Shopify held their third annual “Unite” conference last week in Toronto for partners in their ecosystem (“Partners” for Shopify are agencies like us, but also app developers, theme developers, freelancers, and bigger companies who integrate their wares with Shopify.). I won’t get into a full recap of what was announced, you can get a much better rundown of that on their blog. I’ll just touch on the elements that stood out to me the most.First, I’ll talk a little about the conference itself, then highlight the announcements that I thought would be of the most interest to merchants. Finally, I’ll share some thoughts about Shopify in general.
It was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I hadn’t been there before, and I found the city itself to be exceptionally charming and loved it a lot.
The conference itself was impressive. The production value going into it really blew me away. Tons of polish around every little detail. The venue, the seating, the lighting, the crowd control, the food, the badges, the presentations, the graphics, the music, the big screen, the planning of ancillary activities, the absurd after party -- just polished.
I texted a photo to my wife and she replied “wow, glitzy.” Glitzy it was.
At the end of the first day, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, stopped by for a visit. Yes, you read that right. It was a little bonkers, and kind of fun to be there for that. Shopify is A Big Deal in Canada (and with good reason, 3,000 employees and going strong).
The After Party was pretty insane as well. They held it in this large venue that was full of arcade games, to which they added drinks, donuts, a live DJ, dancing, photos, and other insanity. One of my developers arrived before I did at the party and texted me:
“This place is straight out of one of my dreams. Video games, donuts, beer, outdoor deck, VR.”
If anything he undersold it. I’m an old man and I happily stayed out until 2am.
Here's a photo of me and a couple of my team members heading into the VR room playing Ghostbusters. It was impressive.
Globalization - multi-store, multi-location, multi-currency, and language translation
This was the biggest and most impactful announcement and improvement from my perspective, and the one I'm most excited about for our clients.
Shopify is focused on giving merchants the path to global expansion. (And this brings with it benefits besides globalization, like much better b2b management). I’m often asked, where does Shopify still lack? My answer is always globalization. Multi-store management is poor, multi-currency is messy, and language translation has no elegant solutions. It just doesn’t feel enterprise-grade in this area. More specifically, that Shopify “ease” and user-friendliness we enjoy elsewhere has not been applied to globalization concerns.
At Unite they announced that multi-store management, multi-currency and language translation are coming soon. So this story is getting much, much better. It’s now clearly a focus for Shopify, which starts to close a pretty big hole in their offering for the enterprise level Shopify customer, especially.
I also like how thoughtful they’ve been about approaching it. You can tell that some very sharp minds have been considering how to pull it off. The solution is much deeper than just slapping the feature onto Shopify, it’s a complete reworking about how to think about the Shopify platform itself.
The plans they have to address all this look very promising. There are some caveats (e.g. multi-currency will only work with Shopify Payments, and Shopify Payments is not available in some global locations), but it’s still early days, and in time I expect this to get better and better. I love where it’s going.
They also announced that global payment options (country-specific payment options) will be part of this rollout.
Shopify Flow is a pretty sweet feature of Plus where you essentially have a Shopify-specific “Zapier”-like system built into the admin. It’s been great except it only works within Shopify.
They announced an upgrade to Flow that now allows apps to talk to each other, so it’s an even more robust Zapier-like experience where (for example) you can have Loyalty Lion (one of our favorite loyalty apps) trigger an event when you might be at risk of losing a customer. It can then tell Klaviyo to send a win-back sequence to that customer. All without either app knowing about the other - it’s just connected with Flow. We’ve written a bunch of crazy code up until now to make this kind of thing happen, and now it can be done by a store owner within Flow. That’s pretty sweet.
This is actually available right now in Discounts. You can create surprisingly complex “Buy X Get Y” offerings. What used to require gymnastics with Shopify Scripts and Ruby code can now be done by the non-technical store-owner in the Discounts area. A nice overdue and slick feature.
Shopify is pushing heavily into multi-channel retail, with a big emphasis on Shopify POS, which has some new hardware (“Tap and Chip” reader). They’re also no longer going to charge an extra monthly fee for POS. They want everyone to explore this channel.
Kit and Ping
They’re billing Kit as Shopify’s “Alexa/Siri/Cortana/Google Assistant.” They’ve clearly been pouring resources into it and a new native chat client connected to it, called Ping. This strikes me as something they would have usually left to the ecosystem, but they must find it important enough to build a first class version themselves. It’s a pretty ambitious undertaking, incorporating features like a customer chat bot/chat tool, and even an internal Slack replacement. It will be very interesting to see where this goes!
Shopify has been working on a new platform migration tool. This is a big pain point for most migrating merchants. Existing automated solutions are often unreliable and frustrating, so you’re usually better off paying for a custom migration to do it right. It looks like this new tool may make migrations a whole lot easier. Welcome news for everyone.
A few other interesting announcements:
- Abandoned checkout emails are now free on all plans.
- With "Dynamic Checkout" they’ve added the ability to skip checkout if your customer has Apple Pay, or similar payment system. With Apple Pay, for example, the customer can tap the Apple Pay icon from the product page, scan their thumbprint, and be all checked out. This is slick, and I’ll be super curious to hear if it gets used.
- Shopify Payments now has “Fraud Protect” which helps cover you as a merchant against fraud. I’ll be interested to hear how well this works, but it seems like it could solve a lot of headaches and trouble for merchants.
Like Shopify's merchants, the success of our company is integrally tied to their success (probably even moreso), and like in years past, I went to the conference, in part, to get a glimpse into where this crucial partner of ours is going. What does the future look like? Is partnering with Shopify still a good play for us and our clients?
I came away reassured, and excited about where Shopify is going. I pity their competitors. To see how far they’ve come just in the last year alone is very impressive. They seem to be firing on all cylinders. Not perfect by any means, but heading in a direction that I found inspiring, exciting, and in-tune with their merchants, and those merchants’ customers. Shopify is defining the future of ecommerce, and you can tell the passion for that runs deep.