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The 5 best platforms to host and sell digital downloads

Looking for the best platform to sell digital downloads or offer them for free? Check out this guide to get the skinny on the top 5 platforms for creators.

May 7, 2020 by Taylor Barbieri

Finding a platform to host your digital downloads is easy.

Finding the right platform for you, on the other hand . . . that’s an entirely different ballgame.

One that we hope to make easier today with our roundup of the top five platforms to host your free or paid digital downloads.

In this article, we’ll help you get down to the bottom of:

  • What features does each digital download platform offer? Are they a one-trick-pony, or do they have the features to make your free digital goods thrive, or even better, uplift your paid offerings?
  • Who is each digital download platform best for? One-size-fits-all doesn’t work in clothing, and it definitely doesn’t work in business, either. What works for one creator is not guaranteed to work for the next.
  • Can you take each digital download platform out for a free spin before you commit?  Picking the best platform to sell online or offer free goods is hard enough without losing money from the get-go.
  • How much does each digital download platform cost on a monthly or annual basis? Selling digital downloads or offering them as lead magnets won’t help your bottom line if fees eat you out of house and home.
  • Do those digital download platforms deliver enough value for their cost? Sure, everyone likes a low price tag, but higher price tags often -- rightly -- come with more capabilities. If you’re paying a premium, you should be getting a premium experience.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, so without further ado, let’s dive right into your first option.

Platform #1: SendOwl

SendOwl bills itself as a great option for both new and established companies getting into digital products. 

And it’s true -- SendOwl gives creators a whole host of features. 

Creators can sell physical and digital products, services, subscriptions, and memberships (when integrated with a membership tool). You can also drip your content over time with SendOwl.

Upselling, discounts, and a built-in affiliate system can encourage more product sales, as well. SendOwl also offers pay-what-you-want (PWYW) pricing so customers can decide what price they’ll pay. 

Besides PWYW, SendOwl offers a mobile-ready checkout so users can nab your digital downloads on the go. If you’re selling digital products in addition to giving them away, you can collect sales using Apple Pay, Bitcoin, PayPal, or credit cards. 

Basically, SendOwl offers features that digital product greenhorns and old hats can use to encourage digital product sales.

Features:

  • Accept payments with Apple Pay, Bitcoin, PayPal, or credit cards
  • Can sell to customers through your blog or website, email, or social media
  • Built-in affiliate system 
  • Discounts, upselling, and pay-what-you-want pricing 
  • Customer gifting
  • Customers are shown checkout pages in their native language 

Who it’s best for:

  • Anyone looking for a platform they can hook up to their email service provider (ESP) or membership tools
  • People on the hunt for sales-boosters such as upsells, discounts, and affiliate marketing

Free trial:

  • SendOwl offers a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) 

Pricing:

  • For the Standard plan, your pricing runs from $9-39
  • For the self-hosting plan, you’re looking at $19-79
  • And for the Subscription plan, you’ll clock in at $24-99

Platform #2: Gumroad

Gumroad is one of the most popular selling platforms for creators. 

With Gumroad, creators can offer physical products and put up digital products to sell on the same platform. 

Creators can also rent films, generate license keys for software, and sell a product in multiple formats. Gumroad also has some built-in above-prevention features to protect your digital downloads from piracy and theft.  

Gumroad doesn’t disappoint in terms of sales features, either. Makers can sell in multiple currencies and use discounts to encourage sales. 

Look, whatever your medium, chances are you can sell your products through Gumroad. Gumroad comes with mounds of rich features that allow creators to set up sophisticated websites and sell to customers worldwide. 

Features:

  • Can sell your products in multiple formats, such as PDF and ePub
  • Offer subscriptions and memberships
  • Can rent your films to customers
  • Generate license keys for software
  • Charges sales tax
  • Pay-what-you-want feature
  • Affiliate programs
  • Limit product sales by country 

Who it’s best for:

  • People trying to figure out how to sell an ebook will rejoice on Gumroad, as their multi-format feature allows you to deliver your goods in every ebook format you need.
  • People who prefer to pay-as-they-go for their digital download platform rather than ante up on an upfront cost every month regardless of their sales.

Free trial:

  • No, but Gumroad offers a free account

Pricing:

  • Gumroad costs $108 per year or $10 per month
  • Gumroad takes 8.5% + $0.30 USD from every sale from a free account
  • Gumroad takes 3.5% plus $0.30 USD for every sale from a premium account

Platform #3: SamCart

Worried that having multiple pages in the checkout process is hurting your sales?

Then SamCart could be a good option. 

You can display and sell products from one page using the platform’s drag-and-drop builder, and there’s no limit to how many pages you can make. Or, for that matter, how many digital products you can sell.

Entrepreneurs can share their websites on Facebook, Instagram, and email, to name just a few places. 

SamCart also offers a ton of features to maximize sales. One-click upsells can convince customers to purchase more products or a more expensive product. You can give your upsell sales a further boost by using upsell A/B testing.

Plus, SamCart integrates with over 750 services with Zapier, so you’ll face few limitations for building your marketing stack (if you want one, of course).

Features:

  • Unlimited pages, templates, and products
  • Can deploy your site on multiple platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and email
  • Customizable payment plans
  • Create an affiliate center for your business 
  • One-click upsells
  • Upsell A/B testing
  • Integrates with multiple tools, including over 750 with Zapier
  • Smart pixel tracking

Who it’s best for:

  • Creators who are looking for one-page product pages that are optimized for sales out-of-the-box
  • People with established audiences who want to add some more bells and whistles to their product pages to increase their average order value

Free trial:

  • SamCart offers a 14-day credit card-required free trial 

Pricing: 

  • The lowest-paid plan starts at $49 per month
  • The highest-paid plan starts at $199 per month

Platform #4: Easy Digital Downloads

If you’re a WordPress user, you’ve probably heard of Easy Digital Downloads. It’d be hard not to. 

You can sell a number of digital products with Easy Digital Downloads, including ebooks, PDFs, subscriptions, and even WordPress plugins. 

Easy Digital Downloads supports shopping cart functionality so your customers can purchase multiple items at once, too. The included upselling and cross-selling features should give your cart some extra oomph on top of that.

With Easy Digital Download’s customer management functionality, you can track important information about your customers’ buying activity. This can help you send more targeted marketing promotions to customers. 

Finally, makers can also set file download limits and expiring links to prevent unwanted distribution. 

Listen, if you’re a WordPress user and that’s where you want to stay, it’s hard to beat Easy Digital Downloads’ rich library of features. We don’t recommend WordPress to sell online courses, but for digital downloads, it has some potential.

Features:

  • Unlimited file downloads
  • Sell subscriptions (on certain plans)
  • Upsell and cross-sell from product pages
  • Create a multi-vendor marketplace 
  • Can let customers download something infinitely or set limits
  • Can set link expiration time and limits 
  • Customer account pages
  • Can sign customers up to your ESP after they’ve checked out 

Who it’s best for:

  • Creators who prefer using WordPress to run their business website and sales
  • Those who don’t want to sell or provide anything to their audience beyond digital downloads. This tool is a little bit of a one-trick-pony in both the best -- and worst -- ways

Free trial:

  • Easy Digital Downloads is free to download 

Pricing: 

  • The lowest-paid plan is $99 per year
  • The highest-paid plan is $499 per year

Platform #5: Podia

We’ll make no bones about it: we are absolutely biased about this one, but that doesn’t mean our platform is the best for everyone. 

We want you to choose the best platform for you, whether that’s us or someone else.

If you’d like to compare Podia head-to-head with the platforms in this list and more, you can check out our Podia alternatives page to learn more.

Otherwise, if you’d prefer a platform that won’t put caps on your potential and sales and want to join the likes of Justin Jackson and Tiffany Williams, then we’re an option worth considering. 

Creators can sell unlimited online courses, memberships, and digital downloads on Podia.

You won’t need to pay commissions, video hosting fees, or any other hidden costs. 

For digital downloads in particular, you can offer free downloads as lead magnets, upsell them, or sell them as individual products. 

Besides hosting your products, you can create branded sales pages that convert visitors into satisfied customers. 

For extra marketing and sales opportunities, you can build your email list with Podia and use our built-in customer messaging tool for customer service, to nurture leads and validate product ideas. 

And if you need any help, our live customer support team will lend a helping hand. Our customers have a lot to say about our support team, and it’s one of the biggest reasons people choose Podia.

Features:

  • No product, sales, or customer caps
  • Sell online courses, memberships, and digital downloads
  • Free hosting and migrations from other platforms
  • No limits on membership plans and tiers
  • Bundle products with your membership, courses, or digital downloads 
  • Customizable homepage, product pages, and sales pages
  • Send email newsletters and drip campaigns
  • Upselling and cross-selling functionality
  • Live customer support

Who it’s best for:

  • Creators looking to manage their product pages and website from one simple dashboard instead of 9 widget dashboards.
  • Those who plan to expand beyond digital downloads and branch into other info products like memberships, webinars, and online courses.

Free trial:        

Pricing: 

  • The Mover plan is $390 per year or $39 per month
  • The Shaker plan is $790 per year or $79 per month

Host free digital downloads on platforms that can support your business’ growth

Whether you’re hosting free digital downloads or selling paid products, you need a platform that can help achieve your business aims. 

Some of the most digital-download-friendly platforms for small creators include:

  • SendOwl if you want to sell digital and physical products, services, subscriptions, and memberships
  • Gumroad if you’d prefer to pay-as-you-go for the sales you make (and not the ones you don’t) 
  • SamCart if you want to host and sell your products from one page and use social media to directly sell to customers
  • Easy Digital Downloads if you’re a WordPress user looking for a versatile digital download tool 
  • Podia for creators who want to offer free and paid digital downloads, online courses, memberships, and more

Each of these platforms is fantastic in their own right, but no guide can tell you which one is exactly right for you. To find that out, you have to try them for yourself.

Hopefully, with this list of five platforms to host your digital downloads, we’ve made that journey a lot shorter. Good luck.

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