Unite is the annual conference for Shopify’s partners, customers and app developers to get together to celebrate the success of the platform and go through some of the latest changes and the path forward. Shopify has grown leaps and bounds since its initial launch over 10 years ago. It has now over 1,000,000 active users, and a very healthy partner and app ecosystem. More recently, with the release of the Shopify Plus platform 2 years ago and its IPO, Shopify has almost doubled its internal staff and continues to take market share from its floundering competitors. It’s definitely a good time to be looking at a move to Shopify (or continue growing on the platform). And Unite is a sneak peek into what is coming next.
A real vision for eCommerce
The vision espoused by the founder and CEO, Tobias Luttke, is that Shopify is the future of eCommerce. That future is a world where anyone is able to become an entrepreneur. A world where the smallest or largest organisation can use the same platform and focus entirely on running their business. In many ways, Shopify’s vision for eCommerce is very similar to the aspirations of Apple for computers, which I think explains the success so far and in my opinion puts the platform ahead from many others like Magento and Bigcommerce, especially when it comes to ease of use.
Sell anywhere, any platform
Following on from the vision, some of the bigger developments announced this year are around providing more tools to developers and agencies through the new storefront API. The new storefront API allows your developer to access more information from Shopify faster using the new query language GraphQL, allowing you to develop more customised applications that link back to your Shopify store. Alongside the JS Buy SDK and Mobile SDKs (which both have new releases), there is now also a new Unity SDK. There was a demo at the event of a simple VR experience that allowed the user to view and purchase the item from the Unity environment. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we and other developers can use the API to create new innovative eCommerce experiences!
Shopify also announced a new generation POS card reader. It has a more robust and portable design than previous iteration. With the card reader being a portable component that can be used independently of the charging stand. It has a clean white design and finish looks great (also very Apple-esque). The release of the card reader in the US is slated for June this year. Unfortunately no Australian date has been released yet.
Last year Shopify released the Frenzy app, which is a high-volume setup for very exclusive products and flash sales. To be able to deliver this kind of volume, Shopify has spent a significant amount of time upgrading its infrastructure (e.g. doubling the number of database shards) and improving its scalability. Whilst they didn’t go into every single detail, they did share some very interesting statistics and information around flash sale scaling on the Shopify platform, including the launch of the new Kylie Jenner lipstick brand, which reached well over 100,000 concurrent users on launch day.
Shopify Plus continues to grow quickly
Shopify Plus is also continuing to grow at a staggering rate. The Shopify Plus team has been very hard at work creating and demoing new features that have in the past have required custom apps to implement.
Some of the key new features are:
- Better scripting and custom pricing – giving merchants more flexibility and ability to implement more advanced pricing models
- Wholesale channel – a key feature that has been needed for a while. This is now available to all Shopify Plus merchants
- New Mobile app SDK & Mobile app builder – that will allow all Shopify Plus customers to build their own iOS and Android apps straight from their online store. The mobile SDK allows for greater customisation of the experience.
- Flow – a new event driven interface allowing merchant to customise their rules and notifications for both internal and external
Shopify Plus merchants have a lot to look forward to with these new features. Assuming the pace continues will definitely have a number of features unique to the platform that they can use to drive results. (Note that some of these features will be entering beta within the next few months and so are not immediately available to all merchants).
What this all means for merchants
If you’re a merchant on the Shopify platform, the future is very bright. The platform is gathering even more momentum. In particular the Shopify Plus offering will be releasing some very unique eCommerce features within the next few months. If you are on another platform and considering a move, I’d advise you to take a good look at Shopify. Unless you have some very obscure requirements that can’t be fulfilled on the platform, its a good bet that Shopify Plus will be an easier and more relaxing experience than what you are on currently. We are certainly very excited to be working with the Shopify platform and being part of a faster and more innovative wave of eCommerce.