Complete Guide to Adding Virtual (Downloadable) Products to Your Store

Last Updated: March 10, 2020

Online stores are no longer confined to selling physical products only and have expanded their reach to include digital products such as music, images, e-books, and software.

E-commerce stores allow you to reach out and deliver products to customers the instant they make payment, whereas selling physical products often means losing a significant share of your sales – paying shipping, manufacturing, and distribution costs. This is where selling virtual products using WooCommerce is significantly more profitable for merchants.

Since WooCommerce provides shipping options, not everyone knows that the plugin is just as good for selling virtual (or digital) products.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about virtual products in WooCommerce. We’ll also explain how you can start selling them through your online store using WooCommerce Product Table.

What are WooCommerce virtual products

With WooCommerce virtual products, you don’t have to worry about maintaining your inventory or running-out-of-stock with digital products, as they mainly comprise of files stored on your web server. This means you’re selling the same files time and again.

Moreover, virtual products in WooCommerce don’t require customization of any kind. In contrast, physical products often require you to change their color, size, or any other attribute.

Types of virtual products

If you’re new to the virtual product space, you might be wondering what sort of virtual products you can sell using WooCommerce. Here’s a quick list of some of the most common types of virtual products online stores sell:

  • E-books (guides, how-to’s, and recipes)
  • Video (such as online courses or training programs)
  • Software (such as web apps, game mods, plugins, presets, and tools)
  • Music and audio files (such as songs, sound clips, podcasts, and audiobooks)
  • Graphics (such as icon packs, font packs, PSDs, and themes and templates)
  • Photography
  • Documents (such as printables, guides, reports, white papers, templates, and checklists)
  • Memberships (if you have a membership site, you can sell memberships)

The great thing about WooCommerce downloadable products is that they are sustainable and can easily be replicated.

How to create digital and virtual products

Before you begin creating the product, it’s a good idea to take a step back and gauge product demand. This way, you’ll know if there’s a market for the digital or virtual product you’re looking to create.

You can do this by searching for the product keyword and related search queries in Google Trends.

Google Trends result

If you have multiple ideas for virtual products, you can compare them to see which one has a higher demand.

Once you’ve decided on a virtual product to sell, the next step is to see what’s already out there. In other words, you want to check the market saturation to get an idea of the competition. Run a few Google searches to see who else is selling similar virtual products. This will help you get a better idea of the sort of quality people expect and the keywords they’re using to search for these products.

Finally, you can begin creating your virtual downloadable product. For this, you will need to make sure you’re using the right tool. This depends on the product you’re looking to create. For example, if you wanted to create printables, you could use a free tool like Canva. And if you wanted to create sound clips, you might consider using Audacity.

Step-by-step guide on setting up WooCommerce pages to sell digital products

Here’s what you need to do to start selling virtual products using WooCommerce.

Step 1: WooCommerce plugin installation and settings configuration

In order to sell virtual products via WooCommerce, you’ll first have to install and activate the WooCommerce plugin.

Once the plugin has been activated, create the WooCommerce pages. Next, configure the plugin settings for digital products that you want to sell from your WordPress website. To do this, log into your WordPress admin panel and navigate to WooCommerce → Settings. From there, you’ll be able to see an option Configure WooCommerce Settings for Digital Products – click on it and update the following settings:

  •  General settings tab – Limit the downloadable items purchase quantity to 1
  •  Inventory settings tab – Disable stock management
  •  Shipping settings tab – Disable shipping
  • Payment Gateways settings tab – Disable the payment options: Direct Bank Transfer and Cheque Payment. Enable the PayPal payment option and enter your PayPal email address
  • Emails settings tab – Configure your order notification settings and customize your chosen WooCommerce email templates

Step 2: Product categories creation

It’s best to set up your product categories prior to adding products. You can do this via ProductsCategories in the WordPress admin.

Step 3: Addition of virtual products in WooCommerce

In the third step, you will need to add your digital products (that you need to make available for download). To do this, go to ProductsAdd Product (as shown in the screenshot below).

Clicking on the Add Product option will redirect you to the product creation form. Fill in the below fields:

  • Title
  • Long description
  • Short description
  • Select the product category
  • Set a featured image
  • Insert additional thumbnail images (if necessary)
  • Price

In order to make your digital products downloadable, scroll down to the Product data section and do the following:

From the Product data metabox, choose the Simple Product option from the drop-down. Check both the Virtual and Downloadable check-boxes, as shown in the below screenshot:

Virtual Downloadable WooCommerce ProductsNext, assign a value to the Regular Price field. From the Downloadable Files path, click on the Upload a File option and copy the Link URL. Click on the Save changes button, then paste the URL of the digital product you’ve just uploaded into the File Path field.

If required, you can choose to set an expiration date for the product download link. This will stop the products from getting downloaded after the link expires.

Understanding the order process

So, now that you have carried out the most crucial steps of setting up your WooCommerce pages selling your digital products, you might be interested to know how a digital product order is processed. Let’s take a look at the order process:

When a customer makes payment via PayPal, any one of the following things can happen:

  • If all the items (or products) in the order are downloadable and virtual, then the order will complete
  • Or else, the order will continue processing till the time you change it

After completion of the order, or when the Grant access to downloadable products after payment option is enabled, the user who has purchased the products will:

  • Be given permission to download the purchased products
  • Receive the download links for the purchased products on the order received page
  • Receive email notification that contains the download links
  • Be able to see the download links, once they are logged into their My Account page.

Get more sales with WooCommerce Product Tables

Your store can be reasonably successful if you set it up with the built-in layouts that come with WooCommerce and your theme. For greater success, it’s worth doing some work to optimize your WooCommerce conversion rate.

Get the plugin

The WooCommerce Product Table plugin gives you lots of flexibility about how to display your products. It lists products in a table and you can choose from dozens of options about how to present the table and what data to include. This can help to increase your sales and make your store more successful.

Case study: digital event tickets

Dare to Date product table

Dare to Date uses WooCommerce Product Table to list upcoming events in a neat and organized front-end table layout. Event-goers can search for events based on the type of event, location, gender, and age.

How to list virtual products using WooCommerce Product Table

The key benefit of listing virtual products using WooCommerce Product Table is that it makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Generally speaking, virtual products aren’t image-centric. What this means is that they don’t require the large images that physical products do. For this reason, the default WooCommerce store layout isn’t ideal for selling WooCommerce downloadable products.

If you’re selling lots of virtual products, showcasing them in a product table layout is the best option. Using the WooCommerce Product Table plugin, you can choose which columns to show in the front-end table layout.

WooCommerce Product Table with embedded audio

For example, if you sell audio tracks, you might include columns for product image, SKU, name, price, download limit, and add to cart button (or checkbox). To boost sales, you could even include an embedded audio player column which gives customers a quick preview of the audio track.

WooCommerce Product Table lets you embed video and audio content directly in the table layout. You can also choose to add a search bar and filter options to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for.

Use WooCommerce Quick View Pro to provide additional product details

You can use WooCommerce Product Table with the WooCommerce Quick View Pro plugin to provide even more information about each virtual product. This is especially useful if you’re selling WooCommerce downloadable variable products with variations.

Quick view lightbox with virtual product

Customers can simply click the quick view button in the product table to view additional product details in a lightbox. They can also set purchase options and add products to cart directly from the quick view lightbox. The key benefit of using WooCommerce Quick View Pro is that customers don’t have to navigate to the single product page.

How to make digital products private with WooCommerce Protected Categories

Depending on the types of virtual products you’re selling, you might need a way to make them private.

For example, you might need to sell private WooCommerce downloadable products that are unique to individual customers or clients. This could be an album from a photoshoot you did for a client’s birthday party or wedding.

Or you might want to make certain virtual products in WooCommerce only available to registered members. For instance, you might want to sell guides, reports, or printables to members only through your membership site’s merch store.

The easiest way to make digital products private is by using the WooCommerce Protected Categories plugin.

How to send digital or virtual products to the client

One of the most important aspects of selling virtual products in WooCommerce is getting downloadable goods over to the customer. Of course, customers can always download them directly from your site after checkout. However, if you need a way to send virtual products to your clients you can:

  • Use the downloadable product type to automatically send a file or link to the customer’s email after they complete their purchase. This way, they can download the files directly from their inbox.
  • Alternatively, you can use the Follow-Ups plugin to send an email containing information that explains the next steps. For example, this might contain event tickets, image files, or details of how to access to WooCommerce downloadable product.

Bonus: selling digital subscription products with WooCommerce Subscriptions

One of the most popular types of virtual products are memberships and subscriptions. Selling subscription products is a great way to generate recurring revenue.

You can use WooCommerce with the official WooCommerce Subscriptions add-on to sell digital subscription products through your online store. This helps you set up an on-going payment plan for your products or services.

Start selling virtual products using WooCommerce

Apart from setting up any standard website or blogs, there are so many things that you can do with WordPress.

WooCommerce Product Table
The easiest and most flexible way to sell virtual products in WooCommerce.

In this post, we have discussed how you can easily sell digital products through your WordPress e-commerce website, thanks to the WooCommerce plugin and WooCommerce Product Table. Hopefully reading this will help you learn about the basics of how you can sell digital products by setting up WooCommerce pages.

Maria Ansari

From C++ to PHP, the language Maria thinks in is code, and translates it to English for humans to understand. She has a degree in Computer Science and is the writer of choice for many organizations. She is also The Big Boss at BloggInc., calling all the shots and personally supervising every word and piece of content.

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