What To Sell Online: Digital Or Physical Products

The younger crowd probably feels like the Internet has been around forever. Here’s an eye-opener for them.

Home computers, which were nothing like you see today, even with a desktop, were specially built for each owner in the mid-1990s. Google wasn’t created until 1998, that doesn’t mean that everyone was able to use it.

Computers and laptops were costly. iPhones and androids weren’t released until 2008. Although eBay started in 1995, that doesn’t mean we were buying and selling like today.

The Internet started as dial-up, and there wasn’t a lot of surfing, it was too slow. Once DSL and satellite Internet started, it was like the Audubon was created all over again, people jumped on it and roundabouts had to be invented to handle all traffic.

So, e-commerce and selling physical products online haven’t been happening but about 10 years. Digital products aren’t far behind.

Digital technology is truly amazing, but there are always going to be those people that must have an item in their hand to feel ownership truly.

Physical products can be different things: clothes, toys, beauty supplies, fashion accessories, baby items, purses, gadgets, and millions of other things.

Digital possibilities are endless. You can sell e-books, music, software, video, tutorials, information PDFs, training, contract subscriptions, event subscriptions, publication subscriptions, services rendered online, and many other items.

E-commerce has come a long way since Amazon sold its first item in 1995. More and more things have become available online.

Since there’s been recent technological development, it’s easy to start an online business. You don’t need money to rent or buy a building. No employees are working for you. It’s a more natural world than back when you opened a brick and mortar business. You won’t even have shoplifters.

Why sell digital products instead of physical products?

· No shipping cost or restrictions
· High-profit margins
· No storage costs
· No storage of inventory

Why sell physical products instead of digital products?

· Easier to demonstrate the value
· Not so much competition
· Faster to market
· Ideas aren’t copied so easily
· Get reorders

Selling digital products offer ease of transaction and risk. There are lower capital investments and opportunities to differentiate the products when compared to the competition.

The market is growing for intellectual content all over the world. It’s good to sell a digital product with no purchasing cost and offer additional opportunities to add extensions and service to the product.

When you are considering opening an online store to make a profit selling physical products, the foundation of your success will come down to the right products and target market. Don’t randomly choose something to sell on a hunch. You will need a process for determining what to sell.

How to decide what physical products to sell

  1. Come up with a list of products that you might be interested in selling.
  2. Research those items in Google Trends.
  3. Search for market data to see if the industry sales are growing.
  4. You will want to find low competition niches within growing industries.
  5. Collect data such as items sold on eBay, Amazon sales, keyword difficulty, and search volume.
  6. Compare your ideas using actual data.
  7. Scope out competitors, manufacturers, and suppliers to see if they are making money.

Finding the right product that you want to sell is an essential aspect of starting a successful e-commerce business.

Choose products that appeal to the typical online buyer and are conducive to online purchases.

Guidelines when choosing which physical products to sell

  1. Choose smaller items – You will require storage of these items, so the smaller space they take up, the better.
  2. Easy to ship – Since you will be sending these items through the mail, you don’t want things that will break easily.
  3. The inherent value should be ambiguous – Don’t sell electronics because everyone is aware of the set value. However, informational goods and keepsakes are harder to put a price tag on.
  4. Sell timeless products – Like electronics, they lose value the longer they sit on the shelf.
  5. Avoid seasonal items – Don’t choose items that are only bought during a specific time of the year.
  6. Get things that sell between $15 and $200 – This seems to be the pricing sweet spot for online purchases.

They say that there are riches in niches. Be unique! You must be good at marketing. Niche businesses have an advantage over large corporations and websites.

Digital products can’t be touched, tasted, or held, but everyone consumes them. These items are so appealing to sell because they can be created once and repeatedly sold to different customers. You don’t have to replenish inventory, much less effort to maintain than physical products.

You won’t need to rent anywhere to store digital items that you have for sale. There’s an unlimited warehouse on the Internet.

Entire businesses are built around digital products: reason being, their ease of distribution and popularity. You can launch these digital items to complement the services or physical products that you already offer.

There are many options to incorporate digital products into your business: monthly paid subscriptions for access to exclusive digital content, free products to build an email list or licenses to use your digital products, and many more.

E-Learning can expand your business. This industry is expected to be worth $331 billion by 2025.

You can set up a store and sell on your website or sell it on an online marketplace. An online store effectively communicates your brand personality to shoppers. Presenting a brand that people identify with is extremely important. 89% of people stay loyal to brands that share their values.

Know the difference in ownership and licensing. You own your digital product. When you sell it online, you are only selling a license for them to use it. It’s protected from unfair distribution.

There are different types of licenses that you can grant. You can give your customer the right to print out one or more copies of your work. Also, you can state that they can only use your work in the way the listing specifies. You have control of how your digital product is used.

There are two options for getting artwork that was created digitally, online. You can photograph or scan it. Depending on the size, scan it on your home computer or take it to a print shop. They can send the file to your email.

Do not use your smartphone to take a photo. The file won’t print clearly. Use a quality camera; make sure each photo is taken at high resolution.

When listing your items, make sure the descriptions and details are clear. You want your products to get adequately viewed. If the listings are recognizable to search engines, your product pages will rank in the search engine results page (SERP), and people will easily find them.

Help your products stand out.

  1. You need descriptive title tags. This is the clickable headline on SERP’s that leads viewers to your products page.
  2. Keywords turn into title tags. Think about the phrase that you would use if you were searching for your product.
  3. Write a good description. Users will want to know details of what they are buying.
  4. When an image has a problem loading, alt text will be seen instead. It is essential to use; the buyer wants to know precisely what they are spending their money on.

Social media will benefit you no matter what site you are selling on. Use this opportunity to engage with people and widen your audience.

Digital products that you can sell online

  1. Create digital prints of your artwork. Turn them into avatars or wallpaper to use online or on a smartphone.
  2. Monetize your talent by selling your music from your website. You can promote your work by releasing new music straight to your fans.
  3. Write an e-book or create an online course to sell. People like the flexibility of learning online at their own pace. Include videos and quizzes.
  4. Web designing is in high demand. Design fonts create logos or brand websites; there are lots of choices.
  5. If you enjoy taking pictures, digitize your photos. You can’t even offer to edit images.
  6. You don’t have to sell products digitally, offer services. There are many services, such as translation, proofreading, online courses, or tutoring, just to name a few.
  7. Selling software online is always right. You can sell updates to programs, browser plug-ins, or video games. You can choose if you want to sell the games digitally only or if you want to offer them as a physical product too.

You don’t have to choose between selling physical products or selling digital products; you could sell both. Even if you’re not comfortable doing that from the start, it’s something to keep in mind.

It would be easy on some items, such as video games. When they order a set, they can have an option of three different prices. Option 1 is for instant download only. Option 2 is for a hard copy, plus shipping costs. Option 3 is for immediate download, plus hard copy and shipping costs. You should price them so that it wouldn’t make sense not to purchase both. Well, they wouldn’t think so anyway.

Physical products dominate e-commerce, but digital products are hugely popular. Regardless of resell value or production cost, people are willing to pay more for physical products.

There are pros and cons when selling both physical products and digital products.

Pros of selling physical products

· Value is perceived as being higher – Physical Products are real, and people can hold them.
· Value demonstration is easy – Purpose is clear and easy to explain.
· Create your product – People can’t buy the item elsewhere.
· Transactions are straightforward – Ship items with any instructions that are needed. Follow up is minimal.
· Easy to start – Once you have your product, begin selling.
· Sell consumables for reorders – Sell at competitive rates with excellent customer service.

Cons of selling physical products

· More overhead – upfront investments, storage fees, staff to manage items
· Shipping fees – items needed for shipping, postage fees
· Time consuming – marketing, managing inventory, shipping
· Fragile items – limited shelf life, breakable
· Product returns or liability – Offer replacing or returning products solution. Comply with product liability laws in each country that you sell to.
· Competition – Be competitive with pricing, customer service, and marketing tactics.
· Price points – Customers will try to get items as cheap as possible. Selling high priced items can be extremely difficult.

If you decide that selling physical products just isn’t something you want to do, there’s always the option of going digital.

Pros of selling digital products

· No inventory – low risk, no investment, unlimited stock, no storage costs
· Simplicity – send instantly online
· Free, instant delivery – no tracking
· Sell worldwide – no shipping restrictions
· Sell updates – subscription-based models
· No overhead costs – no investment costs, storage or staff
· Sell services – training, courses, vouchers, tickets and podcasts can be sold digitally
· Independence – no depending on shipments arriving on time
· No depreciation costs – can’t be returned for damages, no expiration dates or wear and tear

Cons of selling digital products

· Harder to show value – requires lots of time and effort
· Value is perceived as lower – buyer can’t hold it in their hands
· Time-consuming product development – product must be developed and tested for market
· Competition - everyone wants a piece of the digital e-commerce pie
· Requires expertise - an expert is required to create digital products
· Products don’t depreciate – once you’ve sold the item, it doesn’t wear out, so no reorders
· Products can be copied – once sold, the buyer can make copies and distribute them


After researching both physical and digital products, they both have advantages and disadvantages. It’s a matter of choice and how hard you want to work to sell the item. Neither is better; there’s money to be made with both.

You shouldn’t rush into either choice. It’ll all work out better if you take your time to research all of the products you’re interested in. Remember, it can’t be undone, but it can be done right the first time.

Hard work indeed, does pay off. Take your time and build a business that you can be proud of. Someday, you’ll look back on it and be thankful that you did.

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