When to Use Easy Digital Downloads Instead of WooCommerce

When to use Easy Digital Downloads instead of WooCommerce

WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads are like the two kings of the WordPress e-commerce world.

When people first get started with an online business, one of the first questions they’ll ask is “which platform do I choose?” Let me help you out!

Both platforms are for selling products online, but they specialize in different areas.

The whole WooCommerce vs Easy Digital Downloads debate can be solved with one simple question: what are you selling?

Are you selling PHYSICAL products that require shipping? Use WooCommerce.

When SHIPPING is involved, WooCommerce rocks it. That’s exactly what it was built for.

  • Physical products
  • Shipping costs
  • Stock management

Those are the things WooCommerce was built for.

Yes you can also sell digital goods, but with WooCommerce that’s kind of like an afterthought. The physical product system is the highlight, and digital downloads were tacked on.

Are you selling DIGITAL products? Use Easy Digital Downloads.

When you think digital goods (e-books, PDFs, plugins, themes, etc.) you probably think:

  • No shipping
  • Ability to attach a file to a product and automatically deliver that file after payment is made
  • No stock management (you have unlimited amounts of a digital file!)
  • Possibly product licenses for plugins/themes

This is where Easy Digital Downloads ROCKS. It was created for digital products and it does that job damn well.

But why not use WooCommerce for everything? It does support digital products after all!

Yes, WooCommerce does have support for digital products. So why not use it regardless of your product type?

If you ONLY sell digital products, then WooCommerce is not the best or simplest option.

If you only sell digital products on your site and you have no plans for physical products later, then WooCommerce is overkill for your needs. You’ll have tons of extra files and UI features that are useless to you and you have to skip over them every time you create a product.

It’s like buying a huge ass mansion with a library, a farm, a tennis court, a pool, and a race track when you hate physical activities and all you want is the library. Too much maintenance. Too much unnecessary stuff to wade through.

It’s better to use the plugin that was specifically designed to do exactly what you want—serve digital products.

Use Easy Digital Downloads if…

  • You sell digital products.
  • You have no plans to create physical products.
  • You want a simple interface that has all the features you need for digital products and not extra stuff you don’t need (shipping, product dimensions, etc.).

Do you use either of these plugins for your business?

If so, which one did you go with and why?

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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29 comments

    1. You’re so welcome!

      I don’t have any experience moving from EDD => WooCommerce but I have done it the other way around (WooCommerce => EDD).

      I think in both cases it’s definitely doable because these two platforms are the most commonly used for e-commerce on WordPress. So people have written importer plugins/scripts you can use. You might have to search around a little because the plugins might be made by third parties, but I trust you’ll find something. πŸ™‚

  1. I use WooCommerce and it’s absolutely perfect for the physical products I sell (mini book charms/jewelry, aliciacraft.com). It has everything I need and some stuff I didn’t expect but love. If I did expand to have digital content (which I may do in the near future), I’m already familiar enough with the plugin that I would probably have no trouble with it, but that’s because I already use it. If I only sold digital content, WooCommerce isn’t hard to figure out, but it has a lot of extra features that wouldn’t need to be used and would just take up unnecessary space.

    1. Yes you’re totally right! If you want to do both, WooCommerce is perfect. It can handle everything nicely. But if you only do digital stuff then there will be TONS of unnecessary fields to dodge over.

  2. Great post! I’m using Easy Digital Downloads myself and WooCommerce would definitely be overkill and WAY too bulky. I bought the mailchimp add-on which works great and I’m also thinking of buying their affiliate add-on… has everything you need! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Mel! Yes I totally agree—WooCommerce is totally overkill if you only do digital downloads. Honestly, I cringe a little whenever I see a 100% digital store on WooCommerce haha.

      Also, from a developer’s perspective, I like working with EDD a lot more. It just feels so much cleaner and simpler.

      I use AffiliateWP with EDD and love it! I’ll honestly use anything made by Pippin Williamson. I’m a huge fan of his coding style. It’s soooo developer friendly.

  3. I use WC, which wasn’t difficult to setup to me, but will probably switch to EDD in my next rebrand. I didn’t use it from the start because I need a local payment gateway for my country (Paypal can’t be used here) and is an expensive add-on that I can’t justify for my domestic sales, so I settled with Woo for my two shops.

  4. I use WC for a few sites, one of which is all digital. But for that site, I think the case is a bit unique. Many of the design products are sold only once, so stock management is a must. And at the time of purchase, the client specifies certain customizations — text, size, etc. Rather than simply make the design available for immediate download, I’ve got to tweak it and get proof approval before delivery. I checked out EDD, but I couldn’t see that it would easily handle my situation, and since I knew that WC would, that’s what I went with.

    ysar recently posted: {Review} Code Red by Amy Noelle
    1. If someone is just entirely giving away free digital products then I would suggest using something like Download Monitor instead.

        1. If it’s literally 100% free as long as you’re subscribed to the site, then that’s also doable with Download Monitor. That’s exactly how I deliver my content upgrades.

          I coded my own integration into it, but I do know that Download Monitor has a MailChimp paid add-on. So basically the person fills out a form with their email (thus being added to the MailChimp list) and then they get the free download.

          If you do want a paid option AND a free option with a coupon, then both WooCommerce and EDD can also handle that. I know that in EDD if the price goes down to $0 then the CC form is hidden. I presume it would work the same way on WooCommerce.

  5. I just sell digital products, but I’m a fan of WooCommerce! I first checked it out because all of my sites themes have WooCommerce coding right in with them… and I didn’t want to use something like Pulley/Shopify to have ANOTHER site (plus, I have huge files, host them on amazon, and then that is the download link they use) that gets expensive for the amount/size of the files.

    I know you have files that are often SMALL– is easy digital downloads good for large files? (I’m assuming you use EDD?) Where do you host the files that the end user downloads?

  6. Awesome article, Ashley! I’ve talked with a couple of hosting providers about woocommerce – one said that for woocommerce they recommend a minimum 1GB RAM plan (vs their 512 MB plan). Another said they do it on a minimum 10GB Disk, 500GB Bandwidth plan or higher. When comparing the two, I’m wondering what your experience has been with hosting costs and requirements? Thanks!!

    1. Well those comparisons are completely different. The first talks about RAM, and the second doesn’t mention RAM at all. But disk space and bandwidth have very little to do with WooCommerce. RAM will be more important here.

      But you can’t even compare those two packages because as I said, the first one only talks about RAM and the second one only talks about disk space and bandwidth. Literally like comparing apples and oranges. They’re just two different things. You can’t make a true comparison unless you’re comparing the same things.

  7. Hi Ashley, I’ve been looking at EDD after having read this. Luckily, no shop has been installed yet, but the only thing I’m wondering about still is the VAT MOSS plugin to go with EDD.

    I know WooCommerce has its own plugin, WooCommerce VAT Compliance, which is currently in active use by 2000+ users, whereas the options for EDD are in <100 installations.

    From what I've gathered, VAT MOSS Returns by Lyquidity Solutions seems reliably explained (and updated reasonably recently), but I'm hesitant to just install since it's in 10+ active users only.

    Do you have any input on this? How do I determine the security of this plugin? Or should I stick with WooCommerce despite its bloatedness for my needs (digital only)?

    Since I'm at it, what PayPal plugin would you recommend for EDD?

    Thanks so much once again for a magnificent website, I've been ogling the heart-stoppingly gorgeous idea to code your own e-course thingy. I need your WordPress stuff once I've set up the basics of my site. Will be back in other words.

    1. This is the EDD plugin that’s recommended: http://www.wproute.com/2013/10/vat-for-edd/ I’m not sure where you’re getting your information that it’s only used by 10 sites.

      I personally use this plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/easy-digital-downloads-taxamo-integration/ It’s no longer in development so it might not be a good option for you, but it still 100% works.

      EDD doesn’t need a plugin for PayPal – it comes built in.

      Best of luck!

      1. Thanks! Just installed EDD.

        The 10+ active installs data was for the VAT plugin I mentioned. It’s this one: https://wordpress.org/plugins/vat-moss/

        And apparently it’s the same as the one you mentioned was recommended. Not sure why it’s for sale on their website, when you can get it for free in WP plugins. Now that one is installed, too.

        Thanks again!

  8. Sadly, what you have written is not true.
    Have you looked at the capabilities of EDD? Not the shiny brochure stuff, but how it works in the wild, on a site with more than a few products?

    Try creating bundled products that contain a couple hundred products for annual subscribers. For example, a photo library which contains hundreds or even thousands of products, all of which are accessible by paid subscribers. If you do, you’ll realise that EDD has caveman-primitive import abilities, cannot import product bundles – you have to manually find and select each individual product to add it to a bundle. The dropdown list of selectable products is 22 products long. After the first 22 items you have to manually input the item name, search, select and then repeat.

    It is nowhere near suitable for a digital-only business that is not still at Janet and John levels.

  9. Thanks for the quick answer. I’m stunned by how much EDD costs to create an effective marketplace, esp. with my ability to abandon projects. If I use it all the time and make money from it, I can part with the $900/year without too much pain, but it’s a huge investment if you’re not sure how your idea is going to go. (BTW, I’m a CA girl living in Greece – fell in love with a Greek Aussie! Married 9 years now.)

    1. You only need to spend $900/year if you want to buy every single one of their add-ons and have unlimited license key usage. πŸ™‚ You can create a working e-commerce site completely with their free plugin, or just with a few of their add-ons. The only one of their add-ons I really need to run my site is Software Licensing, though I did purchase a few others as well just to make my process a bit easier (like Git Download Updater, Manual Purchases, and Commissions).

      Very cool that you met and fell in love with a Greek Aussie! πŸ™‚

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