The idea of someone making a digital purchase of a digital product is nothing new. Even the concept of having the digital item auto-delivered after purchase is nothing new. But how does it actually work?

Behind the Scenes Payment Notifications

To demonstrate how digital product delivery works I will walk you through an example I developed several years ago. After that I will let you know about a few of the many turnkey (for lack of a better word) services that provide this capability with very little effort on your part.

Before I discovered WordPress, and after the days of using Microsoft FrontPage, I would build content manage systems with Active Server Pages (ASP) and store data in an MS Access database.

I built a site for my cousin, a rap artist, that was meant to auto deliver his music to customers after purchase. I was nervous and excited about taking on the challenge.

When I finally stopped procrastinating and got started, I built the database, and setup all the content pages. I even created chronological news. I swear I invented the first blog.

Now, the challenge was, how do I make an interface for him to add music and have it auto-deliver to customer after purchase?

He threw in a curve ball. He also wanted me to make some of the music available for free, with the ability to listen within the browser. Boy, did I learn fast to not offer a “free” site in exhange for hosting commissions, and NO contract.

Well, here’s how the admin worked:

1. Enter a name
2. Upload the song
3. Cost

I had the song upload to a folder that could not be accessed by the public, unless it was free.

Now, on the front end when displaying the music, I would:

…determine if the song was free.

If the song was free, I would provide a “download” link, and a “play” link. The play link would open a Flash music player in a new window so the person could listen and still navigate around the site.

If the song had a cost attached, I would dynamically create a PayPal “buy” link. Nope, I didn’t have a cart. Version 2 was meant to allow for multiple purchases but my cousin stopped paying his hosting fees.

Now, what happens is:

1. The person makes the purchase.
2. PayPal sends a ping (called an Instant Payment Notification) giving my IPN script details about the purchase.
3. After validating the purchase going through several security checks, the script would take a copy of the song file and store it in a temporary location that the user could download it from.

The link for download was sent by email and also the customer was redirected to a page with the download link right after purchase.

To avoid copying files I considered sending them as attachments but the file sizes were too big (at the time).

The link was set to expire after x amount of days, and was auto-deleted. In the back end there was a management tool that showed temp links that were created, how many times they were accessed (and by what IP addresses), and whether they were still active. With a click, they could be turned back on, which was handy if a customer needed to re-download.

That was it. It didn’t get much more sophisticated than that. And unless I missed something, it worked flawlessly.

Little did I know there were already systems in place. Some that were hosted, and some that could be itegrated into an existing site.

Existing Auto Digital Good Delivery Systems

Here’s a few decent systems that auto-deliver digital goods after payment. They are in no particular order.

While all these systems work with PayPal, they and others may work with other payment systems as well, like Google Checkout, and Authorize.net.

1. PayLoadz – PayLoadz has been around for a very very long time. In fact, way before PayPal had their own system in place, PayLoadz was handling digital delivery from PayPal purchases.

PayLoadz

Here’s a story that I recall hearing about back in the day, but don’t quote me on its validity.

PayPal was approached by Warner Brothers for a means to auto-deliver the new (at the time) Madonna single, that they wanted to test selling online for $0.99.

Well, PayPal was forced to refer them to PayLoadz because they didn’t have a system in place.

Interesting, yeah? Ok, moving on…

PayLoadz lets you integrate pay buttons in your site and include your products in their online store. They will securely auto-deliver a digital purchase upon payment.

There system is old (written in ASP, but I’m sure they have a better DB than I was using), but it works well. Well, it did last I had content on there a couple years ago. I still get recurring commissions from them from referring people there many moons ago.

2. PayPal for Digital Goods – I’ve never used this system but it fills a very interesting need. Their example talks about making a purchase within the midst of a video game.

PayPal

If the games device has Internet connectivity, a PayPal button can be included within the game to make a quick purchase for “better tires,” “new game levels,” “gold,” etc. Very cool.

It makes the process seamless and keeps everything within the gaming experience, and handles the transaction quickly so the customer can get back to playing.

It is used for much more than just gaming. That’s just one example.

3. E-junkie – I like E-junkie for the most part. I mean, the process is simple. You upload your digital products (yep, they will host them), you create some buttons, and then integrate those buttons into any HTML page.

E-junkie

It’s a pretty simple setup process for us, and buying process for our customers. It communicates with PayPal to validate the tranaction and then delivers the goods.

And it has a $5 per month package that keeps me selling a $67 digital product on the regular. Well worth the investment.

My biggest pet peeve about E-junkie though is their interface. I haven’t taken the time to look but it seems the site is written primarily in JavaScript or something.

While it appears you are navigating around to multiple pages, you aren’t. I was deep into some pages on more than once occasion and something got mucked up so I had to refresh and it kicked me back to the beginning, or so it seemed.

But the truth is the URL doesn’t change for most of the “pages” that you go to, so a “refresh” brings you to the beginning of your process, even though technically you might have been a couple pages deep.

Also, for some reason it doesn’t play nice with RoboForm, and I actually have to keep an email with my login credentials rather than store them in my password management tool. I think it’s a case of them trying to be too slick with their coding and ended up with a poor interface. I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

I say if you want to use show/hide features and include everything in one page, at least put some stuff in the querystring so that a refresh works.

In Conclusion

While it is fun and rewarding to develop your own “instant payment notification” system, there are many out there. Every time I turn around there is a new eCommerce system that auto-delivers digital items from almost any payment provider, not just PayPal.

PayPal used to be the default solution for me, with PayLoadz handling the deliveries, but the digital product auto-delivery Universe has expanded greatly since then. Lots of options out there, and many are solid solutions, with solid support. And many are built using today’s open-source technology: PHP and MySQL.

You can even find free, simple, solutions for use in WordPress.

So, all in all, if using WP and a free solution, you can have a digital store up and running in minutes handling all deliveries of digital goods while you sleep. Ahhh, the life of an online entrepreneur.

Sure, we have blood shot eyes, carpal tunnel and bad posture, but we make money while we’re in the shower, and walking the dog. 🙂