Automate the delivery of digital goods

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More and more people are promoting digital goods online ... the "problem" is delivering the goods to buyers as quickly  - and securely - as possible. This guide looks at a few of the methods used, and the drawbacks of each system.

Method No1:
The most basic method is to redirect people to a download page. With this method, you ...

  • wait for an email to arrive in your inbox from PayPal or eBay
  •  send a reply stating "Please go to this webpage where you will find a download link"

 Brilliant! If the buyer is less than honest, he can pass this download link to his pirate mates, and they all gain free access to your goods!

Method No2:
Deliver goods manually. Again, you ...

  • wait for that all important email
  •  locate the digital item on your PC
  •  Add it to your email as an attachment
  •  write a short message
  •  send that email back to that buyer

Now think on. What would you do if you had to despatch 100 orders a day??

Method No3:
Some people are a little smarter. They automate things a little by creating the message/attachment, saving it to their PC and then setting up an email filter to despatch the item whenever an email with a specific subject line is received. This is known as an autoresponder, (not to be confused with a follow-up autoresponder such as Aweber)

To do this, we use a feature known as a “Mail filter”. This allows the mail reader program to search for who the email is from, who it's addressed too, the subject matter or the text of the email and then take specific action. Most times, this feature is used to delete emails from particular known SPAM mailers, or to move specific emails to certain folders. But we use it to automatically send out an email / attachment.

In our example, we ask the filter to search the BODY of the email, and look for a specific Item Title(where this variable comes from will be described in a moment) If it finds this variable, it send out the email we have associated with this filter to mail out.

So where does this variable - Item Title - come from? When you use an Ebay auction, it is the TITLE you give to your auction. When you create a PayPal "Buy Now" button, it is one of the things you have to define on the first screen. For now, let's say we have created a button, and given it the Item title of "Test File"

Back on our email reader program. Click on the button to create a new email message, but leave the "To:" field empty. Enter your message to the recipient in the usual way, then click on the "Add Attachment To File" button, (the big paper clip in Outlook Express). Click "Save As" and save this message as an 'eml' file.

Next, go Tools-> Message Rules->Mail. We place a tick in the box that says :"Where the message body contains specific words” In the box below that, we tick "Reply with message"

Now look at the lower box. It shows text with two sets of underlined blue words. Click on "contains specific words" You now get an option to "Type Specific Words". Enter the Item title, in our example "Test File"

Can you see what's going to happen?

When someone purchases something, PayPal send us an email saying we’ve got an Instant Payment. Within the body of this email is the line "Item Title", which in our example is "Test File". The filter then 'traps' this email, and finds that it has got to "Reply with message" which it duly sends out, complete with the attached file.

The same thing happens when people buy items via an Ebay auction, except this time, the "Item Title" is the TITLE we give our auction. Obviously, from now on, all auction titles for this item must remain the same. Or at least, if you do use a new title, remember to update your filter!!

Several problems arise with these method. First of all, what would happen if you cannot download your emails for a few days, either because your ISP is offline, or you cannot access your PC? Perhaps you're on holiday for a fortnight. The customer would wonder where their goods were, and start complaining to eBay.

Thankfully, you can improve on this scenario if you have our own website.

Method No4:
Just as you did with your mail reader, you can set up an email filter on your server to carry out a specific action when a certain action is met. For example, you could ask the filters to watch out for a specific email Subject Line, and then automatically send out a file attachment to that address. This is an improvement because:

  • the email and attachment is sent immediately
  • requires no manual intevention; doesn't matter if your're offline

To make this system work, we have to “play about” with the PayPal notification addresses. With the “Buy Now” buttons, this is  the “business name” variable, (which can be a name -OR- a registered email address) On Ebay it is defined on the “Payment and Postage” screen where it says  "PayPal payment notification will go to:” However, before you can use these email addresses, you need to register them with the PayPal server. See below

Unfortunately, web hosts seem to use various interfaces to run their servers, so no generic method can be advised. However, if they use Cpanel, your whole job is much much easier.

Log in to your main Cpanel account, and select “AutoResponders” Click on “Add Autoresponder” link.

Next it asks you for the email address it should watch out for, for example "ebook1@*****", (the address you just registered with PayPal) Below that, you can enter a Subject Line, followed by the actual message you want delivered. Click a button, and the autoresponder is activated. Note: On some hosts, you will also need to set up an email account with the same name, else once the autoresponder has done its magic, the trigger email is discarded.

That's perfect. The customer doesn't have to wait for his goods as they're sent details straight  away. Hmmm, great.

However, six months on, you've just discovered another greate ebook that will compliment the original book. How are you going to contact all those customers who purchased that ebook, and ask them to purchase your new book? The simple answer is ... YOU CAN'T!! Unless you've created a list from all the order emails that PayPal have sent you.

Method No5:
Thanks to our good friends at Aweber, they have developed a method to automate things. When someone pays via PayPal, an email is forwarded to Aweber. Their machine recognises the email address and sends the first message  -plus attachment-  to the customer. (This also works with eBay if people pay via Paypal) It also saves the person's email address for later use.

To set this feature up, you first set up a responder on Aweber. This shows you a specific email address such as "test@*****" then register that email address on PayPal, (See below). The latter then send out a confirmation email ... which this time is sent to Aweber. In turn, this email appears in their Control Panel. Copy the confirmation code within that email, and type it into your browser. The PayPal site appears again confirming the email is active. (There is a tutorail and video on the Aweber site that explains the process in detail)

This is a quick and easy method ... until you remember that PayPal restrict you to using eight registered email addresses!! If you're promoting more than six products - you're stuffed!!

OK, so we've sorted out delivery (of sorts). Now we run into a few more problems! Viruses and the like are often transmitted via email attachments, so people may be a little dubious about opening attachments. Plus =sometimes= people have an over-active virus protection program that quarantines any and all email attachments! Those people will never get to even see your email.

Then we have the dredded "User over limit" errors. These usually occur when people have used a webmail address as somewhere to capture spam email ...and forget to empty their inbox. The ISP will not allow them to accept any more mail, and the digital item is bounced back to you. And again they complain to eBay about non-receipt of goods!

So whilst its quick and easy, sending digital goods via email is not the ideal system.

Method No6:
The ultimate solution. Far  better are systems that deliver goods directly to the users browser, and they then save the item direct to their PC. And if the download goes wrong, give them the opportunity to try again. However, it they try to download too many times, they're locked out!

How about automatically subscribing them to your autoresponder so you can offer them 'mini-lessons' and follow-up mailshots.

Host your Sales page / actual report on one server which means its easy to handle everything via a single online interface.

Or what about allow people to download "sample" booklets, perhaps as a sneaky way to get them to purchase the complete book!

You should check out my AboutMe page for the script I developed to handle my ebook sales. (I can also suggest a low cost alternative for just $27!)


  1. Log in to your PayPal account, and select PROFILE
  2. Click on Email.You will then be asked to type in the new email address you wish to use.
  3. Click on ADD.
  4. They will now send a Confirmation Email to that new address. (Ensure your web host email account has a “catch all” option)

When you get the email from PayPal in your inbox, open it and then click on the link. This will take you to the PayPal site again. Once you log in, they will confirm that the address has been activated.

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