After coming back from Shareware Industry Conference, I met with a number of e-commerce providers—Esselerate, Digital River Network, Plimus, Apptastic.NET and Avanquest. The great thing about the conference is that I can meet face-to-face with the associates that I would be dealing with. I previously signed a contract with Esselerate and later met with the representative I spoke to a week later at the conference.
Aside from the lectures, I also networked with a number of shareware vendors (some of whom were looking for bundling opportunities), received free software and discounts, and met with a number of companies that provides services in marketing, documentation, download sites, and packaging/fulfillment; I talk more about that in a few posts.
Each of the e-commerce providers have different strengths. Digital River is the largest e-commerce provider, primarily through a dozen or more acquisitions. Its flagship service appears to be RegNow, followed by ShareIt. Esselerate, second to Digital River, is very fast and innovative. Both of these companies provide substantial marketing services and perform research. Plimus was the least expensive provider charging as low as 4.5% commission, but the services are few; they are probably best for digital products that won’t have a lot of marketing. Other providers were Protexis and Apptastic.net, but they didn’t put up sufficient marketing dollars in the conference to garner my attention.
If you want a Microsoft-like presence, Avanquest takes world-class software packages and provides a whole range of services beyond e-commerce—localization, sales representation, market analysis, customer support, quality assurance, package design, markey analysis, production, fulfillment and so on. They push software through many different channels such as retail and OEM.
One thing that I gathered is that the choice of providers can have a major impact on sales, because the provider may be performing additional marketing for your product through affiliates and partnerships with download sites, magazines, etc. For example, DR has an exclusive agreement with eBay to sell digital downloads and Esselerate partners with CNET. So, it is important to look beyond the fees.
LaughingBird Software, which only makes simple, inexpensive logo creation software, provided this testimonial some time ago for Digital River: (Their second product, Cover Creator, just came out last week well after the testimonial.)
“By taking advantage of Digital River’s network, I was able to forge valuable partnerships and create promotions with companies whose products were complementary to mine - something I couldn’t easily do as a sole proprietor. I went from making $6,000 a month on my own to making over $25,000 a month by leveraging Digital River’s e-commerce expertise and network. Outsourcing to Digital River was just what I needed to alleviate my workload so I could focus on product development.”
Thus, I may try to sell the same software package through both DR/Regnow and Esselerate to take advantage of the unique marketing opportunities of each and also to compare
Another good reason for a provider instead of rolling your own is that a provider, especially one with international experience, is essential for selling to different countries. Major software companies like Corel and QuarkExpress have highly ineffective order pages for the European market because of issues like VAT taxes and local purchasing patterns; these pages simply mirror those of the US. People in one European country don’t buy over the Internet, but rely on phone service for orders; a majority in another country don’t have credit cards and instead use an entirely local system for payment.