Selling Digital Products & How to Avoid Piracy

We get it. Running an online business is challenging. You have to brainstorm an idea, create products and services, promote your business, work with customers, and more. Managing your growing business day in and day out takes a significant amount of effort. That’s why, when you find out someone has compromised the results of your hard work through digital piracy, it can be devastating. 

Digital product piracy is the unauthorized access of online courses, digital downloads, and subscription services, often through family and friends sharing resources. It hurts you and your business on multiple levels. Piracy affects online creators at all levels of popularity, from the financial coach with a few clients to the subscription-based business with thousands of customers. Piracy takes advantage of the resources you spent time and effort creating and ends up cutting into your sales and revenue. 

It’s not just a small problem either. It’s estimated that by 2022, the financial toll of digital piracy will amount to $52 billion, according to Digital TV Research as reported by Though you may not be able to discover all the perpetrators of digital crimes against you, you aren’t defenseless. 

Consulting with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) like Print Bind Ship can help bring creative solutions to life to ward off digital product piracy while also adding value to your business. In this article, we’ll unpack the issue of digital product piracy and offer unique ideas for avoiding it. 

The Trouble with Selling Digital Products 

Digital product piracy is a unique crime as many of the people who pirate are genuine fans of the person whose resources they are sharing or accessing without pay. Some people may not see digital products as having the same value as physical products, and they may think nothing of sending a training course or PDF on to a friend or family member. 

But digital product piracy is not a victimless crime. Elena Ringeisen, owner of Modern Market, writes about her own experience with digital product piracy. Not only did the piracy affect her emotionally, but she also explains how it could have a real impact on her livelihood and her family. 

“This is not a side hobby, this is what we count on and I know so many other small businesses that are in the same boat,” she shares. “So when someone downloads something for free online…I hope they realize it will affect that creator in a negative way.” 

Piracy and “Sharing”

Selling digital products is a smart way to bring in a new income stream, but there are downsides to this approach—namely, piracy. Digital downloads are easy for people to share with their friends and family. Once someone has a PDF, it takes seconds to send that to nearly anyone for no additional cost on the consumers’ part. 

Less Perceived Value

While you and your paying clients know that your products have real, life-changing value, people who pirate digital products may not understand that. They may think that if an item isn’t tangible, it doesn’t have the same value as a physical book, in-person course, DVD, or some other such item. Tangible goods also may have a perceived higher value because they engage people’s senses, such as touch, sound, and sight, in a way that digital products may not. All of this could give people the impression that sharing digital products is inconsequential. 

Sometimes, often in the case of large businesses, people think that companies have enough money already to validate their piracy. Others may not want to pay for items if they can get them for free. A more malicious group may wish to profit off of someone else’s work. 

Creative Ways to Avoid Digital Piracy 

You aren’t powerless when it comes to digital piracy. You have options to keep your products from falling into the wrong hands while simultaneously engaging and delighting your paying customers. We’ll walk through actionable strategies that eCommerce businesses, trainers, coaches, writers, and other internet creators can use in their businesses. 

Deliver Tangible Multimedia

Instead of offering your products for immediate download, try instead putting your product into a booklet, CD, DVD, or thumb drive format and mailing it to your customers. This method of multimedia fulfillment can drive down the likelihood of piracy behaviors by making your customer’s purchase feel more personal and concrete.

As a relatively underused medium, direct mail could also be the perfect way for you to stand out and engage your customers. Whereas customers are bombarded by digital messages every minute of the day, direct mail marketing is a much less crowded arena. From 2006 to 2019, the volume of mail dropped by 33 percent.

Add Some Swag

When you send your customers their purchases, this is a perfect time to include some swag. Branded apparel, notebooks, workbooks, drink ware, and more is worthwhile to many consumers. High-quality, useful promotional items can be a massive boost to your brand equity. According to Sageworld, 60 percent of people keep swag products for as long as two years. Every time your customers see or use the items, they’ll think of your brand. 

Try Custom Packaging

You know the rush you get when you open a new iPhone? You can give a similar feeling to your customers with the right packaging. Quality customized packaging and custom boxes give customers a positive first impression. Professional-grade packaging increases your product’s perceived value and build brand awareness.  

Order Fulfillment

Understanding the order fulfillment process is key to adding tangible shipments to your business model. Order fulfillment covers the entire process of getting a product to customers, from initial purchase to delivery. 

One of the easiest ways to carry out all these new shipments is to use the drop shipping method. Drop shipping involves working with a third-party supplier who handles the work of creating the product, managing the packaging, and shipping out orders. 

Selling Digital Products Made Easy with a 3PL

Shipping tangible products may help alleviate your concerns about digital piracy, but it will also come with additional work. The best way to handle the extra lift is to form a relationship with the right 3PL (third-party logistics provider). 

Advantages of a 3PL for Digital Products

In addition to helping you avoid piracy of your precious resources, the right 3PL can help you: handle order management; store and manage all inventory; keep logistics on customer data; warehousing, picking, packing, and shipping. All of this help will keep you from losing your mind. Ecommerce may be complicated, but it’s easy—and affordable—when you’re working with a team of experts.

Digital Products Manufactured and Distributed by Print Bind Ship

Print Bind Ship is a full-service 3PL with experience handling manufacturing, printing, book-binding, warehousing, and database management. If you’re a business owner that’s concerned about avoiding digital piracy and still wants to provide a top-level experience for customers, consider Print Bind Ship’s cost-effective, streamlined solutions. Reach out to Print Bind Ship today for a free consultation.