So you’ve created a sample library, sample pack or plugin and now you want to sell it, but where do you start? The first steps in creating your online store can seem daunting – what platform should you use, how much will it cost, what is the best platform, what functionality will you need etc.?
Its important to think through these questions first before deciding on the final platform that you’ll use for selling your products as once you’ve created your store, its often difficult to migrate to a different platform further down the line.
When first setting up your store, its easy to go with whatever eCommerce solution is the quickest and easiest to setup. However, once you dive deeper into each platform, you’ll see that its important to really note the functionality each offers and how this may affect your business in the future. For example, Shopify is very simple and quick to setup, but a lot of extended functionality (like custom branded invoices for example) requires an external “app” which has an additional recurring monthly fee. Additionally, some platforms are more focused on physical products rather than digital products. Again, Shopify is very intuitive to use, but the functionality for offering digital downloads is not straight forward and requires an additional “app” – some of which require monthly payments.
Before you look at the platforms, here are some questions you should answer first:
Additionally, here are some of the most terms you may come across and what they mean:
There are literally hundreds of platforms available for setting up an online store, but in this article I’ll focus on the most popular and ones that are best suited to selling audio based digital downloads. Here is a run down of the most popular platforms currently available for selling your sample libraries, sounds sets, sample packs and plugins
35% of the Internet is powered by WordPress (including 14.7% of the top 100 websites in the world) with over 30% of all online stores running its free eCommerce add-on WooCommerce.
WordPress is a free CMS (content management system) that lets you create your own website in one click. There are tens of thousands of free and paid plugins available that will extend its functionality. WordPress alone does not offer direct eCommerce functionality so if you want to sell products you need to install an add on that will do that for you.
The most popular eCommerce add-on for WordPress is WooCommerce but there are other less popular options too such as:
WooCommerce in my opinion is far superior to the above alternative options as it has deeper functionality and is regularly updated to offer further security improvements, though it does require a bit more server power as time goes on and you have more customers and more plugins running (plus its free)
The biggest downside to using WordPress/WooCommerce is that you need to use your own server to host your files and run your website. WordPress and WooCommerce can be installed with literally the click of a button so that part is not difficult. However, you do need to choose the right hosting company to ensure you have enough server power to cope with future demand. If your website gets very popular (for example during sale times) or if you run too many plugins that require a lot of processing power (for example one plugin that might sync your customer list in WooCommerce to Mailchimp), your website may slow down or crash. There are 2 types of hosting available:
My suggestion would be to use a good company that offers shared hosting and dedicated hosting and go with them for shared hosting to begin with to keep things cheap. When you start to hit usage limits later down the line, its relatively simple for them to upgrade you to a dedicated server. For example InMotionHosting offers WordPress hosting for $5.99 per month and you could upgrade to dedicated server for $99 per month once you need it. Its a lot more difficult to move a website from shared hosting with one company to dedicated hosting/managed hosting with a completely different company.
Associated costs with WordPress/WooCommerce
|– Relatively easy to setup and get started||– Not as simple as other solutions to get started with|
|– Marketplaces with thousands of plugins for extending functionality and themes (free and paid)||– Requires you to have your own hosting which is an additional cost|
|– No monthly fees other than server costs||– Can require a server with good processing power when you add more plugins and customers|
|– Very popular so plenty of developers available at affordable rates||– A little more complex to setup payments within WooCommerce|
|– Direct integration with the Pulse downloader||– Need to keep plugins and WooCommerce updated to ensure no security holes in your website|
|– Need to setup your own SSL cert|
Shopify is a dedicated eCommerce solution for setting up online stores with around 20% of all online stores now use Shopify for their shopfront. Though a lot of Shopify’s functionality is aimed at selling physical products (eg. it has a lot of shipping and tracking functionality), it can be used for selling “digital” products too.
Its entirely cloud based and fully hosted meaning you never have to worry about running a server or dealing with server issues as your website grows in popularity.
Shopify has 3 plans available – Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify. For most people, Basic Shopify is all you’d need to get started and costs just $29 per month which is well worth it. Additionally you can get a free 14 day trial to try it out and see if its for you.
Shopify is very easy to use and has a very low bar of entry for anyone who wants to setup an online store with no experience. There’s a wide range of free and paid themes available to get you started right away and there’s an “app store” that offers additional apps that you can install within your store to extend its functionality. Some of these apps are free, but many have additional monthly recurring costs associated with them.
For offering digital downloads in your store for example, you’ll need to install one of these apps:
Fetch App ($0 to $20 per month plus S3 bandwidth costs of $0.09/GB)
Sendowl ($9 to $39 per month)
Sky Pilot ($15 to $75 per month…plus $0.25/GB of bandwidth over 20GB)
Digital Downloads (free plus free bandwidth but file size limited to 5GB)
Alternatively, you can integrate your Shopify store with Pulse via our API to handle your digital downloads.
Associated costs with Shopify:
|– Very quick and easy to get setup||– Extended functionality requires an app which has an additional recurring monthly fee|
|– Good customer support team||– Costly to receive Paypal payments on Shopify|
|– No website downtime as completely managed by Shopify||– Difficult to create your own functionality customisation – requires an app to be built|
|– Beautiful themes||– Average hourly rate for developers is higher than other platforms|
|– Direct integration with the Pulse downloader|
Like Shopify, Squarespace is a cloud hosted platform that allows you to setup a any type of website (blog, portfolio or store) in minutes. It offers beautiful templates and a visual site builder that provides really simple drag and drop customisation so you can create your website very quickly. One of the main attractions of Squarespace is how nice their websites look – it definitely makes it very easy to build a professional looking website in minutes. They also offer integrated email marketing which is affordable and avoids the need for a different system like Mailchimp.
However, when it comes to selling digital products, Squarespace is very limited. Their API
Squarespace is $18 to $40 per month
|– Website builder is very simple to use||– Limited digital download functionality|
|– Not overloaded with extra functionality you don’t need||– Slightly complex to integrate external services with it|
|– Fair pricing||– Monthly cost|
|– Additional integrated email marketing solution for very low price|
|– Direct integration with the Pulse downloader|
I’ve combined both Wix and Weebly into one as they’re similar platforms. Both are “visual website builders” that make it very easy to build your own online store. Additionally, digital downloads is not the main focus of both platforms so they lack extended functionality in this regard (though it is possible via 3rd party plugins).
Both platforms are good, but their API is quite limited meaning it can be hard to integrate any of your own functionality into it – it can only be done via a 3rd party app. Additionally, the amount of options can be overwhelming as the visual builder allows you to do anything and everything you can think of, so can be complex to navigate.
|– Very affordable||– No VAT reporting|
|– Quick and simple to get started||– Limited digital download functionality on both platforms|
|– Nice website templates and easy to create a nice looking site||– Direct integration with Pulse only via Sendowl or 3rd party platform|
There are plenty of alternative options to the above list, but I didn’t include them as I either don’t think they offer any benefit over the platforms listed above or have less developers / functionality available for them (as they’re not as popular). That’s not to say they’re not very good and if you want to take the time to research further, alternatives include:
One other option is to create your own standalone website using a static HTML page and include “Buy Now” buttons on the page using Paypal / Stripe / Gumroad etc. However, if you’re not a web developer and have no experience with coding, this is a lot of effort and not worth it considering the alternative solutions available at a low cost.
|Hosting||Self hosted (starting $10/month)||Fully Managed||Fully Managed||Fully Managed|
|Monthly costs||None||$29 upwards||$18 upwards||$20 upwards|
|Domain name||Not included (approx $20/year)||Not included||1 free on annual plan||1 free on annual plan|
|SSL cert||Not included (use Cloudflare for free SSL)||Free||Free||Free|
|Number of Themes||10,000’s||1000’s||100’s||100’s|
|Number of plugins/apps||10,000’s||100’s||None||100’s|
|Average Developer Cost||Low / medium||Medium||Medium/High||Low/Medium|
|Visual site builder||Yes with some themes||Limited||Yes||Yes|
|Learning Curve||Medium||Low / medium||Low / medium||Low|
|Digital Download Functionality||Excellent||Good||Reasonable||Limited|
|Noteable Additional Features||Dedicated digital download functionality||Fraud analysis to prevent chargebacks
Abandoned cart recovery which costs extra on other platforms
|Very affordable email marketing tool as alternative to Mailchimp|
For someone setting up their online store for the very first time, I would suggest using either Shopify or WooCommerce. They are the market leaders, have the most developers out there and are the most flexible of all options.
Use Shopify if you want to get up and running quickly but be aware you may hit certain limitations further down the line which require 3rd party apps that have additional recurring monthly costs.
Use WooCommerce if you want more control over your store, aren’t afraid of diving into the php code to fix issues, aren’t afraid of figuring out ways to resolve bottlenecks when your store becomes popular and don’t want to be tied down with recurring monthly costs. Do bare in mind, there are still recurring costs for WooCommerce, such as plugin updates (most paid plugins have a license for a year), hosting costs and developer costs.
Don’t forget that once you setup your website, you’ve only just begun your journey – next you’ll need to think about:
Don’t forget whatever you use for your store, you’ll need to deal with customer downloads and without an app like Pulse, you will have customers who experience issues like extracting files or corrupted downloads. Pulse simplifies the entire download process for customers and saves you both time and money in a number of creative ways. Contact us if you’re interested in using Pulse for your download solution.