The future of retail, will be Shopified.

For many industries, COVID-19 has been the single biggest catalyst for digitisation, squeezing years of digital growth in just a few months. In the lockdown and social distancing economy, e-commerce has certainly benefitted from increased sales as people shop from the safety of their own homes. Shopify in particular has positioned itself perfectly during this dramatic shift, offering brands of all sizes a better way to reach their audience online.While Amazon might be top of mind for most people as the dominant e-commerce platform, Shopify has a few things in store that will be of particular interest to medium-sized companies and brands centred on experience in particular.

E-commerce is more than shopping carts

Replicating in-store experiences online is not an easy task, and it’s one of the main issues many fashion brands are facing in 2020. While some brands have figured out interesting ways to engage with their customers through digital events and compelling content, the actual shopping part of the customer journey still has some catching up to do.

Recently, a few luxury fashion designers started featuring their products on Amazon as part of the Common Threads programme developed by Vogue in response to COVID-19. While Amazon is a great platform for potentially reaching millions of people, the digital storefronts don’t do much in terms of brand building or storytelling. The Amazon storefront for shoelaces looks a lot like the storefront for a luxury dress by Colovos – a designer that took part in Common Threads.

The lack of brand experience is not the only issue companies have with selling on Amazon. The e-commerce platform has a questionable reputation when it comes to the costs it passes on to merchants, and the way it harvests sales data to create its own competing products without giving brands access to that same data.

So far, it’s been a bittersweet relationship between brands and Amazon. Yes, the chance to reach millions of people is amazing, but the price companies have to pay is high. Shopify is offering a different kind of partnership, coming to the rescue of brands that want be in control of their own e-commerce experience.

The strengths of Shopify

Shopify is known for its easy to use e-commerce platform, which allowed it to capitalise on the increasing demand for e-commerce seen in the last few months. On Twitter, COO Harley Finkelstein shared new stores created on Shopify grew 62% between March 13 and April 24, compared to the previous six weeks. The reasons why so many brands are opening up online stores on Shopify has to do with the simplicity of setting it up, as well as the ability to create unique touchpoints that build relationships with customers.

A good illustration of this is Swiss chocolate pioneer Lindt, who recently launched a store in just five days. The brand had to close all of its stores across Canada due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but they had no comprehensive e-commerce functionality to get their products to customers. Through Shopify, they were able to quickly launch a branded online store that offered a buy-online, curb side pickup system. Just in time for Easter, the second-largest sales season for the chocolate brand.

Another reason why many brands prefer to build out their e-commerce operations on Shopify, is that the platform positions itself as an enabler for brands of all sizes to capture the full potential of e-commerce. That means Shopify doesn’t want to be at the centre of another brand’s story. There is no “made by Shopify” on a merchant’s site, and a brand has full control over the experience it offers customers and the way their online shop is designed. Plus, brands have access to behavioural and sales data so they can draw the critical insights needed to improve their products and services.

Shopify continues ambitious growth

Building on its recent success, Shopify is doubling down on providing a comprehensive and complete experience to brands in the e-commerce ecosystem.

The company has dropped integration with Mailchimp and instead now offers its own emailing service that lets merchants run targeted email campaigns. Other features in response to the COVID-19 economy include tipping for restaurants that have taken online, easier set-up for international sales, and curb side pickups.

In response to social media platforms reinventing the way brands sell products online, Shopify is integrating their platform with Facebook and Instagram. For example, brands can now more easily set up a Facebook shop to connect with shoppers directly on social networks, and the sales component is powered by Shopify. Recent investments the company has made in the logistics of deliveries and smart warehouses have made it possible for Shopify to move in this direction.

Lastly, no e-commerce solution that aims to be comprehensive can overlook payments. The Shopify Financial Solutions team released some interesting numbers about the performance of Shop Pay, the native payment and simplified checkout mechanism. It is used by over 40 million shoppers, increases checkout speed by 4x, and delivers a 1.72x higher conversion rate than regular checkout.

Payments is a highly competitive space, so in a bid to further distinguish itself, Shopify has said it’s also launching "Shop Pay Instalments," a buy now, pay later option at checkout that will give customers the option to split purchases into four equal payments over time. The payments are interest free and without additional fees. Altogether, branching out into the payments space presents a huge advantage for a company that already has a vast network of hundreds of thousands of brands worldwide.

Shopify set to own the e-commerce game

Shopify’s ambitions to become the one-stop shop for all things e-commerce are clear to everyone. And the company is well on its way to reaching that goal. The combination of the platform positioning itself as an enabler that empowers brands to succeed, putting brands in control of the experience they are offering, and constantly building out comprehensive features, all adds up to a name that will soon dominate the e-commerce space.

We’ve built out the e-commerce experience for many brands on Shopify including SimplyFresh and Tablo, and can confidently say Shopify is a powerful tool indeed. Any company that wants to get the most out of its digital presence cannot afford to overlook the e-commerce platform of the future.

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