By Daniel Hunter

UK small businesses are rapidly developing e-commerce sites, reveals the Freelancer.co.uk Fast 50, the world’s largest online jobs survey.

The survey of 280,000 online jobs found that businesses hiring experts to create an ecommerce site was up 19% in the first three months of 2013. The results reveal that British small businesses are moving online in order to become more competitive and signals even greater competition for high street retailers. Orders for Mangeno and shopping carts were up as well, seeing a 14% and 18% rise respectively.

“The online commerce is disrupting the retail sector so drastically that many traditional establishments are now charging money to allow consumers to see and hold an item in person - accepting that their next action will be to buy the item cheaper online,’ said Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.co.uk.

“Retail outlets are proving incapable of adjusting to a consumer base no longer geographically captive. Ecommerce is dominating the consumer retail landscape. It's no surprise that big name retailers that haven't kept up with the online shopping revolution are increasingly going bankrupt. These high street dinosaurs are unwilling to compete, and so will soon be consigned to retail history.”.

“When you couple core web 2.0 technologies like HTML5, CSS, PHP, and jQuery with highly scalable online marketing techniques like email marketing, SEM and social media marketing, it is no surprise that B2C (business to consumer) online transactions eclipsed a trillion US dollars in 2012,” said Matt Barrie.

The survey also found that 3D design jobs take off as 3D printers like MakerBot start to go mainstream. Powered by open-source software, this surge in interest in 3D printing has resulted in a surge of growth for the 3D Modeling up 21% and 3D Rendering up 13%, and 3D Animation up 6%.

“One of the most exciting new technologies to emerge in the past few years is desktop 3D printing. Previously an expensive industrial tool for rapid prototyping, advances in materials science and computing power, along with a healthy dose of investment, has seen the price of a desktop 3D printer reduce from $20,000 to $1,000 or less. This substantial cost reduction has seen 3D printing devices (like the MakerBot Replicator 2X) reach the home and spawned a whole new DIY/enthusiast/early adopter community,” Barrie said.

The Fast 50 survey also found:

Core web 2.0 technologies HTML5, CSS, PHP, and jQuery continue to grow. With the eCommerce revolution taking off, everyone wants a piece of the pie, and demand for web 2.0 websites continues its strong growth. Jobs based around core web 2.0 technologies are subsequently on the rise: HTML5 (up 20% from 3823 jobs), CSS (up 15% from 9,009 jobs), PHP (up 9% from 39,867 jobs), jQuery (up 7% from 3,522 jobs), MySQL (up 3% from 14,017 jobs) and Wordpress (up 20% from 8,820 jobs) all grew this quarter.

David Harrison, VP of engineering at Freelancer.co.uk, is not surprised, ”The underpinning tech that powers eCommerce is now mature, scalable, and cheap - you can set up a turn-key online store for as little as a couple of hundred dollars and have all the features of a massive retailer like Amazon. This is enabling the massive growth of online retail as small businesses move online to sell to consumers around the globe. The technology tidal wave is breaking on the traditional retail sector.”

Android spreads throughout the developing world, leaving Apple floundering in its wake. Android jobs shot up more than 20% (from 4,278 jobs) as jobs for iPad and iPhone crept up at far less impressive rates of 11% (from 2,035 jobs) and 5% (from 5,294 jobs), respectively. Long decried as the brand of the snobbish, Apple has failed to make significant inroads in the fastest growing markets for mobile technologies - developing nations.

With Apple’s strategy concentrating on high margins rather than high volume, industry commentator Joe Wilcox summarizes Tim Cook’s smartphone dilemma - emerging markets account for 85% of the world’s population, and yet at the same time, they are “sucking the margins out of iPhone”. Addressing this strategic challenge will be the defining moment of CEO Tim Cook’s career, and with two-thirds of Apple’s revenue coming from smartphones and tablets, the outcome may well decide the future of the largest tech company in the world.

Samsung is now a major threat, and has deep supply chain experience as a producer of key components. Apple’s latest product releases have been lackluster; developers are voting with their feet, and it increasingly looks like Apple is no longer hungry to win without Jobs.

Twitter grows while Facebook slumps, but both fall flat as marketers fall back to Email Marketing. Facebook seems to be intent on putting ads everywhere on their platform, except where people are willing to pay for them. Forbes recently reported that Twitter had stomped Facebook in terms of selling ads on mobile devices, and this year’s Super Bowl likewise saw Twitter emerging triumphant, beating Facebook in social media mentions, according to an informal analysis by Marketing Land. This trend is reflected in the Fast 50 - Twitter jobs grew 18% (from 2,232 jobs), while Facebook jobs fell 4% (from 6,569 jobs).

However, ROI delivered by social media marketing pales in comparison to the classic powerhouse of email marketing. It’s easy to see why - despite its flaws, email is still the most popular online activity, and at a next-to-nothing price point, it remains the powerhouse of online marketing as social media continues to prove itself a high-risk, high-reward strategy, and Facebook and Twitter's continued experimentation still failing to distil a concrete answer to the Google Ads behemoth. This is reflected in the growth of Email Marketing jobs, up 21% (from 1,001 jobs).

BPO jobs boom as virtual assistants become mainstream for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Outsourcing basic administration tasks is rapidly becoming the norm for western small business, as SMEs increasingly become comfortable with accessing an online workforce. No longer the exclusive domain of large multinationals, small businesses and startups are increasingly adopting outsourcing as a way to get ahead of the competition, saving money on simple back-office tasks which can then be redirected to hiring more skilled labor or expanding operations. As a result of this trend, BPO jobs saw a massive 113% increase (from 2,945 jobs), and were the #1 fastest growing job type on Freelancer.co.uk in Q1 2013.

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