Well, when GDPR takes off here in Europe, (as a European company) you're no longer allowed to store personal information without a customer's consent. That consent must not be assumed ("unless you opt out later"), it must not be hidden (=you must mention what info will be stored where and who gets access to it), it must not be enforced or tricked (pre-ticked checkbox signs up for newsletter) and it must not be made a requirement to use a service ("by requesting a download to your email address, you agree that I store it").
I paraphrase, of course, but read up on it yourselves.
In other words, it's OK to ask someone to enter their email address so you can send them a download link.
If there's any requirement to keep the download link hidden, maybe for purchased product downloads, then that's totally fine.
It's just not fine to store the email address in return, at least not without having the downloader give you express and voluntary permission to do so.
Then comes the fact that, at least here in Europe, it's actually (already, pre GDPR) forbidden by law for a company to send unsolicited emails (=that weren't requested or granted by the recipient) with advertising content to someone, just because you happen to have their email address stored.
So even if you make users jump through the hoop of signing up for an account, putting something free into a cart and then checking out for 0 funds, you will have to A) inform the visitor that (and how) you're going to store and process their data, you will have to B) ask the user for their constent that you may actually do so, you C) may not reject them from your service just because they don't agree to let you store and process their information to do unrelated things (=they can't download the compressor unless they OK you to maybe send them ads for an EQ later) and so on.
There are obviously exceptions and (wanted) loopholes and all that, but it's just too much f*cking trouble to deal with and comply with.
In another thread I had a slight rant about those new Darkglass bass distortion plugins, and how the devs want to do just what you started doing. They're trying to sell me something, so they can only profit from making it as easy and fast as possible for me to download their demo. And yet, "sign up for an account to download the demo"... right... screw you. 1 less demo download, 1 less potential sale.
Sure, it's because they use iLok protection, and they need to have the customer's iLok account name on record. Oh no wait, they WANT to have the customer's iLok account name on record. And their name and email address. To send unsolicited advertisement, which was automatically accepted at the time of signup, unless the customer opts out later. Thanks a lot. There are devs who provide generic demo codes publicly, anyone can register them to their iLok ID and demo the software, there's absolutely no need to store my iLok ID just to send me a demo. So that excuse won't fly. It's just that "emails emails emails" greed, and that power play of forcing me into submission (pun intended) so that they can bombard me with spam if I don't purchase right away, so that they can send me "you didn't finish your purchase, here's a 5% coupon" emails if I leave the page before I buy, and all that damn nonsense.
My impression is that the number of downloads doesn't reliably correlate to the number of people actually interested in one's offerings. Some will just drop by "because someone told them" or "because they read about it", they'll try it and ditch it and never come back because who has the time. Those are usually not the audience you would "trick" into your system by enforcing a checkout and sending them ads. And the people who actually like your offerings will probably check back regularly anyway, to see if there are updates, to see if there are new products. Those are the ones that would, at least after a couple of visits, probably voluntarily sign up for a newsletter if there's any reason to do so. Deals, tutorials, stories, what have you.
Just let people download your free stuff without any strings attached. Hassle free. Ask them to sign up for your newsletter (but inform them who gets that data, i.e. you or maybe MailChimp) and ask them during signup to confirm that they actually want to receive mails from you (most mass-mail services offer 2-step subscription systems anyway). Post announcements or news items to your web site, so that there's a non-newsletter way to let it shine through something may be due to happen soon. Make them "like" your page on Facebook so you can interact with them there (post about a sale or new release) etc.
Offer them ways to stay in touch, but just don't try to bully people into giving up personal information (or, at least in Europe, their rights) only to download something that's free.
deastman wrote:If i already have an account due to previous purchases, I’ll do the $0 shopping cart.
Yes, I can absolutely live with that. No pressure, no problem.