How To Sell UX Design To Skeptical Ecommerce Merchants

With its thin profit margins and heated competition, getting ahead in the online selling world takes a tight grip on spending. Many merchants get started as solo entrepreneurs, and some stick with that approach in perpetuity — as long as they can handle their daily tasks, it’s a great way to save money and make life easier.

Supposing you’re a UX designer, though, this can make it a major challenge to sell your services. Your skills need compensation, but digital entrepreneurs are inclined to be skeptical in general, and UX can easily sound like it pales in significance when compared to something easier for the average seller to comprehend (search rankings, for instance).

You need a smart plan of attack to break down that skepticism and convincingly advance the notion that your design service is the key to spending less and selling more. You’ll need a great portfolio to showcase your skills, of course — but past that starting point, here are some tips that you should definitely follow:

Ask them about how they shop online

The main reason why people doubt the value of UX is not that they believe it doesn’t matter how much someone likes a website: it’s that they don’t really understand what UX means. Sure, they might know that it stands for “user experience”, but that isn’t the same as knowing how it factors into someone’s online activity.

To address this, I suggest starting the discussion with a prospective client by asking them about how they shop online. What are their favorite stores? Why do they prefer visiting them? And when they buy from them, what do they like about the process? Do they enjoy the copy, the visuals, the functions?

This will be beneficial to you in two ways:

  • Firstly, it will give you some insight into how they think and what they care about. This will make it easier to sell them on particular elements.
  • Secondly, it will help them understand why UX matters so much. Talking about their favorite store elements will make it clear that they like those stores for UX-related reasons, which will show them that UX alone can make a huge difference.

After going through their personal buying experiences, you can expect to find them a lot more receptive to whatever else you have to say. Make it count.

Explain how it can cut back on support time

One of the biggest challenges with advancing UX design is explaining the ROI. It can certainly be done using metrics such as conversion rate, but unless you have a particular UX ROI case study under your belt (or think you can get somewhere pointing to general stats), that approach might not have the impact you’re looking for.

But you don’t need case studies or stats to show the value of a lightened support workload, nor do you need to get deep into UX specifics to explain why improvements can lead to fewer queries. You need only point to the questions they already receive, and note how much more time they’d have to work on other things if their system worked better and didn’t confuse people.

Sellers already know the importance of investing in the right platforms. They’ll even be willing to migrate their stores if it’s needed to get the performance and support levels they’re looking for, and you can exploit that existing conviction. For instance, if someone would migrate to Shopify (with its widely-praised 24/7 service) to improve support for their Magento enterprise store, they’d surely be open to a similar argument in favor of some UX customization.

And if they worry that the time spent discussing UX will soak up the saved time, reassure them that modern collaboration tools such as Invision or Figma make it simple to get through proposed changes without needing lengthy meetings or even calls.

Use their competitors for leverage

Argue that someone should spend money for you to help them in a way their still find unclear, and you won’t get very far. Point out to them that all their top competitors are investing heavily in UX, however, and you’ll suddenly be making a lot more headway. Sellers will stubbornly cling to the status quo until industry moves around them and they have no choice but to adapt, so make it clear that they’re being left behind and they’ll hasten to catch up.

How you go about this specifically is up to you. If you can point to stated UX budgets from competitors (they may have announced online how they’re investing their money) then that will work best, but if you’re not privy to such figures, you can simply visit their websites and explain all the UX work that has gone into them (using a tool like Wayback Machine will help you clearly display how those websites have changed over the months and years).

Furthermore, once you’ve been through competitors, you can allude to the changes you’d make to their site to outperform those competitors. Faced with the prospect of not only catching up to their rivals but also moving past them, they’ll have all the reason in the world to find the money to discover exactly what you can do for them.


UX design can sound somewhat abstract to the less tech-savvy among us, and ecommerce merchants don’t necessarily know much about tech — today, they can rely on simple tools and SaaS companies to get by. To convince them to invest in it, you’ll need to make the practical benefits so much clearer. These tips should help.