There’s a number of platforms now available for those looking to efficiently sell their digital products online.
We recently published a guest post from one of our entrepreneurial readers on the pros and cons of Payhip.
As we like to cover a topic fully here at V50, we got one of our editorial team to sign up to Podia to put that through its paces too. Is this the digital download platform to go for in 2021?
For a summary of our findings, you can check out the table below. For a full account of what it is like to use Podia to launch a digital product, course, or membership website, keep on reading.
What is Podia?
Essentially Podia is an online platform where you can host your digital products ready for users to purchase and download.
If you have eBooks, podcasts, courses that you want potential customers to have access to, Podia will allow you to set up a digital storefront to showcase these products and start making sales.
An important distinction to make is that Podia is not a platform where you can create your digital assets, you merely sell them using the service.
In other words, you can use the drag and drop builder to design your storefront that will ‘display’ your digital offerings. You can then manage your sales, prices, product listings, etc all using what Podia has to offer.
Much like Payhip, this is a sophisticated yet easy-to-use tool to sell your digital products online.
Who is Podia designed for?
Whether you’re an ebook author or maybe an online teacher, or it could be that you own a brick and mortar business and have decided to dabble in selling some digital creations Podia is a platform that could apply to you.
The reason for this is the simplicity of use. I will get into this later in the review, however, the main point is, those without any online design or sales skills will be able to use the platform.
Furthermore, enterprise users will also get a lot out of Podia.
Even if your business has a sophisticated eCommerce website selling physical goods, using a platform such as Podia that is specifically designed for the management and sales of digital goods is a step your company should consider.
One other useful feature of Podia is that it allows you to manage memberships in an extremely efficient and streamlined fashion.
If you already run a membership website and find taking care of payments, passwords, subscriptions and relative access a pain, switching to Podia could be the answer.
Again, more on all of this below.
The Main Features of Podia
To recap, as Podia is a platform to host, market, and sell your digital creations (ebooks, podcasts, courses, and memberships for example); the main features that the platform provides are all designed to facilitate the sales and management of your digital assets.
The 3 categories of digital asset
With Podia you can sell/manage 3 main types of asset:
- Digital Downloads (ebooks, podcasts, guides PDFs, eBooks, videos, audio, and cheat sheets.)
- Online Courses – (curriculums and courses that you have created; again hosted by Podia)
- Memberships (provide membership only access to content hosted via Podia)
Podia has a customizable storefront through which you can display all the assets that you have that can be downloaded.
One of the features that I loved about this area of the platform is that your potential customers DO NOT need to sign up in order to purchase anything.
Yes, it can be argued that nailing that email address is helpful in building brand loyalty (and building the list); however, making the original sale should do that too if your product is of high quality. That buyer will be back.
In the end, the streamlined, speedy checkout will help facilitate higher conversions and increase sales.
Furthermore, the extensive options for your sales pages mean you can insert promotional videos, sales copy, and FAQs as well as an email opt-in form.
Selling and hosting an online course through Podia is a fine example of a platform answering the needs of its users.
This area of Podia is simplicity and elegant design all in one great package.
They provide a clean and basic theme for you to use for the ‘face’ of your course. Uploading the content for your course is extremely easy (I didn’t come across a file type that I couldn’t upload here), and once you have everything in place it is on to applying the sales settings.
Depending on the plan you choose you can have up to an unlimited number of courses, customers, and sales.
You can also set whether all of the course is available upon sign up, or if lessons are fed in a drip-style time frame.
The built-in sales page means there is a consistency of design that really makes your offerings seem professional.
There’s also a presales page you can build in order to pitch the benefits of the course, as well as provide coupons or freebies in order to collect email addresses for your mailing list.
This was the area of the platform that I used most extensively (I have recently launched an online course on how to make a side living as a guest blogger online) and I was extremely impressed with the results.
If you are prioritizing building a loyal following that you are able to turn into memberships, this section of Podia will be very advantageous to you.
Rather than build the infrastructure for a membership website via platforms such as WordPress or Shopify, Podia has everything you need to create something in a simple manner any beginner will appreciate.
The platform provides the tools to create a sophisticated looking membership site with its intuitive drag and drop interface. Not a single line of code needs to be typed.
This membership site is able to support a wide range of file uploads (video, MP3, text, PSD, PDF, and more).
There’s also the option to create comments areas, feedback forms and other valuable features your members will love.
All the content you decide to put in the member’s area (along with any user-generated content) can be easily managed and organized in order to provide the best experience for your online ‘paying’ following.
So we have looked at the 3 main functions of Podia in terms of the types of digital assets you wish to manage and sell.
The area of email marketing applies to all 3 types. Podia makes it easy to build your audience in order to create more sales.
Let’s take a look.
Types of email you can send
Email can be used to keep in touch with your students (from support to drip-feeding the course content) as well as helping to entice those on your email list to new products you have available.
If you are running a membership website, you can use the inbuilt Podia email marketing suite to send audio, image or video content as well as coupons to product sales and free downloads.
Within the email marketing area of Podia, you can customize the look of your campaigns to suit your individual brand.
You can also integrate email functionality into all of your course modules, making it easy to track the progress of students, keep in touch with them and also upsell products should the opportunity present itself.
You can also gather analytics such as open, click-through and unsubscribe rates and data.
All of the above said the system does not compete with the likes of Mailchimp or ConvertKit in terms of features and function.
These standalone email marketing providers are far more sophisticated and offer a lot more in the way of customization, (in essence I would recommend that you build and manage your main mailing list using these kinds of tools).
However, as a fast and easy way of communicating with existing members or course students in works very well.
What is it like to use Podia?
Overall Podia has been designed so that even a complete novice can sign up and start building their online digital download, course or membership sales website.
To do this they opted for a basic easy to use interface that is clean and intuitive.
The features are simply laid out and are accessible meaning there’s no clicking through multiple menus or options trying to find a specific setting.
This design lends itself to beginners however, the fact there are all the features you need within the platform, means advanced sellers and professionals will equally be as pleased with what is on offer here.
Signing up for the 14-day free trial also means there’s a sense of ‘what do you have to lose.
Simply enter your name and email address and you can get started in order to see if Podia is the right sales platform for you.
I shall run through the experiences I had with each area of the platform now.
Using Podia to upload and sell digital products
After signing up for the free trial you will answer a short questionnaire on your experience level, (have you sold a digital product before, etc) before entering the main dashboard.
Here you will be asked whether you want to start a digital download, an online course, or a membership area.
I opted for a digital download.
Clicking this takes you to the relevant admin area as shown below. The main tools here are as follows:
- Content Upload – (files & sections that you will be selling)
- Settings – where you can edit the name of your digital download, categorize it, add enrolment dates if creating a course as well as integrate your email marketing platform)
- Pricing – select a price for your download as well as additional payment plans, coupons, and upsells
- Promote and Customers – These sections are only available once you have launched a product (more on that below)
Each of these sections is reduced to exactly the options you need, and everything is very clearly presented.
Within 10 minutes of uploading my eBook, I had everything in place.
Although I had nothing to upsell at this stage, I was especially happy to see this here. A recent review of Payhip here at V50 criticized the platform for this lack of upselling feature.
Once I have created more eBooks I will definitely want to give my customer the option of purchasing more items in the checkout area at a discounted price.
Using Podia to create an online course
Here’s another aspect that I really liked with Podia. Moving on to uploading and selling an online course and things really couldn’t be easier.
The interface is exactly the same as if uploading and managing a digital product to sell, (i..e the settings, pricing, promote sections have the same function).
Only here the content upload area provides the options you need to organize your course.
With your content in place, you can drag and drop to arrange in order to create your course.
Although for this review I did not have a complete course ready to fully upload and sell, the simple interface which Podia provides for you to do so, made me want to go out and create one to sell.
It’s that good.
Using Podia to create a membership area
The interface for creating a membership area using Podia differs slightly from creating a digital download or online course storefront.
After selecting to create a membership you will first be led to your plan options. In other words, you will need to set some prices for membership to your paywalled content before you can start publishing.
With that out of the way (you have options to connect Stripe so that your users have a more flexible way of paying) you can got to the posts section to begin entering your valuable content.
Creating your membership content
This area works similar to any web 2.0 CMS (content management system) or blogging platform you might have used elsewhere.
Simply choose your post title and enter the main text and image content for the post.
There’s also an area to drag and drop video content. Podia also make it easy to link content you may have created within the digital download and course areas.
The comments section is where you can view, manage and add to whatever discussion is taking place within your membership area.
Feedback and discussion is at the heart of any lively membership forum, so cultivating this should be a high priority.
Thankfully Podia makes this a very smooth process, providing you with the tools to moderate and facilitate the comments in equal measure.
The settings section allows you to add Facebook or Slack group URLs. This is also where you access the Editor to begin altering how your Membership storefront looks on the front end.
Finally, you have the Promote and Sales area for marketing and managing your membership site.
Let’s take a closer look at those now.
Promote, Customer & Sales Sections
The promotion section for each area takes you to a large resource of guides and options designed to help you promote your newly created course, digital download, or membership site.
How you go about promoting your digital asset is varies widely depending on many variables; everything from you your target audience is to how large an audience you may have already acquired.
Nevertheless, Podia has created some valuable information here to assist entrepreneurs on that journey.
Customers & Sales
The Customers page (and sales if in the membership creation area) is where you’ll find all the relevant data surrounding your sales, customers, and students.
You’ll see who signed up to your mailing list, who made free purchases or opted for the upsell.
It will also provide information on those that have signed up to your mailing list but not yet bought anything, (meaning they could maybe do with some extra incentive of further information).
All of this was highly valuable to me after launching my eBook. Using this data I was able to create and test various email sequences to see which led to better conversions.
However, as with anything when selling online, tweaking and A&B testing is an ongoing process. The job never really feels complete.
Customization and Design
The final thing I would like to mention when it comes to the actual use of Podia is the lack of customization options.
While the storefront for each type of product is clean, responsive, and looks professional; the minimal design options did irritate me.
This could be a blessing for beginners that just want to get cracking and know that their content will be packaged in a stylish manner.
However, if like me you know your way around HTML and CSS the restriction here will be a problem.
Trying to match the design of your Podia storefront to any established branding you have created elsewhere is pretty much a non-starter.
How much does Podia cost?
As mentioned earlier in the review, you can start using Podia for free for 14 days. Your name and email address are all you need to trial the platform in order to see if it is right for you.
That is excellent in my mind. You get to test the product for yourself before any credit card details or money changes hands.
Furthermore, should you decide to sign up for one of the paid plans within the first five days of the free trial, you’ll get an amazing 15% discount for LIFE.
If you decide that Podia is the digital sales platform for you, there are 2 main monthly plans available after your trial ends.
The Mover Plan
The Mover Plan costs $39 per month ($33 with a 15% discount. The annual rate clearly works out cheaper at only $32 per month and $27 with the discount.
The Mover plan is what I have gone for as I only needed the basic features to sell my digital eBook.
The Shaker Plan
Movers and shakers, pretty cool hey. The second, more extensive plan from Podia costs $79 per month ($67 with the 15% discount)
Again, the annual plan is very cost-effective coming in at $65 per month ($55 with discount). If you want to create a membership site, then this is clearly the option you have to go for.
However, there are lots of other features and add-ons that make this plan worthy of the money.
Features included in both Movers & Shakers Plans
To help you decide which plan is best for you, it is important to know what features are actually available across the board so to speak.
I was impressed with exactly what was available on the Movers plan that I opted for. As I say, the fact I was only starting out with a simple eBook, meant it was the most appropriate plan for my needs.