Should I sell physical or digital products?

Jun 10, 2016 by
Should I sell physical or digital products?

As an entrepreneur, one of the most difficult decisions to make is how to monetise your site. After you’ve spent a prolonged period of time publishing high quality content on a regular basis, you’ve hopefully been able to establish a loyal readership for your blog.

Converting these people to paying customers requires you to deliver something that will truly benefit their lives (or businesses). Debating whether to sell digital or physical products is one of the main points of speculation when you have a large audience but want to start profiting. Here are some of the pros and cons of each type of monetisation strategy.

Benefits of digital products

Perhaps the greatest advantage of selling digital products, such as ebooks and courses, is that there is no inventory required. Managing inventory is not only difficult and time consuming, it also costs money. On the other hand, ebook sales can be easily automated, which leaves you with more time to focus on creating great products that your audience will love, rather than on other processes which are not as creatively rewarding.

Another major advantage of digital products is that you can bring them to market very quickly. With physical products, there are many stages such as research and development, prototyping, production, market testing and more. For an ebook, a small team (or even just yourself) can do the research, writing and design in less than a month. If time is of the essence and you need to start generating a profit, ebooks and courses represent excellent options (providing you already have a loyal readership).

Since the only cost is upfront in order to create the digital product, everything after that represents pure profits. With physical products, particularly ones that are elaborate or complex to manufacture, overheads can quickly add up. For some manufacturing processes, you will need to invest in a large production run and make a significant amount of sales before you’re able to turn a profit. This can be extremely disconcerting if you are financing a business yourself or are working with a limited budget.

After running a fitness and nutrition blog for a year which sells nutritional supplements, legendary marketer Neil Patel stated retrospectively:

“I would probably have focused a bit more on digital products first, then sold tangible products afterwards.”

Benefits of physical products

In terms of brand awareness, it’s pretty difficult to beat physical products. Just by having your product sitting on a desk, simple enquiries about it will boost your brand awareness as a consequence (this is the reason that Seth Godin released a book with no words on the front cover – to start conversations!) Digital products are also, unfortunately, a lot more prone to piracy. The more complex, elaborate or innovative your physical product, the harder it will be to copy.

Also, people tend to place a higher value on physical goods, which means you can usually charge more. If you are going to be selling high volume, there’s a good chance you will make a higher return on your investment in the long-run by selling physical rather than digital products. Physical products are also easier to promote. Try hopping on Periscope and doing a product demonstration with a physical product compared to a digital one. Sometimes people need to see and feel a product in order to be convinced of its utility. This isn’t to say you can’t still market a digital product amazingly, but it’s usually a little more difficult.


While there are no right and wrong answers in regards to whether you should sell physical or digital products, it’s usually best to make the decision based on what provides the most value to your target audience and how much money you have to invest. If you have a low budget and want a quick return, digital products make sense, whereas if you have significant reason to believe you can sell a high volume of physical products over a long period of time, the extra initial investment may just be worth it!