Experts For Hire

How Shopify grows through an experts marketplace.

Hey — It’s Nico.

This is another edition of Failory’s Behind Tactics 🧠, the newsletter in which I analyze the different strategies startups use to get ahead in their markets.

In this issue:

  • The Shopify Partner Program serves as a marketplace connecting Shopify experts with merchants, offering assistance from development to marketing and branding.

  • This is a great strategy when you have a really complex tool.

  • The program generates a win-win-win scenario where merchants, experts, and Shopify benefit.

  • This is only one example of a much bigger trend. In recent years, Many SaaS have created their own expert marketplaces.

Let’s get into it.

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The Strategy

The Expert Marketplace

Shopify aims to make creating an e-commerce site as easy as possible. While the platform simplifies many aspects, there's still much to learn to build a successful online store, such as technical skills, marketing strategies, or graphic design.

This meant many Shopify customers were struggling to create functional e-commerce sites. Shopify had three options to address this:

  • Leave it to the users: Focus on just providing the platform and let users figure out how to use it on their own.

  • Offer a done-for-you service: Have in-house experts create the e-commerce sites for clients. This solution is great for some startups but not scalable.

  • Create an experts marketplace: Curate a list of freelancers and agencies who can help clients build their e-commerce sites.

Shopify chose the third option, as it was the most scalable. And so, the Shopify Partners Program was born, connecting clients with experts to help them build their eCommerce dreams.

Shopify Partner Program

In essence, the Shopify Partners Program is a curated directory of Shopify Experts, offering specialists in various fields:

  • Development: Experts help clients build custom apps or integrations, set up custom domains, or troubleshoot existing issues.

  • Marketing and Sales: Specialists assist with social media marketing, SEO, content marketing, and more.

  • Visual Content and Branding: Professionals create logos, banner ads, illustrations, product photos, and videos.

In addition to regular Shopify Partners, there are also Shopify Plus Partners. These are freelancers or agencies vetted and approved by Shopify to work with Shopify Plus merchants. These partners cater to the largest Shopify clients, who often require more complex solutions than the basic Shopify plan offers.

The Partners Program is a marketplace where Shopify users can select experts based on experience, ratings, and pricing. Once chosen, users can directly contact and discuss their requirements with the selected partner.

Shopify oversees the building and curation of the directory, but all subsequent arrangements are handled between the parties involved. This approach simplifies operations for Shopify, focusing on facilitating connections while allowing partners and clients to collaborate directly.


The Shopify Partners Program creates a thriving ecosystem that benefits merchants, agencies, and Shopify alike:

  • Merchants: Easily access trusted assistance to quickly launch their stores, ensuring a smooth start to their e-commerce journey.

  • Shopify: Retains more successful clients who stay longer and derive greater value from the platform.

  • Agencies and Freelancers: Gain a new revenue stream and access to potential clients through the marketplace.

In April, Shopify commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact Study on the Partners Program. The study revealed that partners focusing 75% or more of their business on Shopify experienced:

  • A 17% increase in total services revenue.

  • Nearly a 30% average increase in revenue per client.

  • A 10% higher average margin on build and migration projects.

These findings highlight how the Partners Program enriches the entire Shopify community while only requiring minimal time and resources to create and maintain.

Shopify Academy

To ensure high-quality recommendations, it was essential for Shopify to make sure that all the experts possessed all the necessary skills.

To address this, Shopify established the Shopify Academy. This online platform offers a wide range of courses covering everything related to Shopify, from customizing checkouts to building integrations and themes. Additionally, the academy provides certifications that developers can earn.

By equipping experts with comprehensive training through the Shopify Academy, Shopify enhances the overall quality of its expert marketplace. This not only boosts user satisfaction but also instills confidence in clients seeking reliable assistance for their e-commerce needs. It's a strategic approach that underscores Shopify's commitment to supporting both its experts and clients in achieving success in e-commerce.

Should I?

Why This Works

  • Reduces the Entry Barrier: The program makes creating an e-commerce site easier by providing users with the necessary help. This allows anyone to set up their own online store regardless of their technical or marketing knowledge.

  • Enhances Success for Existing Users: Shopify experts assist current users in growing their businesses and resolving issues. This support leads to greater success with the platform and encourages long-term use.

  • New Acquisition Channel: Agencies and freelancers in the Shopify Partners Program can also serve as an acquisition channel. If an agency specializes in Shopify services, they are likely to recommend Shopify to new clients. Shopify even incentivizes partners by offering 20% of the monthly subscription for every new client they bring in.

How to Apply It

  • Find Agencies or Freelancers: If freelancers are already using your tool, add them to your marketplace. If not, identify experts in your field and train them to use your platform.

  • Manual Match: Begin by manually matching experts with clients to gauge interest from both parties. Once interest is validated, create a directory where clients can find experts independently.

  • Promote the Directory: Inform your users about the directory's existence. Add a button in your tool’s UI or in common areas where customers might need help.

Yes, But

  • Selecting and Training Experts Takes Time: You could skip this step and let experts add themselves to the directory. However, this risks having unqualified experts, leading to poor client experiences.

  • Consider In-House Services for Startups: For new startups, it might be wiser to provide these services directly. This ensures a higher quality service for clients. While this approach isn’t scalable, once the startup has grown, it can then consider building a curated directory.

  • Potential for Conflict: If a user experiences issues with an expert or is dissatisfied with their work, they may hold Shopify accountable for recommending that expert. Therefore, maintaining a curated list is crucial to mitigate these risks.

Keep Learning

Others Playing It

  • Webflow features a similar Experts Directory that lists certified experts capable of assisting with tasks ranging from site migration to marketing and SEO guidance. Unlike Shopify, Webflow's directory requires experts to be certified and have at least three public Webflow sites, ensuring a more curated selection.

  • Squarespace also has an Expert Marketplace. It is very similar to Shopify or Webflow but also has a feature that matches you with the expert that best fits your needs. This is a simple way to make the process even easier for the users.

  • Bubble categorizes its experts into Bronze, Silver, or Gold tiers based on their certifications and their revenue generation within the Bubble platform.

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