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Unlock the secrets to building a powerhouse eCommerce development team.

In the bustling realm of online business, the heartbeat of success lies in the hands of skilled eCommerce developers. The rise of eCommerce and online shopping has created massive demand for developers specializing in building, maintaining, and enhancing eCommerce platforms.

If you're on a mission to curate a powerhouse team that can turn your digital dreams into reality, you're in the right place. But first, let's go down memory lane.

eCommerce pre and post-Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic was a game-changer for online shopping. When the world went into lockdown in early 2020, consumers flocked to the internet to purchase everything from groceries to home office supplies. eCommerce sales skyrocketed almost overnight. Many shoppers who had never purchased online were forced to adapt, overcoming long-held reservations about security, product quality, and delivery speed. Retail giants like Amazon reaped the benefits, hiring hundreds of thousands of workers to meet surging demand. In some cases, local businesses also got in on the action, pivoting to eCommerce models overnight.

The U.S. eCommerce sales reportedly jumped by over 40% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Interestingly, it wasn't just younger generations fueling this surge – baby boomers and older adults also embraced eCommerce out of necessity. The pandemic provided a preview of the future, where online shopping dominates, and delivery vehicles replace shopping carts for many purchases.

Now that consumers have tasted the convenience, selection, and bargains available online, there's no going back. The pandemic proved that eCommerce is the new normal and is here to stay. In addition, consumers are ready and willing to embrace it.

Where does your business fit in?

Your eCommerce platform is the digital face of your brand and a direct channel to reach and engage with customers. The developers behind it carry immense responsibility – to turn your vision into reality and to continuously enhance, optimize, and scale the site as your business grows. That's why hiring the most qualified developers who fit your specific goals and culture is vital.

You can assemble a world-class development team with the right insights to create a dynamic, revenue-driving eCommerce experience. Let's uncover the essential skills to look for when building an all-star eCommerce dev team.

Defining your eCommerce goals

The first step in hiring eCommerce developers is clearly understanding your short- and long-term goals. What will you accomplish with your online store in the next 6 months? In the next 1-3 years? Your goals will directly impact the type of developers you need on your team.

For example, suppose your short-term goal is simply to launch a simple online store. In that case, you may only need developers skilled in setting up and customizing existing eCommerce platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce.

However, if your long-term vision is to grow a sophisticated international brand with complex order processing needs, you must hire developers experienced in custom eCommerce development and integration.

Before you start the hiring process, document your goals and prioritize them. Which goals are "must-have" from day one, and which are "nice-to-have" further down the road? This will allow you to focus on the core technical skills. While nice-to-have skills like mobile optimization can be trained later, you need developers who can execute your Minimum viable product (MVP) effectively.

Hiring technical talent that closely matches your current business needs and growth plans will ensure your eCommerce roadmap stays on track.

Required technical skills

I've spoken to several eCommerce managers who agree you cannot overlook specific technical skills.

Zoryna Yushko, Mobilunity Recruitment Team Lead, who has several years of experience recruiting eCommerce developers, highlighted the critical skills her clients look for.

"Usually, eCommerce clients look for developers fluent in integrations using various APIs, integrations with common CRMs and billing platforms specifically, and can work with large databases and perform non-trivial requests. An additional required skill is at least basic SEO knowledge, as eCommerce platforms often get clients from organic search specifically, and it's important to keep the website structure understandable for search engines."

Let's go into more detail:

Frontend development

  • Strong programming skills in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These are needed to build the store's frontend user interfaces and experiences.
  • Experience with frontend frameworks like React, Vue.js, and Angular. These facilitate faster and more scalable development.
  • Responsive web design skills to ensure the store works on all devices. Mobile optimization is especially critical.
  • A high bar for UX and performance. Pages should load fast and work flawlessly.

Backend development

  • Expertise in backend programming languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, and Java. The entire store backend relies on these.
  • Ability to integrate APIs, payment gateways, and shipping providers into the platform. This is key for functional eCommerce.
  • Understanding of architecture, scaling, speed, and security best practices. The backend needs to be fast and secure.

Database management

  • Knowledge of SQL and NoSQL databases to store and query all stored data efficiently.
  • Database optimization skills for maximum speed and scalability.
  • Experience with database security, backups, and redundancy planning.

Security

  • OWASP security best practices should be followed to prevent vulnerabilities.
  • Familiarity with concepts such as input sanitization and CORS.
  • Understanding the role of SSL, HTTPS, CAPTCHA, etc.
  • Understanding authentication, access controls, and role management is critical.

The best eCommerce developers master both frontend and backend and ensure the database and infrastructure are optimized for security, speed, and scale.

UX/UI Design Skills

When hiring an eCommerce developer, assessing their user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design skills is crucial. After all, they'll be responsible for designing an intuitive, visually appealing, and conversion-focused eCommerce site.

Look for developers who demonstrate knowledge of UX principles like usability, findability, and desirability. They should know how to create simple, logical navigational flows that guide users to products effortlessly.

Experienced eCommerce developers will also have visual design skills to create polished, branded UI designs. This includes conceptualizing the overall look, feel, layout, and style of product pages and the site.

Specifically, you want developers who are well-versed in eCommerce visual merchandising best practices. This refers to presenting products attractively to encourage purchasing. Some critical aspects include:

  • High-quality product images shot from multiple angles
  • Clear calls-to-action like "Add to Cart" buttons
  • Strong use of white space and visual hierarchy
  • Clean and consistent typography and iconography
  • Strategic cross-sells and upsells
  • Balancing promotional content without overwhelming users

The ideal eCommerce developer will adeptly blend user-centered design with compelling visuals to boost conversions. They'll know how to make products irresistible to online shoppers. This combination of UX and UI expertise is invaluable.

Analytics and optimization

Successful eCommerce requires in-depth analytics and constant optimization to drive conversions and sales. When reviewing developers, assess their experience and capabilities in:

  • Implementing analytics platforms like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Adobe Analytics. They should have experience connecting these platforms to your eCommerce solution to enable data collection.
  • Analyzing user behavior data to identify opportunities. Can they extract insights from analytics to inform optimization decisions?
  • A/B testing changes to improve metrics. Do they understand how to set up A/B tests, analyze the results, and iteratively optimize the site?
  • Improving site conversion rates. Look for expertise in identifying and fixing conversion rate bottlenecks through user research, data analysis, and testing.
  • Optimizing landing pages, product pages, and checkout flows. Experience in optimizing key pages and funnels is crucial.
  • Personalization and segmentation. Can they leverage user data to provide tailored experiences and offers?
  • Retargeting strategies and implementation. Expertise in bringing back site visitors through email, ads, and popups is valuable.

The ideal eCommerce developer will have a solid data-driven mindset focused on constant testing and optimization. Analytics proficiency and the ability to quickly improve results are essential. Assess their previous experience, results, and optimization strategies during the hiring process.

eCommerce platforms worth noting

When hiring eCommerce developers, looking for experience with major eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce is essential. But why?

Shopify

  • Shopify is one of the most popular SaaS eCommerce platforms. Look for developers with experience building custom Shopify themes and apps.
  • They should understand Liquid templating language and be able to customize the frontend design and UI/UX.
  • Backend customization experience with the Shopify API and Shopify Scripts is a plus.

Magento

  • Magento is an open-source PHP-based system with tremendous enterprise-scale capabilities.
  • Seek developers experienced in complex Magento development and customization.
  • Essential skills include deep PHP, module development, API integrations, and performance optimization.

WooCommerce

  • WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin powering over 30% of online stores.
  • Ideal developers will have experience building WooCommerce stores, developing custom plugins, and integrating payment gateways.
  • Look for WordPress development skills, an understanding of WooCommerce hooks, and experience optimizing site speed.

Custom platforms

  • Developers who have built custom eCommerce platforms from scratch demonstrate strong fundamentals.
  • This requires expertise in languages like Python, Ruby, Java, and .NET and frameworks like Django and Spring.
  • They should understand complex eCommerce needs around inventory, shipping, taxes, and integration.

Conduct technical assessments or coding tests to gauge the candidates' abilities accurately.

Apart from technical skills, what else is vital?

Sudhir Khatwani, Director of The Money Mongers, believes that soft skills go hand-in-hand with technical skills and should not be compromised.

"To build a strong eCommerce team, prioritize technical expertise, problem-solving, communication, and the ability to quickly pick up new trends and technologies. Striking the right balance of hard and soft skills will yield developers ready to tackle the multi-faceted demands of eCommerce work."

Collaboration and communication

Hiring developers with strong collaboration and communication skills is crucial for eCommerce engagements, which typically involve many stakeholders. When interviewing candidates, look for evidence of:

Working with stakeholders – Can the developer communicate technical details clearly to non-technical people? Do they have experience gathering requirements from product managers, merchandisers, designers, and other roles? Strong collaboration skills ensure the final product matches the goals of all stakeholders.

Project management – Does the developer have experience breaking down large eCommerce projects into tasks and milestones? Can they estimate timelines and communicate blockers? These skills allow developers to manage projects smoothly. Ask about their preferred project management tools and methods.

Documentation – Look at code samples and see if they are commented for future developers. Well-documented code avoids confusion down the line. Also, assess their ability to create technical documentation for non-developers. Documentation is vital for maintaining eCommerce sites long-term.

When interviewing candidates, ask about their communication strategies on past eCommerce teams. Collaborative developers who can clearly explain technical details will integrate smoothly into your existing team. Prioritize written and verbal communication skills alongside technical expertise.

Connor Butterworth, the CEO & Owner of Southwestern Rugs Depot, says fostering a collaborative environment is indispensable.

"Emphasizing a culture of regular upskilling and cross-functional collaboration could help your team stay abreast of the latest eCommerce trends and technologies and innovatively leverage them for business growth."

Cultural fit

You want to ensure the developers you hire align with your company's values and can thrive in your work environment. This is especially crucial when hiring remote developers who may never be in your office.

When reviewing candidates, look for these signs of cultural fit:

  • Shared values. Do the candidate's values seem to match your company's values? For example, if your company cares deeply about environmental sustainability, does the candidate display that same passion?

  • Remote collaboration. Test how well candidates communicate and collaborate remotely during the interview process. Since remote developers won't be in the office, it's vital they can build rapport and work well with the team despite physical distance.

  • Self-motivation. Successful remote developers need self-direction and motivation. Assess if candidates proactively drive their tasks and engagements.

  • Trustworthiness. There's less oversight of remote developers, so you need people you can trust to work productively alone – screen for honest, reliable candidates who will thrive with autonomy.

Making the effort upfront to hire developers that fit your culture will lead to engaged, productive eCommerce teams. Prioritize cultural alignment alongside technical skills when evaluating candidates.

Portfolio review

Examining a developer's portfolio is one of the most essential parts of the hiring process. This lets you view examples of their previous eCommerce work and assess their skills firsthand. When reviewing portfolios, look for:

  • Examples of past eCommerce work: What eCommerce platforms and sites have they built before? Browse through case studies and screenshots to evaluate the quality of their builds. How do the live sites function and look? Assess their experience with features like product pages, shopping carts, payment systems, etc.

  • Code samples: Many developers will provide code samples or link to GitHub repositories. Review these to evaluate their coding skills and how clean, optimized, and well-documented their code is. Look for code that follows best practices and conventions.

  • Design samples: For frontend developers and UX/UI focused roles, review any design mockups, prototypes, or visual samples provided. This will showcase their design abilities and eye for usability, aesthetics, and conversion rate optimization.

Analyzing a portfolio helps verify the candidate's true skills and experience. It also provides a basis for asking targeted questions during interviews. However, remember that portfolio engagements are often collaborative. So be sure to ask candidates to explain and outline their specific contributions to any examples shown. The portfolio should demonstrate their capability to deliver solid eCommerce work that fits your business needs.

Key takeaways

Hiring the right eCommerce developers for your team is crucial for the success of your online store. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Clearly define your eCommerce goals and required skills before starting your search. This will help attract qualified candidates.
  • Based on your tech stack, look for expertise in eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce. Hands-on experience is a must.
  • Ensure candidates have strong UX/UI skills to optimize the shopping experience. This impacts sales and conversions.
  • Analyze their experience with analytics and A/B testing. Optimizing based on data is critical for growth.
  • Evaluate their collaboration skills and cultural fit. eCommerce involves cross-functional teams, so communication is critical.
  • Review their portfolio and previous eCommerce engagements. This demonstrates their capabilities in action.
  • Conduct technical assessments during the interview process to validate abilities. Don't rely on resumes alone.

To drive business results, you can build an all-star eCommerce development team with the proper hiring process. Focus on skills, experience, and cultural alignment to find the best candidates for your company's needs. This will set your ecommerce engagement up for success.

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