Customer Retention

Digital Downloads Boost Sales and Loyalty

The pandemic spurred sales of do-it-yourself products and digital goods, such as ebooks, software, and tutorials. Etsy saw serious sales growth across several categories, including downloadable craft patterns.

There are many digital product marketplaces. Most focus on specific industries, such as graphic design, music, and education. Udemy has more than 200,000 online courses accessible by its 57 million users.

Sites selling physical goods can benefit from this trend of buy and get now. Electronics retailer Crutchfield has been doing it for nearly 20 years. Consumers who buy a car stereo also receive complimentary access to detailed instructions called “Research Notes” tailored to their vehicle. Or, they can purchase it à la carte, which generates revenue for Crutchfield.

Similarly, embroidery thread maker DMC converts a crafter’s photographs to cross-stitch patterns for free if she purchases all the thread to complete the project.

DMC photo to pattern page

DMC promotes sales of embroidery thread by offering free custom patterns.

No matter what you sell, consumers likely have questions and appreciate guidance. Giving buyers free access to premium training is one way to offer additional value. But there are plenty of other digital products that support physical goods.

A quick search on Etsy shows that people will pay for simple charts and spreadsheets if they’re formatted correctly. Color charts, formula-filled Excel or Google Sheets files, planning pages, and checklists are just a few of the many simple downloads reaping 5-star reviews. Pre-made labels and signage also sell well.


Etsy downloadable goods

Etsy’s listings show that people will pay for functional, appealing spreadsheet files.

Digital Downloads Boost Sales and Loyalty

Here are the top reasons to supplement physical goods with downloadable products.

  • Low cost. While they involve research, design, and possibly licensing fees, digital downloads don’t require physical manufacturing, warehouse storage, or fulfillment and shipping. Moreover, digital goods don’t go out of stock unless prevented by licenses.
  • Global reach. Digital products can be downloaded from anywhere. A music store that ships instruments only to U.S. addresses can sell downloadable sheet music worldwide.
  • Instant updates. The best digital delivery platforms notify customers of updated files. Digital creators can rework content and push the new version with minimal effort.
  • Branding benefits. Brand your files to remind customers where to find related items.
  • Reduce support and build authority. Educational content can reduce support queries while establishing the brand as an industry authority.
  • Drive loyalty. The more information consumers receive from your company, the less likely they visit competitors. By providing all the details, they’re not apt to hunt for answers elsewhere.
  • Build community. “Anytime” access means customers feel part of your community.
  • Instant value. Buyers can download digital goods immediately after the purchase, receiving value before physical shipments arrive.
Pamela Hazelton
Pamela Hazelton
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