Free downloads are a great way to draw attention and traffic to your site. They also allow potential customers to sample what you have to offer, and hopefully gain an interest in your paid products. Rather than just providing a link for a free download, I much prefer to run those downloads through my WooCommerce shopping cart. There are a number of great reasons for doing this:
- Amazon S3 is a very reliable way to deliver downloads. When I previously delivered downloads from my own sites I had a lot of problems with incomplete downloads from timeouts, particularly for those on slower connections. As you can imagine, the associated customer service was eating up a lot of time. That was all solved by switching to S3 and letting Amazon handle the details. The Amazon S3 Storage extension for WooCommerce makes it dead easy to get set up, including expiring links if you want them.
- Potential customers get a chance to try out your shopping cart in a non-threatening way and with no financial risk. This builds trust and experience so they are much more likely to feel comfortable making an actual purchase in the future.
- Downloaders are encouraged to create an account. Accounts are a good thing because they help you build a history and fuller picture of your customers. That history can help you offer better customer service and give you insights for marketing. Accounts can also integrate with other services you may offer and want to encourage participation in, such as e-mail lists and forums.
- If you offer a particular downloadable item free for a limited time only, then the “customer” can come back to his or her account and easily re-download that item at any time. And seeing all of your items in your account, free or paid, is a nice convenience even if the download wasn’t limited. Convenience makes for happy customers, which is always a good thing.
- Going through the checkout process makes free items feel like they have more value.
- You get stats and reports for free items, just like purchased items. That can give you valuable insights into areas of interest for developing future products and marketing campaigns.
- Those who come for free downloads are exposed to your cross-sells, up-sells, and related products during the normal browsing, add-to-cart, and checkout process. That exposure may convert them to paying customers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an order with a cart full of free digital items and then a purchase or two at the end.
There are at least a couple downsides to using your shopping cart for free downloads. In my next post I will discuss those and offer solutions.
Shopping Cart icon designed by Fernando Vasconcelos from the thenounproject.com.