Digital vs. Physical Affiliate Products: The Pros and Cons

Hundreds of millions of us are buying products that only exist online. Items for which we never receive a physical product, just bytes of data. Love them or loathe them, sales of digital products such as ebooks and audiobooks, digital music and movies, online courses and software are booming. 

The ebook market is expected to be worth $11,320m in 2017, with 14.1% of the world population purchasing e-publishing products which will increase to 16% by 2021.

Many of these sales are, of course, for entertainment purposes; Kindle’s ebooks fiction section makes up a big chunk of my personal digital product purchases. But as ClickBank has shown over the past 20 years, there is significant demand for digital products which help buyers learn something new or solve a problem. In 2016 it became one of the top 100 internet retailers, and it currently has 1,566 digital affiliate products in the health and fitness niche.

Some affiliate marketers only promote digital products. Others only promote physical products. And some choose to take advantage of the opportunities provided by both.  Let’s begin by looking at some of the pros and cons of each.


Digital affiliate products offer the following benefits:

  • Higher commission

Physical products generate higher costs for the advertiser who needs to pay for the ingredients, manufacture and packaging, warehousing costs to store stock and shipping costs if these aren’t passed on to the customer.

Digital products cut out all of these costs meaning the advertiser can pass a much higher percentage of the order value onto the affiliate as commission.

  • Instant delivery

As soon as the customer has purchased a digital product, it is available for them to download or access. As well as being a benefit to the customer, this also benefits the affiliate.

Customers may be more likely to make an impulse purchase when they know they will receive the product immediately. They’ve read your pre-sell, they’ve decided they need something to help them lose weight and you’ve convinced them this product is the solution, so they are all fired up to get started and begin seeing results.

Instant access removes one tiny barrier in their minds and provides the impetus to make them reach for their card (or log in to their PayPal account) and make the purchase.

  • No shipping restrictions

As well as being immediately available to customers anywhere in the world, digital product sales aren’t restricted by issues with shipping and customs. While the physical product offers available to promote through MoreNiche ship to the majority of countries worldwide, product ingredients need to be carefully considered to ensure they are allowed through customs, and reliable shipping needs to be available. Digital products have none of these concerns; as long as the customer has free access to the internet and a method of paying, they can purchase.

  • Convenience

For all ebook affiliate offers, one of the benefits is convenience. Instead of having to trawl through the internet to find what they need and evaluate for themselves whether the information is factual, complete and will effectively help solve their problems, customers can find all the answers in one convenient source. The creators of the ebook have done all the work and packaged the information up in an easy-to-consume way. Most of us feel time-poor so the time-saving alone is a massive benefit.

For, MoreNiche’s first ebook offer, readers also benefit from a detailed diet and workout plan. They don’t need to plan their own meals, figure out what calories are involved, what recipes to use, and they don’t need to come up with a workout routine. Everything is laid out in detail to help them achieve their goals, including their shopping list! 


On the other hand, there are also some disadvantages associated with digital products – or at least factors that need to be considered and addressed:

  • Information is free 

If you’re a content marketer, you spend many hours writing articles containing information and advice that you give away for free in order to drive visitors to your website. Virtually any topic that someone wants to search for brings up hundreds of thousands of pages of search results with websites attempting to provide answers.

So you may ask, will people actually pay for an information product? ClickBank’s success is the proof that they will, but make sure you convey to your visitors the benefits they are receiving.

  • Quality concerns

Leading on from the points above, potential customers may have concerns about the quality of a digital product and whether it’s worth what they’ve paid for it.

Anyone can create a digital product to sell with relative ease, since there is no big investment needed to become an ebook vendor, and for this reason there may be some poor quality products available. There is also perhaps a perception that physical products are worth more, because you know you’re going to receive something tangible.

To overcome this, make sure to choose a digital product that looks great. If the product has been well designed and looks like the creator has invested time in it, that will instantly remove any doubt in a potential purchaser’s mind.

A little ‘trick’ successful ebook sites use is to make their product images look like a physical books. Even though the visitor knows they are purchasing a digital download, visually it makes it look like it’s worth more than the flat front cover image that they’ll see on screen.

Likewise, the website itself is vital in creating a perception of quality and trust. A well-designed site with an ‘about’ section, clear contact details and active social media pages is going to help reassure potential customers that they’ll receive a quality product in exchange for their money.

Of course, a potential customer is also interested in what’s inside the product. Find out if you can get a sample version of the product to give you a better understanding of what’s included, and how well researched and well designed it is. You may be allowed to share an overview of the contents or some selected screenshots. As with physical products, some affiliates will even go a step further and buy the product for themselves.

  • Higher return rates

I’ve already mentioned that customers may be more likely to impulse buy digital products; on the flip side there are also fewer barriers to them returning the product as they don’t have to ship anything back. Although if the product is good quality and matches the pre-sell, return rates should still be quite low.

Products with money-back guarantees can also reduce the chance of a quick change of mind, as the customer is reassured that they can return within an extended period with a full refund, so they may as well try it properly and see if it works.

MoreNiche Chargeback Protection for silver+ ranked affiliates also offers protection against this.

  • No reorders

 Unlike with many physical products where you hope the customer will purchase regularly, you won’t get reorders from an ebook. Once they’ve bought it, they’ll have no need to buy the same product again.

However you will benefit from upsells and cross-sells where customers are offered additional products as part of the initial sale or are contacted later with other recommended products.

While I’ve covered above what is different about promoting digital and physical affiliate products, for the most part the affiliate marketing process is exactly the same.

Identify your target audience, the problem they have and how the product will solve that problem. Then choose your method of reaching that audience, be that SEO through reviews and articles, paid advertising, social media or marketing to your email list. And finally, persuade them to buy by creating interest and desire, and ultimately convincing them to take action. 



Whatever the nature of your website, you can virtually guarantee Amazon will have a range of products that you can promote to monetise your site, whether it’s a digital or physical product you’re looking for. With ebooks this is likely to include all the hot titles of the moment that can be an easy sell.

Commissions are around 4-7% and cookies only last 24 hours. However you do benefit from the brand; everyone trusts purchasing from Amazon and they make it dangerously easy to buy with just one click, so this should result in high conversions.

Also, it doesn’t matter if your visitors buy the product you recommend or one of the thousands of others, since you still earn commission.

You can find the current Amazon bestsellers in any category by clicking this link and then using the left nav menu to narrow your search down until you’ve found the type of product your audience will be interested in. Or if you’re specifically after ebooks, you can use the Advanced Search, enter relevant keywords and sort by bestseller.




The biggest and best known affiliate network for digital products and as mentioned above, ClickBank has 1,566 offers to choose from in the health and fitness niche.  Having such a large volume of offers is likely to mean that not all of them are top quality so you’ll want to use a bit of judgement and bear in mind some of the advice above.

ClickBank gives each offer a gravity score which shows how many affiliates have made sales from that product over the past few months (a more detailed explanation of how gravity is calculated can be found here). This shows which offers are popular with affiliates and are making sales, but it doesn’t guarantee that they are high quality, have low refund rates or are the best to promote. Although ClickBank does allow you to search for offers using a number of different metrics to find the offer which is right for you.


Market Place


ClickBank offers tend to have high commission rates, usually around 50-75% and their cookies last for 60 days. They also have a range of multilingual offers.

As with any successful affiliate offer there can be high competition, especially on the high gravity offers. They do charge a small fee for processing your payout, and hold back a ‘return allowance’, usually 10% of your earnings, until your next payout in case of refunds and chargebacks.


MoreNiche has recently launched its first digital offer, a 15-day weight loss programme called The advertiser has over a decade of experience in the weight loss niche, with successful physical products in the network such as bestseller, PhenQ. Whereas their supplement offers pay 40% commission per sale, creating a digital product has made it possible to offer affiliates 80% commission per sale. A mixture of digital and physical upsell products are offered as part of the sales funnel to increase average order values.




With only one digital affiliate product, MoreNiche can’t compete on choice. But is, in our opinion, a quality product available in five languages which is supported by a money-back guarantee and has strong customer support. It also doesn’t yet have the competition of similar top-selling ClickBank offers such as The 3-Week Diet.

MoreNiche also offers other benefits including lifetime cookies, no payout charges and protection from chargebacks for affiliates making at least 50 sales per month.

By adding a digital product to its range, MoreNiche are offering existing affiliates the opportunity to also promote to audiences who aren’t interested in weight loss supplements. And for those affiliates promoting digital products and finding MoreNiche through, there is the opportunity through its other offers to experience the benefits of promoting physical products too.


  1. Write Reviews

Almost two-thirds of customers read reviews before making a purchase; they want to know whether it’s the right product for them and how it compares to other choices on offer. Get a sample, maybe even test the product yourself and use that to help them understand more about it.

  1. Add a New Category to your Menu

If you’ve got a weight loss site you maybe already have categories such as diet pills, weight loss drinks, slimming patches etc. Why not add a new category for weight loss programmes to start adding your reviews to and give them prominence on your site?

  1. Create a List Article

Once you’ve reviewed a number of similar products, create a Top Weight Loss Programmes or Best Diet Plans list.  Pick your top three or five, and compare them. Show your readers the benefits of each, what makes them unique and the key advantages to help your readers decide if it’s the right choice for them.

  1. Promote it through your Email List

If you’ve got an email list, you’re already (hopefully) sending prospective and existing customers useful emails with tips and advice. Build on that, and leverage the relationship and trust you have. In a non-pushy way introduce the digital product that you feel is relevant and will help them. Of course, you’ll need to persuade them that the contents of the product are something worth parting with money for.

If you have an engaged audience who like to interact, you could even ask them what their pain points continue to be – after reading all your advice what are they still struggling with, and use the very angles they give you as the basis of your emails, introducing the product to make certain that it resonates with them.

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