Shopify made a name for itself in its early days with a platform for providing retailers keen to establish their own online shops an easy and quick way to build and run those services on their own websites and apps — a quick route to “DTC” at a time when it was starting to feel as if marketplaces like Amazon’s had a stranglehold on reaching consumers. Fast-forward to today, after two years of a COVID-19 e-commerce boom, digital shopping is happening on an ever-expanding range of platforms. So to address that shift, today Shopify is launching a raft of tools for customers interested in spinning up social commerce, local shopping offers with Google, cryptocurrency, B2B selling and more — some 100 new features in all.
Being everywhere shoppers might be is a movable feast these days, and Shopify’s approach seems to be to offer a Vegas-style buffet to address that: a little bit of everything for everyone. Or as CEO and founder Tobi Lütke described it, “the infinite game” of commerce.
The fuller list is being unveiled as part of a new semi-annual product sprint that the company is launching today called Shopify Editions. To be clear, Shopify has been building products in social commerce, partnering with Google, building links with cryptocurrencies and other developments prior to today. Some of the features that it’s bundled into today’s announcement are not even being made public for the first time. What’s notable with Editions is how Shopify is rolling up so many developments into one big push, a sign of how the platform itself is expanding. Aggregating a long tail of news gives the bigger picture more heft.
Sarah has covered one in particular being announced today, a new shopping experience on Twitter, here; we’re highlighting some of the other more notable developments below:
B2B. Shopify’s primary use case has been firmly in the space of direct-to-consumer sales — retailers who are selling to mass-market audiences. Today that is shifting with a formal opening up of a framework for retailers that sell to businesses. B2B on Shopify, as it’s calling the product, isn’t only for companies that work in wholesale, but also acknowledges a couple of significant facts in the commerce world: First, retailers with a primarily consumer audience also often sell to businesses; second, those that don’t sell B2B could expand their sales by doing so. Business customers typically buy in a different pattern than consumers and typically require different kinds of payment methods and will also have different kinds of tax needs (in the U.K., for example, a business buyer does not pay the same sales tax as a consumer does on goods and services). The new framework will make it easier for those retailers to automate some of that and potentially grow B2B revenue in the process.
Tokengated commerce. NFT activity and valuations have nosedived in recent months, and the big question at the moment is whether that is a consequence of people waking up and smelling the tulips, or if it’s a temporal blip resulting from the bigger dip that cryptocurrencies are making right now — and if it’s the latter, whether one might ever effectively be disaggregated from the other. Regardless! Shopify will be there for any and all customers who might decide that they would like to dip their toes into the open seas of NFTs.
No, it’s not a partnership with OpenSea, one of the bigger NFT marketplaces, but Shopify’s own take on building their own NFT experiences. Shopify’s Tokengated commerce, it says, will use NFTs, although it’s not clear if Shopify will be powering the creation and management of them. It notes that it will be a way to “reward true fans and VIPs, by giving NFT holders exclusive access to products, perks, and experiences” by linking crypto wallets to Shopify online stores. Merchants will be able to activate Shopify tokengated commerce experiences online, on mobile and in physical retail, Shopify said. It will also build ways for NFTs from one shop or retailer or brand to be used in a Shopify-powered store.
Shopify on iPhone. Shopify is getting more active in physical sales — not a surprise since the crossover would represent a much larger potential market for the company than solely serving online merchants; and many merchants operate across both. In the latest move to increase transactions, Shopify is providing the ability for people to tap to pay on Shopify-powered transactions on iPhone.
This was actually rolled out, it seems, in May, although without much fanfare. The basic idea is that while a lot of other point-of-sale services have relied on extra pieces of POS hardware, Shopify’s is using Apple’s tap to pay features to make it easy for a merchant to enable in-person payments with just an iPhone, no dongle or terminal required. If something like Square opened the door to a new wave of small sellers taking card payments for the first time, this is an even lower barrier to entry, which is what makes it so interesting.
Local Shopify inventory now appearing on Google. Shopify and Google were already partnering to make products sold on Shopify-powered sites discoverable on Google searches; now this is taking on a location-specific angle. When customers who are looking for a specific product, if that product is attached to a Shopify-powered retailer or brand, shoppers will be able to see if it’s available to pick up locally in a physical store. It’s not quite clear if that store needs to be one specifically run by that retailer or if it will work with stock availability at other stores.
Functions. Shopify has been building out a lot of tech to address the growing interest among some retailers for “headless” commerce — systems where they can customize more of the features for how a site operates and looks. Functions is Shopify’s answer for that: a way for slightly bigger retailers to build more dynamic options, such as discounts for those adding above a certain threshold to their shopping carts. The idea with Functions is that it complements Hydrogen and Oxygen, the company’s framework for headless commerce, with more technical features to populate those customized sites. The aim here is to create more options to keep larger customers from migrating to platforms that cater to companies that feel that they have otherwise outgrown Shopify. (And there are dozens of them: just google “outgrown Shopify” to see what I mean.)
The bigger picture here is that while Shopify was an early mover and was prescient in seeing the potential of providing tools to build shopping sites to more merchants, it’s now trying to take more steps to anticipate but also reflect where commerce is going, and whatever those steps might be, to win by making that experience as easy to use as possible by those who are sellers, not technologists, at heart.
“We will go wherever the world of commerce goes,” Glen Coates, VP Product, Core, told us. “We want Shopify to be a big easy button.”