Digital Product Sales and the Virtual Shopping Cart

If you want to sell your own digital download products online, you will, at some point need to invest in a virtual or digital shopping cart. Rather than creating “buy now” buttons one at a time, digital shopping cart software empowers you to manage and sell an entire inventory of digital – and physical – products for sale over the Web. You can even connect them to a drop-ship or print-on-demand vendor, thus automating the physical sales process.

At first, when you only have one or two downloadable products, it can work just fine to create individual “buy now” buttons through a service such as PayPal. But, as your business evolves and grows, and your catalog of products expands, you’ll actually shoot yourself in the foot if you continue to do this.

Why? Let me give you some reasons.

  • It will become more and more difficult to manage your inventory and update pricing.
  • You’ll lose sales when customers get frustrated with having to go through the sales process several times when they want to purchase several products.
  • You’ll limit your back-end marketing opportunities and leave money on the table.

So, if you want to increase your digital product sales, you’ll want to invest in a shopping cart system of some kind. And there are two basic types: hosted and self-hosted.

In most cases a hosted virtual shopping cart requires a monthly maintenance fee. They many even offer a tiered payment system where the more transactions (or customers) you have per month, the more you pay per month. This gives you the opportunity to start small and grow. But, you always need to keep in mind the monthly fee when you think about operating costs.

With a self-hosted digital shopping cart, you usually pay a one-time fee and then upload the software to your server. Sometimes the software will come with ongoing technical support, sometime not. Sometimes technical support is included as a part of your license fee, sometimes you’ll need to pay for this service on an annual or monthly basis.

The pros of going with a hosted option are that you don’t really need to think about maintenance … that is all taken care of. You just need to learn how to use the system and there you go. However, the cons include reduced branding ability in some systems, and the monthly fees can get quite high.

The pros of going with a self-hosted option are that you usually have a lot more flexibility in creating the look and feel of the cart, thus branding the customer experience. The cons are that you may need (or want) to pay for future upgrades and, sometimes, technical support.

You should look at all the features and benefits of each option and choose the one that works best for you business model. Also keep in mind the flexibility of changing your business model in the future. Will the virtual shopping cart you choose change with you?