The internet is fantastic for providing easy access to fun and useful products that can be installed right onto your computer at the click of a mouse. 🖱️ But how do you protect your business from those who want to cheat and use the product without paying for it? Product keys are your new friend in keeping a product on lockdown until a buyer properly pays for its use.
What is a Product Key?
A product key is a series of numbers and/or letters that will “unlock” a program so it can be used. It’s meant to ensure that the product is only used by its rightful owner, who is usually the one who paid for it. It also helps stop copyright infringement and illegal distribution of the software to those who have not paid for it.
If you sell products or services that require product keys, such as computer software or games, the product key tool can help you distribute these access codes to customers who purchase licensed or access-restricted products.
Not All Digital Products Require A Key
Customers only need product keys to access a downloadable products that’s locked or secured by you or the manufacturer. For non-secured downloadables, customers can simply download the product once they’ve purchased it.
Creating A Product Key
To get started, go to Inventory > Product Key Distribution, then follow these steps:
- Click Add near the top of the page
- Enter the appropriate Product ID Values (see list below)
- Click Save to finish
Repeat this process to create as many product keys as you need.
Product ID Values
ID (This unique, auto-generated numerical value is used to internally identify product keys.)
PKey Email Template* (From this menu, select a default email template to use for product key delivery; we recommend the generic.asp template.)
PKey Key Type* (Enter a basic name for each product key type (NOT the actual key value); this will be used to reference the product key from the product page)
PKey Email Subject* (Enter a subject line for automated emails that are sent to customers when they order a product configured with a product key.)
PKey Allow Reuse (Enable this option if the key can be used more than once; to configure a unique, one-time use key, leave this option deselected.)
PKey Date Added (Enter an optional date here to specify when the key was added to the system.)
PKey Used (Enable this to mark a key as Used; if this is enabled while the PKey Allow Reuse option is disabled, the product key will not be distributed to customers who purchase any product that the key is assigned to.)
PKey Email Body* (Enter text or HTML for the email message a customer will receive when a product key is distributed to them, including the actual key value, i.e. "Congratulations on your purchase. Here is your product key: ABC-123-XYZ.")
PKey Original Order ID (This field will auto-populate with the order ID number when an order is generated that distributes the product key; only applies if the product key is NOT Reusable.)
PKey Original Order Detail ID (This field will auto-populate with the order detail ID number when an order is generated that distributes the product key; only applies if the product key is NOT Reusable.)
*These are required fields.
Creating Multiple Product Keys
If you need to create many different product keys, there are two methods to speed up the process.
Method 1: Using The “Add New” Feature
- Go to Inventory > Product Key Distribution
- Click Add, and enter the information for your first key
- Make sure that the Save drop-down is set to Save and Stay on This Page
- Click Save
- Click Add
- Click Sure, to use all the settings from the previous key
- Adjust the PKey Date Added field
- Insert a new, unique product key into the PKey Email Body field
- Click Save to add this key; a new PKey ID will be generated after the button is clicked
Repeat the above steps to create multiple product keys.
Method 2: Import / Export
To use this method to rapidly create a very large number of product keys at once, you need to understand how to use the import / export functions.
- Create at least one fully configured product key using the steps outlined in the "Creating A Product Key" section above
- Go to Inventory > Import/Export
- Click Standard Export and export the Product_Keys table to a CSV file; click the Check All Product Keys Columns box
- Open the CSV file in a spreadsheet or file editor (i.e. Microsoft Excel) and copy the full row of product key data within the CSV file
- Paste the row to new lines within the file repeatedly to replicate the product key and its settings
- Edit the PKey ID, PKey DateAdded and PKey Email Body fields within the CSV to create multiple variations of the same product key
- Be sure that each row has a unique PKey ID number
- Save changes and import the CSV into your store to update the Product Keys table
Once this process is completed, the Product Key table should now contain the multiple versions of the product key created in the CSV file.
Distributing Product Keys
Once you've set up a product key, you need to configure the system to distribute it when the associated product is purchased:
- Go to Inventory > Products and select the Product Code you want to add the key to
- Under Advanced Info > Misc, enter the PKey KeyType type (that you configured above) in the Uses Product Key Type(s) field
- Click Save
The product key will now be automatically distributed to customers when the product is ordered, and the order is completed (payment is received and order is marked as Shipped).
To receive payment, you must either capture the credit card payment, or manually click Receive in the Payments & Credits section of the Order Details page. You can also click the Complete Order / Send Emails link, or manually send the product key email with the Send Emails override control.
One Product, Many Keys
If you need to distribute multiple one-time-use keys for a single product (e.g. a software product with different keys per user) there are some special steps to follow:
- Create multiple versions of the same key (as outlined in the “Creating Multiple Product Keys” section above); each key must have the same PKey Key Type value and a different PKey Date Added value
The PKey Date Added field is important, as the system will pick the oldest existing key in the system to distribute to customers. The one-time-use key will then be marked as Used, and it will have the Order ID and Order Detail ID fields set accordingly. Used keys will be made unavailable for further distribution.
- Make sure the PKey Allow Reuse check box is NOT selected
- Enter the unique product key for each instance of the product key into the PKey Email Body field
When customers purchase a product with an assigned product key, they will receive an automatically generated email containing their key information once the order is processed.
One Key, Many Distributions
To create a single key that will be distributed multiple times for a product (e.g. the URL or password for an online meeting, etc.) …
- Follow the steps outlined in the "Creating A Product Key" section above
- Enable the key's PKey Allow Reuse option
- Assign the reusable key to the respective product
When customers purchase products with an assigned product key, they will receive an automatically generated email containing their key information once the order is processed.
By creating and distributing product keys for certain downloads, you’re protecting yourself from losing business to people who unlawfully use a product without purchasing it. You’re also protecting the product maker from copyright infringement and illegal distribution. Way to keep it on lockdown, you smart merchant, you.