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 assets.
Below, we are going to dig into how you can start selling your digital products on Shopify. We will also provide you some tips you can use to increase your odds of success.
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.
The Process of establishing a Shopify account for 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:
Step One: Creating your Shopify account
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 this process.
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.
Step Two: Creating your product
Once you’ve finished putting in all of your personal information and naming your store, you can move on to creating a product. Shopify’s “Add a New 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 an existing store, select “Add a New Product” from under your products tab. All of the relevant details, images, and information about the product. Now is the time to drive home the benefits of what your product does for your consumer.
Be sure to provide them engaging reasons to buy your product such as:
- How it solves their problems
- What benefits it gives to them
- Measurable improvements to their business
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.
Step Three: 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 their system. In fact you will need to download an approved Shopify app in their app store to have this function.
Install the Digital Assets application from the Shopify app store
You will need to login into your Shopify store in a new tab or window, then go to their app store and install the 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. Its features include the following:
- Restricting customers to one IP Address
- Attaching multiple files or links to any product or variant
- Uploading and selling any file types
- Functionality with Buy Button app
- Customise email templates using HTML
- Use your own email address to deliver digital assets
- Fraud protection against chargebacks
Unlike other applications on the app store, their app works inside of Shopify’s platform, so there’s no opening the app in a new tab.
Pro tip: Due to the weak support of some browsers such as Safari and Microsoft’s Edge, we highly recommend to use 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.
Digital Assets app have a free plan with many basic features that any new starter store would need. If you require more professional features and more storage, you can upgrade to their higher tiers. This means their app is suitable for anyone starting or currently with a Shopify store.
The process is super simple, just follow these three steps:
- Upload files to the app
- Attach those files to the products
- Set your settings
Checklist to work in sync with your store
The team at Digital Assets have provided an important checklist inside their app, to ensure you are delivering files in sync with Shopify’s system. You can find it in the Support page in their app, then clicking the Details option in the yellow box.
They will cover such things as:
- Disabling the Shipping email that Shopify delivers
- Ensuring you have marked your products as digital
- Making 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.
Step Four: Test Your System
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.
To enable 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. Be sure to test everything before releasing your website for everyday use.
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 checkout this way.
Extra 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 product ideas that you can steal
If you are struggling to brainstorm some solutions, below are some different industries and ideas that you can tweak for your own needs to sell digital products on Shopify:
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 either sell the system as a single product or provide continuous updates with a monthly subscription.
Selling Digital Templates for anything
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.
The templates can cover the gambit on types of communication (like blogs or emails) or industries (industries that need buying orders, selling orders, maintenance requests). The sky is the limit, but these templates are typically full of digital assets and inexpensive.
Like 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 for you 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 a lot 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 product tax and the VAT MOSS scheme
Unfortunately over the years, companies such as Amazon have caused a storm with giovernments 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 around the world 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 of selling in each country, you need to register for the VAT MOSS one stop shop service. This is a one-stop shop for paying the VAT charge in a single transaction, then the MOSS scheme will pay to each individually country.
We highly advise you be aware of this if you reach the VAT threshold in any country.
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 wrote an article on how to come up with ideas for an online store, take a look!