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Shopify Unite 2018 and Why We're So Excited

Ross Beyeler

We were blown away by the announcements that came from Shopify during last week's partner conference, Unite. We're confident that this batch of releases is by far one of the most critical in expanding Shopify's capabilities as a truly global, enterprise e-commerce platform. It's clear they focused on the key themes of internationalization, multi-channel management, and automation in a way that they've never done before. We're excited to share a high-level recap of these announcements and look forward to taking advantage of these new features, APIs, apps and tools throughout 2018 and beyond.

Marketing Campaigns

Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Shopify is releasing a brand new 'Marketing' section to their admin. It's aimed at making multi-channel online marketing an easier process, particularly for merchants just getting started with their marketing efforts. This Marketing section will allow Shopify app developers to tie in their app directly to the platform. This means Merchants will be able to launch campaigns across the various third-party platforms already used to power their business. These campaigns could include Facebook ads, email newsletters, social media posts and more. Shopify is planning on leveraging data-driven marketing recommendations to help merchants create various campaigns specifically based on the 'stage' of their business. This means that merchants just dabbling in marketing for the first time or those in the process of scaling their operations will see customized recommendations for their business.

We're really excited about the Marketing Campaigns feature as it provides merchants a simple way to get started in the otherwise overwhelming field of online marketing. We're regularly asked by our clients how to get started with online marketing and we couldn't be happier that the process can now be tied directly into our merchant's existing e-commerce hub, Shopify.

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Shopify Ping and Kit

Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Shopify Ping is Shopify's entrance into the 'messenger' space and a particularly exciting one at that. As platforms like WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and more become the go-to medium for interacting with the web, Ping aims to become the go-to messaging platform for managing your e-commerce business on-the-road. Ping, a native mobile app, will provide merchants the ability to manage multiple aspects of their business including marketing, operations, customer service and team management. Powering Ping's capabilities is Kit, Shopify's 'virtual employee' that is able to provide information and execute actions in real-time for merchants. Kit performs these actions via 'Skills' that might include things such as re-ordering products when inventory gets low, launching a Facebook ad to promote a specific product or sending an email highlighting a recent promotion.

Although Kit has actually been available for some time as an SMS and Facebook Messenger app, the platform will come along way with the new Ping integration. Similar to Shopify's new Marketing Campaigns, Kit will be able to provide proactive, data-driven recommendations for ways to improve your business and integrate with a wide variety of the Shopify apps you already use to power your store. Shopify has already released a number of app-integrated 'Kit Skills' and plans to open this API up for more partners this summer. The entrance into the customer service and team management side of communications is particularly exciting as merchants are empowered to run their business almost entirely via their mobile device.

We're really excited about Ping as it provides a whole new channel for merchants to work in a more efficient and lean manner. Everyone is strapped for resources, meaning the AI power that Kit brings with an on-the-go interface for managing so many aspects of your business should lead to major improvements in speed and responsiveness in the fast-moving world of e-commerce. Things will become really interesting as Kit Skills are fully opened up and more apps begin to integrate their capabilities into the platform.

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Enhanced Discount Types

Release Date: Available Now
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Expanding on last year's release of the PriceRule API, Shopify has introduced two new 'Discount Types' to all merchants: Buy One Get One (BOGO) Offers and Quantity-Based Discounts. Historically, these types of promotions were only accessible via frustrating apps or the use of Shopify Scripts, which require Shopify Plus. BOGO and Quantity-Based discounts are among the most popular promotional strategies to drive consumer engagement and increased order size.

We're really excited about these new discount types as they're some of the most commonly-requested promotions by our merchants. Knowing that they can easily configure these through Shopify's native discount codes means less hassle and more effective marketing for anyone using the platform.

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Tap and Chip Reader

Release Date: Fall 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Last year, Shopify announced their Chip & Swipe Reader, a free mobile payment processing device that made a huge impact on their POS offering. This year, Shopify announced a totally overhauled device that supports contactless payments as well as traditional chip reading. It's an elegantly-designed device that lasts up to one week on a single charge and also includes a docking station for centralized charging and permanent fixture.

We're really excited about this new reader as it demonstrates that Shopify is heavily invested in their offline channel as much as their online channel. Don't tell our customers but the future of commerce is not strictly online. Omni-channel strategies are the new norm and technology that reinvents the traditional retail experience is paramount in helping retailers cater to their customers in whatever channel they prefer to shop.

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Shopify POS Enhancements

Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability Shopify-Wide

We'll be the first to admit that when Shopify's Point of Sale system first came to market, it lacked some of the more advanced functionality to support a robust retail business. It did just fine with payment processing and adding products to an order, but lacked when it came to multi-location, sales rep management, customer profiling and many other components to any well-rounded retail strategy. That has all changed with the recent announcements for Shopify POS. Some of the key features include the ability to support multi-channel returns and exchanges, tipping support for sales reps, a customer view app that provides customers a summary of their order, enhanced Shopify POS app SDK, independent retail locations management and enhanced in-store pickup support.

We're really excited about all of these improvements to Shopify POS as it finally puts the platform in the position of being a true competitor to existing POS alternatives. These enhanced capabilities allow merchants the ability to create a better experience for both their customers and their staff. We expect merchants to benefit from a full 'Shopify Stack' running their entire commerce business and will likely see a big step up in capabilities with Shopify POS going forward.

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Shopify Flow Connectors

Release Date: Available Now
Availability: Shopify Plus

Last fall, Shopify released Flow, their first attempt at helping merchants truly automate some of the operations, service and marketing of their stores. At its core, Flow provides merchants the ability to create simple “trigger, condition, action” formulas that allow routine tasks to be executed automatically. For example, "automatically send an email to your purchasing department any time a product's inventory level gets below 5" or "automatically tag any customers as a VIP if they spend more than $1,000". These types of automated tasks can save substantial time for merchants. In fact, as many as 150 million tasks have been automated since the launch of the platform. Announced this year, Connectors adds a whole new level of capability to Flow by allowing third-party apps to plug into the platform and create their own 'automation recipes'. What's really impressive is that these recipes can now trigger events entirely through integrated third-party systems. For example, you can now have an email sent automatically when a customer's reward point balance hits a certain limit. This sort of control over third-party platforms was not previously possible and truly extends Shopify Flow's position as an automation tool for e-commerce.

We're really excited about the release of Connectors as they'll empower merchants to break into a new category of marketing automation that they likely haven't been able to take advantage of in the past. Flow helps reduce the need for complex integrations and empowers merchants to DIY their way through what have historically been complex integrations. Connectors will now allow Shopify to serve as a true 'brain' of your e-commerce operations and a central hub for all marketing/operational activities as more third-party apps begin to build their own Connectors.

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Transporter

Release Date: Currently Available in Beta

Availability: Shopify Plus

Although Shopify easily scales to support hundreds of thousands of products and millions of customers and orders, initial migration of that volume of data to the platform has historically been a bit of a challenge for new merchants. To address this issue, Shopify has released Transporter, their toolkit for handling enterprise-level data migration. Technically, it functions as both an app to manage the migration process and a command line tool to help convert legacy data structures to Shopify-friendly formats. Compared to Shopify's existing bulk product import tool, it has the ability to upload files over 100mb, runs 10X faster and has complete error reporting. In addition, it supports orders and metafields, something that was previously inaccessible when migrating data to Shopify without a custom-developed script.

We're really excited about Transporter as it means an even more efficient process for helping merchants make the move to Shopify and immediately start benefitting from the platform. Although we've developed our own custom tooling for handling data migration, we're excited to extend that with Shopify Transporter's new capabilities.

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Multi-Currency

Release Date: Fall 2018
Availability: Shopify Plus (Initially)

Merchants on Shopify Plus using Shopify Payments will soon be able to natively offer localized currency conversion and order processing. This is a huge step in Shopify's direction as a global e-commerce platform and addresses a major gap that previously existed with internationalization. Currency conversion will support automated detection (based on the location of the customer) with the ability to support manual overrides for simplified, controlled prices set by merchants. Although limited to only a dozen or fewer currencies initially, Multi-Currency is sure to expand rapidly as it's adopted by more merchants.

We're really excited about multi-currency as it solves an enormous gap in Shopify's internationalization capabilities, something that has been an issue for a number of merchants in the past. This feature also signifies that Shopify is heavily invested in expanding their own payment gateway, Shopify Payments, something that merchants will likely appreciate as additional Shopify Payment-only features are released.

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Enhanced Fraud Protection

Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Merchants using Shopify Payments will soon be able to enroll in Fraud Protect. This program will analyze each eligible order for fraud and determine a 'protect decision'. Rather than reviewing orders manually, this automatic process will guarantee chargeback protection on any orders approved by Fraud Protect. This allows merchants to spend less time on fraud management and more time on confidently fulfilling orders. It's important to note that merchants will be charged a small fee for every protected order allowing Shopify to automatically reimburse the chargeback costs if a protected order does end up resulting in a chargeback due to fraud.

We're really excited about Fraud Protect as it means less time spent worrying about operations and more time growing your business. Any advancements that automate the day-to-day of running an e-commerce company are huge gains in our eyes. Fraud Protect tackles a problem that's bigger than most people want to admit with very little additional overhead.

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Multi-Location Inventory Management

Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

One of Shopify's biggest limitations has been the ability to manage inventory across multiple locations. Available this summer, Shopify will now support multi-location inventory management across all Shopify stores. This is a huge improvement to the platform allowing retailers with multiple stores, merchants with multiple warehouses and resellers with multiple fulfillment partners to truly enhance how they manage the operations of their business. Merchants will have the ability to move inventory from one location to the next via 'transfers', instantly spin up new locations for pop-up stores and events, and support 'intelligent fulfillment' that will fulfill orders based on the closest source of inventory. We've heard that this feature will be available in all plans with 6 locations included at no additional costs.

We're really excited about this as it addressed a long-term shortcoming in Shopify's inventory management capabilities. We expect merchants to be able to do more natively within Shopify and not require as many third-party apps. This means lower cost, less data transfer and overall easier experience for managing their operations.

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Local Payment Methods

Release Date: Fall 2018
Availability: Shopify Plus

Although only touched upon briefly, Shopify is planning to roll out additional local payment methods this Fall. Despite credit cards being the dominant payment method in the United States, many countries, such as Germany, see credit card payments represent as little as 22% of online transactions. To expand their capabilities as a global platform, Shopify will offer support for alternative local payment methods such as Sofort, WeChat Pay, AliPay, etc. to all merchants using Shopify Payments. This provides buyers with the trust, knowledge, and ease of making purchases not just in their local currency but also their preferred payment method.

We're really excited about the support for local payment methods as it's just another tool in Shopify's growing internationalization toolkit. This type of feature and setting will allow merchants to offer a totally unique buying experience for their customers, no matter where they're located.

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Admin Multilingual Support

Release Date: Currently Available in Limited Beta
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Shopify themes have supported multilingual content for some time but that sort of localized experience has historically stopped short within the merchant admin. With the announcement of multilingual support for the Shopify admin, Shopify will now allow international merchants and teams to conduct business in the languages that they're most comfortable. Limited to French, German, Japanese, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish during the initial Beta, Shopify aims to continue releasing more supported languages over time.

We're really excited about localized admin languages as we've seen our own client base grow internationally and can empathize with the desire for a more 'comfortable' experience interacting with software. The support for local languages is yet another tool for Shopify's continued expansion into the global e-commerce space.

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Dynamic Checkout

Release Date: Available Now
Availability: Shopify-Wide

An exciting step towards streamlining the customer buying process is the release of Dynamic Checkout. When enabled, Dynamic Checkout will allow customers to checkout directly from the product page using their preferred accelerated checkout payment method such as Shopify Pay, Apple Pay or PayPal. The overall numbers of steps to purchase with Dynamic Checkout are incredibly reduced, down to a single click to trigger checkout and another click to confirm the order details.

We're really excited about Dynamic Checkout, particularly for single-product companies, as it's an enormous enhancement to streamlining the purchase process for customers. Some merchants have had concerns with Shopify's relatively controlled checkout process in the past. Dynamic Checkout provides a great alternative, particularly for companies that expect customers apt at making quicker decisions who are looking to complete checkout as efficiently as possible.

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3D for Shopify

Release Date: Currently in Limited Beta
Availability: Shopify Plus

Shopify has always demonstrated an interest in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies but has started laying down the groundwork for actual platform usage with the announcement of 3D for Shopify. At its core, this involves expanding Shopify's media support to house 3D content and extending their 3D Warehouse API to allow developers and apps to use this content in unique ways. They're aiming to serve the interest merchants have in 3D by creating a network of approved 3D Modelling partners and 3D app developers. They only have a few partners lined up at the moment but anticipate expanding this network throughout 2018.

We're really excited about any applications of 3D, AR and VR technologies in the world of e-commerce. There is no disputing that these types of advancements will potentially redefine the online buying experience for customers. By truly bridging online browsing with offline 'augmentation', the term omnichannel will take on an entirely new meaning.

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New App Store


Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Shopify's app store has been a cornerstone of both the platform's growth and the growth of their merchants. Topping over 2,400 apps as of Unite, it's a robust marketplace that expands across almost every marketing, analytics and operational function one can imagine needing to run an e-commerce business. With the growth it has seen, Shopify felt that it was time for a complete overhaul, creating an easier-to-browser, more tailored experience for merchants. App listings will now feature richer, more detailed categorization and information. They'll also be served up 'dynamically' depending on the needs of the particular merchant browsing the app store. This means you can expect personalized recommendations rather than an 'app of the week' suggestion.

We're really excited about the new App Store as apps have always served at the foundation for any of our projects. Whether integrating an email marketing platform, inventory management system or adding unique promotions, apps provide a quick and flexible way to extend your store's capabilities. Most of our merchants hover around a dozen apps, so finding the right ones, at the right stage of growth is critical. The new App Store should make this even easier for merchants.

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Services Marketplace

Release Date: Summer 2018
Availability: Shopify-Wide

Betting on the success of their App Store, Shopify will be releasing a Services Marketplace that will help connect merchants and various service providers to tackle any number of jobs. Extending beyond basic design and development services, the new Services Marketplace will provide very granular recommendations for service providers that specialize in specific industries, languages, offerings and more. Shopify intends for it to function as a 'fully integrated offering' meaning that merchants will be able to solicit 'jobs' directly through the platform that partners will be able to respond to through their own partner dashboard. There is the possibility that the entire financial transaction could be run through Shopify as well.

We're really excited about the Services Marketplace as it opens up an entirely new revenue stream for partners like us but more importantly, makes it easier for merchants to get the help that they need depending on the stage of their business. Similar to many of the other new features, Shopify is putting a recommendation engine at the core of this and anticipates serving up highly-tailored recommendations to merchants and opportunities for partners.

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Bonus Goodies

There were a number of other things that were either briefly mentioned, hinted at or rumored that we had to include. Although Shopify hasn't released any major news on these items, keep an eye out for the following:

Product Center
Shopify's plan to make multi-storefront product management easier and more flexible for merchants. This feature promises control over descriptions, media and any other product information that you might want to cater to a specific storefront, be it at a location or brand-specific store.

Shopify Business Profiles
Shopify's effort to make managing staff accounts across multiple storefronts easier. Merchants will be able to consolidate their information into a central Business Profile that will, in turn, be tied to their various brand/location-specific stores.

Order Editing
A faint hint that true order editing is in the works for later this year. Minimal details were shared but people are excited.

Powered by Shopify
Shopify's first foray into their own, permanent retail location that will feature workspace, retail space and customer service for Shopify's platform and featured merchant products.

 

There is no doubt that Unite 2018 was packed full of announcements! We expect more exciting news to unfold through the rest of the year and encourage everyone to keep an eye on Shopify. Things will only be getting more and more exciting for merchants.

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