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Shopify’s Popify Retail Store Brings Independent Vendors Greater Visibility

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Ottawa-based Shopify, which now has a growing office in Toronto thanks in large part to the company’s recent acquisition of Jet Cooper and Rocketr, is running a pop-up retail experience in Toronto’s Kensington Market over the next few days as part of a project called ‘Popify.’ It’s something the company has done once before in Ottawa, but this time there’s less emphasis on having retailers physically present, and more focus on how to bring bricks and clicks together for better customer acquisition.

The Popify store, which I had a chance to check out before their public opening at an event last night, features a number of stores contained within a relatively tight shop in an area of Toronto known for its trendy independent stores and restaurants. Within the single storefront are housed 12 individual stores, from Shopify customers Areaware, Au Lit Fine Linens, Best Made, Biko, Joulies, DODOcase, Grain Audio, Holstee, JM&Sons, Oru Kayak, Partouche, and Poler.

Each shop represented had physical product present, but not necessarily any staff. Near each demo product was an iPad, equipped with a Shopify dongle for accepting credit card payments, with a super simple version of their mobile storefront selling just the items available to check out at the shop. Some shops were offering special discounts for the event, including free shipping on items.

The idea, according to Shopify VP of Growth Craig Miller, is to help answer the question of how Shopify customers can grow their customer base. The issue, he says, is that a lot of people on the platform love setting up their stores and find it super easy, but then have trouble with the next step, which is making sure that the right people find and see their wares and then hopefully, become customers.

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To help with that, something like the Popify stores is an idea Shopify is testing out. Andrew Peek, who came on with the acquisition of his company Rocketr, is heading up a sort of experimental skunkworks within Shopify, and this Popify concept shop is the first example of the kinds of projects he’s working on there. It brings together “URLs with IRL,” as Shopify Designer Chris Appleton put it.

The phenomenon of showcasing is well documented in our age of digital selling: The idea is that stores like Walmart and Best Buy provide physical showrooms for products that customers can use to try things out, and then those same buyers go online to complete the transaction with a competitor like Amazon where they can get a lower price. According to Peek and Miller, the theory is that giving people access to a showcasing environment that’s cost-efficient and run by Shopify itself will help give its clients the benefit of the showcasing effect while keeping the entire shopping cycle within Shopify’s control.

The acquisition of Jet Cooper earlier this year began a string of major announcements from Shopify, all of which point to a company that’s not resting on its laurels, but is instead seeking new ways to add value to the online storefront platform that started the company. Along with Hootsuite, this is one of Canada’s leading independent tech companies, and its growth of late has been very impressive. With projects like Popify, it’s also showing that it can still be nimble like a startup, despite enjoying the status of a more established player.

Photos courtesy Andrew Williamson.