Selling Digital Products on Shopify

I’m on my third digital delivery app for Stitch People, and I think I’ve finally found something that’ll work for me: SkyPilot. Here’s a review of what it does, why I like it, and why the other things I’ve tried have failed.

SkyPilot

Link: http://skypilotapp.com

This is my current app. I made the switch final today (May 15, 2016) and things are now running smoothly. Here’s what I love about it:

  • While the actual files are hosted and served through skypilotapp.com, this is all done behind the scenes and masked through your own domain. When people click on the link to download their file, the link is your domain. The SkyPilot app then intercepts that request and serves the necessary file.
  • The entire experience is on my domain. SkyPilot gives you templates to manage, so you have full control over how the experience looks for your customers. It integrates into your existing theme and layout, so there’s no break in the visual experience for your customers.
  • It integrates into the order status page. When someone completes their order and it contains digital products, they’ll see a button on the order status page that takes them to another page (on my domain) that lets the customer download the file. I still send a follow-up email (see the next point), but that’s now a backup. People can immediately download their files after their purchase without having to go back to their inbox and wait for a link.
  • I can manage the email notifications entirely. I’ve turned off email notifications through SkyPilot, and instead I send the download links through my email marketing service, Drip. When someone orders something through Shopify, Drip is notified and stores the customer ID. I then use that customer ID to generate their unique download link and send it to them. All emails go through my domain and have the highest deliverability rates possible. No more lost notification emails.

I’m hoping that I’ll stick with this one for a while. So far, it has everything I want, lets me see how many times someone has downloaded a file, logs the IP address of each download, and gives me the flexibility I want to craft the entire experience.

SendOwl

Link: http://www.sendowl.com

This was the second app I used, after Digital Downloads (below). It worked well for about 6 months, but eventually three things made me start looking for a third option.

  • The email notification sent to customers through SendOwl is sent from noreply@sendowl.com. They don’t have support for sending emails through your own domain, so even though I was able to set the ‘From’ name on the email, a lot of the download notification emails were going to customers’ spam folders. Not good.
  • Files were all hosted and downloaded directly on SendOwl.com. While they do offer some branding options, customers are ultimately leaving your site to go download their products elsewhere. This never really sat right with me.
  • Sometimes, customers would receive the email with the link, click on the link, and get a 404 error from SendOwl. Usually this resolved itself if the customer tried again in a few minutes, but this was completely unacceptable for me. A huge selling point to offering digital products it the immediate satisfaction a customer gets when they purchase and then download the file. A service that can’t reliably deliver a seamless experience isn’t worth my time.

Digital Downloads by Shopify

Link: https://apps.shopify.com/digital-downloads

This was the first app I used and it’s been probably 8 months since I’ve used it, but based on my experience, I have no desire to try it again. For me, the biggest issue was the inconsistencies with the download limit feature (which limits the number of times a customer can download a file). The default had it set to 3, and I kept getting emails from frustrated customers saying that the first time they clicked the link, they were told that they had exceeded the number of allowed downloads. I was going in at least once a day to reset someone’s download limit.

Another thing that drove me crazy: all downloads logged the IP address that download came from. Problem was, all downloads were being attributed to an IP address associated with Shopify. I emailed the Shopify team about this, and they confirmed that this was happening with every store that had the app installed. Several months after alerting them to the issue, it still hadn’t been fixed. Between this and the download limit weirdness, I decided that this app wasn’t worth the headache.

Why ConvertKit Wasn’t The Right Choice For Me

A few months ago, I wrote a post on switching from MailChimp to ConvertKit. At the time, I knew I needed to get off MailChimp, but didn’t know exactly what features I needed to be looking for. After using ConvertKit for five months, I’ve decided that I need to find something else. ConvertKit is great (and works really well for a lot of people like Pat Flynn), but I need a little more than what it has to offer. Namely:

  • Event tracking. It’s not enough to just tag a subscriber with some info (like ‘customer’ or ‘free-guide-download’). I want to know WHEN that tag was applied, when that subscriber converted, etc. Knowing when would help me craft better email sequences and create a more personalized experience for a subscriber.
  • A robust API. I’m starting to use a lot of different services to manage Stitch People, and am building custom solutions to integrate them. For example, we use Zendesk for our support emails. When someone writes in, we have an app that displays customer information about that person from our Shopify store. I wanted the same kind of functionality for people who purchased our products on Amazon, so I built my own app for that. The next app I build will be for pulling in data from our email marketing tool with all that event data I already mentioned. When did they subscribe? How many emails have they opened? How engaged are they in the brand? All this information will help me provide better customer service, but I can’t get that data without a good API. The ConvertKit API isn’t robust enough to handle what I need.
  • Subscriber meta fields. I need to be able to store more information about a subscriber than just name and email. I’d like to eventually build out my own abandoned email recovery tool and email sequence, and need to be able to save things like cart recovery URL for a subscriber.
  • Lead scoring. This was a feature I enjoyed in MailChimp, but didn’t think I needed. Turns out I really do need it. We have a Facebook group full of really great, engaged customers. MailChimp’s engagement scores helped me handpick that group, but now that I don’t have anything that shows me my most engaged subscribers, I don’t know who to invite into the group to keep things fresh.
  • Subscriber tracking. I’d love to close the loop on interactions subscribers have with my site. I’m segmenting people for Facebook Custom Audiences based on how they interact with my site, and I’d like to do that same kind of segmentation for my email list. For example, with the purchase of the DIY Stitch People book comes access to additional patterns available only online. I want to build a series of emails that can account for whether or not a subscriber has visited that URL yet. And what about customers who have already purchased one product, but are back on the website looking at other products? I’d like to proactively reach out to them based on what they were looking at.

Right now, it looks like Drip is going to be my best option. But before I commit to moving all my subscribers over, I’m going to do the free trial and see how things go. I’m also concerned that if I leave ConvertKit, all the links in emails I’ve previously sent won’t work anymore (like what happened when I left MailChimp), but that may be worth the benefits I’d be getting from Drip. More to come as I try out Drip and make a decision.