News flash: Online shopping is here to stay. Surprised? Probably not. Barring a giant burst of electromagnetic energy or a solar storm with the power to fry electric grids and make computers and smartphones useless, people have successfully transitioned to online shopping. According to Statista, retail sales are expected to climb from $4.3 trillion in 2020 to $5.4 trillion in 2022.
Many retail stores that were once brick-and-mortar now have an online website. Many new businesses are even forgoing a physical location and opting to be an online business right from the start. In fact, many entrepreneurs and business owners have embraced a new way of selling in 2021; one that does not even require production or manufacturing needs or, for that matter, any inventory or shipping requirements. These sellers offer products that are sold as digital files, either PDFs, JPEGs, WAVs, MP3s or streaming videos. These digital files can be sold over and over again and delivered in lightning speed with just a few clicks on the keyboard. And you don't even have to leave the comfort of your home to get started.
So what are the hottest digital products in the market now, and how can you turn your idea into the next top seller? Let’s begin by taking a look at the current trends.
Top 10 Digital Product Business Ideas
In addition to not having to worry about production, manufacturing and shipping logistics, a benefit of digital products is that you just have to create it once, and then start selling copies of your idea on an online marketplace. A quick scan of Etsy, a popular site to list digital products, shows that many of the top-selling digital products are templates and tools for education and organization. Along with those, here are some top digital product ideas you didn't know you could start.
1. How-to Guides and Ebooks
Digital guides outline a step-by-step process for everything from how to build a chicken coup to more practical support on how to prepare for academic and professional exams. Much like "how-to" guides, ebooks are another way of providing useful information on a subject that you may be well-versed in, whether it's gardening, boating or even a travel log. And if you ever thought ebooks would be a passing trend, then you are wrong. Trade ebook revenues for 2020 totaled $1.1 billion, up from $983.3 million in the previous year.
2. Education Courses
Remote learning had a huge year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And even though things seem to be getting back to normal and students are going back to school, digital content can still offer support to students in need. These education courses can come with instructional videos, downloadable PDF lessons and even online practice. Think beyond the main school subjects to cover music, art, foreign languages and even popular STEM courses like robotics and coding. Check into the requirements, as you may need a state teaching certification to create an educational course. If you have any doubts about online education in higher education, 37 percent of all students in 2021 chose online degree programs in the United States.
3. Art Printables
Thanks to online marketplaces, there are a lot less starving artists in the world today. Some of the bestselling art prints on Etsy include portraits of dogs, international landscapes and even leopard print patterns. Yes. Leopard print patterns!
4. Digital Planner Templates
Planners keep people organized and help maximize productivity. Creating a digital planner template allows someone to either print your design on paper or fill it out electronically via a PDF or Word doc. A wide range of planners are available, covering everything from fitness, nutrition and finance, to the standard hourly, daily, weekly and monthly trackers.
This past year has forced many people to learn how to cook. There are also a number of niche cookbooks covering low-sodium, keto, paleo and regional cuisines. Putting together ingredient lists and cooking instructions is a way to share old recipes or new creations over and over again as a digital offering.
6. Digital Stickers
Great Job! Dog Mom! Congratulations! Be Kind! Be My Valentine! Whether it’s for a special occasion, such as a wedding, graduation, birthday or a specific holiday like Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas, stickers have proven to be a very popular item in 2021. Make sure your designs and images are unique. If you use a stock image site, be sure you properly follow any trademark and credit requirements.
Who wouldn’t benefit from having the right checklist? Whether it’s for travel, home or car buying or even wedding planning, checklists help make life easier. Checklists are a popular digital product and many are bestsellers on Etsy. Checklists can even be created for cleaning, moving, and shopping.
8. Guided Meditation Audio
Mental health and mindfulness have played an important role in many people’s lives, especially when it came to dealing with the difficulties of working, learning and living through a pandemic. Downloadable audio files help people refocus, breathe and rebalance. If this is your thing, then look into helping spread the serenity, and of course, keep calm and keep reading on.
9. Copywriting Templates
If you are a writer, templates for business emails, invitations and cards may be a great way to release creative energy and earn some cash. Be sure you create clean, strong copy. People who are not writers are looking for high-quality templates that are free of errors and worded well.
Much like a digital planner or calendar, spreadsheets also help keep people organized. Popular spreadsheet templates cover investments, budgeting, real estate, inventory management and small business trackers.
Getting Started with Your Digital Product Idea
You don't need to invest a lot of money to turn your idea into a digital product. And you don't need to reinvent the wheel. For all of the product ideas listed above, a computer, an internet connection and the skills and knowledge required to create your digital product can get you started. Laptops, tablets and smartphones all have cameras for recording videos, as well as audio recording capabilities, so you likely won’t need to buy any additional equipment.
Potential purchases you will need to make include any creative software you need, such as Photoshop or Canva. If you need images, a subscription to a stock image site may be in order, or you may want to purchase a specific font to set apart your creations. And depending on the site you sell your digital products on, you may need to pay a monthly or sales-based fee.
Overall, current trends and popularity will drive digital products to profitability. The coronavirus created many opportunities for entrepreneurs to offer education products, guided meditation apps and even fun stickers. Keep an eye open for changing trends. Once you’ve created your product, it’s time to set up your Etsy shop or start selling on Shopify. With minimal investment and a little bit of time, your product can be selling online and bringing in revenue.
Peter Mavrikis is an author and editor with over 25 years of experience in publishing. He has worked as the Editorial Director for Barron’s Educational Series, as well as Kaplan Test Prep, where he ran the test prep, foreign language, and study guide divisions. Peter has also written several books on history, exploration, science, and technology.