TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What Is a Digital Product?
- Why Sell Digital Goods Instead of Physical Goods?
- Top 10 Best Digital Products To Sell Online in 2023
- How to Sell Digital Products in 4 Easy Steps
- Tips for Marketing Digital Products
- Where to Sell Digital Products
- Final Thoughts on Selling Digital Products
- FAQs About Digital Products
While many eCommerce businesses sell physical goods to customers, digital products are becoming increasingly popular. The eCommerce industry continues to expand its online presence across the United States—it’s estimated more than 218 million Americans will shop online in 2023 alone!Oberlo. “HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOP ONLINE IN THE US? (2020–2026)“. Accessed April 17, 2023. Whether it’s online courses, eBooks, NFTs, study guides, apps, podcasts, or any other digital good, there are billions of online consumers ready to purchase digital products.
In this guide, we explore digital products, why selling digital products can be more suitable than selling physical goods, the best digital products to sell online in 2023, and other related topics. Whether you’re starting a new eCommerce business with digital products, or you simply want more information, we’ve got you covered!
What Is a Digital Product?
A digital product is an intangible item that doesn’t require physical storage or distribution. Digital products are sold online and mostly delivered via downloads and emails. This type of product can be sold multiple times, meaning there’s no limit to how much revenue a digital product can generate. Some examples of digital products include audio files, video content, PDFs, digital art, templates, subscription services, and more.
Why Sell Digital Goods Instead of Physical Goods?
Compared to physical products, digital products are not only popular with consumers, but they’re also easier to deliver and require less investment. Likewise, they are more accessible to international audiences, as they don’t require physical shipping. Below are additional benefits of selling digital goods:
Firstly, digital products require low upfront investment costs. Meaning that you won’t have a large undertaking for the product design and sourcing process as you would when selling physical products. Additionally, as digital products are produced for online sales, you won’t need to worry about brick-and-mortar stores and other expensive investments. Although, this isn’t to say that digital products don’t require money for development. If you want to build a successful online course, software product, or any other digital good, it will always take some investment.
More Potential Profit Than Physical Goods
As digital products and services tend to have lower upfront investment costs than physical goods, they’re often more profitable. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar businesses that require substantial capital for inventory, storage, and logistics, digital products and services require minimal overhead costs. As stated earlier, there is no limit to how many people purchase one digital product, meaning there is greater potential for generating revenue. So, if you want to build an online business with high margins, digital products are an excellent idea.
One of the primary disadvantages of physical products is the significant overhead costs for businesses. Whether it’s product storage, renting a store location, or ordering additional stock, the overhead costs of physical products can quickly add up. Digital products offer a more cost-effective alternative as they do not require the same level of cost in inventory management and logistics as physical products. Additionally, digital products can be stored and distributed online, eliminating the need for physical space or a brick-and-mortar storefront.
As soon as a customer purchases an item electronically on your website, you can use paywalls, download links, and incorporate other online tools to automate product delivery. You also won’t need to worry about the logistics associated with delivering physical products. With tangible products, you must partner with shipping providers and charge fees to compensate your business for delivery-related costs. In addition, if international customers want to purchase your products, physical delivery could be challenging. With digital goods, it’s easy to deliver your products worldwide as soon as your customer makes a purchase.
Scale to a Niche Audience
By strictly offering digital products, your business has access to consumers around the world, while also providing them with complete convenience. Businesses can connect with these customers regardless of their physical location, creating opportunities for growth and expansion. Additionally, by specializing in a specific digital product, businesses can build a loyal customer base that shares common interests and values. It can be highly lucrative to cultivate a niche audience without geographic constraints.
Top 10 Best Digital Products To Sell Online in 2023
If you want to successfully sell digital products online, you’ll need to choose a product that best fits you. Here’s a list of the most common virtual products to sell online in 2023:
1. Online Courses & Educational Resources
The internet makes it easy for web users to access affordable education on numerous topics. If you have expertise in a certain subject and believe your skills will be useful to others online, virtual courses could be a great fit for you. While some online course creators post their programs on YouTube, the most profitable part of the industry is charging customers through recurring payments.
While online courses remain competitive, various tools are now available for building educational resources. For example, platforms like Coursify allow you to build an online course with branding, videos, images, curriculum, dashboards, and interactive e-learning environments.
Let’s explore some online course niches currently popular among consumers:
- Web design
- Video editing
- Fitness & training
- Music production
- Graphic design
- Creative writing
- DIY home improvement
Building online courses isn’t exclusively for individuals with rare skills and talents. Simply do your research, choose a topic, and begin developing content to build an informative course.
The 2023 eBook market was valued at more than $13.8b worldwide, making digital books a hotspot for eCommerce sellers.Statista. “eBooks – Worldwide“. Accessed April 17, 2023. You don’t need to be an experienced author to launch a successful eBook business. Many leading eBook providers publish non-fictional books such as research, how-to, and travel guides.
One of the advantages of eBooks is that they don’t require the same lengthy editing and publishing processes found in traditional book publishing. Instead, authors can write eBooks, hire an independent editor, and post eBooks directly to online platforms like Amazon, Kindle, and eBay. So, if you have a short book you want to write, simply begin writing and establish a download date!
However, eBooks aren’t the only popular book format for digital downloads. You can also create audiobooks to target a different consumer market.
3. Professional Services
While professional services don’t fall into the traditional “product” range, they’re still a useful way to make money online. It’s easy to sell professional services digitally, meaning you’ll benefit from the same low investment requirements as digital products. So, what type of professional services can you provide to your customers? Here are some popular ones:
- Web design
- Press releases
- Graphic design
- Book cover design
- Ad writing & design
The key to keeping digital services as simple as possible is to ensure you have set prices and expectations. For example, if you are selling translation services, make sure to quote your customers on a per-word or per-document basis. This ensures you can sell services in a similar fashion to digital products.
4. Photography, Digital Art, and NFTs
Photography and digital art remain popular amongst consumers, including businesses seeking photo licensing rights and individuals with an interest in collecting digital artwork. If you have a catalog of photos you believe someone may want to license, plenty of online marketplaces are available to help out with distribution. For example, Shuttershock pays you when users download your photos from their platform. However, in order to cut out the middleman and distribute your photos independently, you can use an eCommerce platform to sell image downloads online.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are digital products that cannot be replicated due to their recording on a blockchain, have proven extremely popular in the recent crypto craze. While NFT prices have crashed in recent months, the industry continues to show substantial promise for those interested in a digital future. NFTs are suitable for digital art, digital property, and a range of other use cases.
5. Video Content
While most web users think of YouTube when they hear the term “video content,” there are plenty of entrepreneurs making money selling online videos directly to consumers. Whether it’s documentaries or how-to videos, selling directly to web users can create more consistent revenue than YouTube’s ad-based model.
Although producing video content may be challenging if you have little experience in the industry, you don’t need much to get started. With an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy camera, it’s easy to produce high-quality content. In fact, Unsane—a film directed by Steven Soderbergh that generated more than $14 million at the box office—was shot using an iPhone 7 Plus!The National News. “Steven Soderbergh on ‘Unsane’ – his new film shot entirely with an iPhone“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
Once you complete your video content production, it’s time to set up a website and begin marketing your product. With leading eCommerce platforms, it’s easy to place your video content behind a paywall and request payment from web visitors for access.
6. Coaching Services and Subscriptions
While many people associate coaching with fitness training, it’s possible to develop coaching plans for various purposes. Whether it’s professional, fitness, goal-oriented, or cognitive coaching, there are several people ready to take advantage of your content.
If you’re looking to sell coaching services as a digital product, creating a coaching program or plan makes the processes easier. For example, if you want to create a fitness regimen designed explicitly for getting high school soccer players in shape for a new season, you may create a four-week training plan with cardio work, strength work, and dieting information. Some coaches choose to develop digital documents, while others may opt to develop an app or website for a more interactive experience.
7. Audio, Music, and Podcasts
While much of the music world has moved toward streaming platforms, there is still space to sell audio files online. While it may be challenging to convince listeners to pay for your music, direct sales can be lucrative if you develop a loyal following.
However, traditional music artists aren’t the only ones selling audio files online. If you want to create audio excerpts for commercial use, there’s plenty of demand for unique sounds. There is also a significant market for licensing digital audio files to businesses around the world.
Podcasts are a large hub for digital products. With more than 120 million podcast listeners in the USA alone, it’s hard to ignore how popular this form of digital media has grown.Buzzsprout. “Podcast Statistics and Data [October 2022]“. Accessed April 17, 2023. Whether you want to record yourself and your friends talking about sports or produce a single-person podcast, the possibilities are endless.
Many podcasts are free for listeners and operate a business model focused on generating ad revenue. However, using Patreon and other membership websites to place your podcast behind a paywall may be the best option if you want to develop a reliable revenue stream from your following!
8. Subscriptions & Memberships
There’s no shortage of unique ideas when starting a subscription business. Whether you’re providing access to a personal training website with workout videos and recipes, or a subscription to a newsletter, there are countless options. Many online platforms like Patreon, Shopify, Recurly, and more are making it simple to build subscription businesses via the Internet.
Subscription-based businesses require more work than other digital products, as you must continue providing value to your customers in order to prevent cancellations. However, if you create a reliable stream of content for your subscribers, you can expect lucrative long-term relationships. Here are some digital subscription and membership business ideas:
- Support groups
- Book clubs
- Resources (online file libraries)
9. Printables, Digital Downloads, and Tickets
Printables aren’t digital, but they can be sold as digital downloads. If you have a unique idea for a printable product such as a desk planner, coloring book, or shopping list template, there’s certainly a marketplace of people willing to pay for your goods.
With printable digital downloads, you’ll never send your customers a physical product. Instead, they’ll download it and print it themselves, taking the hassle out of the distribution process for you. Let’s explore some unique printable ideas below:
- Shopping list templates
- Scrapbook elements
- Arts and crafts
- Coloring pages
During the Covid-19 pandemic, online events such as comedy shows, concerts, and lectures became increasingly popular. Selling digital tickets to virtual events is an excellent way to generate an online audience. However, many businesses selling tickets online also host in-person events, so this may not be a fully digital solution for you.
10. Software, Games, and Apps
Lastly, software and games play a huge role in our economy. If you have a software or game idea, developing it can be very profitable. Nonetheless, this is one of the more challenging ideas on our list.
If you want to develop a software product or game, you will need coding experience or access to a developer team. Some entrepreneurs without a technical background choose to work with tech incubators and other coding companies to develop new products.
However, distributing software and games is much simpler. Whether you’re selling a game on an app store or selling software downloads via an eCommerce website, there are plenty of avenues available to entrepreneurs who are trading software and games online.
In 2023, mobile apps are expected to generate more than $900 billion worldwide, making this space a lucrative area for digital business owners.BuildFire. “Mobile App Download Statistics & Usage Statistics (2022)“. Accessed April 17, 2023. While developing an app might be challenging for an entrepreneur with limited technical experience, there are thousands of app developers available for hire online.
If you have an idea for an app, consider working with an app development company to build a new product. While apps are more capital-intensive than other business ideas in this guide, the profit upside can be extraordinary.
How to Sell Digital Products in 4 Easy Steps
Selling digital products online has never been easier and you don’t need a tech background to enter the market. Let’s explore four simple steps to begin selling your digital products:
Step 1: Choose a digital product or service
The first step in selling digital goods is choosing an excellent product. Identify the product or service you’d like to offer your customers. (The top ten list in the previous section is a good starting point for product research). While selling multiple products and services may be tempting, pursuing a single product when you first begin, can help you focus on generating sales.
As the digital product space remains competitive, choosing a product category with room for a new business is crucial. This may involve entering a niche that isn’t oversaturated or developing a product with enough variation to attract new attention in the market.
Step 2. Create an online store
Next, create an online store to make it easy for customers to purchase your digital products. You’ll need to establish a merchant account first, as you can’t process card payments without one. Once that’s done, you can choose a compatible eCommerce platform. Fortunately, many platforms such as Big Commerce, Click Funnels, and Shopify make it simple to sell digital products online via a sleek, modern website. You don’t need prior web experience to use these popular web builders, and many offer pre-existing templates, drag-and-drop design features, and custom color schemes!
Step 3: Add your products and customize store settings
Next, it’s time to add your digital products and customize your store settings. Most website builders make it simple to upload an entire catalog at once if you have multiple products.
Your store settings ensure you are only paying customers who gain access to your products. However, store settings will vary depending on the type of product you’re selling and the web platform hosting your store—so make sure to explore their specific setup instructions.
Step 4: Invest in marketing your digital products
Lastly, it’s time to begin marketing your products. If you want your digital goods to sell, you’ll need to generate consumer awareness. Fortunately, many avenues exist for marketing digital products—including social media, PPC ads, SEO, giveaways, influencer marketing, and more. We’ll explore some in-depth tips in the section below.
Tips for Marketing Digital Products
Developing a marketing strategy is critical regardless of the product you choose to sell. Until you develop brand recognition in your industry, you won’t be able to attract customers without using marketing channels. Let’s explore some marketing tips for digital products below:
Use social media to promote your digital goods
Social media marketing remains the hotbed for connecting with customers globally. With social media users accessing their accounts for more than two hours per day on average, there’s plenty of time to get your products in front of them.Smart Insights. “Global social media statistics research summary 2022“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
Businesses can build social media profiles on leading platforms for free. Opening accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and other channels is an excellent way to begin developing an audience. It’s simple to link to your website or online store directly to your social media account.
Invest in PPC advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a form of digital marketing popular on Google and other leading social media platforms. With PPC advertising, you’ll only pay a commission on ads if a web user clicks on your advertisement. Unlike old forms of marketing such as radio ads and billboards, PPC advertising ensures you only pay for user engagement.
Likewise, Google and social media platforms have large amounts of user data, making it easy to pinpoint customers who are likely interested in your products. You can segment markets, targeting users by interests, age, gender, and other factors. If you understand your target market, PPC advertising can be a handy tool.
Invest in search engine optimization for your website
If you want to increase organic traffic to your website, you need to improve its position on search engine results. The higher your website features on a search result, the more likely it is to receive visitors. Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the practice of optimizing your website for search engine algorithms. By incorporating the correct design, content, and other website features, your business can improve its chances of ranking high in search results for keywords relevant to your products.
There are many SEO agencies dedicated to helping business owners improve their search engine performance. Let’s explore tips for improving search engine results:
- Generate routine, keyword-rich content and make sure it’s valuable to web users.
- Improve your page speed by upgrading your web host or optimizing your website’s content.
- Make your website easy to navigate, ensuring web visitors don’t leave your site out of confusion.
- Make sure your content’s format is suitable enough to obtain featured snippets.
- Link to other pages on your website in your content.
- Include links to external sources in your content.
Use a lead magnet
A lead magnet refers to an item or service offered to a web visitor to entice an exchange of information. For example, offering a free eBook to customers in exchange for their name and email address. This process allows you to provide value to web visitors and generate an emailing list, which can be useful for future marketing operations.
Consider email marketing
Email marketing remains a powerful tool for many online businesses in the digital product space. Collecting emails from lead magnets and other sources will help you target individuals who are potentially interested in your products. Likewise, retaining emails from current customers will allow your business to send them product updates and offers. There are many email marketing platforms that make it easy to develop sleek emails and manage large marketing campaigns, making it easier than ever to send out mass emails!
Use a giveaway
Whether your online business just opened its doors, or you’re a veteran in the eCommerce space, using a giveaway may help you increase user engagement and build brand recognition online. Many businesses offer free products and services via social media giveaways. By asking people on social platforms to tag friends and follow your account in exchange for the chance to win free stuff, you can quickly generate attention for your products.
Where to Sell Digital Products
Once you choose a digital product and develop a marketing strategy, it’s time to choose a platform for sales. In many cases, an omnichannel approach to selling is the best option for targeting the widest market. However, if you have limited resources and time, focusing on one particular platform before you expand may be the best choice.
Below, let’s explore some of the top locations for selling digital products:
Create Your Own Website
Creating a website allows your business to control its online space. With a custom website, you can incorporate an online store and a tailored checkout process by solely using your business’s branding. Fortunately, you no longer need to be an expert web designer to build an online site. There are plenty of easy-to-use web builders with which business owners lacking tech experience can create professional websites. Some popular website builders include WordPress, BigCommerce, Chargify, and Shopify.
Alternatively, if your business has the budget, hiring a professional web developer to build a custom website for your eCommerce store is useful.
Use Online Marketplaces
Various online marketplaces are making it simple to sell digital products directly to consumers worldwide. For example, both eBay and Amazon allow merchants to sell digital products via their online platforms. Additionally, your business can use Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, and other social media avenues to sell digital products to customers!
Sell Courses Through an Online Course Provider
If you’re interested in selling online courses, various online course providers are acting as marketplaces for digital businesses. With these online providers, you can submit your course to a virtual library, where consumers can browse to find courses relevant to their interests. Let’s check out some examples of online course providers that allow third-party businesses to host courses:
Sell on a Membership Platform
Lastly, a membership platform might be the most suitable option for you if you’re looking to sell access to content, documents, newsletters, or other digital products. Membership platforms allow customers to pay businesses subscription fees to access content behind a paywall. In many cases, businesses also have multiple subscription tiers, allowing customers to pay higher fees to access additional content.
Here are some of the popular membership platforms currently available:
- Buy Me a Coffee
A couple of these online membership platforms have been extremely successful in recent years. One example is Substack, which allows its users to charge customers for access to newsletters. The company had more than one million paid subscribers on its platform by November 2021, proving the power of membership sales.Sell Courses Online. “30+ Top Substack Statistics 2022: Newsletters, Earnings & More“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
Final Thoughts on Selling Digital Products
The digital product space can be extremely lucrative while providing convenience and ease to both merchants and customers. Although, as previously mentioned, this convenience comes with a price. Online businesses are known for having higher credit card processing fees because of their increased exposure to chargebacks and fraud. So, no matter what type of digital product you choose to sell online, it’s essential to use an online payment solution provider that can provide you with the most affordable rates along with the best chargeback protection tools.
FAQs About Digital Products
What types of digital products are in high demand?
Many digital products are currently in high demand, as outlined in our top ten list of digital products to sell online in 2023. Below, let’s explore the top five:
- Digital art
- Coaching services
- Online courses
- Software and games
Can I sell digital products on Facebook and Instagram?
Currently, selling digital products on Facebook and Instagram isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. You must link to an outside sales page to sell your products.
How do I create a digital product?
The digital product creation process varies significantly depending on the type of product your business develops. For example, if you want to build an online course, many online platforms are making it easy to generate sleek, informative courses. On the other hand, if you want to sell digital art, you will need design software to begin creating digital images and paintings.
What are the most profitable digital products?
The most profitable digital products are those with low upfront investments and strong sales potential. These niches include online courses, software, games, eBooks, printables, digital downloads, etc.
- Oberlo. “HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOP ONLINE IN THE US? (2020–2026)“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
- Statista. “eBooks – Worldwide“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
- The National News. “Steven Soderbergh on ‘Unsane’ – his new film shot entirely with an iPhone“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
- Buzzsprout. “Podcast Statistics and Data [October 2022]“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
- BuildFire. “Mobile App Download Statistics & Usage Statistics (2022)“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
- Smart Insights. “Global social media statistics research summary 2022“. Accessed April 17, 2023.
- Sell Courses Online. “30+ Top Substack Statistics 2022: Newsletters, Earnings & More“. Accessed April 17, 2023.