Our first virtual GeekMeet – democratising ecommerce at Shopify

At Piper, we love helping entrepreneurial brands grow. To do this, we are constantly reassessing what founders and businesses need from a partner in supporting their growth.  Although our in-house team’s experience is essential, our partner brands also value being able to tap into our extensive international network of trusted partners.

Among them, there is one global partner that embodies our way of thinking. Since it launched in 2007, Shopify has democratised what it is to start a business. With more than 1m businesses in approximately 175 countries using its platform, it is revolutionising ecommerce accessibility.

With Covid, its relevance has been even more amplified. In the six weeks between the start of lockdowns and April 24, the number of new stores using Shopify’s e-commerce platform rose 62% compared with the previous six weeks. Even before Covid, in the first quarter of 2020, the value of items sold via the sites it supports rose 46% to $17.4bn ($2.9bn on Black Friday alone in 2019, with 69% on mobile sales).

Initially a destination for start-ups not wanting to spend tens of thousands of pounds on a website, it has developed into a platform of choice for large, fast-growing challenger brands. While we are platform agnostic, recognising that each brand has different needs, among our brands its popularity has soared. 8/12 are currently using it including MousNeom Organics and Barking Heads.

We have, therefore, spent the last couple of years building a close relationship with the Shopify team. In order to introduce our brands and those in our network to the full suite of tools at their disposal, we invited Shopify to our latest GeekMeet. Three of its experts dialled in from San Francisco, Toronto and London and were joined by 50 brands.

They began by comparing Shopify to an iPhone – you can use the iPhone just as it is or you can personalise it with tool and apps (currently 3,700 and counting). Part of the value of Shopify is its integration, the huge number of apps and platforms that can seamlessly integrate with it. However, although experimenting with them can be great, they can build up and become complicated, slow and unwieldly, so it’s key to make sure you’re choosing the right ones.

At its heart, grounded on the frustrations of the founder, Tobias Lütke, in selling skateboards online, Shopify is all about consumability, speed of development and response. It is built with designability and flexibility in mind. The team don’t version their software, they just make new capabilities, preferring to patch and upgrade, which means everyone’s store is always up-to-date.

Although most features are available to all users, there are certain features only available to Shopify Plus partners (currently 250+ globally). Most importantly for brands, these are features around internationalisation and checkout customisation.

Looking to the future, there are some exciting developments. One is a digital shopping assistant that helps the most loyal customers discover (and rediscover) products, checkout in one-click, and track their orders all in one place. ‘Shop’ will also soon become the ‘Shop Channel’, allowing for customisation of how the brand looks in the Shop app for improved communication of the brand story and relationship with customers.

Integrating further with social, Facebook Shops will provide a new shopping experience that lets you create a branded store that lives inside the Facebook and Instagram mobile apps. Alongside this, Shopify AR will allow consumers who have the ability to view a 3D version of your product, as well as being able to sync products with Google Shopping.

They too are moving into finance (ability to buy things in instalments, cashback rewards, Shopify card and account management services) and fulfilment, with $1bn being invested in warehouses in North America to allow for next day delivery and dedicated success managers for brands to work with. On a more local level, they are rolling out features that support local businesses via local and curb-side pickup.

We talk a lot about emotional brands at Piper. Shopify feels like a business with a heart. It says its entire company exists for one reason: to make commerce better for everyone – by supporting entrepreneurs in everything they do.

An extract from a recent letter COO, Harley Finkelstein, illustrates this point well: ‘There are so many wonderful things about starting a business, but there is one major downside. It can be lonely. It can be isolating. And it’s not always clear who to turn to for help or advice. We’re each on our own journeys, in our own corners of the world, seeking our own versions of success and independence. Right now, we may be physically distant, but we are not alone. Together, we are the strongest collective of entrepreneurs on the planet. Community over everything.’

We couldn’t agree more.

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