Which Is The Best Way To Sell Digital Downloads? How WordPress Could Help?

How to sell digital downloads on WordPress? Let us get into the business straight!

You want to protect digital content and charge the visitor to access it. It looks pretty simple at the inception of your project. Right?

On the go, you may need advanced features nevertheless want to accomplish the job in an easy way of selecting fewer tick boxes. These are the types of Digital Content I talk about.

  • PDF files
  • Images
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Online Courses
  • Ebooks (Kind of big PDF books)
  • Software files

First, the suggested membership plugins must seamlessly handle all the above digital content. I am strict on this rule. Secondly, the cost-effectiveness of our project.

Now, let’s dig deeper!

How Much Does It Cost To Sell Digital Goods In WordPress?

Free membership plugins available with restricted functionalities to sell digital products using WordPress. In many circumstances, the particular restricted feature is what we need.

That particular limited (Premium) feature can help you maximize conversions, earnings, and customer experience.

You can’t ignore it. You need a robust WordPress plugin to sell downloads which have advanced membership functionalities.

Do We Need Membership Plugins For Selling Digital Products With WordPress?

You must be aware of why we need membership plugins to sell digital downloads preferably than basic WordPress digital download plugins or eCommerce plugins.

The awareness helps you to pick the right plugin to sell your digital downloads.

Yes, technically speaking, you can sell your digital downloads in many ways. From my clients’ experience, I have seen the below methods.

1. Sell Digital Products Through “Downloads Selling” Websites

This method is simply a non-WordPress way of selling downloads barring you never need to own any website. You can own a website additionally for marketing and put your buy now links or buttons there.

Files storage, Files delivery, and customer management are all handled by the “Downloads selling” websites. E-junkie is one such platform to sell your digital downloads. There are many like E-junkie in online space.

2. Sell Digital Downloads Through “Downloads Protection” Plugins

This is the simplest way to sell digital items on WordPress. You have files ready to sell. You want to offer a checkout option to the visitors who would like to download.

These plugins created mainly for the protection of downloads plus charge the visitors to download. So the business looks like finished.

Besides, why do we need eCommerce plugins or membership plugins? Read on further, you will know in a moment.

3. Sell Digital Downloads Through WordPress eCommerce Plugins

Ecommerce plugins can help you sell digital downloads. These tools can protect digital files from the non-member, offer checkout option to pay, and upon payment confirmation, give the privilege to download.

A download protection plugin does the same. But eCommerce plugins method is the best way to sell digital downloads on WordPress. Why?

What sets the difference between the usage of a WordPress digital download plugin and an eCommerce plugin?

E-commerce plugin, by default, understands that you sell some products and the plugin has own way of displaying product catalogs in your website(frontend).

See, for example, you have around 10 Ebooks to sell on your website. Now you want to display the ebooks like this


How can a downloads protection plugin do this visual wonder? Impossible!

You need another visual composer plugin. Else you will have to hire a front end developer to do this. So choosing an eCommerce plugin instead of a download protection plugin arrives as a profound choice.

Moving forward, we will see how membership plugins probably more solid choice to sell downloads.

4. Sell Digital Downloads Through Membership Plugins

For example, we want to sell 10-part video lessons. So we have ten video files ready to sell. We don’t want to give access to all ten videos instantly.

We would like to send the customer the first video lesson immediately after the purchase. We want to deliver the 2nd part on the next day, 3rd part on the third day and so on. Ten days and ten video lessons.

This is called the drip-feed method (technically speaking). How can we expect download protection or eCommerce plugins to have the drip-content feature? In that situation, how do I sell downloadable files on WordPress?

My answer is, “Membership plugins.” Most membership plugins have the drip feature inbuilt. We can set up the digital content delivery in intervals like daily, weekly, or every x days, etc.

Drip feed is not the only reason we go to the membership plugins to sell our digital downloads. There are over a dozen features exist in membership plugins.

Our needs should be analyzed thoroughly to decide whether we need membership plugins or not.

Fourthly, I am looking for free membership plugins to sell digital downloads.

Do Free Membership Plugins Good Enough To Sell Digital Downloads?

I have used a few membership plugins in the business, free, and paid.

Free membership plugins perform equally good as premium ones in security concerns aspect. Where do they fail?

The free plugin developers need compensation for their enormous time contribution to code. Therefore the plugin developers restrict features in free versions and ask us to upgrade to premium versions.

I have picked two free membership plugins and show you how to sell digital downloads on WordPress.

  • S2Member
  • Memberful

How Do Free Membership Plugins Help In Selling Digital Downloads?

I’ll explain how both plugins perform the following three actions. It helps to see on your eyes, and you can decide which membership plugin you go with.

The two membership plugins can protect all the digital content types we have talked sometime before.

You can offer a secure checkout button so that visitors can pay through their credit cards and debit cards.

Once the payment from the customer received, membership plugin creates the membership required to access the downloadable content.

1. S2Member

S2Member is the oldest free membership plugin. You can protect your posts, pages, tags, categories, custom capabilities, and files. We need to see how S2Member protects files.


S2Member has dedicated dashboard-settings for downloads protection. See the below screenshot. Follow the very easy instructions and your files are protected in a moment.



S2Member free version has the PayPal payment gateway integration. Follow the instructions, and it will not take more than 10 minutes to complete the setup.



S2Member free version allows us to create up to five membership levels. Premium version allows unlimited member levels.

The first level always for free access and the other four are paid-membership levels. You can assign a file to any particular level, and other lever members can’t access the file.


2. Memberful

Memberful works in WordPress-Stripe-Mailchimp combination. That is minimalized way to create a membership site. But Memberful’s free version not enough to sell digital downloads.

The free version allows test mode only. You can test how the plugin works in test mode. You can’t go live in the free version that means no real payments.

If you are OK going with Stripe payment gateway, Memberful is the best choice. Memberful doesn’t support other payment gateways at the moment.

In my experience, Stripe is more than enough to let your customers pay via credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, and even bitcoin. If you don’t have a Stripe account, it is high time to check it now.

To go live from test mode, Memberful’s Pro or Premium version is a must.


Memberful able to protect your digital downloads. Create Plans (we call membership levels as “plans” in Memberful), and click “manage downloads” for the respective plans.



As I mentioned already, you need a Stripe account to go live. Create one now and integrate Stripe with your Memberful admin login in easy steps. Memberful provides you payment links immediately after you created a plan.



The proper setup works seamlessly between WordPress, Memberful, and Stripe. User clicks the payment link, pays, and gets access to the digital downloads.

Important Alert

Paid Memberships Pro

I have to talk about this Paid memberships Pro plugin. If you search online about Paid memberships Pro plugin, you will know it is widely recommended plugin by affiliate marketers.

Paid memberships pro builds wonderful membership websites. No doubt on that. It protects posts, pages, categories, and custom capabilities.

What about files? If you want to protect the files, you have to do risky actions like editing htaccess file.

Many times, my clients who did that risky edits faced website downtimes or slow websites. I highly recommend avoiding Paid memberships Pro to sell digital downloads.

Alternatively, you can use the Downloads monitor plugin with Paid memberships Pro plugin. You must use an extension to integrate Paid memberships pro & downloads monitor plugin.

One task and three plugins! Imagine the time and pain to do all the things. While the downloads monitor plugin comes free, the extension is premium one, costs you $39.

Finally, go for the Premium Ones!

How to sell digital downloads on WordPress efficiently? – It is commonly asked question by the product creators.

While there are premium WordPress membership plugins which easily do the job, you no need to take the pain with free membership plugins.

I show you how efficiently the integrations happen and selling the digital downloads possible.

1. Wishlist Member

The first plugin is ‘Wishlist Member.’ The easiest of all the membership plugins when it comes to setup.

Like you add new posts and pages, Wishlist member helps you do so much of functions in ticking (selecting) the checkboxes inside your WordPress dashboard. See the below video tutorial; I bet any other plugin doesn’t do that much easy and quick!

Wishlist Member integrates with all major payment gateways, email autoresponders, and affiliate tracking software. I have been a Wishlist Member user since 2009. Ten years passed, I see they are only growing forever.

WishList Member released 3.0 version at the beginning of 2019. The 3.0 version is the best upgrade to compete with the new membership plugins in the market.

2. MemberPress

The second Plugin is MemberPress. Another one similar to Wishlist Member in terms of Features set. MemberPress plugin is full-fledged one and currently tops the list of membership plugins by hundreds of affiliate marketers.

Check this page to see how MemberPress is protecting files. MemberPress integrates with almost all popular payment gateways. MemberPress integrates with top email autoresponders.


MemberPress plugin allows you to create unlimited membership levels. MemberPress protects posts, pages, tags, custom capabilities, and categories.

It has partial protection feature of WordPress post. You can protect the content available after read more tag. Check official MemberPress website for a full list of features.


You aim to sell your digital downloads. You must understand all the possible ways of doing that. If your best bet is to use the membership plugins, do not explore free ones. Free plugins come with restricted features.

Go with Wishlist Member or MemberPress, and you will not regret it. You will thank me later. When I do a full review of both plugins, I will post links here.

This is my first post on “How to sell digital downloads on WordPress?” post series. I will publish soon the next one. No doubt that WordPress is the best platform for e-commerce.

Now, you tell! According to you, which is an excellent way to sell your digital stuff online? Would you like to go with WordPress + Membership plugin which is the simplest way to get the job done? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

by Nirmala
Nirmala Santhakumar is a professional blogger, WordPress enthusiast who has been blogging since 2010. She always loves to write useful WP tips, tricks and tutorials on this active blog. Sharing her SEO knowledge is her keen interest.

Leave a Comment