Going beyond products — how to use Shopify themes to sell services

by Michael P. Hill June 05, 2018

Going beyond products — how to use Shopify themes to sell services

Shopify is a great way to sell products, but the platform can also be leveraged to sell an exciting additional category of commerce — services.

Services are typically non-tangible goods that involve selling your time or expertise rather than a physical product.

There are many common service based businesses that can be run using Shopify and many Shopify themes:

  • Professional services like copywriting, design, accounting and photography
  • Training, consulting, workshops and seminars
  • Art, dance, music or other creative classes
  • Appointment based businesses can also use Shopify, though there are some limitations to these discussed below

If you already sell products, you may want to explore some ways you can open new revenue sources by expanding into the services arena:

  • Personal shopping services, either for free or a fee
  • Product setups, onboarding sessions
  • Hands-on, personalized support sessions
  • Service appointments
  • “White glove” delivery or assembly services

Because Shopify is, at its core, designed to sell products, then offering services (either by themselves or in addition to your existing product lineup) can require some workarounds, but it’s generally easy to get up and running.

Service as a product

Selling services in Shopify

When creating a service offering, you’ll need to use Shopify’s existing product management tools — even though your service isn’t a product in the traditional sense.

Just like any other physical product you sell, when you create your service as a product in your shop, be sure to include eye-catching imagery and compelling product descriptions so that customers know exactly what they’re getting in exchange for purchasing your services.

This description is especially important in the case of a non-tangible good, as it’s the main thing the shopper will have to base their purchase decision on, in addition to reviews and testimonials, that attest to your expertise and ability to perform a particular service.

If your products or services are free, you can still use your Shopify store to process sign-ups.

Getting your services set up

Variants for services

Variants and options can be used creatively when selling services, including by letting users pick from specific dates or times of services, or choosing from different pricing tiers:

  • Since each variant can have a different price and inventory control, this is key to setting up more advanced service based offerings.
  • If you sell classes or other session-based services that have enrollment caps, you can use Shopify’s inventory control to limit the number of people who can sign up — before the class becomes full (or, in product speak, “sold out”).
  • Variants can also be used so that customers can pick a particular session, time or date to sign up and pay for. For example, you could use one variant for a Wednesday evening pottery class, while another is the Thursday morning one. On top of this, each variant can have a different inventory cap so, in this example, one class can have a higher number of students.
  • You can also let users select from different options from within a specific service by using variants — and charge different amounts for each. For example, a 1-hour training session could be $50 while a 90 minute one could be $65. Since each variant can have a different price, this also gives you the ability to offer tiered pricing for customers who opt for longer sessions.
  • Variants can also be used as a rudimentary way to let customers pick from a variety of appointment times, though this can be a bit clunky. To do this, you’d need to manually create a variant for every day and time slot you have open — typically with an inventory value of 1 assuming they are private appointments.
  • This approach does require you to manually create all variants and is also subject to Shopify’s 100 variant limit. However, if you’re just getting started or don’t schedule appointments too far out, creating the variants manually can be a good “do it yourself” alternative to more expensive scheduling software. It can also be a great way to let users schedule appointments over a set period of time, such as a trade show, craft show, holiday shopping season or other limited run time period.
  • Shopify can also be used to collect registrations or “sell” free services. Shopify’s checkout process is smart enough to know that, if a cart has a $0 value, to simply process the order without payment information. If a customer buys a combination of paid products or services and a free service, Shopify can also take care of that.
  • Keep in mind that most service items won't need shipping, so you should disable it at the product level using the steps here (even though the tutorial refers to digital products, it's the same steps for services).
  • You can use line item properties to collect custom field values for service purchases. Keep in mind, however, that if a user adds more than one quantity of the same item each will have the same line item properties by default. 

Selling services often comes with a unique set of additional tasks, such as collecting release forms, gathering additional info about customers and other details:

  • Consider adding links to commonly used forms or other materials on your order confirmation page using custom HTML.
  • If your store only sells services, add links to additional resources or materials in your order confirmation email. You can also consider adding these links even if you sell physical items as well — users can simply ignore them if they don’t apply to their type of purchase.
  • Build an automated email flow that, if a user purchases certain SKUs, they get an email requesting additional information.
  • To supplement registrations that require more advanced information than what Shopify can collect, link users to a form service such as Google Forms either from the confirmation page or a follow up email. While integrating this directly with Shopify’s customer database would require manual data entry or custom code, for smaller businesses it can be quite manageable to simply keep separate records.

Limitations

All this said, because Shopify is designed as a product commerce platform, there are some important limitations to be aware of:

  • Collecting registration information is typically limited to the purchaser’s basic account information. Adding additional fields such as age or allowing someone to purchase services for a friend or family member generally isn’t possible.
  • Letting users cancel or change service options isn’t possible without customizations. If, however, the user contacts you to cancel, you can cancel the order in the backend manually and, if applicable and configured in your store, “return” the product to the inventory — which opens up that spot for someone else to buy.
  • Scheduling can, as mentioned above, be more challenging to build within Shopify by itself, especially if you need to take registrations over a long period of time. Don’t forget you can also simply use Shopify to sell and collect payment for your service and then contact the customer directly to schedule an exact time. This approach avoids the complications of appointing scheduling and also gives you a chance to connect with your customer with quality customer service.
Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.



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