Retail and Swagger at Shopify Unite 2018

Retail and Swagger at Shopify Unite 2018

Thursday, May 10, 2018Lindsay Hampson
If you asked me what I thought Shopify was going to announce at their latest partner conference, Shopify Unite 2018, I would have told you new bells and whistles for online shoppers, enhancements to the Shopify Admin panel, and perhaps a refreshed Shopify logo.  
 
But I would have been very wrong. 
 
You see, Shopify didn’t become Shopify by keeping with the status quo.  Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke doesn’t sit back and watch commerce change. He puts a dog in the race.  He shapes and innovates. Commerce is going to change either way – Tobi wants in early.
 
What you missed at Shopify Unite 2018

While large, long-standing retailers were closing their doors in 2017, a quieter, more meaningful story of retail was unfolding beneath newspaper headlines.  When 1 retail store closed, 3 smaller, home-grown stores opened.  The world didn’t hear about this story.  But Tobi and team Shopify did.  
 
Multi-channel retail
Shopify knows that entrepreneurs can no longer just have an online shop.  The real value in retail is people and experiences.  This is what Shopify calls multi-channel retail.  
 
The online shop is just the first cog in the wheel of customer interaction with an entrepreneur’s brand.  Personal experiences with the brand, like a physical, brick and mortar store, or a pop-up location (think the back of a truck or a local space at a Saturday morning market), is meaningful and the way to build something that has teeth.  
 
All the while the entrepreneur’s Shopify POS (Point of Sale) and Shopify Admin sees a view of the customer from all channels.  
 
Shopify partners heard ‘retail.’  We heard ‘commerce.’  We heard ‘simplify.’  But we didn’t hear ‘Amazon.’
I don’t believe that the word Amazon was mentioned once during Tobi’s keynote.  But Shopify partners could feel a strong push against the giant.  
 
The main message of Shopify Unite 2018 was, “Take commerce out of the hands of the few.  Put commerce back in the hands of the many.”  A quiet, polite, and effective push and position against the eCommerce giant.  
 
Giving local entrepreneurs a global stage
Tobi highlighted an entrepreneurial family in a remote island in Eastern Canada.  For generations, this family had built fishing vessels from local wood.  Hand-carved, unique and beautiful.  However, their craft was in danger as their local fishing industry was changing.  The demand for their wood products was ending, locally.  

Rather than halt their craft, Shopify enabled them to begin using their skills to make furniture and sell it across the world.  Same technique.  Different market.  
 
This story was brought up again during the fireside chat with Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, later in the day at Shopify Unite 2018.  It is a very Canadian-thing to find success by helping others.  That is in Shopify’s DNA.  

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Product and feature announcements

Hardware
Those close to Shopify – like its partners – know that the company cares about retail hardware.  They announced the release of their tap and chip reader this week, to work through Shopify POS.  And, they removed the extra fee for retail altogether.  Yep – they are making it cheaper to have both an online and off-line presence.  
 
Shopify local currency
Depending on where you are in the world, Shopify sites will now show a consumer the cost of the item of interest in their local language.  And, even available for purchase on the credit card or debit option they are familiar with in their country.  
 
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
New to Shopify is the ability to bring the mobile device + virtual reality into the experience of buying.  Using their smartphone’s camera, a customer can “place” items that they want to look at closer onto a flat surface in real life.  They can then interact with the items in their cart, and even place something they have in hand into the picture.  
 
Why?  To eliminate the worry of buying something online, sight unseen.  I know – its very confusing to explain in a blog!  But trust me, its extremely cool.  
 
Nest
Shopify has partnered with Nest to enable video footage within brick and mortar to be captured and play live inside the Shopify Admin page.  Shopify Admin is now, very literally, at the helm of the entire retail ship now for shop owners.
 
Language
Shopify wants more merchants.  600,000 stores is just the start.  To expand, they must speak the local language.  And so they are announcing Shopify Admin in 6+ languages.    
 
Making the checkout easier
 
I’m saving my favourite announcement for last…  
 
Making room for conversations: Shopify Ping
If you don’t know what Kit is or how it messages (like a real person) with Shopify merchants today, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself.  This virtual assistant has been available to help the small business owner with marketing for the past few years.  
 
But the announcement about conversations was much bigger than Kit.  
 
Before I explain, let me say that I’m someone who would rather have fewer chat apps in the world.  But Shopify Ping is an app that truly excites me.
 
All consumer conversation in one spot with Shopify Ping:
  • A customer asks a question over live chat on the online store
  • Someone has a question over Facebook
  • A person tweets a question over Twitter
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Insert that sound of a bell when you walk into an old hardware store.  The store owner hears the bell, and walks to greet you.  Shopify Ping allows the shop owner to greet everyone instantly, regardless of how they entered the store (online, Facebook, etc).  
 
Shopify aims to make the day-to-day easier for entrepreneurs 
This simple line speaks volumes.  
 
It is exactly what a merchant would say to Tobi if he asked them what help they needed from Shopify.  And, it is also strikingly like the tag line of the Shopify partner that I work for, “accounting integration made easy.”  

While change will always plague the entrepreneur, companies like Shopify have their elbows up to fight the few for the many.  
 
Trading goods and service is at the heart of humans, and Shopify helps make it possible in an age and era otherwise dominated by Amazon.  Shopify is confidently leading multi-channel retail, and in turn giving entrepreneurs around the world the tools to make their day to day easier as they compete against Amazon head-on.  
 
And, Shopify does it with swagger.  

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