We’ve written about several different WordPress eCommerce plugins – there are a lot of choices available. What’s best for your store will depend on what you’re selling, as well as the management capabilities or extensions to core functionality you’ll need.
However, if you’re selling only (or mostly) digital products, many eCommerce plugins may be overkill for what you’re trying to do. You won’t need complex shipping options or the ability to create fairly complex products. You may not even need tax capabilities (depending on the laws where you’re selling).
If this is the case, software that specializes in selling digital files may be a great fit for you. We’ll compare two choices that will integrate with your WordPress site to provide all of the functionality you need to sell digital products: Easy Digital Downloads vs Gumroad.
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The biggest difference between Easy Digital Downloads and Gumroad is that Easy Digital Downloads is software that you’ll download and run on your website’s servers, while Gumroad is a hosted solution. This means that your shop is hosted by Gumroad, and you simply integrate with your website by embedding links or descriptions for your products.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these shop implementations. While you don’t have to worry about payment security with a hosted solution, you lose the flexibility and extensibility that comes with downloadable software (meaning you can modify or add onto it as needed). There are other benefits and tradeoffs that we’ll cover as we go, which should make it easier to decide which is right for your shop.
We’ve written about Easy Digital Downloads (most recently when version 2.1 was released), but we haven’t written about Gumroad, so we’ll provide a comparison of each part of the selling process.
Let’s start with Gumroad setup and integration with your WordPress site. You can sign up for Gumroad for free and give it a test drive to see how you like it. You only pay for what you sell with Gumroad – for each purchase on your site, you’ll be charged 5% of the purchase price, along with 25¢ per transaction. There are no other fees or costs associated with a Gumroad store, such as monthly membership fees or refund fees.
Once you’ve registered for a Gumroad account, you’ll then want to configure all available settings for your shop. I was able to go through all settings within a few minutes to include my basic store, payout, and tax information.
These steps will create a Gumroad storefront for you. However, you’ll still need to integrate this within your WordPress site. You could do so using the “overlay” codes provided by Gumroad, but I prefer to use the free Gumroad plugin, which lets you create product buttons or embed products directly on your WordPress site via shortcode.
Now let’s talk about Easy Digital Downloads setup. EDD is a free WordPress plugin (with paid add-ons), and you can set it up by installing the Easy Digital Downloads plugin on your site. All configuration will be done within WordPress.
If you go to Downloads > Settings, you’ll be able to set up all store options, such as location, download limits or expiration, payment gateways, and store emails. Nothing else is needed to integrate EDD with your site since it’s running on your servers within your site.
Setup Verdict: Both are easy to setup, though you’ll have to take the extra step to integrate Gumroad with your site. However, you don’t have to worry about payment gateway setup or other options with Gumroad.
When you’ve set up either Easy Digital Downloads or Gumroad, you’ll want to know how they look in your site. The good news is that both of these play well with almost any WordPress theme, so you’re in luck.
Gumroad will work by inserting products into a post, page, etc via shortcode. You an either embed products in your site (using the “embed” method), or by adding a button that will open your product details in a lightbox (using the “overlay” method).
Since the product will be embedded or overlayed based on what you’ve created in Gumroad, you can control the product’s cover image, but not much else. When you add an embedded product, the full product details are displayed. When you add an overlay type, a button will be displayed that either opens the product details in a lightbox (looks like just the embed), or can be used as a “buy now” button to send customers directly to checkout.
The embedded products will respect the container size so that your product details are responsive. For example, you could create columns for a grid layout of products, and the embedded product will respond to the appropriate size.
Easy Digital Downloads is also very easy to theme, can flexible in terms of product display. Product pages are automatically created when you add a product to your catalog, and will display any product details, purchasing options, and featured images (if you have one).
You can link to these product pages, create “buy now” buttons for a product via shortcode, or display a catalog of products or product categories via shortcode:
If you want to check out themes that are built to showcase Easy Digital Downloads, you can check out their theme catalog or our theme recommendations. A few of my personal favorites are Marketify, Stocky, and SquareCode.
Theming verdict: No difficulty in making either look good for your site, but EDD is more flexible in terms of product display and can automatically create a catalog of all products, while Gumroad will require each product to be inserted manually.
As the way your catalog is set up is entirely up to you, the way customers browse your products will be flexible. You can sell products via posts or pages if you want to create “buy now” buttons, or create a product catalog for your customers to browse.
Using Gumroad, customers will checkout on-page via the embed or overlay methods, as the payment form will pop up once they’ve made their selection:
Easy Digital Downloads will have a more traditional cart / checkout process. You can opt to send customers right to checkout if they want to purchase a product, or allow them to use a cart and checkout with multiple products at once.
You can also create on-page checkout forms for your products using Gravity Forms and the Gravity Forms checkout extension. We’ve got a review / tutorial of the plugin that shows how you can make flexible checkout forms with this combination.
Customers can access purchase information with each platform. Using EDD, customers can log in to view their purchase history:
Gumroad will also display purchases or files to customers in their library, or show all available downloads after completing an order:
Experience Verdict: Toss up – this is more up to you than either platform. The Gumroad checkout is more seamless out of the box, but there’s no cart system if customers want to purchase multiple products.
Adding products with both Easy Digital Downloads and Gumroad are simple. Adding a product with EDD is just like adding a post or page in WordPress – you can create them directly from your site and add data such as category, tag, price, images, and download limits.
Once you’ve created a product, you can edit it in the same way as you edit posts or pages – by making your changes and clicking “Update”. You’ll also see your entire product list under the “Downloads” menu and bulk update some product data, such as price or category.
Creating products with Gumroad is also fairly simple, but they’ll be created within your Gumroad account rather than within WordPress. Products must be priced between $0.99 and $1,000 (there are further instructions available). You can also allow buyers can pay what they want and provide a suggested price.
You’ll first select what kind of product you’d like to sell – a simple product, subscription, or pre-order.
You’ll then upload a cover photo and add product details, such as a name, description, and pricing. You can also use audio or video for cover images, and can even link to a YouTube, SoundCloud, or Vimeo URL to embed a player.
You can also add variations for a product, offers available for the product, or limit which countries the product can be purchased from and how many copies can be purchased.
Once you’ve created your product, you’ll have to then manually add it to your site where desired, as your product catalog isn’t built automatically.
Editing products is possible with each platform as well. Once you’ve created a product, you can access it from your product list and make changes as needed.
Product management verdict: This depends on your preference. Adding products with each is simple, but you can manage products within WordPress while using EDD. This lets you add or change products as you blog or edit your site, or insert product links into posts easily. Gumroad also offers an easy product creation interface that doesn’t require logging into your site. However, you’ll have to add products to your site manually anyway if you want them to show up there.
Order management is also something to consider when selecting your sales management. Customers can view purchases with each platform; Gumroad customers will view purchases from their library, while Easy Digital Downloads customers can view them from a customer account created on your website. Each will also send purchase receipts via email with all purchase and download details.
Order management for shop admins will vary with each of these. Easy Digital Downloads will allow you to view all purchases and order information directly from WordPress under Downloads > Payments. You can view each purchase, purchasing details, and edit order details as needed. You can also filter orders by time ranges or search them as needed.
Gumroad doesn’t necessarily have an “orders” view. Instead, you’ll see analytics on purchases for a given time period, or can view customer purchases and click on a purchase to manage it (i.e., issue a refund or cancellation). There’s no orders system with order numbers, etc.
Order management verdict: This depends on your needs. EDD has a true order management system, complete with order numbers, which may be necessary for your accounting. However, Gumroad will also track purchases for customers and products, just in a different way.
You can access customer lists and purchases with both Gumroad and Easy Digital Downloads. With EDD, you can view all orders for a customer by clicking their name, or view all customers from the “Reports” section.
You can view customers from the “Customers” list in Gumroad, and click on the customer to see relevant details. You can also filter customers by who has purchased a product, or import / export customers.
Gumroad does have a couple of really cool customer management features available. First, you can send a message to buyers that have bought a certain product (or any product) right from the “Customers” view. This is really useful to email about updates or new, related products. You can also message customers that paid more than a certain price to provide rewards discount codes.
To accomplish this with Easy Digital Downloads, you’ll have to keep an email list with something like MailChimp and segment your customers appropriately.
Customer management verdict: Gumroad beats EDD for me in this area. I really love being able to easily contact customers right from the dashboard, and especially love the ability to send emails based on which product was purchased. You can also import and export customer lists, as well as filter by what was purchased.
Payment processing is very different for each of these platforms. Using Easy Digital Downloads, you can process payments via PayPal, or use your own payment processor. We’ve got a list of some of the top payment gateway add-ons for Easy Digital downloads. Each payment gateway costs about $49 for the integration plugin along with the payment gateway fees you’re assessed as a merchant. However, you have flexibility in determining how you want to process payments, and can even offer several payment methods.
You can also accept recurring payments with Easy Digital Downloads which recur daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly (with certain gateways).
Gumroad doesn’t offer the same flexibility, as payments have to be processed via their payment system. As such, your store can only accept credit cards – no PayPal or other payment methods. You’ll be paid every other Friday via PayPal from Gumroad for all transactions in your store. They make money by acting as a payment processing middle-man for your store.
You should also be aware that this may result in chargebacks, as customers will be billed from Gumroad and not you. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve specified that they should expect charges from Gumroad rather than your shop.
You can accept subscription payments with Gumroad as well, and payments can recur each month, 3 months, 6 months, or year.
Gumroad also offers the ability to sell pre-orders, which isn’t available with EDD.
Each offers the ability to create discounts for your shop. Gumroad allows you to create an offer on a per-product basis, while EDD has more flexible coupon rules since customers can purchase multiple products at a time.
Payments verdict: EDD wins here. While Gumroad is easy to get up and running, you can’t change anything about accepting payments and can’t offer multiple payment methods.
You should also consider whether you’ll ever need more functionality beyond the core platform. This is where you’ll incur expenses with Easy Digital Downloads (aside from payment processing fees). While there are some free add-ons for Easy Digital Downloads, you’ll probably need at least a couple of paid add-ons to complete store setup.
For example, you may want something like product review, which aren’t possible with Gumroad, but can be added to EDD for $32.
Easy Digital Downloads is also extendable with custom code and plugins. Since the software is downloaded and run on your servers, you can modify or add onto it as needed. You can even make your own plugins or have them developed to add functionality to your shop.
Gumroad offers limited capability to extend the platform, and most of your ability to do so would be through a third-party service like Zapier. You can set up “zaps”, which are basically triggers for other systems. For example, you can set up a zap to send a text message via Twilio when an order is placed via Gumroad.
Extending verdict: Easy Digital Downloads takes the cake here. While Gumroad has a lot of awesome features built-in, such as customer-defined pricing and PDF stamping, you can purchase tons of add-ons for Easy Digital Downloads and can hire a developer to customize it as needed. (For example, you can purchase add-ons to get customer pricing and PDF stamping, but you can also change the software as needed.)
Both platforms will include reporting and sales analytics for your store. Using Gumroad, you’ll be able to view sales analytics by date range and product purchased (including all products or only specific products).
You’ll also have data on conversion rates, and can even drill these down by referrer to see where your highest conversions are coming from. This can help you target your advertising to maximize your ad’s ROI.
Easy Digital Downloads has built-in reporting as well. You can view reports for sales, products (monthly average and total sales), payment methods, customers, and taxes.
While you don’t have the detailed referrer and conversion rate analytics that you do with Gumroad, you’re able to drill-down to product categories to view sales data.
Reporting verdict: Gumroad takes the cake here for both the ability to view conversion data right within the dashboard, as well as easy integration with Google Analytics for more data.
Both Gumroad and Easy Digital Downloads include documentation and great support, so there’s no real need for comparison here.
Choosing Easy Digital Downloads vs Gumroad will depend on what you sell and how you plan to sell it. You may also want to take a look at pricing structure depending on the volume of your sales, but I’d probably place this concern below how you’ll be selling and managing your store.
EDD is a free plugin that offers paid add-ons and paid priority support, while Gumroad will charge you on a per-transaction basis. The upside to this pricing is that you’ll only have to pay for your shop when you make money from product purchases. However, as you sell higher volumes of products, you’ll end up paying more for something like Gumroad than you would for Easy Digital Downloads add-ons.
For example, let’s say you sell a product at $5, and you sell 1000 of this product in a year. You’ll net $4500, which means that Gumroad has cost $500 in that year. Depending on what Easy Digital Downloads add-ons you use (if any), your costs could range from $0 to hundreds of dollars for the same sales.
However, as I said previously, what and how you sell should have more of an impact on your decision. Easy Digital Downloads is awesome if you’d like to use the built-in WordPress structure and manage your shop from within your website. In doing so, you’ll get customer accounts that are integrated with your site and blog, and everything will be kept on-site for seamless transitions between your community, catalog, and checkout.
Easy Digital Downloads is also great for shops that will be selling products in a cart system. As Gumroad only allows purchasing products individually, this is a huge benefit to using Easy Digital Downloads. Customers can add all items to the cart, then checkout when they’re ready to purchase all items.
Gumroad is better if you’ll be selling a limited number of products, or if you’ll be selling via other channels. You can integrate a Gumroad store with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and SoundCloud, so it makes sense for shops that want to sell in multiple locations. It’s also handy for subscriptions and Pre-orders. However, you’ll have to set up your entire product catalog on your WordPress site, and constantly manage your site and store in different places.
In a nutshell, you should use Gumroad if analytics and customer management are most important to you, you only sell a limited number of products on your website, products will be purchased individually without a cart system, and you’re okay with no control over payment processing. You’ll also get a seamless, on-page checkout. Easy Digital Downloads is a better fit if you want a built-in product catalog, order management systems, you want a cart system to customers can purchase multiple items at once, and you want to offer other payment options (or just want more control over this yourself).
You can check each platform out here for more information:
Here are some other resources for further reading:
- Nathan Barry has written about his experiences selling with Gumroad
- Looking to create a vendor marketplace for digital products? Here’s our How to Create a Digital Marketplace tutorial using EDD.
- We’ve reviewed a few EDD versions. Here are Easy Digital Downloads reviews for version 2.1 (most recent), version 2.0, and our first review.
- We’ve also compared Easy Digital Downloads vs WP eStore
- And we’ve compared Easy Digital Downloads vs Selz