 30,000 members and runs most of its marketing through the platform, including hosting Facebook Lives and running remarketing campaigns. By creating a loyal community and producing a product that taps into the nostalgia for old-fashioned film, the brand has managed to generate and maintain a 4X ROI.
These two examples aren’t unique. There are plenty of brands out there rocking the digital product model, creating software, downloads, and e-books that their audiences can’t wait to snap up. And with the promise of huge scalability, who can blame them?
Tell us, are you ready to take on the digital product world?