People might be laying low and spending more time at home because of the, dare I say it, dreaded COVID-19 situation, but it's still good times for the world of Shopify shop owners, partners, and customers, especially with the launch of Shopify Reunite.
On Wednesday, 20 May 2020, Shopify held its first Shopify Reunite event online. Naturally, no one could travel in times like these but I personally think the online event meant more people could tune into what, otherwise, would have been a costly travel experience.
Shopify is clearly one of the biggest winners in the post COVID-19 world. I believe the main reason for that is they're deeply engaged and involved with their community of merchants and partners, which enables them to be very responsive to circumstances.
During the event, Shopify unveiled a host of updates and new services that will benefit the Shopify Community as a whole, that includes Shopify Merchants, Shopify Partners, like Gameball, and Shopify Customers.
Let's delve into what happened during Shopify Reunite 2020.
Shopify executives uncovered several options and benefits during Shopify Reunite, some were directed at shop owners or merchants and others were directed at consumers.
Some benefits have already gone into effect, while others slated for some time in 2020.
The Shopify team unveiled Shopify Balance, an opportunity for Shopify merchants to manage their finances.
Shopify said the reason for creating Shopify Balance was that "A large part of e-commerce is banking and financial services, yet today’s banking products aren’t designed around the needs of independent business owners."
"We want to change that by empowering merchants with tools that help them take control of their business finances," Shopify stressed in a statement.
Shopify Balance is divided into 3 parts: Shopify Balance Account, which facilitates money-related aspects such as paying bills for merchants, Shopify Card, which is available both as an e-card and a physical card, and lastly Rewards, a work-in-progress to offer cashback and discounts.
This obviously reflects what Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke said at the start of Shopify Reunite. "Shopify exists to make commerce better for everyone. That's our company mission," he said.
Shopify listens to its stakeholders and engages with them at all levels which enables them to continuously innovate new products and services that are perfectly relevant to their audience.
I also like how Shopify is trying to help merchants on its platform at times like these. It realizes that businesses are struggling so it's taking steps to mitigate the ongoing situation for its 800,000+ merchants.
Shopify Capital is another update that came during Shopify Reunite 2020. It's a program that helps small businesses access financing.
At this point, Shopify Capital is available in the US, UK, and Canada, and allows merchants to get funding from $200 up to $1 million! Merchants won't be subject to a credit history and Shopify stressed that it wouldn't be taking part or owning a percentage of the merchant's business if they seek financing.
"We’ve also committed an additional $200 million to the program and have already provided $1 billion in capital to our merchants," Shopify added.
Another step to support merchants in stressful times. I expect that Shopify's statement that it would not be taking a percentage of business ownership will mean merchants would be more willing to apply for Shopify Capital.
Shop Pay Installments
Earlier in Shopify Reunite, the company's CEO Tobi Lütke said that because COVID-19 is negatively affecting businesses, Shopify is "trying to get as many SMBs to survive as possible."
This is clear in their launch of Shop Pay Installments, which will be offered to both merchants and buyers. You see, it's not only merchants who are seeing difficulties with cash flow, but also buyers are "feeling the pinch."
The service, which will be launched in the US later in 2020, will allow "buyers to pay for purchases in four equal payments over time, with no interest or fees."
On the other hand, merchants "will receive the full purchase amount upfront, and Shopify will collect the remaining installment payments, meaning there’s no risk to merchants," the e-commerce platform explained.
Shop Pay Installments is meant to be a flexible payment option. It helps buyers "stretch out their payments, making purchases more convenient," whereas for merchants, the service allows them to "increase cart sizes and overall sales."
According to ecosystem product director Vanessa Lee, who was cohosting Shopify Reunite, since COVID-19 started, there has been "a 45% increase in people buying from stores they have never bought from before… which is huge growth for online shopping."
Shopify Pay will definitely offer many opportunities for Shopify Partners, like Gameball, to leverage on and support customers on the e-commerce platform.
With COVID-19 seeming to be spending 2020 and a portion of 2021 with online businesses, brick-and-mortar shops are increasingly moving online, alongside their buyers.
That's why Shopify is launching a series of tools to support these new merchants, along with already-present Shopify store owners. These options and tools will be done in collaboration with Shopify Partners, like Gameball, to support these businesses.
The tools include:
The Express theme: Shopify describes this as "a one-page shopping experience" that's also optimized for mobile devices. It supports small-to-medium catalogs of products, restaurants, and cafes.
Gift Cards: Shopify said it would make gift cards free "temporarily" for all Shopify plans. This should help buyers support their favorite businesses.
Tipping: There are some businesses whose revenues come from tipping, especially brick-and-mortar shops. That's why Shopify has "decided to build tipping into the online checkout flow to allow buyers to continue showing their support."
Shopify explained that with Tipping, customers would be able to include tips in their purchases for businesses that provide delivery like food businesses. Customers can also use the Tipping option to make donations to charities.
International Sales: This is for international merchants and buyers and includes two main tools: Local domains, which can help merchants assign domains to currency and language, and Custom FX, which will be launched later in 2020 and help merchants "sell in 133 currencies, get paid in their own [currency], and still show a stable price to shoppers."
New Online Shopping Experience
At Shopify Reunite 2019, the company said it was making a new online shopping experience that enabled "sections on all pages of an online stores." The 2020 update builds on that.
The Shopify Reunite 2020 feature, however, allows merchants to "add new features and functionality to their online store through app sections without having to run scripts or edit code."
Two extensions for this online experience were launched in January, allowing developers to create reusable and performant app sections and snippets, which could be added to merchants' store fronts safely.
Checkouts and Subscriptions
Shopify reported that subscriptions were "a highly-asked for feature," which is why they also played a role in Shopify Reunite last year. That's why the 2020 update entails a "seamless buyer experience" as well as "integrated merchant tools to set up, manage, and report subscription products and orders."
To do so, Shopify needed to allow better flexibility between its website and apps.
Alongside subscriptions, Shopify is also working on its check out process, saying it plans to make it "more extensible and customizable."
Omnichannel marketing and solutions are continually becoming an integrated part of e-commerce marketing. It helps merchants stand out and supports them against emerging challenges. Shopify said it would offer several features to support omnichannel marketing for merchants.
This includes an All-New Shopify POS, including contactless checkout and seeing what's in-store.
"The all-new Shopify POS has launched globally. To help more retailers adjust their businesses to the current reality, we’ve made all the additional features of POS Pro free for everyone until October 31st, 2020," Shopify stated.
We are seeing a spike in demand from offline businesses and retailers migrating their businesses online.
Those businesses spend their entire life mastering offline operations and marketing. However, they have no clue how to leverage online opportunities and maintain efficient customer relationships in the digital space.
What we call "omnichannel experiences" will become the new norm for offline retailers. As Shopify partners, Gameball works with merchants and retailers to help them do efficient digital transformation and maintain customer loyalty across different channels.
One of the features the e-commerce mega platform unveiled at Shopify Reunite was its Shopify Email. Launched in April, Shopify Email allows Shopify Partners to communicate better with their clients.
I expect Shopify Email to open many doors and opportunities for partners like Gameball, so we can provide more value to our customers.
Free listings via Google Shopping
One of the top ways brands use marketing includes Google Shopping, which is why Shopify was quick to include it in its list of new featuring and unveil it at Shopify Reunite 2020.
For this feature, Shopify has partnered with Google to help merchants list their products for free on Google Shopping. Merchants can do this by using Shopify's Google Shopping app, the company said.
"If a merchant already has products synced through the app, their approved products can start showing up in relevant Google Shopping tab search results, with no further action required," Shopify explained, noting that this option was currently only available to US-based merchants.
Shopify noted that it would be expanding the range for Google Shopping to reach a global audience towards the end of 2020.
There was no way Shopify would skip Facebook's newly-announced scheme of Facebook Shops.
At Shopify Reunite, the Canadian e-commerce platform said it was collaborating with Facebook for the launch of Facebook Shops, a shopping experience it described as allowing merchants to "build a simple, branded version of their online store within Facebook and Instagram, syncing right from Shopify."
The company also said it will roll out Facebook Shops to merchants over the coming months.
Integrating Facebook Shops and Google Shopping with Shopify is bound to make a major change in the world of e-commerce. I expect there were will be more updates regarding those two, especially Facebook Shops in the coming months.
Shopify combined with Facebook and Google is definitely huge for merchants, partners, and consumers!
The e-commerce platform unveiled its free messaging app Shopify Ping, which helps merchants converse and support customers and gives buyers more confidence in their purchasing decisions.
Currently available via iOS and iPad, Shopify Ping integrates with messaging platforms, including: Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, and Shopify Chat. Shopify Ping will also see an Android version this summer, added to a web version this fall, the platform said.
In terms of products, Shopify didn't leave anything out. It unveiled a new feature that would allow merchants to create products quicker.
According to data compiled by Shopify, around 77% of merchants, who were moving from offline to online, said that adding products to their store was the most time-consuming task in Shopify.
That's why Shopify is working on making this process a lot faster and easier. Merchants will be able to create products using their mobile devices and their desktops. In addition, they'll be able to create products in bulk.
Product creations aren't the end of the line for merchants. They also need to manage their inventories for these products and keeping track of inventory is time-consuming for merchants.
Hence, Shopify Purchase Orders was born. It helps merchants order, track, and receive inventory from their suppliers.
A work-in-progress for this feature will also include "inventory can be received using the scanning feature on Shopify’s mobile app, which makes updating inventory counts easier and more accurate," the company said.
Here's what the Shopify Purchase Orders feature includes:
Last but certainly not least, Shopify said it had made significant upgrades to its Shopify Fulfillment Network, which it had originally uncovered in Shopify Unite 2019.
The Shopify Fulfillment Network features "a geographically dispersed network of fulfillment centers to ensure fast, low-cost delivery to buyers," the company explained. After one year of major investments in this network, Shopify's Fulfillment Network now boasts:
Shopify, which acquired 6 River Systems at the end of 2019, said it was using its new acquisiton's Chuck robots at its warehouses to help employees fill orders. Chuck Robots help reduce walking by 50% and increase fulfillment rates by as much as two and three times the average.
"The Shopify Fulfillment Network allows merchants to leverage different fulfillment strategies while retaining their own branding—merchants can still use their own custom packaging even while using one of the warehouses," Shopify noted.
With the Shopify Fulfillment Network, around 99.5% of orders are shipped on the same day.
In addition, Shopify announced it was investing another $1 billion over the coming four years into the network, which is currently available to merchants who fulfill orders in North America.
It's clear that Shopify has tons upon tons of plans for e-commerce retails and customers alike. It's exciting to see the Shopify team constantly at work to enhance users' (whether merchants or buyers) experience during these trying times when people are spending more time at home.
Shopify's new bundle of features and services perfectly answer the concerns and questions that merchants and commerce players are asking during these times.
Since Gameball's launch on Shopify over 6 months ago, we've seen how Shopify supports its partners.
Soon after we launched on the platform, Shopify featured Gameball in its Staff Picks section and shortly after that we were featured again in Shopify's New and Noteworthy section. Both featurings have been great for us as a business and as a new app and partner on Shopify.
I like what Shopify's CEO Tobi Lütke said earlier in the Shopify Reunite webcast and I'd like to conclude with it here:
"What we celebrate in [Shopify] is entrepreneurship…Only the most adaptable will make it. Entrepreneurs are people who make the most of what they got."