If you are a blogger, designer, or budding online entrepreneur, you probably have something to sell. And you might not even know it.
In this age, digital content is all around us. From eBooks to graphic designs to articles, the market for digital content is booming and becoming larger by the minute. Yes, you read that correctly: market.
More and more consumers are looking online to purchase everything from self-help ebooks to images for their blogs. With one-click downloads, the gratification is instant for the purchaser. And from the perspective of you, the seller, selling eBooks or digital content is a great opportunity to make passive income – once you create it, all you have to do is put it out there and let it run (OK you’ll need a bit of marketing too).
So how can you take this into the market? Well, it’s fairly simple. All you really need is a digital product, a website, and a top notch e-commerce platform. Once you have that, the rest is plug-and-play. However, choosing the right e-commerce platform can be challenging, depending on your business needs. But you’re in luck.
Here, we’ll take a look at the top 3 most popular and highly talked about platforms and consider these categories: overall ease of use, cost, content and order management, store design, payment processing, and any extras or differentiators.
Let’s get started:
Shopify is arguably one of the most well-known and most widely used e-commerce platforms.
- Pros: Simply put, Shopify is easy to use. For a simple e-commerce site, it has everything you need. For payment processing, it’s integrated with over 70 payment gateways, including Paypal. Shopify also hosts your store for you so don’t have to worry about security and site reliability. Shopify also has out-of-the box themes that makes it easy for you to make your store look nice and presentable without a designer. However, if you do know some coding, you can go in and tweak it as you like. Shopify also features an app store, that has the ever-popular Chimplified App for integration with MailChimp for your email marketing needs. Lastly, in terms of SEO, Shopify scores the highest among its competitors in terms of search-engine-friendly features.
- Cons: One of the biggest cons about Shopify is cost. You start off with a monthly fee, which starts at $14 per month but quickly adds up if you want more features. Then, there’s also the typical transaction fee, credit card fee, and any add-on fees. Keep in mind, though, that Shopify self-hosts (unlike WooCommerce for instance), so in a sense you are getting what you pay for. Also, selling digital products is a bit different on Shopify. You’ll need to manage it through an app within Shopify. And of course, when there’s an app for that, there’s a cost for that.
- Key Callouts & Differentiators:
- Available themes can be installed and customized
- Ability to manage both online and in-store commerce (if you are a small business owner of a brick-and-mortar store as well)
- App store allows you to add on additional features and functionality
- 24/7 customer support
- Overall: Shopify may not be the answer for those with only 1 digital content item to sell. However, if you have a growing business with plans to add more products and need an all inclusive e-commerce solution with customization capabilities, Shopify is a good choice for you.
Though WooCommerce is a bit newer, it’s a popular option among those using WordPress.
- Pros: WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin so if you already use WordPress or know how to use it, installing and operating this platform will be a breeze for you. It’s an open-source platform that anyone can download for free. However, to use it to its full potential, you will need to download the add-ons, which come with fees. You can add it on top of your WordPress theme or you can purchase a WooTheme to spruce up your shop. WooCommerce supports more than 100 payment gateways, including Paypal.
- Cons: WooCommerce is free to download but you’ll need add-ons, which gets tricky. The price of these add-ons (depending on which ones you need) can be costly. However, they are one time fees. There’s also the regular credit card fees. Lastly, since it’s an open source platform, there’s very limited support, which can be frustrating since many users claim it can be difficult to acclimate to when first using it.
- Key Callouts & Differentiators:
- Open-source platform that is free to download
- Use it just like any other WordPress plugin
- Quick and easy one-page checkout is a hit for customers
- Simple and aesthetically pleasing themes (though can be pricey).
- Overall: WooCommerce is the way to go if you have WordPress. It may take some time for you to find what you need in all their apps and some of them can be expensive, but it’s a bit more of an affordable option compared to competitors since it’s a one-time fee. Even if your business scales, you won’t have to pay anything more.
Squarespace is not new to the market but it’s a platform that receives consistently good reviews.
- Pros: One of the main reasons why Squarespace gets such positive reviews is because of its aesthetic appeal. With a minimalist approach, its templates are very appealing to the eye and it has a great design concept that catches attention. It is also very simple to use, with an easy drag-and-drop interface. All templates are responsive, which is a huge plus, as we’re all aware that more and more people are now making purchases via their smart phones and tablets.
- Cons: Squarespace uses Stripe for payment processing, which isn’t available in all countries. It also does not support WordPress integration, which is a big no-no for all the existing WordPress users out there.
- Key Callouts & Differentiators:
- Visually appealing and minimalist themes
- Mobile-responsive templates
- Helpful 24/7 customer support
- Ability to stylize and customize without code through the Style Editor
- Squarespace: It’s a tough call on this one. Squarespace may be better suited for those selling tangible goods, those looking for that ‘visual punch’, and/or those starting a new commerce site. It doesn’t integrate with WordPress, which is a very significant negative against it.
Other notable options
Aside from Shopify, Squarespace, and WooCommerce, there are a few other e-commerce platforms that deserve an honorable mention. If you need a simple store plug-in for your existing site without any bells and whistles, try ECWID. It integrates with most major payment options and their basic plan is free.
If you’re not a fan of WooCommerce but have a WordPress site, try Easy Digital Downloads. Easy Digital Downloads is another digital downloads management plugin for WordPress that’s simple to install. Just watch out for the fees for add-ons.
Lastly, if you are looking for an all-in-one platform with most major integrations, take a look at Selz. Selz is a newer e-commerce platform that works particularly well for digital content. They also recently launched StorePro, which allows you to customize the look and feel of your online store.
Who’s the winner?
It really depends. There is no right or wrong answer and all the e-commerce platforms we covered can be suitable for your digital content. It really comes down to what you’re looking for:
- If you plan to add more products to your shop: Shopify
- If you already use WordPress: WooCommerce
- If you are looking for visual appeal: Squarespace
- If you’re looking to test what’s hot on the market: Selz
If I had to pick a one-platform-fits-all solution for most users, the award would have to go to Shopify. It’s an all-in-one e-commerce solution that will give you most of the functionally that you need. Yes, it falls a little bit more on the pricey side but it’s a platform that can scale with you as your business grows.
Catalin Zorzini is the founder of Inspired Magazine (a blog about web design). He likes hot soup and hot jazz.