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How to Sell Digital Downloads Using a Subscription App on Shopify


When selling subscriptions, there are a few reasons why you would want to sell digital products alongside the subscription. Maybe your customers need a PDF guide, or maybe you want to deliver a new set of digital products each month.

What do I need?

How subscription apps work

Most subscription apps on Shopify create a new Shopify order once the recurring subscription renews. This method allows other apps to trigger a delivery, such as digital products.

Confirmed apps that create orders on recurring subscriptions and will work with our tutorial:

  • Seal subscriptions
  • PayWhirl
  • ReCharge
  • Simple Subscriptions
  • Yotpo
  • Subify
  • Recurpay
  • Appstle

Delivering digital files as a subscription

Using this method does not directly integrate with the subscription apps, it simply works alongside them. As the subscription apps create an order in Shopify for when subscriptions are renewed or created, then the digital downloads app will work along with those orders and fulfil them.

Method 1 – Delivering using download emails

A solution that works is by using the email method. Let’s say you are delivering:

  • A January file
  • A February file
  • A March file

Every order that is placed by the subscription app will deliver a download email of what files are attached to the product at that time.

So if you are delivering a file to customers in February, you would have the February file attached to the Shopify subscription product. On the last day of the month, you will need to detach the February file from the Shopify subscription product and then attach the March file.

This means anyone who subscribes in March will receive the current attached March file and not the previous February file.

Scenario examples

  • If customer A subscribes in January and stays subscribed, they will receive all three files from each month.
  • If customer B subscribes in February and stays subscribed, they will receive the February file and every month after that.
  • If customer C subscribes in February and unsubscribes the same month, they will only receive February’s file.

All the customers will get download emails that they can keep in their email accounts and access whenever they need. If they get in touch with you for customisations, you can adjust their orders manually and attach additional files for them (follow the next step to learn how).

Attaching additional files to an order

You can attach additional files to any order by following our guide. This allows you to go into a customer’s order and place any extra files they request.

Method 2 – Delivering using the release date

You can also use an in-built feature that Downloadable Digital Assets has to deliver assets on a specific date and time.

Using the “Set release dates” feature, you can manually set the digital file to be delivered via email at any time you choose. You will need to manually set the release date/time on the asset that you release each month.

How does it work?

The main way this works is that the app sends an email that includes the download link for the file to anyone who has bought the Shopify product that the file is attached to.

Step 1 – Have a Shopify subscription product ready

I’m assuming that you have already built the product and have it on sale on your Shopify store. All of your Shopify products and variants are automatically imported into the Downloadable Digital Assets app “Products” page.

Step 2 – Upload your first file to the app

  1. Go to “Assets”
  2. Click the “Upload new assets” button
  3. Upload your file that you are going to set a release date/time on

Step 3 – Set a release date/time on that file

  1. Click onto the asset after you have uploaded it
  2. You will be able to set a release date/time on that specific file. Once this time is reached, it will trigger a download fulfilment email to everyone who has bought the Shopify products that the file is attached to.

At this moment, we have not attached the file to any Shopify products yet, so the file will not be sent to anyone. Follow the next step.

Step 4 – Attach the file to your Shopify subscription product

Once you have set a release date and time on the file. You can now attach it to your Shopify subscription product.

IMPORTANT: Once you have attached it to the Shopify product, the file is armed and ready to be sent by email once the release date/time is reached. There is no reverting this. Please make sure you are confident that this file is to be sent at that time.

You can remove the release date to cancel it before the time is reached if you change your mind. Or you can delete the file, and it will be cancelled too. You cannot cancel the send once the time is reached.

Method 3 – Delivering using the customer accounts

The customer accounts method does work, but it isn’t the best route to take for subscription delivery at this moment. We are currently investigating methods to make this work better. Please see below to see how it currently works.

You can still deliver using the customer accounts method, but you will need to manually go back to the orders from previous months and attach the files directly to the orders. That means the customers will have attached files in their accounts specific to their order.

If you have too many orders, then this would not be possible, but if you only had a few, then this would work. You can see a short guide on how to attach files to someone’s order here.

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