| Jun 21, 2023 | | 9 min read

Unlocking the power of ecommerce for service-based SMBs: Your guide to selling services online


When it comes to ecommerce, many small businesses focus on selling and shipping physical products, but there’s plenty of opportunity to use ecommerce for services as well. To make this happen, SMBs need to develop effective marketing strategies, conduct market research, and provide branding and advertising advice.

Help local business clients make the move to digital. Download the “Ecommerce post-pandemic playbook” today for actionable tips.

For business owners offering services, ecommerce isn’t the most obvious connection, but if it’s done right, it can be a great way to attract new customers, retain and re-engage with current ones, and increase sales overall. And for agencies supporting SMBs, offering service providers with ecommerce website development and other ecommerce services can open up a new revenue stream.

Why service-based SMBs need ecommerce solutions

Service-based SMBs face a unique set of challenges compared to businesses selling products. A few of those challenges include:

  • Customer acquisition: Finding customers (and retaining them) is the lifeblood of any small business. The right ecommerce services can help solve this problem.
  • Standing out in the crowd: Depending on the industry, competition can be fierce. Service-based SMBs need to hone in on their key differentiator in order to beat out their competitors.
  • The right price: While many products have a standard price range, determining what to charge for services can be a fine line to walk. If prices are too high, they may lose customers, while low prices can also deter customers while keeping profits down.
  • Cash flow: Many service-based offerings are seasonal or project-based, which can result in a feast or famine cash flow. Add late payments or demanding clients, and it can be even trickier to manage.
  • Scaling and growing: Since the services need to be performed by someone, managing resources like time and staff while taking on new customers can be a challenge.
  • Managing clients: Customer and client management is one of the key aspects of service-based businesses. Presenting services in a clear, concise way, managing expectations, and delivering on promises all contribute to strong client relationships — and ecommerce tools can be especially helpful with this facet of business.

The benefits of ecommerce for services

Service-based SMBs can use ecommerce tools for a variety of things: subscriptions and service packages; online booking for classes, consultations, or appointments; digital products like ebooks, course content, templates, or other downloadables; online payments; and customer relationship management.

SMBs who embrace ecommerce for services can see the following:

  • Increased revenue and profitability: Selling online means customers can purchase services 24/7. Diversifying offerings into subscriptions or downloadable content also creates new revenue channels.
  • Expanded market reach: Ecommerce tools mean your clients can offer their services to customers all over the world, not just in their local area.
  • Improved customer experience: Customers can access services on their time, improving customer satisfaction. With the right ecommerce website design, their experience using your clients’ websites can be seamless.
  • Streamlined workflow: With your expert guidance, clients can use ecommerce to automate a variety of processes typically done manually, like invoicing, bookings, and customer data management.
  • Increased visibility: A properly optimized ecommerce website can help improve SEO efforts, ensuring that customers far and wide are aware of your clients’ service.
  • Analytics and data: Ecommerce tools mean you and your clients will have data on every step of their customer’s journey. You can use that information to make decisions about everything from pricing to pop-up placement, email campaigns, and more.

There are plenty of examples of extremely successful service-based businesses that use ecommerce, such as Upwork, Fiverr, Amazon Home Services, TaskRabbit, Mindbody, ServiceTrade, and Zenoti.

How to create an ecommerce strategy for service-based businesses

If you’re going to support service-based clients with their ecommerce website design, you’ll need a strategy. Once you have a solid game plan laid out, you can use white-label website design services to expand your client roster — growing your business sustainably without over-extending your team or resources.

You’ll also need to choose a website builder that supports ecommerce for services. If you’re weighing which website builder is best for ecommerce, you need to consider not only your clients’ needs but which solution will make your life easier as well since you’ll be managing the website design and development. Website Pro by Vendasta offers white-label WordPress hosting on the Google Cloud Platform with WooCommerce to meet your clients’ ecommerce needs.

But before you can take on multiple service-based clients, you need to develop your strategy.

Step 1: Determine the target audience and customer personas

Like with any other business, identifying and marketing to your target audience is the first step before you can begin selling anything. If your clients don’t already know who their target audience is, you can help them create customer personas to really understand the needs, preferences, and pain points they’re solving for.

With your buyer persona, you can develop targeted marketing to attract the right customers at the right time. If you’ve never made one before, you can use a buyer persona worksheet to get started.

Step 2: Identify which services to offer online

Not all services can (or should) be offered online. Work with your clients to determine which services they can use ecommerce for — remember, even if the actual service being delivered is in person, ecommerce tools can be used for things like booking appointments, payment, courses, and downloadable content.

Step 3: Establish pricing and payment options

The right price can make or break a service-based business. Pricing that’s too low or too high can send potential customers packing, and you have to find the balance between profit and what the competition charges.

Work with your clients to analyze their costs, competitor rates, and perceived value of the services they offer.

Once prices are established, you can use ecommerce tools to collect payment. If you’re using Website Pro, it’s easy to make your website ecommerce-ready in just a few clicks.

Step 4: Develop effective product descriptions and content

When you’re using ecommerce for services, it’s critical to be as descriptive and compelling as possible. Product descriptions are the best place for your clients to show potential customers why and how their service will solve their problems.

Good product descriptions should highlight the features and benefits without being long-winded. Create engaging, unique copy that focuses on your clients’ value proposition, and include images and video whenever possible.

Step 5: Integrate ecommerce into existing marketing and sales strategies

Integrating ecommerce for services into your clients’ existing marketing strategy is key. Ensure this by:

  • Building your email list (and sending relevant, engaging emails based on customer behavior and the buyer personas you created earlier)
  • Optimizing your site for SEO
  • Paying attention to organic social channels
  • creating engaging, useful content
  • Running ad campaigns both in search and social media

How to optimize the ecommerce experience for services

Now that you’ve got a strategy, it’s time to optimize your clients’ ecommerce websites for services. There are a few things you can do to help convert potential customers and keep current customers coming back for more.

  1. Simplify the checkout process. Once a customer is ready to check out, it should be as intuitive and frictionless as possible. When they’ve made a decision to purchase, the last thing you want is a clunky checkout causing them to abandon their cart.

    Wherever possible, minimize the number of steps and amount of information. Avoid unnecessary mandatory account creation or offer guest checkout alongside a sign in option. Offer multiple payment methods, and make sure they’re secure. You can utilize messaging during and after the process so customers know exactly when and how their services will be delivered.

  2. Offer personalized recommendations and upsells. Since you’ll have access to analytics regarding customer behavior, you can use that to offer a personalized buying experience. Suggesting the right add-on to the right person (at the right time) can increase profits without the work and cost of acquiring more customers.

    You don’t need to do a lot of extra work to enable personalization: there are a lot of great ecommerce plugin options for WordPress that will do the heavy lifting for you.

  3. Provide clear and concise product information. Customers want to know what they’re paying for, and a well-written product description can move someone from consideration to buying. Ensure the features, benefits, and value proposition are clearly communicated and make the copy easy to read (pay attention to things like font size, use bullet points, make it scannable with headings, etc.).

    While focusing on product descriptions, don’t forget to ensure customers can actually find what they’re looking for. Using the right search engine for ecommerce so can reduce friction and make the customer’s experience seamless.

  4. Incorporate customer reviews and ratings. Reviews and ratings are critical for SMBs, especially ones using ecommerce for services. In fact, over 90% of customers turn to reviews before making a purchase. Adding ratings and reviews directly to your clients’ websites, in addition to review sites, can help influence potential buyers and reassure them they’re making the right choice.

    You can ask for reviews with a popup or email after a sale to encourage customers to leave feedback, even offering discounts on future purchases.

  5. Encourage repeat purchases and customer loyalty. While you’re following up and asking for reviews, it’s a great opportunity to build customer loyalty and nurture that relationship. Things like loyalty programs, memberships, and second-purchase discounts can turn customers into brand ambassadors. Personalized email content with exclusive deals can also nurture repeat customers.

Frequently asked questions

What are the most common service-based ecommerce businesses?

Common service-based ecommerce businesses include online consulting (business or career coaching, marketing, legal services, etc.), tutoring, personal training, freelance services  (graphic design, content writing, social media, etc.), event planning, and digital marketing agencies. As the digital landscape evolves and more people choose to work remotely, more service-based businesses may turn to ecommerce to find and retain customers.

What are some service-based businesses that can benefit from ecommerce?

Many service-based businesses can benefit from ecommerce. Companies offering home services such as cleaning, landscaping, or repair; beauty and wellness businesses like salons and spas; businesses in the health and fitness industry; event planners; companies offering classes and training; and professional services such as therapists, accountants, financial advisors, and business or life coaches can all utilize ecommerce.

Ecommerce tools can be used for a number of things regardless of what product or service you offer: selling subscriptions and packages, booking appointments, classes, or consultations, selling downloadable content such as ebooks, courses, templates, or worksheets, facilitating online payments, and managing customer relationships.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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