Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Design Issues That Should Be Considered When Selling Digital Downloads

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Ecommerce websites that sell digital downloads are presented with a unique set of challenges. Digital downloads provide the seller with huge advantages including low overhead, unlimited inventory and instant free delivery of the files. Customers also benefit from these advantages. Digital downloads tend to cost less than physical products and can be stored anywhere so that the file or application is accessible from a range of locations. The design of an ecommerce website that carries digital downloads needs to take into account several factors that are not issues when selling physical goods. Each of these areas should be carefully considered when adding new files to the website.

Dollars in Hand

Digital downloads present several problems for designers who are creating the content for the product page that will market the item to visitors. Digital downloads can be almost anything. Not all downloads are easy to describe through an image on the product page. Some thought should be given to the product image that will be used for the file. Artwork, music and digital versions of published books generally have some type appropriate image that can be used. Items like research reports, utility applications and lectures do not normally have an associated image. It is important to choose a relevant image that reflects positively on the download that is being sold. Ecommerce websites should never have a product page that states that no image is available.

Consumers always want to inspect an item before making a purchase to ensure that it is exactly what is advertised. This can be difficult for ecommerce websites that
sell digital downloads. One option is to include a small preview of the file that is being sold. This has been done on websites that sell music by providing a short clip of the song that lasts only a few seconds. Online booksellers sometimes provide the first page or two of the text. Some type of preview of the actual content should be provided to visitors in order to help sell the product. This preview needs to be very brief in order to prevent giving away too much of the file.

A major issue that has never been fully solved by websites that sell digital downloads is redistribution. Customers who have purchased a file and downloaded the information are normally able to treat the download like any other file. A very small segment of customers might try to redistribute the file illegally taking away sales from the website. Ecommerce websites have developed different ways of dealing with this problem. One is the used of an embedded watermark so that every download can be traced to a specific customer. A more extreme measure has been to actually watermark the download with the customer name, address and credit card number in a visible area so that redistribution will be detrimental to the downloader. Some method of download tracking or watermarking should be considered.

An ecommerce website that is carrying software or other files that are actively maintained by the creators will want to look into update strategies. Updates are sometimes issued to retailers by publishers, producers or individual content creators. A good customer service policy is to inform customers about these updates. The updates can be used as a marketing strategy to bring customers back to the website. The updates could be hosted directly on the ecommerce website. Alternately, the links to the official sources could be listed on a specialized landing page. Businesses that sell digital downloads can benefit from providing updates to customers when they become available.

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