Last updated on 21 September 2022
WordPress powers about 15% of the world’s top websites. Because of this, you could probably imagine them to be pretty good at eCommerce? Well, what if it is digital. So, can you sell digital products on WordPress?
The short answer: Yes. WordPress has a wide range of plugins that help you sell digital products. All you need to do is download them to your WordPress website.
Below, I’ll go through what you need to do to set up WordPress for digital eCommerce. I’ll also tell you about some alternative options.
How to sell digital products on WordPress
This guide assumes you are going to use WordPress.org. The “org” version of WordPress is much more powerful and free. You can still follow these steps with WordPress.com, but you’ll limit your ability to expand in the future.
Step 1: Get your website ready if you haven’t
To access WordPress.org, you’ll need to find a good hosting plan. Here are some of the more popular ones:
If you want to play with the system before you purchase a hosting plan, WordPress.com is free. However, you won’t be able to use most of the powerful features with WordPress.org.
You’ll need to install WordPress through your host’s process first. Typically, this is part of your first website. From there, you’ll want to click on your domain and find a link to your WP dashboard. The “edit website” button you see above is where you find it on Hostinger.
Your WP dashboard will look like this:
Assuming you’ve already gone through the test phase, you’ll want to select a website theme and start getting some web content down. You can choose a free theme on the marketplace or get an advanced editor like Elementor.
Once you have a theme, write out some content for the website. For this exercise, we assume you are a yoga guru who sells eBooks on life advice.
Step 2: Get the digital downloads delivery app
My recommendation – easiest/best option
Use Shopify as your backend eCommerce solution using the Downloadable Digital Assets app and the Buy Button.
Shopify has incredible eCommerce features such as multi-currency support, international pricing, the best checkout system for conversion rate, and a lot more. There is a reason why it’s the best eCommerce platform.
1. Sign up & install the free apps
- You will need to sign up for Shopify (costs a small amount, check pricing here)
- Install the “Buy Button” app (it’s free)
- Install the “Downloadable Digital Assets” app (it’s free)
2. Create your products & upload your files
- Create your products on the Shopify Products page
- Open the “Downloadable Digital Assets” app, then go to the Assets page and upload your digital files
- Link your assets to the Shopify products that you created
3. Create the buy buttons
- Open the “Buy Button” app
- Follow the steps to assign the Buy Button to your products
- Place the Buy Button code into your WordPress pages
From the screenshot above, you’ll be able to see a section for WordPress plugins. Hovering over it on the right side, you’ll want to click “Add new.”
From there, you’ll want to search “eCommerce”, you should see a screen like this:
You can use many plugins to see your site up for digital downloads. Here are some:
- WP eCommerce
- Shopping Cart & eCommerce Store
If you get WooCommerce, you might also want to get one of the “Digital goods” plugins that come with the platform. Also, many of these plugins are free unless you seek advanced features.
The problem I found with these apps is that they are not the best checkout solutions. You will need to add a bunch more plugins to make it work, which just clutters up and slows down your website. But using Shopify’s system in our method above keeps everything simple, fast and top quality.
The problem with systems like Ecwid and WooCommerce is that you often need to pay extra to sell digital goods. Typically, these services cost about $15 a month, and you don’t get anywhere near as much for that price compared to Shopify.
Step 3: Test the workflow
Using the Shopify integration method
Now you can test the Shopify checkout from your WordPress site. You will want to:
- Create a 100% discount code in Shopify
- Go to your site and click the Buy Button or Add To Cart button
- Enter your discount code and watch how the digital downloads get delivered
- Remember to adjust the settings in Downloadable Digital Assets to suit your style. You can even add the download links to the checkout thankyou pages!
You can see more details and information on making a test order on Shopify here.
Using the other methods
Sites like WooCommerce and Ecwid have relatively simple editing platforms. However, WP is constantly updating to the latest version. So you’ll want to ensure that your store is rated for upgraded versions of WordPress.
To handle this issue, you can disable automatic updates until you are sure your plugins are ready. Often, supported plugins do not take much time to stay up-to-date with the latest systems.
If you are still struggling to find digital products to sell, take this time to look at how other people are doing it.
Is WordPress good for eCommerce?
Is WordPress the best way to sell digital products? The short answer: WordPress can be pretty good. But it isn’t the best platform.
WordPress is pretty easy to manage beyond the technical backend. Its ability to integrate with multiple plugins is impressive.
WordPress is only suitable for eCommerce in how other platforms give it that ability. Without WooCommerce and similar shops, WordPress couldn’t do what it does.
Also, the tendency to have to double-check your store version against your WP version can be a bit of a headache. WP has run into some “game-breaking” updates in the past.
Shopify vs. WordPress – A Quick Review
The best alternative to WordPress when it comes to eCommerce is Shopify. In a battle of WordPress vs. Shopify, Shopify is built for simplicity. Because it comes out of the gate as an eCommerce platform, it is easier to work with.
Shopify relies on a solid backend of third-party plugins built for eCommerce. Because of the specialization of the platform, there is more stability. You typically have fewer site-breaking bugs.
Shopify doesn’t worry about self-management quite as WP does. So if you are tech-savvy, WP can be better if you know how to manage your hosts and plugins. However, without a web developer on hand, Shopify is an easy winner.
How to use Shopify for digital downloads
The best way to use Shopify as a digital platform is through Downloadable Digital Assets. The plugin installation and management are easy. You’ll also find that the system starts free and low cost, enabling you to scale it with your business.
You’ll also find these systems built for digital files, focusing on ways to prevent file theft. Downloadable Digital Assets integrates easily with Shopify’s anti-theft system.