Is Downloaded or Boxed Software Better?

February 23, 2013

I hear from customers on a fairly regular basis. If they are asking about a product that is downloadable, they want a disc. Of course if the call is about a product shipped on a disc, the caller wants to be able to download it. There isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer to which is better as I think the best answer depends on the size of the software (or artwork).

SimpleSeps RasterA recent caller asked us about SimpleSeps Raster and couldn’t understand that it was a downloadable product because there was a “box” on the page. Many “electronic” products from us (and lots of other companies) are shown with a rendered box shot or a 3D rendering of a book. When the product is electronic, it helps to show the representation of a physical product. Often I use a product named True BoxShot (read True BoxShot Makes 3D Product Renderings for more details) to create these renderings.

In the case of SimpleSeps Raster, we made sure to include a note near the top of the page explaining that it was a download only product. Unfortunately many of us (me too) overlook an obvious answer in front of us. We only see what we want to see.

Now back to why this product is a download. Quite simply it is around a 10 MB file to download. Even on poor connections, most users can download it in less than a minute. If it were provided on a disc, it would have to be shipped (more money) and would take a minimum of a day (most likely longer) to arrive. Once you have downloaded the product, you are free to back it up on a disc if you so desire.

Alternatively we have products like CorelDRAW X6 Unleashed that take more than 4 GB of space. That is unreasonably large for a download. For that reason, it is provided on a DVD and shipped. While some of you would have no problem downloading a large file, it would create problems for many users and we have to select what we believe is the best answer for the vast majority of users.

As times passes, the size of files to reasonably download gets larger and larger. Connections get faster, server space is more plentiful and server bandwidth is increased. There may be a day in the future when we only offer products as a download. I just don’t see that happening for at least a few years. What you will see is an increasing percentage that are downloads.

Some of the products we offer are made by other companies. While we can suggest to them a method of delivery, it is their decision on what to offer. There are some products that we really feel should be downloads and we just haven’t been able to convince the manufacturer that it will help increase their sales due to decrease in price (no shipping costs) and faster delivery.

As I said in the beginning, there is no definitive right or wrong answer. I would love to hear your opinion, so please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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