CX & Design
How Shopify can quickly build your commerce business
As an outsider looking in at the e-commerce platform sector, it can be difficult to distinguish between each available option. The growth of e-commerce, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has created a highly specialised market in which every platform offers the same topline purpose (to sell products or services online), then descends into a mix of unique features and benefits.
Finding the right platform for your business is a challenge that requires research, a solid understanding of how the platform’s benefits align with the business’s identity and goals. This brief overview looks to explain the unique features and strengths of Shopify, new developments in its offering, and how Shopify is built to ensure accessibility and scalable growth for businesses entering the e-commerce market.
All-in-one shopping solution
Shopify inhabits an interesting space in the e-commerce platform market, well-positioned to appeal to the shoppers that prefer smaller, local, independent businesses. Targeting everything from absolute beginners, brick and mortar stores taking their first step online, through to internet savvy challenger brands and fast-growing social media success stories, Shopify aims to provide an all-in-one shopping solution for small and medium-sized businesses, independent stores in particular. The main focus is getting the store online, putting in place a system that makes it easy to take payment, to follow best practice SEO, and create an easy to use website. Any concerns over developing separate mobile and desktop sites are solved by Shopify’s responsive design.
This shopping solution also extends to in-store points of sale, creating a commerce solution that tracks all sales in one database. Simplifying sales is a major benefit as the business grows and issues like inventory management become more of a challenge. For users looking to add extra features to their website, a growing community of developers are creating Shopify apps, adding even more ease to areas like social media marketing and gathering testimonials.
Setting up or moving to Shopify presents a major opportunity for independent, smaller stores. While brick and mortar retail is tied to one location, the online store gives any retailer a chance to broaden their market, turning a local operation into a national or international outfit. This is major for retailers catering to a particular niche or with a unique proposition. As an example, look to board games stores; sales are surging in the tabletop gaming market, though physical stores are limited to their catchment area of shoppers. Often independent, these niche interest stores can broaden their catalogue of board games to a wider audience, without the need to franchise or lease more buildings.
What’s interesting about the growth of direct to consumer is how it ties into loyalty. In the era of Amazon, D2C e-commerce exists because of brand preference. Rather than battling for listings at department stores or supermarkets, brands can be successful in appealing to engaged, supportive shoppers. Keeping shoppers engaged means managing social media and running email and online marketing, another function that Shopify offers in its dashboard. This also plays into Shopify’s partnership with Facebook, enabling selling through Facebook and the rolling out Shop feature on Instagram.
Shopify Plus for enterprise
For enterprise-level businesses, Shopify Plus offers a deeper level of customisation, automation and control to the platform. Shopify Plus follows the headless commerce approach, creating a bridge from all of your front end applications into one unified backend.
In the traditional coupled approach, updates and changes need to be replicated across each front and back end; a time intensive process. With headless commerce, having a single back end dramatically cuts the time it takes to change and update each store front. This is a major benefit as the pace of innovation in e-commerce increases and the number of ways to shop increases across mobile, laptops and smart devices.
- Shopify Plus puts shopper experience at the centre of its platform. Impressive digital experiences are possible, with Shopify Plus offering 3D product pages and augmented reality software to businesses. This improved shopping experience has a knock-on effect, boosting the conversion rate of product pages by 18%. Similarly, businesses can create a highly personalised checkout system, offering custom discounts and shipping customisation.
- Automation is also an option, with custom workflows built-in through Shopify Flow, Scripts and Launchpad. Shopify Flow is particularly useful as an additional service, saving time on the everyday admin of monitoring low inventory products, tagging and tracking customers, responding to negative reviews and customer complaints, and managing loyalty schemes.
- Businesses that are looking to sell internationally are able to sell in multiple currencies from a single store and Shopify works with over 100 global payment partners to make international e-commerce easier.
Marketplace: the shop app
A recent release, the inventively named Shop app from Shopify looks to provide businesses without a dedicated shopping app a space to list their products and reach new customers. Users can follow their favourite businesses, find out quick information like shipping time and cost, and track their previous orders.
For small to midsize retailers, the Shop app can be an important discovery method for consumers. As a marketplace, Shop collects together independent retailers, creating a unique proposition for consumers, distinct from Amazon, eBay and department stores. As a discovery channel, it offers users the chance to find smaller, independent stores offering great products, the perfect place for trendsetters and early adopters to shop. In the early stages of an e-commerce business, these two groups are an ideal market to court.
During the pandemic, the Shop app provides information on local selling options, perfect for businesses that have a strong connection to their community and are looking to connect with local shoppers. This is not exclusive to the pandemic period, the local retailer support is a key function of the app, offering flexible delivery options and a dedicated local shopping feature for users.
Data for growth
If Shopify aims to provide one benefit, it’s growth. When looking for an e-commerce solution, look at how the platform collects data and provides insights. Not everyone is an expert data analyst, so having a platform like Shopify that clearly lays out data on sales, shipping and customers can give a 360° understanding of the business, allowing much more optimisation around what is working and what isn’t. In the initial stages of setting up an e-commerce site, the 1% improvement that these data insights can provide quickly add up, driving growth. Depending on the version of Shopify that users sign up to, reporting can be gathered on acquisition, inventory, shopper behaviour, marketing, sales, customers and custom reporting.
Shopify is innovating and improving all the time, looking to provide an even more comprehensive service for businesses setting up their e-commerce store. The Shopify Fulfillment Network, currently a US-only service, sees Shopify looking to solve the logistical challenge that smaller retailers face when selling online. To support brands during the Covid-19 outbreak, Shopify introduced the Local Delivery service to facilitate easier delivery when various countries are on lockdown.
Building your e-commerce platform
When approaching a project like building an e-commerce platform, it is important to have an eye on three areas of strategy.
- Onsite strategy: how can the brand optimise the site around the consumer’s needs?
- Marketing strategy: how can the brand continue to attract customers, expanding the market and encouraging repeat purchases?
- Digital strategy: how can the brand expand its digital capabilities in the short, medium and long term?
Working with an agency partner can support your business in answering these strategic questions. Onsite strategy makes a world of difference, making sure the site is user experience optimised, ensuring that the shopping experience is easy, frictionless and makes it easy for the customer to find what they need. Marketing strategy is the key to future growth, building market penetration and raising awareness of the new brand on the scene. Putting together a digital strategy, often in the form of a digital roadmap, supports your business in staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in B2C retail. Having that level of digital understanding gives the brand more opportunities and readiness when a new sales channel opens, as we are seeing with Instagram’s Shop feature.
Above all, Shopify offers potential. The excitement of taking the next step, whether you’re a startup launching a new store in an untapped market, or a brick and mortar staple moving online for the first time, Shopify gives that opportunity to get started.