Major Announcements From the Shopify Unite Conference -- Why Every Entrepreneur Should Pay Attention
Most entrepreneurs know by now that one of the most powerful ways to grow a business is by attending conferences to make in-person connections, build your network and learn key updates from the industry you're operating in.
In fact, there are major benefits from being in the room when those updates that will define trends for the foreseeable future are announced. This past week, I was fortunate enough to be at the center of one of the most prominent events in the world of ecommerce and its related activities: Shopify Unite.
It's an event that Shopify, the platform which allows merchants to build an ecommerce store (and supports thousands of developers building apps for those merchants to use for their stores, as well as partners supporting those merchants as they grow their businesses) hosts every year.
The event is an Apple-style tech conference geared toward releasing what then become some of the most trend-setting updates in the ecommerce industry. To gain a sense of how pervasive Shopify has become for entrepreneurs, consider the hundreds of Facebook groups devoted to making money on the platform. Consider the businesses and consultancies built around helping entrepreneurs grow their Shopify businesses. And consider the entire app marketplace, where developers sell apps to merchants with stores on the platform.
As someone who works closely with ecommerce entrepreneurs -- many of whom have built inspiring businesses using Shopify -- Shopify Unite is one of the paramount events I attend to stay on top of trends in the space. Indeed, these conferences are often defining moments for their industries; and this year’s was no different. Here, I want to share the updates most significant to the Shopify merchant and app-store developer ecosystem.
Marketing and design improvements to the core store
Some of Shopify's updates to the user interface announced at the conference were geared toward making the lives of merchants easier. There were, for instance, updates to the platform's no-code-required design tools, to improve the user interface for merchants editing their websites.
These improvements to the tools used to redesign a storefront will make updating a website easier, while videos and 3D models of products will make marketing products much more sophisticated for merchants. Through this last feature, Shopify is indicating a focus on customers’ product research and marketing.
Updates relevant to developers
Because Shopify has a growing number of developers building apps around the world, the updates from Shopify Unite were largely geared toward making the platform as accessible as possible to other countries.
This was done largely through the release of several new APIs, or tools that integrate two systems. In addition to the 10 new languages that will become available on the Shopify App store, GraphQL (used on Shopify) will become compatible with 10 of the most popular open-source libraries, while new Feature Detection will be added to Shopify Bridge.
A new Shopify App CLI will automatically generate code for developers building new apps, too. Finally, and key to the improvement of Shopify’s new product releases, developers will gain preview access to APIs to improve them upon release.
The Shopify Fulfillment Network
One of the biggest pain points for merchants is shipping logistics. One of the most major announcements at the conference was that Shopify will be competing with Amazon in the launch of its distribution network. The Shopify Fulfillment Network will launch fulfillment centers that use machine learning to improve the shipping experience for merchants and customers alike.
Point of sale
Shopify is increasingly blurring the lines between online and offline shopping. Its new point-of-sale update makes it easier for those who sell in a brick and mortar store to integrate with online sales. Shopify’s POS underwent a complete redesign for better ease of use that will mean that details of loyalty programs become visible directly in the cart. This will make the shopping experience seamless from in-store to online.
Shopify App Marketplace
One of the most compelling aspects of the Shopify ecosystem is that it supports not only merchants with an online store, but also the developers building apps and extensions for those merchants to integrate into their online stores.
This symbiotic relationship means there is room for many different types of entrepreneurs at the Shopify table. Key updates within the Shopify App marketplace will mean developers can manage publishing of alternate locales via the new Shop Locale API; they can sell in multiple languages via Translations API; and they can sell in multiple currencies (now available worldwide).
While perhaps not the “sexiest” of updates, the improvements to logistics tracking, analytics dashboards and integration with point-of-sale payment systems point to a growing trend in the world of retail. With competition among ecommerce businesses ever on the rise, analytics tracking and data-based decision-making become more important than ever.
Delivery Profiles API will allocate different shipping rules to different locations; a fulfillment API improves tracking and visibility into order fulfillment; and merchants can now edit open orders via the new Order Editing API. Additionally, 10 new languages have become available for the Partner Dashboard, and 11 new languages have become available for Shopify Admin.
While these updates from the conference were specific to Shopify, make no mistake that they point to upcoming trends in selling online and in-store overall.
Seamless integration between different systems that work off one another is the future. Shopify, which is building an ever-growing ecosystem of merchants, app developers and referral partners working together to make entrepreneurship more painless than ever, has demonstrated that it is at the forefront of supporting entrepreneurs -- who never imagined they would be their own bosses -- with a path to success.