Last updated on 13 September 2022
Shopify is the great leveller of the eCommerce game. Anyone can start selling products on this platform, making it pretty easy to create. However, many people assume Shopify is only for selling physical products. So, can you sell digital products on Shopify?
Yes. Shopify allows you to click a checkbox indicating you are selling a service or digital product. To sell a digital product, you will need to provide a link to those digital products using the Downloadable Digital Assets app.
If you have a Shopify store set up already, please install this app to continue through the tutorial.
Below, we are going to dig into how you can start selling your digital products on Shopify. We will also provide you with some tips you can use to increase your odds of success.
Please go to this tutorial if you are selling large digital files.
Can you sell digital products on Shopify?
Yes, you can sell digital products on Shopify. It’s the easiest and most efficient platform for selling them. Shopify is currently the best ecommerce platform in the world and for good reason. The wide range of compatibility with top-level tech companies is unreal. The reasons why Shopify is the favourite:
- Fast CDNs (content delivery networks)
- All-in-one platform
- Easiest platform to use for anyone
- Set up a store within a couple of hours
- Brilliant app store with thousands of tech companies
- Best payment integrations with fraud protection
- The safest system against hacks & threats
What is a digital product exactly?
A digital product is essentially a valuable digital asset that can be sold. Digital products include such things as – Software, Applications, eBooks, videos, photography, PDFs, Zip files, and much more. Read more about what is a digital product here.
The advantages of selling Digital Products
A digital product business has a few key advantages over physical items. If you want to start a business with digital content, here are a few advantages:
- You can start a digital product store using Shopify
- You save money on overhead costs when you have no physical product
- You don’t have to continue making products, saving you money
- You can create an automated business selling the right digital products
- You can offer free digital products to grow a subscriber’s list of potential customers
Because there are limited barriers to entry, anybody can start a digital business. Anyone refers to your competition as well. You also run the risk of dealing with piracy.
Software updates to digital products are also typically easier to manage. However, there is a chance that someone else might be offering your product for free.
Your product needs to provide value beyond any alternatives. Specifically, they need to have a value proposition that outdoes both paid and free competition.
But before you do that, you have to set up your Shopify account, so it is ready for digital goods.
How to start selling digital products
If you want to be one of those online stores that offer digital downloads, you can start by creating a standard Shopify account.
Like other website builders (such as WordPress), a good portion of your beginning process involves choosing a suitable theme and placing an engaging copy. To start to sell digital products on Shopify, follow these steps for account creation:
1. Sign up to Shopify
Shopify allows you a 14-day free trial to “try on the pants”. You should spend those 14 days building your store using a variety of pre-made themes. It would be best if you also had the following areas ready before you start any subscriptions:
- A business idea, name, and logo
- A complete digital product that is ready to sell
- Photos that might be of the product in use (you can also include a few stock photos if appropriate)
If you don’t have any of these ready, brainstorm some ideas with friends. You can also gain inspiration from your competition. Shopify will walk you through most of the process to start an online store.
Pro tip: We have tested tons of themes, our favourite free theme is Debut and our favourite paid theme is Prestige. These both run super fast and have great features for their price.
2. Create your product
To create a product in Shopify, go to:
- Your Shopify dashboard
- Go to the “Products” page
- Click the “Add product” button
Shopify’s “Add product” button should be located right in the middle of your dashboard if you do not have any pre-existing products. If you already have products, you can follow the next step.
When creating a new product, be sure to provide them with engaging reasons to buy your product such as:
- How it solves their problems
- What benefits does it give to them
- Measurable improvements to their business
Important – Mark the product as digital
This page also contains a check box under the shipping section of your page. Be sure that the “This is a physical product” box is unchecked. Otherwise, it will assume you will ship a physical product to them and ship tracking emails.
3. Setting up your store for Digital Product delivery
When people complete a digital order, it typically creates a few scenarios:
- They will be able to download the product from the order status screen
- They will receive an email with a link to their digital download
- Customers will have access to their downloads in their customer accounts
To deliver digital products to your customers, Shopify doesn’t have this function built into its system. In fact, you will need to download an approved Shopify app in their app store to have this function.
Install the “Downloadable Digital Assets” app from the Shopify app store
The reasons why we use this app:
- Got the best file protection features to stop copyright & sharing
- The fastest download speeds possible by using high-grade servers
- Add download links to customer accounts
- Fully customise the styling to fit your brand
- 24/7 Support
- Shopify app store staff picked for digital product stores
- Unique fraud protection features
- Set release dates for digital files
You will need to login into your Shopify store in a new tab or window, then go to their app store and install the Downloadable Digital Assets Application.
This is the most secure and proven app by Shopify’s staff and our team of Shopify experts. We’ve put this app through its paces and it really works wonders.
Features you will get:
- Restricting customers to a number of IP addresses
- PDF Stamping to protect copyright
- Set pre-order release dates for digital downloads
- Attaching multiple files or links to any product/variant
- Upload and sell any file type or size
- Functionality with the “Buy Button” app
- Customise email templates
- Use your own email address to deliver digital assets
- Fraud protection against chargebacks
Pro tip: Due to the weak support of some browsers such as Safari and Microsoft’s Edge, we highly recommend using Google Chrome for Shopify. Chrome is built with developers and web apps in mind, which ensures any online store, web design and web app works smoothly.
Free plan available. Paid plans are available with more features. See pricing tables here.
The process & how to set up your digital files
The process is super simple. The products are automatically synced from Shopify. All you need to do is follow these three steps:
- Upload files to the app
- Attach those files to the Shopify products
- Customize your settings
Follow this checklist
The team at Digital Assets have provided an important checklist to ensure you are delivering files correctly with Shopify’s system.
They will cover such things as:
- Disabling the Shipping email that Shopify delivers
- Ensuring you have marked your products as digital
- Make sure you capture emails with every order so the files can be delivered
- Attaching the files to variants
Following this checklist will ensure your digital products will be delivered without any complications.
4. Test your workflow
The last (and possibly most important) step is running a test to be sure everything works. Placing a test order will send your intangible assets to a personal email.
You can handle this by running Shopify Payments through test mode or following our guide on how to do test orders on Shopify.
To enable Shopify Payments test mode for your system, follow these steps:
- Go to Shopify Settings
- Select payments
- Select manage under the Shopify payments section
- Scroll until you see the test mode section
- Check “enable test mode”
- Save your changes
When entering card details, use anything available on their test card list that you can find here. The list also includes testing scenarios for various “failed transaction” methods.
Of course, if you already have your store established and running, then you wouldn’t want to enable a test mode. You will need to create a 100% discount code, then go through the check out this way.
Top tips for Digital Products stores
Below are some tips you can take into consideration when starting your online store:
- When performing research, ask yourself about the pain points of your target audience. Find out their problems and ask yourself how you can make them more manageable.
- Create products that bring communities together. Consider hosting a blog or online forum that allows them to discuss your industry.
- Join another industry page (like on Reddit or through Facebook Groups) to see what people are most concerned with.
- Look under Google Trends and do some keyword research to be sure you can make a profit on it.
- Start with a single product and consider complementary products down the road.
Digital products you can sell
If you are struggling to brainstorm solutions, I have listed below some different ideas. Alternatively, you can check out our more detailed article about more digital product ideas:
E-Learning expects to have almost $380 billion by 2026. The intense growth rate comes on the heels of a realization that we can do things from home.
Think about skills that you have to share with other people. Take those skills and apply them to a course. You can sell the system as a single product or provide continuous updates with a monthly subscription.
Whether it be blogs, emails, or newsletters, people are always looking for ways to make their system easier. Templates provide people with a wide variety of ways to sell their products.
- Video editing templates
- Photoshop project templates
- Title templates
- Color templates
- Business plan templates
- Graphic templates
- Music stem templates
- All Courses
- Website themes
The templates can cover the gambit of types of communication (like blogs or emails) or industries (industries that need buying orders, selling orders, and maintenance requests). The sky is the limit, but these templates are typically full of digital assets and inexpensive.
If Spotify eCommerce was a thing, you can use Shopify to provide music as a reseller or for your band. You can also do both, and it’s an excellent way to market your brand across a wide area efficiently.
Just be aware that piracy is thin, so be sure to protect your music if you want to earn money for those plays.
Are you a talented photographer? As digital agencies continue to grow, now is a great time to sell your photos for commercial and personal use.
Photos are also easier to protect with watermarks from people who should not be downloading them. However, most customers won’t appreciate a watermark if they bought the photo from you.
Graphics design services
Another unique digital asset comes from offering services. In being a graphic designer, your initial “order complete” email should contain additional instructions to provide requests.
You’ll want your customer to be specific with their needs during this. Miscommunication often leads to demanded refunds. It’s better to be too detailed rather than leave something to the imagination.
Digital goods tax & the VAT OSS scheme
Please see our guide on setting up Digital Goods VAT tax in Shopify for digital products.
Unfortunately over the years, companies such as Amazon have caused a storm with governments around the world avoiding the payment of VAT. When they began selling ebooks, they were known for locating their company in a VAT-free country, then selling to customers worldwide without paying VAT.
Later came a new law where companies selling digital goods now have to pay VAT in the country the customer is based in. This has of course caused many issues with small businesses, thanks to the fortune 500 companies.
You will need to be aware that once you hit the VAT threshold for selling in each country, you need to register for the VAT OSS one-stop-shop service. This is a one-stop-shop for paying the VAT charge in a single transaction, then the OSS scheme will pay to each individual country.
We highly advise you to be aware of this if you reach the VAT threshold in any country.
FAQ for digital products
Does Shopify let me sell digital products?
Yes, Shopify is one of the best platforms to sell digital products. Get a Shopify store and install the Downloadable Digital Assets app from the app store. Shopify experts created it.
What is the best digital products app for Shopify?
The best one to use is built by Shopify experts called “Downloadable Digital Assets”. It features the best protection features to prevent customers from sharing digital files without permission.
Can I sell any digital file type on Shopify?
Yes, you can upload and sell any file type using the Downloadable Digital Assets app on your Shopify store.
What are the best digital products to sell?
We have a huge list of profitable digital products here, but in short, best-selling digital products range from PDF eBooks, Courses and Media.
While digital products are the king of the “ease of distribution” battle, that doesn’t discount you from providing something of value. Remember that others are more than willing to offer similar products for free, so ensure that your digital product outperforms on all fronts.
Thankfully, Shopify’s system makes it easy to distribute these products. With some changes in the settings, it’s not too different from managing a physical store. The difference? You don’t have to worry about inventory and storage costs.
If you want some extra Shopify tips, here’s how you can improve your Shopify SEO. Or if you are selling a product that you created with someone else, then you can learn how to split profits automatically. You can even learn which Shopify page builder apps are the best. We have even written an article on how to come up with ideas for an online store, take a look!