7 reasons web designers & developers should capitalize ecommerce growth

Jan 5, 2016

This is a guest post from our friends at Shopify.

Given the rise in ecommerce over the last few years, it’s unsurprising to learn that more and more freelance web designers and developers are choosing to specialize in this highly profitable niche.

Are you offering ecommerce to your clients? If not, here are seven reasons to consider adding it to your services list.

1. It’s a growing market

Over recent years, the barrier to getting a store online has dropped massively. While we are all familiar with online shopping (I actually made my first Amazon purchase in 1998), it’s only in the last few years that setting up a store relatively trouble-free has become a reality. Today, you can open up a store that allows you to take online payments within minutes.

As a consequence, more and more merchants — from large brands to those building mini-empires from their back bedrooms — are building businesses and selling their wares across the globe.

The good news for freelance web designers is that the majority of these merchants prefer to focus on their products rather than the technology on which to sell them. Luckily for you, that means the demand for knowledgeable ecommerce designers who understand the requirements and needs of a successful online venture are highly sought after.

Expand your network & discover new opportunities

Become a Freelancers Union member (it's free!)

2. Small technology learning curve

Online stores make use of all standard web technologies. As such, the technological learning curve is relatively shallow. Thanks to hosted online theme-based platforms like Shopify, you can put your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript knowledge to good use straight away. Thankfully, the fourth pillar of Shopify — the Liquid template language — is straightforward and easy to learn. With plenty of resources to help, you’ll be launching stores within days.

3. Infinite upsells

The great thing about ecommerce is that, unlike many other web projects, there are many additional services you can provide to your clients.

When you think about all the elements that go into a great online ecommerce experience, you start to see how much added value you can offer your clients.

A great example is product photography. Given that you can’t actually hold, touch, or try on products online, the most important object on the product page is the photo (or photos) of the item you're selling. I am sure we’ve all been witness to awful product photography — but how many times have you bought a product that looks terrible on screen? Likely never.

By helping your clients create beautiful product photography, you are helping them on their way to increasing revenue. Instead of outsourcing this, consider tackling it yourself. There are plenty of tutorials online that showcase how to take great product photography on a budget.

That's just one example, and here are a few others for you to consider:

  • Branding for invoices, packing slips, and shipping labels
  • Advice on third-party app integrations (e.g. accounting, shipping, fulfillment, email newsletter campaigns)
  • Integration of customer support tools like HelpScout and live chat
  • Email list-building forms and implementation
  • Transactional email designs including email receipts, shipping notifications, and customer feedback forms
  • HTML email newsletter design and integration
  • Advice on additional selling channels such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Amazon
  • Help setting up “Pop Up Shops” and mobile payment systems
  • Online advertising campaigns via Facebook and Twitter

4. Launch is just the beginning

Unlike most web projects, the launch of your client’s store can be just the start of an ongoing relationship. With your help and guidance, your client can grow their business and revenues. By building a post-launch service package, you’ll be able to maximize the potential of the client's store and increase their revenue — as well as your own.

5. Efficiency through specialization

The more ecommerce stores you launch, the more you’ll realize just how much they have in common. When you think about it, there aren’t that many different templates required to make a great ecommerce store:

  • Home page
  • Product/Category listing page
  • Product detail page
  • Content page, e.g. About Us
  • Feedback form

While visually there are infinite possibilities to the look and feel of a website, much of the HTML markup, JavaScript, and CSS can be ported from project to project. By not having to reinvent common elements for each new project, you’ll become more efficient. Increased efficiency gives you more time for new projects while maintaining a strong project rate. After all, clients aren’t paying for your time — they are paying for your expertise.

6. No cost to getting started

Most ecommerce platforms provide you with the tools to build stores without actually signing up to a paid plan. By offering development stores, it’s possible for you to get your ecommerce-focused web design business open for zero cost. This allows you to build stores for your clients for free, and only at the point of launch will you need to choose a paid plan.

In addition to providing you will all the tools needed to build your business, many ecommerce platforms provide free business guides and videos aimed at freelancers. A great example of this is Grow Vol. 1 which was released in early 2015 packed full of ideas and lessons learned from experts specializing in ecommerce focused web design. Additionally, you will have access to a personal account manager to help your enterprise grow.

7. Revenue = success

Once you have a few successful ecommerce projects in your portfolio, you’ll be able to approach new leads with confidence. By detailing how you helped your previous clients increase their revenue, you’ll be able to justify your proposal as you have the data in real money terms.

Final thoughts

Given the continued rise in ecommerce, it's a great time to start thinking about the kind of services you can start to offer your clients. Whether it be full-scale theme builds, customizing pre-built themes, A/B testing, or analytical reports, there are so many opportunities to put your technical and design skills to great use and start building long-term relationships with your clients. Good luck!

Keir Whitaker is the UK-based Shopify Designer Advocate and co-host of the web industry focused podcast The Back to Front Show. He writes and tweets about ecommerce, the web industry, podcasting, remote working and travel.