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Selling digital products? Here are the top 5 emails you should focus on first

This is a guest post from Mandy Jones, a content writer at Sandhills Development, the developer of Easy Digital Downloads, a WordPress plugin for selling digital goods.

If you run a digital product store, there’s so much you can do with emails. And if you’re not maximizing your email strategy, the truth is, you could be missing out on opportunities for making additional revenue using emails. The best part? Email marketing is not even that complicated—and you can automate a lot of it.

“Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social.”


But while email marketing isn’t that complicated, effective email marketing is an art form—with the experts seemingly pulling money out of thin air. One way they accomplish that: By thinking beyond your standard newsletter blasts and sale announcements and really zeroing in on what customers need and desire—and what types of emails can deliver those things.

If you want to up your game in the email department and start bringing in more revenue, here are our insights on the top five emails you should focus on first. 

1. The abandoned cart email

Stores that use Easy Digital Downloads to sell their digital products and Jilt to power their email marketing have an average order value of around $79 dollars. So with an industry average abandoned cart rate of about 70 percent, that means there’s a lot of revenue out there that stores will never see.

If a store does about 100 sales per month, that numbers say it had 230 abandoned carts. Had all of those customers converted, at a $79 AOV, that would’ve been an extra $18,000 in revenue. There’s no doubt, then, that bringing back some of those customers to convert is extremely worthwhile—so sending abandoned cart recovery emails should be a priority for digital product sellers.

So, how do you craft these emails to convince people to complete their purchases at your store? Well, first you want to understand why customers are abandoning their carts in the first place.

According to the Baymard Institute, the top three reasons for abandoned carts are extra costs, account creation, and a long or complicated checkout process. While extra costs may be less of an issue for digital product sellers (shipping isn’t applicable, for example), certain costs like taxes can creep up on customers and surprise them at the last minute.

Ultimately, the best defense against abandoned carts is a good offense designed to prevent them from even happening to begin with. There are some things you can do before you send an abandoned cart recovery email to drive down that 70 percent abandonment rate:

  • Make sure your pricing is clear and transparent, without any surprise fees
  • Only require user accounts if you absolutely need them
  • Make sure your checkout process is fast, easy, and convenient
  • Offer the payment options that customers want to use
  • Tighten up your store’s site performance
  • Use something fast and efficient like Amazon S3 for product delivery
  • Prioritize customer confidence with things like social proof and trust badges

Customer confidence is hugely important for selling digital products, as customers don’t actually receive tangible goods when they make a purchase, so be as upfront and transparent as possible. Hey—you don’t want to deal with refunds either, right?

The abandoned cart recovery email (or the first of several, if you’re sending a series) is the perfect time to answer any common customer questions. Additionally, they’re a great place to offer customers details about things like return policies, how to get support, and resources for how to use your products, for example.

Jilt recommends a three-part automatic abandoned cart recovery email campaign:

  1. One hour after abandonment: Send a gentle reminder to the customer that they haven’t completed their purchase. This gives you the opportunity to start a dialogue with them.
  2. One day after abandonment: Remind the customer again that they still have items in their cart, and maybe even offer a discount.
  3. Two days after abandonment: Send the customer a final attempt, enticing them with a discount, creating a sense of urgency with time-sensitive offers, resolving a problem or specific pain point, providing social proof that shows how great your products are, and/or giving them other product recommendations.

While not every abandoned cart is recoverable, EDD users sending abandoned cart recovery emails through Jilt tend to see a 12 to 15 percent (or higher) recovery rate. Based on the example above using the average order value of EDD stores on Jilt, a typical store could expect to pull in $2,100+ in monthly sales using an automated email they only have to set up once. (And that’s assuming you process just ~100 orders per month!)

The bottom line: Abandoned cart recovery emails have the potential to save lost digital product sales and dramatically increase your revenue, so they are number one on our list!

Here’s a very effective digital product cart abandonment recovery email from Brainstorm Force. It has a very personal vibe thanks to its text-heavy style and being written in the first-person by the CEO. It’s also heavily focused on clearing up any questions, issues, or other roadblocks in the purchasing process.

Brainstorm's abandoned cart email.

2. Purchase confirmation email

The purchase confirmation email lets the customer know that their purchase was successful and provides them with all of the essential information regarding the transaction. Pretty utilitarian, right? Well…

With an open rate that’s up to four times higher than standard broadcast emails, this email is not only an essential part of communicating with your customers in a transparent way—it’s also a good place to direct some marketing.

Under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, the law requires that these emails be transactional in nature, so as a baseline, it’s important to include all of the standard transaction information, such as:

  • Order number
  • Order date
  • Customer details
  • Order summary
    • Item name / number
    • Price
    • Quantity
    • Total
    • Payment type
  • The product download link (optional)
  • Company and contact information

However, the CAN-SPAM Act also allows some marketing to be included in the email, as long as the transactional information is the primary purpose. This varies in other jurisdictions, so check your local laws.

If you decide to use this email as an opportunity to do some marketing, consider the following ideas that could be turned into calls-to-action (sales or otherwise):

  • Showcase and cross-sell related products. Make it easy for customers to see and purchase related products they might be interested in. Fun fact: You have a much higher chance of selling to existing customers (60 to 70 percent) than new ones (five to 20 percent).
  • Offer a loyalty or rewards program. This can get your customers more engaged with your business right off the bat.
  • Ask customers to refer a friend. This could be in exchange for a discount on a future purchase, for example, and can make a big difference in the growth of your store.
  • Ask customers to follow you on social media. You could also ask them to participate in engagement campaigns like giveaways and contests, or invite them to participate in a live Q&A session.
  • Ask customers for their feedback. Want to know what they think about your business so far? Now’s the perfect time to find out.

Here’s a purchase confirmation after buying digital gift cards from Raise. It has all the most transactional information at the top, but also focuses on a few other things: Its guarantee, a link to its Help Center, and, at the very bottom, a few targeted cross-sells.

Raise digital files.

3. Download email

A download email is pretty straightforward, as the main point is to digitally “deliver” your product to the customer. The download email is technically a transactional email, since you’re delivering the actual purchase to the customer—and you can think of it like the digital goods equivalent of a shipping notification or tracking email, for example.

This is a great time to give users details on how to use your products. Point them toward help docs, demo videos, training courses, blog posts, etc., so they can get the most out of their purchases. With products that don’t require instructions, such as eBooks, introduce customers to things like user communities where they can potentially expand the value of their purchases.

Similar to the purchase confirmation email, this is also a good opportunity to inject some cross-sells, promote your rewards program, or get customers to connect with you on social platforms.

Check out this download email from Marvin Visions. It “delivers” the product, then injects a referral incentive and customer service info as well.

4. Welcome email

A welcome email is a nice way to bring new subscribers into your community, and it gives you the chance to help educate about your content, your products, and your brand. You can even use the welcome email as part of a new customer onboarding series or as an introduction to a course.

Whereas physical product stores are largely focused on the products themselves, digital product stores tend to have additional content, such as blog posts, videos, tutorials, or other content that customers may find interesting. The welcome email is a good opportunity to let customers know what’s available to them, and where. That will help you grow and cultivate your relationship with the customer, which can help build brand loyalty and lead to more purchases in the future.

You can get started with your welcome email by simply thanking your customer for subscribing, for signing up, or for making a purchase. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, so don’t overlook this very simple, but effective gesture!

Here’s a good example of a welcome email for a digital product from Musicbed. The first call-to-action takes a new customer to the most important place: The product they signed up for. From there, the email does a little product education, then showcases pictures of the team along with a customer service call-to-action to vividly illustrate that they’re eager to help.

5. The follow-up or “checking in” email

While welcoming your new customers is important, maintaining contact with them and keeping them engaged is a whole other thing.

You don’t want your customers to forget about you, so go ahead and send them a follow-up or “checking in” email to see how things are going with your digital product, let them know they are valued, and find out if there’s anything they’ve been struggling with or have questions about. Here are a few examples of questions you can ask:

  • How have you been enjoying the product?
  • Is there anything we can help with?
  • Is there anything you’d change or do differently with the product?
  • What else would you like to see from us?

This is also a good time to ask the user to expand their relationship with you by joining a VIP club or beta test group—but, be sure not to overload your email with too many choices for the customer. All good emails have one clear CTA, so don’t ask a million questions or ask the user to take multiple actions. Pick one thing and stick to it.

This follow-up email from music service Focus@Will checks in with a new customer after a few days and it’s entirely focused on making sure the customer is using the product, likes it, and sees the customer service options for help if needed. Even if a customer doesn’t need customer service at the moment, just receiving this email demonstrates that the company is invested in making sure they’re satisfied, which builds the relationship.

Focus@Will checks in.

Key takeaways

When it comes to digital product stores, taking advantage of email marketing is a must. After all, with customer confidence being so important for the sale of digital products, staying in constant contact is critical if you want to nurture a thriving digital store, grow your brand, and keep customers engaged and happy over the long term.

Here’s a recap of the top priority emails to get your email marketing strategy off the ground:

  • The abandoned cart email. Remind your customers that they have items in their cart that are still waiting for them, potentially offer a discount and/or time-sensitive offer, inform the customer, and alleviate any confusion or pain points.
  • The purchase confirmation email. Let customers know that their purchases have gone through, and give them all of the transaction information. Also consider engaging them with cross-sells, calls-to-action, and opportunities for them to give feedback or ask questions.
  • The download email. Digitally deliver your products to the customer, maybe give them information on how to use the products, and/or point them in the direction of additional resources they might find useful.
  • The welcome email. Thank your customers for subscribing and welcome them to your community by acquainting them with the content and tools available to them.
  • The follow-up to “checking in” email. Keep a dialogue with your customers by checking in with them to see how they are enjoying their purchases and find out if there’s anything you can do to assist them—maybe even invite them to further connect with your brand or join a VIP club.