Selling Digital Goods Online

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There’s a realization that every freelance designer must go through at some point: client work isn’t enough to ensure your long-term financial security. What if you get sick? What if you can’t find clients? What if you want to take a vacation?

One possible answer to this problem is earning passive income — i.e. selling products or services instead of selling your own time. A common way to do this is to sell digital goods such as eBooks, PSD templates, WordPress themes, icons, and so on. But how exactly should you sell them?

Although there are lots of marketplaces for selling digital goods, they often take a big cut of the profits. What’s more, they don’t let you customize the sales page, or let you use your own brand. This is where digital goods services come in. These services only take care of the payment, file storage, and download, and let you do the rest. This means you can easily sell your products from your own website, or through social networks.

I recently wrote an eBook about UI design and needed to find a way to sell it, so I compared five such services: Quixly7567625781, FetchApp77686358172, Pulley78696459313, E-junkie79414, and Gumroad74716661525. I’ll tell you which one I picked at the end… but in the meantime, here are the results of my research.

How Does This Work?

First of all, let’s see how those systems actually work. Simply said, all these services let you upload some files, provide you with a link that you put on your site, and take care of the rest. The customer flow usually looks something like this:

  1. Alice clicks the “Buy” button on your website
  2. Alice briefly goes through the digital goods website, and is automatically redirected to the payment processor
  3. Alice pays for your product with Paypal, Google Checkout, etc.
  4. Alice is then redirected to the digital goods service, where she can download the product

Payment Processors

Let’s take a moment to look at that second step. Most digital goods services do not deal with the big credit card companies directly, but instead go through payment processors such as Paypal or Google Checkout.

This means that you need to take into account the additional fees charged by these companies (the standard fee for both service is a 2.9% charge plus a $0.30 fixed fee per transaction). The only service which does notgo through a payment processor is Gumroad, meaning it lets customers pay right there on Gumroad. Now that we have a basic understanding of how things work, let’s take a look at each service.

Quixly

Quixly6
Large view7.

Quixly7567625781 is the brainchild of the tireless Drew Wilson9, who’s also the man behind BuildItWith.me10, Pictos11, and many other projects.

FetchApp

Fetch App15
Large view16.

FetchApp77686358172 was originally — and still is — a Shopify272118 app (in fact, the first ever!) but has since taken a life of its own. According to FetchApp’s Mike Larkin, it’s “simple enough to be used to sell a single product, but large enough to also accommodate record labels selling hundreds of tracks”.

Pulley

Pulley29
Large view30.

Pulley78696459313 is an offshoot of BigCartel32; a hosted shopping cart system similar to Shopify.

E-junkie

E-junkie39
Large view40.

E-junkie79414 has been around for quite a while, and it shows in its homepage and dashboard’s design. But it’s also the most full-featured service by far.

Gumroad

Gumroad50
Large view51.

Gumroad74716661525 is a relative newcomer in this field, but has been generating a lot of buzz. Unlike the other systems, it doesn’t have a monthly fee, and instead charges a fixed cost plus a percentage on each transaction.

What’s more, Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia points out that his service is the only one to deal with credit card companies directly: “everyone else uses PayPal as their main processor or sole processor. This means that they’re just making PayPal bigger, and will never own the entire experience.”

This is a strong argument in Gumroad’s favor, since having to deal with less intermediaries is always better. And this means Gumroad works even in countries where Paypal isn’t available, such as Serbia or Pakistan.

  • Supported payment processors: credit card
  • Used by: 39Argyle53, others
  • Pros: no monthly fees; supports credit cards; works in countries where Paypal doesn’t (Serbia, Pakistan, etc.)
  • Cons: expensive for cheaper, high-volume products
  • Special feature: pays you all of your profits at the end of the month

Other Options

Of course, there are a lot of other options, such as Payloadz54, Digital Delivery55, and one of Paypal’s many confusing services56. But I decided to focus on these five because they seem to be the most commonly used among Web designers. Hopefully this article will give you the tools to evaluate other options by yourself if you need to.

Pricing

FetchApp, Pulley, Quixly, and E-junkie all work the same way — they have pricing tiers corresponding to file sizes (and sometimes the total number of files you’re selling), but all have unlimited bandwidth.

Note that Quixly has relatively cheaper pricing tiers (free, $10 / month, and $30 / month), but charges $0.40 extra per GB of bandwidth when over the limit for each tier.

On top of this, all four services require a payment processor, which charges its own fee (usually 2.9% + $0.30).

On the other hand, Gumroad’s pricing model is completely different. Instead of charging a fixed monthly fee, Gumroad takes a fixed fee ($0.30) plus a percentage (5%) for each sale. It’s important to point out that Gumroad does not charge Paypal’s 2.9%, even when it’s time to transfer your earnings to your Paypal account.

For this comparison, I’ll imagine three use cases and then see which service works best for each of them.

Use Case #1: Selling A Short eBook

Let’s say we’re selling a short eBook for $10. The file is pretty light, let’s say 9MB, and we sell 100 a month, using up 900MB of bandwidth, earning a total of $1000.

Website Monthly Fee Bandwidth Costs Percent Charge Fixed Fee Total
Quixly7567625781 $0 $0.40 $29 $30 $59.40
FetchApp77686358172 $5 unlimited $29 $30 $64
Pulley78696459313 $6 unlimited $29 $30 $65
E-junkie706560 $5 unlimited $29 $30 $64
Gumroad74716661525 - unlimited $50 $30 $80

Quixly is the cheapest option, since we’re within the limits of its free plan. Although FetchApp also has a free plan, it’s only for files up to 1MB. So for small files, Quixly comes out ahead unless you really plan to use up a ton of bandwidth.

And what about Gumroad? Well, since they charge you extra for each sale, it doesn’t make sense to use them in this case unless you know you’re only going to sell your product a couple of times.

Use Case #2: Selling A WordPress Theme

Our WordPress theme comes with all the PSD sources and a lot of documentation, so it weighs in at 70MB. We sell 50 per month for $30, coming up at 3.5GB of bandwidth per month and $1500 of revenue.

Website Monthly Fee Bandwidth Costs Percent Charge Fixed Fee Total
Quixly7567625781 $10 - $43.50 $15 $68.50
FetchApp77686358172 $5 unlimited $43.50 $15 $63.50
Pulley78696459313 $6 unlimited $43.50 $15 $64.50
E-junkie706560 $5 unlimited $43.50 $15 $63.50
Gumroad74716661525 - unlimited $75 $15 $90

For our second use case, Pulley is the best option, thanks to their entry plan that goes up to 100MB in storage. That being said, for a couple of megs (more or less) another service might reveal itself cheaper.

So I’d say the mid-size files category has no clear winner — but Quixly, FetchApp, and Pulley are all safe bets.

Again, Gumroad’s model reveals itself a little expensive for our use case. So who exactly is that service for? Read on to find out…

Use Case #3: Selling A High-Def Video

Our video is high-def, 1080p goodness and it’s a whopping 4GB. We expect to sell 10 per month at $50, so that’s 40GB of monthly bandwidth and we’ll earn $500.

Website Monthly Fee Bandwidth Costs Percent Charge Fixed Fee Total
Quixly7567625781 $30 - $14.50 $3 $47.50
FetchApp77686358172 $49 unlimited $14.50 $3 $66.50
Pulley78696459313 $49 unlimited $14.50 $3 $66.50
E-junkie706560 $185 unlimited $14.50 $3 $202.50
Gumroad74716661525 - unlimited $25 $3 $28

The clear winner here is Gumroad, since it doesn’t care about bandwidth or file size. For files that you only expect to sell a couple of times, it can be a very interesting model, especially if those files are big and you sell them for a low price.

Quixly is also an attractive option, but if you’re dealing with big files, watch out for Quixly’s extra bandwidth costs! Let’s say instead of selling 10 videos, we sell 100, putting our bandwidth at 400GB. That’s 400-60=340GB over the limit, which will cost us 340*0.4=$136 extra!

Thankfully, Quixly will warn you before you reach that limit, which will give you the time to switch to another provider. Still, if you expect to have big bandwidth costs, you might be better off choosing another service from the start.

What About Marketplaces?

Marketplaces, like ThemeForest or the other Envato websites, are also a great way to sell digital goods, and should be seriously considered. Sure, you give up a big chunk of your earnings (one usually keeps between 50% and 70%72 of each sale). But on the other hand, a lot more people will see your product and buy it.

And don’t forget you can also sell your stuff non-exclusively (i.e. in addition to one of the services we’ve already discussed), although be warned that if you choose to go that route, you’ll get an even lower cut of the profits (only 33% on Envato websites).

I would say that marketplaces are a good fit for people who would prefer not to take care of their product’s marketing, or are selling a lot of similar items. They also make more sense for certain items (like WordPress themes, or stock photography) than others.

The Self-Hosted Solution

Another solution is hosting the whole thing yourself. For example, WordPress users can get the free WooCommerce plugin73to set up a shopping cart and then hook it up to Paypal or many other payment processors.

While this approach is cheaper in the long run, it does take a lot more time to set up, and requires more technical skills (so it’s not for everybody). But if you’re trying to build a business out of selling digital goods, it can be a very interesting option.

Conclusion

So which service is best for you? Without generalizing too much, here are some broad guidelines:

You might be wondering which service I picked for myself81. I hesitated between Quixly, Pulley, and FetchApp because they all looked great, but in the end Quixly’s beautiful user interface and detailed reports won me over.

After using it for a few days, I have to say the visual reports, although not a core feature, are a very nice touch to see how your sales are doing. But I did get a sizable number of people who encountered problems with Paypal, or didn’t buy altogether because they didn’t have a Paypal account.

So I’ve decided to let people choose for themselves between Gumroad (if they want to pay by Credit Card) or Quixly (if they want to pay via Paypal). The great thing is that since Gumroad doesn’t charge a subscription, there’s no extra costs in adding it as a second service. And I will probably give FetchApp and Pulley a try soon as well to compare them with Quixly.

The great things with having so many options is that everybody can find the one that suits them the best. So I encourage you to try out and compare these services for yourself!

What I’d like to see

This is clearly a very dynamic space, and I’m sure we’ll see lots of evolution in these products in the coming month. Here’s some of the features I’d love to see:

  • Let user pick their own preferred way of paying: Even though most services support multiple ways of paying, the seller can only pick one at a time. I would love to see an intermediary step that lets users choose their own favorite payment method.
  • Improve stats and reporting: I would love to see reports generalized across every product, as well as more advanced features like filtering, export, etc.
  • Discount code support: When marketing an online product, you need every tool in the arsenal!
  • No fixed fees: Paying a fixed $0.30 fee on every transaction is a killer when you’re selling something for under $5.

I’m definitely going to keep an eye on all five services to see what they come up with. In the meantime, I hope this guide has been useful to you, and that you’re now ready to start making money!

(jvb)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://quixly.com
  2. 2 http://fetchapp.com
  3. 3 http://pulleyapp.com
  4. 4 http://e-junkie.com
  5. 5 http://gumroad.com
  6. 6 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/quixly-l.png
  7. 7 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/quixly-l.png
  8. 8 http://quixly.com
  9. 9 http://drewwilson.com
  10. 10 http://builditwith.me
  11. 11 http://pictos.cc
  12. 12 http://paypal.com
  13. 13 http://checkout.google.com
  14. 14 http://steedicons.com/
  15. 15 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/fetchapp-l.png
  16. 16 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/fetchapp-l.png
  17. 17 http://fetchapp.com
  18. 18 http://shopify.com
  19. 19 http://paypal.com
  20. 20 http://checkout.google.com
  21. 21 http://shopify.com
  22. 22 http://goodsie.com/
  23. 23 http://www.foxycart.com/
  24. 24 http://www.abookapart.com/
  25. 25 http://vectormill.com/
  26. 26 http://www.fetchapp.com/pages/examples
  27. 27 http://shopify.com
  28. 28 http://www.fetchapp.com/pages/help-api
  29. 29 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/pulley-l.png
  30. 30 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/pulley-l.png
  31. 31 http://pulleyapp.com
  32. 32 http://bigcartel.com/
  33. 33 http://paypal.com
  34. 34 http://bigcartel.com
  35. 35 http://cameronmoll.com/
  36. 36 finegoodsmarket.com
  37. 37 http://pulleyapp.com/customers
  38. 38 http://bigcartel.com
  39. 39 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/e-junkie-l.png
  40. 40 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/e-junkie-l.png
  41. 41 http://e-junkie.com
  42. 42 http://paypal.com
  43. 43 http://checkout.google.com
  44. 44 http://authorize.net
  45. 45 http://clickbank.com
  46. 46 http://trialpay.com
  47. 47 http://www.2checkout.com/
  48. 48 http://www.iconshoppe.com/
  49. 49 http://www.e-junkie.com/ej/clients.htm
  50. 50 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/gumroad-l.png
  51. 51 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/gumroad-l.png
  52. 52 http://gumroad.com
  53. 53 http://www.39argyle.com/
  54. 54 https://www.payloadz.com
  55. 55 http://www.digitaldeliveryapp.com/
  56. 56 https://merchant.paypal.com/cgi-bin/marketingweb?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=merchant/digital_goods
  57. 57 http://quixly.com
  58. 58 http://fetchapp.com
  59. 59 http://pulleyapp.com
  60. 60 http://ejunkie.com
  61. 61 http://gumroad.com
  62. 62 http://quixly.com
  63. 63 http://fetchapp.com
  64. 64 http://pulleyapp.com
  65. 65 http://ejunkie.com
  66. 66 http://gumroad.com
  67. 67 http://quixly.com
  68. 68 http://fetchapp.com
  69. 69 http://pulleyapp.com
  70. 70 http://ejunkie.com
  71. 71 http://gumroad.com
  72. 72 http://themeforest.net/make_money/payment_rates
  73. 73 http://www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/
  74. 74 http://gumroad.com
  75. 75 http://quixly.com
  76. 76 http://themeforest.net
  77. 77 http://fetchapp.com
  78. 78 http://pulleyapp.com
  79. 79 http://e-junkie.com
  80. 80 http://www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/
  81. 81 http://sachagreif.com/ebook/

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Sacha Greif is the creator of Sidebar, a site+newsletter that gives you the 5 best design links of the day. He has also published Discover Meteor, a book about the Meteor JavaScript framework. You should follow him on Twitter.

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  1. 1

    Any chance you can list which services are available in which countries? Or are they all worldwide?

    -1
    • 2

      All those services are available worldwide. What might not be, however, is the payment processor. For example Paypal is not available in Pakistan and Egypt, if I’m not mistaken.

      So a service like Quixly that only supports Paypal and Google Checkout will only work in countries where at least one of those two is available.

      4
      • 3

        Not necessarily. I tried out a whole bunch of epayment services and everything goes fine until they find out I’m from Nigeria.

        Suddenly I get emails with ridiculous excuses about why they have to shut down my account and so on.

        I create a webcomic and I was hoping to be able to let users buy volumes of the comic online and get them immediately as ebook downloads, but from what I’ve seen on the Internet with a lot of these amazing startups and web services is that they claim they are for everybody but obviously, “Everybody” = Americans and their friends (Europeans, Canadians, and the Japanese … oh and don’t forget South Africa – obviously in spite of having the highest rate of crime in the entire world, South Africa is OBVIOUSLY safe since there are like five white people there)

        At the end of the day, the fact of the matter is that the web is segregated.

        There are the digital haves (the people in the western world and their associates), and the digital have nots (people like me from sub Saharan African countries) that are not allowed to participate in any of the online progress.

        Even if I wanted to progress, I can’t because I’m not allowed to sell any of the stuff I create online by American payment companies and payment gateways.

        If I create software, I can’t sell it online. I have to give it away for free forever. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unlike you guys, someone like me can NEVER profit from my own hard work creating because I CANNOT SELL A DAMN THING.

        Yeah, so maybe the gist of this comment is, if once in a while you could do a post about payment gateways or ecommerce solutions that will actually let Africans sell their stuff online without discriminatory and patronising messages about how they’re not sure I can afford XYZ or asking us to jump through a million hoops, that would really help.

        10
        • 4

          There is nothing stopping you from installing any of the open-source e-commerce platforms such as Magento, opencart, etc. and a payment processor available in Nigeria. It took me all of 10 seconds to search Google and find one. If you don’t go out and look for things yourself then how do you expect to succeed?

          Sure the digital divide makes things tougher, but things like:

          “If I create software, I can’t sell it online. I have to give it away for free forever. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unlike you guys, someone like me can NEVER profit from my own hard work creating because I CANNOT SELL A DAMN THING.”

          are just blatantly false.

          4
      • 5

        Paypal is not available in iran as well

        0
  2. 6

    There’s a wealth of good information presented here, but I can’t help responding to the premise of the article’s introduction… Who says a freelancer can’t support themselves long-term on client work? At what point does it become a non-sustainable business venture? Plenty of people who are self-employed can find the time to take sick days, to take vacation days. What’s with this presumption that client-work equals a non-stop grind to stay afloat?

    1
    • 7

      Agree.

      In fact, I opened the article for purpose of learning about other possible e-commerce solutions for my clients, not myself. Drupal/Ubercart has been great but I’d like to see a round-up of online cart software options for some of the bigger CMS — most of which come with out-of-the-box support for downloadable purchases.

      0
    • 8

      Maybe I was a little too categorical, but I believe nonetheless that everybody should strive to establish as many sources of passive income as possible. And the sooner you start, the longer you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor.

      4
      • 9

        Christina Williams

        March 29, 2012 7:53 pm

        I think we all would appreciate side income streaming in to cover down times or slow periods. I just think the trouble lies more in finding the time to create the sources to generate the side income. Ie, just maintaining your own personal website/portfolio for professional purposes while keeping up with client projects already sucks up so much spare time and that isn’t usually an income generator at all, just a necessity. We all need personal assistants … ;-)

        0
  3. 10

    Big fan of Quixly, and nice to see it doing so well in your little test. For anyone who’s just looking to get something online ready to sell, it is unbeatable. You only really start paying once you’re making enough to cover the costs (in most cases) too. Great read, super useful.

    0
    • 11

      Glad you enjoyed the article! I liked Quixly a lot as well, but ran into a couple problems. So I’m now giving Pulley its chance, we’ll see how it compares.

      1
  4. 12

    The $.30 is pretty tough to being down especially with the new debit regulation. Absolute hard costs for most transactions are about $.20. If there are other networks, or communications platforms the transaction needs to go across, the price goes up even more. The credit card infrastructure is not designed for micro payments in any way.

    1
    • 13

      That’s a good point. I know Gumroad is trying to bring those costs down as much as they can, but obviously is the credit card infrastructure doesn’t play along, there’s not much anyone can do…

      Maybe a solution would be to aggregate many purchases into a sngle charge, like what Apple does with the App Store?

      1
  5. 14

    Nice review of some of the more popular carts/services available.

    I would like to mention another great cart/service that IMO is better than the ones in this review … Cartloom.

    Cartloom has an awesome feature set ‘as is’ but a little bird told me that a forthcoming update will add some great new features (Stripe support being just one).

    0
    • 15

      Cartloom does look interesting! Hopefully, my article can give people the tools to make their own choice among the cart systems best suited to their own needs. My intention was not to imply that the five services I picked are the only ones worth considering.

      0
  6. 16

    Great article, well researched and written. There’s another payment service called stripe. Did you also consider this?

    0
  7. 17

    A great guide for improving customer convenience in e-commerce transactions. The PayPal barrier can be a make-or-break for some users, even when the option to skip sign-up and use a credit card is presented. Gumroad as an accompanied option for users who would prefer to pay with a credit card sounds like a smart plan.
    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    0
  8. 18

    Avinash D'Souza

    March 29, 2012 6:46 pm

    What would be an appropriate choice for a non-subscription service payment?

    -1
    • 19

      None of the services I mention are subscription-based, so they should all be fine for you.

      But if what you mean is making a singl payment to gain continuous access to an online service (like Pinboard does), then I’m afraid you’ll have to hack something together yourself with Paypal.

      2
  9. 20

    Sean McCambridge

    March 29, 2012 7:43 pm

    I’m curious how things look when you consider recurring payments. I suppose there’s an extra level of complexity here, but going on your premise of adding as many passive sources of income as possible, then what about software-as-a-service? How do these providers handle recurring billing/SaaS? That’s one big potential source of passive income.

    0
    • 21

      For SaaS, you’d have to look in to completely different services

      It’s a lot more complex because you need two-way communication between your app and the payment system.

      1
  10. 22

    Gumroad look like use paypal to:
    ” We credit to your Paypal account the purchase price for all Digital Goods sold by you using the Service”

    Also, I ask if they provide suscription support, and tell me:

    “If you use PayPal, sure. We don’t support subscriptions for now.”

    For suscription based:

    0
    • 23

      Gumroad does use Paypal, but only to transfer funds to you, not to charge people who buy your products.

      0
      • 24

        It looks like that in case of Gumroad you pay for CC processing twice.

        First time when customer buys your product and then when you cashout trough PayPal.

        Doesn’t seam very efficient to me…

        0
        • 25

          This really depends on how they’re sending you the money through PayPal. PayPal to PayPal transactions are free, its when a buyer sends you money via e-check, ABN, or Credit/Debit Card that you incur fees.

          If they’re simply sending you money from their PayPal account to yours, then you get 100% of that transaction as its internal to PayPal.

          -1
  11. 26

    We started Peaxl by using Quixly and we ran into different problems. A 2.0 version was on its way but we never saw it coming. We could not wait so we moved to Digital Delivery app. They had everything we wanted + affiliation + discounts + a GREAT support. These guys really try to improve their product. I personnally tried Pulley, Fetch and e-junkie. Pulley and Fetch are really good but no real flexibility. Fetch can be interesting to use with Big Cartel. E-junkie is a great app but the design is terribly AWFUL !! :P

    5
    • 27

      Yep totally agree with you.

      1
    • 28

      Support is really important. I loved Quixly, but they’ve yet to answer my support query. FetchApp and Pulley have both been a lot quicker to respond.

      And I’ll check out Digital Delivery, looks promising too!

      3
  12. 29

    Vincent Le Moign

    March 29, 2012 8:30 pm

    Great article, it was something missing!

    I’ve used successively (by order) Fetchapp, Pulleyapp and Quixly.
    They are all quite good, but it always miss something, or I didn’t have enough way to customize the shopping experience.

    Until I’ve found.. Tatata ! … GetDpd -
    Yeah I know, a weird name, and I’ve never heard about them before I’ve found them by chance.
    I’m using them for 3 month now, and that’s the best system I’ve ever used.
    They were very reactive when I’ve asked an improvement (time difference improvement to be linked to Paypal), and they regularly improve it.

    Tons of functions included, but the ones I love and are not so common:

    - Multistore (yeah!, with pulleyapp I needed 2 accounts for 2 stores, because I’ve got 2 different paypal accounts)
    - Affiliation included! (so I stopped using an expensive affiliation software, and now I’ve just got one place to do everything)
    - Tightly linked to paypal, so when I refund a customer the sales stats on GetDpd are updated.
    - Coupons, MTD sales statistics, etc.

    That’s impressive for just $10 a month!

    Disclaimer: I’m not linked to them, just a happy customer :-)
    I’m using GetDpd to sell 2 different products with hundred of sales already:

    Good sales to everybody, hope you will have all your 4 hours workweek soon ;-)

    Vincent

    4
    • 30

      This does sound like a great service. It’s too bad their site doesn’t really inspire trust, it looks a little bit too much like a wordpress theme.

      I think that when it comes to services that deal with your money, presenting a good image is important.

      1
  13. 32

    How do you feel about Stripe? Gumroad also uses Stripe to process their payments and pays the 2.9% + 30 cents a transaction. And Stripe is literally <100 of code to implement, I feel like a lot of the creator folk on the web can save a lot of money there, while just hosting the files on something like Dropbox which is on S3, same as Gumroad's files.

    2
    • 33

      Stripe looks great, but it’s big drawback is that it’s only available in the US. Plus, I don’t think it offers a hosted digital delivery service, so it’s not a valid option for non-developers.

      0
      • 34

        People anywhere in the world can use Stripe to make a payment. However, the person selling the product must have a US bank account.

        I have been using FetchApp’s API for digital delivery and Stripe for payment processing, and it is an awesome combination. The good thing about Stripe is that customers never leave your site, so you have control over the whole checkout process. This means you can get data on cart abandonment rates, run a/b tests, and upsell.

        It does require some code to setup, so might not be the best option for non-developers. I wrote an article that.

        1
  14. 35

    Great article and very timely for me. But what about DigitalDeliverApp?

    I looked at all of yours and think that I may just just DigitalDelivery. Check them out and tell me what you think.

    They have a FLAT FEE and don’t take a cut at all. For me, $9/month.

    1
  15. 36

    Awesome! This is exactly what I needed as we will be looking to put up an ebook for sale in the very near future. Thanks so much for your very thorough blog post!

    0
  16. 37

    Hi Sacha,

    Good article reviewing the various options. I’m the founder of Digital Delivery App and are a little disappointed we didn’t feature higher in your article. Feature wise I believe we’re right up there with support for Stripe (and were by far the first to implement this), discount codes, being mobile optimised, and having a built in system to mention just a few
    So why have you not heard of us? Well firstly we’re self funded. We’re currently the quiet kid at the back of the room – no investors, no go big or go broke approach. We don’t need 25 employees, a plus office and to splash ourselves across TechCrunch to get going. We’ve focussed on building a solid platform, providing excellent customer support and have grown quickly just by word of mouth. With no investors our business is sustainable as we don’t hire more employees than we can afford. We’ll still be here in 10 years time.

    Secondly up to now all our focus has been on getting new features in to provide the best possible platform. We’ve been growing at break neck speed and it’s been as much as we can do to keep up with customer requests and add in the new features on our roadmap. That said we’re finally now in a position where we can start thinking about marketing. So hopefully in the next few months you’ll see and hear a little more of us.

    I think you’ll also find us the cheapest in each of your options. Price isn’t everything though, the two bits of feedback we consistently hear is how easy our service is to use and how great our customer service is (you wouldn’t believe how much people appreciate a quick response with an honest answer).

    Anyway just my 2c – a great article reviewing all the options available to everyone,

    George

    P.S. In the interest of fairness, and having fully evaluated all the options over the last 18 months, GetDPD is our 2nd favourite (after us obviously!)

    7
    • 38

      Sorry for not featuring Digital Delivery, to be honest I simply hadn’t heard about it before.

      I learned about Quixly, Pulley, and FetchApp by stumbling on other designer’s sites and buying their products through these services. I think these app’s nice UIs and strong branding go a long way towards convincing designers to trust them.

      So I’m sure once you start focusing on marketing and communication name, it won’t be long before Digital Delivery becomes a household them (well, at least in that particular market ;)

      -2
    • 39

      I stumbled across your service via a developer selling his app using your service. I’ll likely use it as it is one of the few that offers subscription support.

      1
    • 40

      Hi, George,
      thanks for your comment, I found it useful and wish you much success (I like and share your business strategy).

      And I’m considering to be your customer.

      Lena

      0
  17. 41

    A UK perspective.
    I use EKMPowershop.com been using it for about 3 years, hosted PAYG £20 per month linked with SagePay also £20 per month (EKM integrates with paypal etc) has catalogue and cart only mode if you have your own website, allows bulk upload of catalogue data. rock solid, very happy.
    They claim to run about 5% of UK ecommerce. Some big name people use it such as Michelin maps and Guides UK, Lotus cars lifestyle stuff. and loads of little shops too.

    -2
  18. 42

    Come back to reality: payment processors are used so you don’t have to give your credit card details to a startup company with limited responsibility.

    In case you deal with VISA or MasterCard, you likely have to comply with their rules, namely the DSS security standards. Wether that is enough or wether if it’s enforced enough is a good question (see Sony’s case where it wasn’t stored securely enough), but the deal is simple: you pay for security.

    I wouldn’t recommend anyone to build a payment system for themselves, having participated in one myself at a well-known high-traffic website.

    Compared to the amount of effort (and paid workhours) it needs to make it secure, PayPal is a cheap solution.

    Or you could give your customers a not-so-secure one, after all, it’s their money, not yours to loose, right?

    Do you trust a company which thinks that it shall risk your credit card details for additional comfort and price decrease, and uses this as their Unique Selling Point?

    -4
  19. 43

    Scott Richardson

    March 31, 2012 12:13 am

    Good article. But why not just build this functionality into your site yourself? I would love to see a step by step article detailing how to do this. I personally know how to, but I’m sure a lot of folk here would like to know how. Storing the files outside your web root, using a php script to grab the file for the user after they have paid. They could pay through the usual means, such as paypal, and then have paypal send POST data back to your web site to confirm the payment has been made, and to run the script to release the file and display a thank you. That way you negate the need for these fees.

    1
    • 44

      I really think most people would rather pay $10 a month than spend 20 or 30 hours developing their own custom service, even if they have the skill. After all, why reinvent the wheel?

      5
  20. 45

    Found this really useful and its good to see at least one service now cutting out the middle man!

    One question though; do you happen to know if any of these would work for a subscription model?

    I’m in the middle of costing out a membership site at the moment and payment is one of the more confusing aspects, any advice you have would be appreciated.

    0
  21. 46

    I think you missed the most important aspect of ejunkie.

    With ejunkie you can host your file on your own servers and not use up any of their bandwidth.

    So you can get an “unlimited” $5/month plan from hostgator or wherever and host all your files there, and sign up for ejunkies $18/month plan, and now you have unlimited products, unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth with all the features of ejunkie (discount codes, variety of payment options, shopping cart, etc etc) for only $23/month + merchant fees ($0.30+2.9% with paypal).

    This is the best deal, and beats all other options out of the water. If only ejunkie would update their UI though it would be perfect!

    Edited:

    I did not realize that quixly offers a $7/month plan in which you can self host your files, this might be the new best option.

    1
  22. 49

    Laurent Bedubourg

    April 1, 2012 4:44 pm

    A few days ago I put a project named DIEMIDS on GitHub (MIT license).

    Its final goal is to make it damn easy to create your own secure delivery system and integrate whatever payment system you like/have a good deal with.

    It’s not complete yet nor that easy to use but it already contains a working example of AWS + PayPal digital goods usage which might help coders create their own system in a mater of hours (I may be optimistic sometimes).

    The system uses Amazon CloudFront signed URL with expire date, it means that unlike gumroad you keep the control of your delivery and can cancel a download link given to a customer if you detect some abuse. If you can code you can imagine stats, download thresholds, payment plugins, backoffice, multi-users, upload handling, etc. etc.

    I hope it will help a dude or two ;)

    Laurent

    -2
  23. 50

    Great article! You saved me some research.

    However Quixly has a self-hosted option. How does that play into your comparisons?

    0
  24. 51

    We rolled our own digital goods platform utilizing a subscription model that integrates WordPress, the Wishlist Member plugin, PayPal’s Direct Payment API and Amazon’s S3 for selling virtual sets for video podcasts . We use Payloadz for similar projects and have been pretty happy with them.

    2
  25. 52

    I was asked by a client how they could sell digital downloads, and used mals-e . com , linklok and paypal. Cost? A one-off $29.95 for linklok script, plus paypal’s fee. The client already had a free mals-e shop (selling about six items very successfully) and a paypal account, so this was the obvious way to go. Nothing fancy admittedly, but easy to set up. (And I’ll get a 50% discount if a second client needs their script.)

    An alternative script that integrated with mals – dlguard – cost $147.00, which simplified the decision on linklok.

    2
  26. 53

    I must say, this is a great article. I’m currently in the beginning stages of starting my own comic book company and was looking for alternatives to apple which chargges $0.30 per the dollar on a transaction. Due to a shift in the market, consumers are only willing to pay $.99 – 1.99 per a comic book, which seems reasonable until you factor in apples 30% take. There are other competitors like Graphicly, Comixology and so on but I’m pretty sure they all charge the same percentage amount which they consider to be the industry standard.

    Quixly seems like the best option from what your article has stated, compared to the other options.

    Another option I was thinking about was using an online cloud service like skydrive, google drive or dropbox linked with my paypal account as an alternative, utilizing paypals micro payments option ($0.10 per the dollar) but the issue of stat tracking and url download codes came to mind.

    -3
  27. 54

    Hi Love this article, But My question to those who make these apps, maybe the product limit is a thing to look at,, My Products are light, maybe 4mb compared to say 10000mb products,, not fair with product limits,,and it totally turns my off signing up when there is this limit

    -2
  28. 55

    Hi, I was kind of upset that Direct Digital Delivery was not included in this list. If you are looking for a digital goods delivery system that allows you to sell your products from your own server, then you may want to consider Direct Digital Delivery, which is a PHP application that allows you to automate the entire process of selling your digital goods. This includes the delivery of the digital goods and emailing the purchaser. It also works with your existing website and can work with any of today’s popular CMS Please check it out at http://directdigitaldelivery.com

    -4
  29. 56

    None of these compare to eJunkie imo. Always reliable. Lots of special features and opportunities included.

    0
  30. 57

    I use e-junkie and am very happy with it. I use the discount codes a lot and their affiliate plan (so others can sell for me) a little. One thing you didn’t note is that you don’t have to host all your electronic products with them. I have some with them, but now put most on Amazon S3, so I save a lot of money. I have 70 products and pay $18/month and for that I could go up to 120 products and have 1 GB of storage.

    -1
  31. 58

    Hey Sacha,

    I’m starting a new experiment in this space called Upvend — “Upload & Sell Digital Goods”. If you are interested in following our progress, you can join our waiting list and we’ll contact you about our private beta when it’s ready: https://upvend.com

    We hope to nail the core UX for both sellers and buyers and we’re working on some ideas that attempt to solve some of the distribution problems sellers have.

    Would love to hear more of your ideas/feature requests for a re-imagined solution.

    -1
  32. 59

    I definitely agree that there’s nothing worse than having to pay to sell your products online. I found Cityblis.com to be a real great multi-platform commerce site to sell products. I’ve been using it to sell from my small business it was free and invite only. Wish they would start selling digital goods though!

    -1
  33. 60

    I’m a gumroad user and love the simplicity of the process and easy integrations.

    0
  34. 61

    If I wanted a marketplace for Digital goods that supports other online payments methods such as liberty reserves or Perfect Money where do I find them??

    Cause these are the ones listing my country in this lists when come to registration (Sudan) and when I try to open Paypal I have to login with a VPN connection like the one uses “Shield Hotspot” cause the say I am from a “Sanctioned Country” even Facebook and google forbids some certain marketing and money making services and if I managed to to open a paypal it will stay limited cause I can’t verify my address with the details in the profile nor my country has credit cards services So i am kinda STUCK

    what I want is to have some generating money business that can give some starting money online to use it then on other projects like Forex for example
    but can’t even affiliate in any site cause I don’t have a paypal account and every marketplace I find also wants paypal (also moneybooker and payza don’t support Sudan not even allow to register or login)

    0
  35. 62

    Thanks for the interesting info; it made for a good read.

    I have a question and that is, do most customers prefer paying by credit card or going through a service like paypal? I can imagine some may be a little reluctant to share their c.c. info but others may feel the whole paypal/alternative is a bit of a pain. Any thoughts/facts?

    0
  36. 63

    Thank you for saving me from the endless searching for information. You have given me a clear understanding of the options available without confusion.

    0
  37. 64

    Gumroad is the best plan to offer customers who don’t have a PayPal account. Most people with PP will want to use that, but others can use their credit card with Gumroad from 190 countries.

    Something else not mentioned here is that Gumroad has an “overlay” checkout option. You can set it up easily and when someone chooses Gumroad to check out, they can do so without ever leaving your site.

    Also, the checkout process with Gumroad is lightning fast. I mean REALLY FAST! As soon as they submit their CC information and it processes, a dropdown box immediately shows up with both the download link to the product and the seller’s message where you can thank them and include your support email. Gumroad also sends the buyer the link to their email and a notification to the seller.

    It’s the most simple payment processor I’ve seen and one can hope it will only get better as they become more established.

    I’m in the process of setting everything up on my PLR ebooks site, Favorish.com, with Gumroad, but not exclusively of course. Just as an alternative to those not wanting to use PayPal, and maybe to generate sales by sharing the link and discount offers that can easily be created within the Gumroad product creation page.

    0
  38. 65

    Rachel Probert

    May 9, 2013 4:12 pm

    anyone got any advice on selling digital goods from the uk world wide and how to collect the relevant VAT information…… because this is melting my brain :-(

    0
  39. 66

    Ariel Estigarribia

    May 27, 2013 1:54 am

    Hi all, excellent post. I need some help.
    I am working with a company that provides logistics services door to door packages (like DHL). They want to implement a system that allows customers to pay invoices services through credit cards, via his website. They actually have a business account in Paypal, and have an office in Miami, Fl.
    It is possible this development?

    0
  40. 67

    The barrier to entry is super low for Gumroad; hence, a long list of of clones that have magically appeared since its launch. It seems like companies that actually have a marketplace like http://www.payloadz.com, http://www.dejed.com, http://www.themeforest.com are more likely to survive once the dust settles because the marketplace is an incentive for customers to remain on the platform. What do you think?

    0
  41. 68

    Was so excited to get started with Gumroad yet seconds later extremely disappointed. They offer two options to withdraw money, PayPal and Direct Deposit. I will never use PayPal ever again having been burnt by them several times and Direct Deposit would be awesome except it’s only available to those living in good old America (I live in the U.K.) Ahh… :-(

    0
  42. 69

    Thanks a lot for the article!

    0
  43. 70

    Somebody here mentioned SaaS solutions. Those who are interested can try Ecwid. http://www.ecwid.com/ . I don’t know if it’s suitable for digital downloadable products, but for the rest – it might be interesting. It’s free of charge for accounts that sell 10 items or less.

    0
  44. 71

    Another option that is missing from the list is selz.com.

    It’s pretty similar to gumroad but a bit easier to use

    There is also sellfy.com that let you sale also digital content

    0
  45. 72

    FYI, I just went to have a look at Quixly and it appears they are shutting down in just over a month (November 2013)

    0
  46. 73

    My hunt is for a tool that charges me per download or per sale. Ecwid, so far, is leading that pack. So far imo, well worth looking into.

    0
  47. 74

    Sacha,

    This is a great article, especially for those like myself starting out in digital goods. I like the way you laid out and compared the services from your own experiences. You have some great ideas, an excellent approach, and most of all you are willing to share. I wish you much success!

    Larry

    0
  48. 75

    What about Easy Digital Download platform?

    This is the perfect platform for selling digital products online.

    The platform itself is free and it has many extensions (both free and paid).

    It also integrates with many shopping carts and autoresponders and the possibilities are pretty much unlimited.

    Also, the support is very fast and professional.

    We are using it for about six months now to sell our WordPress and Wishlist Member plugins + guides and the license system works great (and keeps improving overtime).

    0
  49. 76

    So I stumble onto this message a couple of years after it was written and it passes the test of time quite nicely, congratulations Sacha. The thing is that I’m working at a company similar to these, it’s called KiteBit and I think it could stand fairly in this list but I’m not going to bother all of you telling how good it works.

    Our customers are mostly musicians and filmmakers so it’s a bit different of a niche than web designers but from our short experience what we’ve noticed is that the problem for all these artists is about being known, not about having the possibility to get their work out there.

    Everyone can put anything to sell in seconds anywhere in the world but who’s going to buy it anyway? I don’t know how you developers and software designers manage to get and audience, and once built, convert it into sales, if anyone explains this to me I’m all ears. In music or Films it is very difficult to get someone to buy your stuff if you are completely unknown, it literally makes no sense to wanting to put your stuff for sell when no one has ever asked for it.

    We are shifting our direction to help unknown or relatively unknown authors get more exposure for their work, it is a difficult road to take but that’s what people is really asking for. I mean, why do you have to worry for a 0.5% difference from one service to another if you are not selling anything or not much in the first place? First, build an audience, second, try to convert them but not the other way around.

    with big acts and established filmmakers things change, they have the audience and it makes all the sense in the world to use their own cahnnel to sell, the direct to fan thing works for them and of course all this little differences of 0.5%, or payment processing, or customer support matter a lot to them as their sales go on scale.

    We are learning fast and hopefully we’ll come up with nice solutions for KiteBit users to get exposure. I honestly think the future is in the direct to customer apporach of things, specially in the entertainment world, but there’s still a long way to go.

    0
  50. 77

    Great article , thank you :)
    I would like to add that, If you need to sell your digital products without paying commissions every month you can make use of instabuck.
    Many payment gateways and also bitcoin payments accepted.
    If you need extra details you can visit the link below :

    http://instabuck.com

    Cheers

    0
  51. 78

    Great article team, thanks for the information!

    I like to use DigitalSellz.com they only charge a 3% commission per digiltal sell and there is no upfront payment or ads. I get pay instantly on my paypal account every time I sell :) I recommended it. It worked for me.

    0
  52. 79

    The reason Gumroad or any other service that uses Stripe can’t aggregate purchases into a sngle charge is because Stripe does not support Authorize and Capture. And according to Stripe they don’t play on supporting this feature ever. So for these services to bring the cost, they would have to make deals with all the major credit card companies to process.

    0
  53. 80

    I’m pretty sure paypall offers a micro transaction payment system… look into that…

    2

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