“A decade ago, we started out the journey to democratize commerce. Since then, we’ve rapidly evolved [to be] the largest single platform for multichannel commerce in the world.” - Satish, Director of Product @ Shopify.
I attended the Shopify Unite partners conference last week in San Francisco to learn how Shopify is accelerating their efforts behind eCommerence Integrations. I have listened to countless keynotes and attended lots of sessions and networking events in my time here with Cloud Elements. This event stood out from the others. It was unique, inspiring, thought-provoking and fun.
Let’s start with a little background:
Shopify was founded in 2004 by Tobias Lütke with the mission to bring eCommerce to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Today, Shopify’s platform powers businesses of all shapes and sizes- from my brother Matt's eCommerce shop he just launched last week to Oreo, Kanye West, and P&G.
The overall approach is to build a flexible, sophisticated yet simple eCommerce platform, and build tools (SDKs, APIs, etc.) for their partners to build upon.
Shopify’s app developers and partners are the life blood of Shopify ecommerce integrations, and have fueled the rapid growth the company has seen. Today there are over 1400 integrated apps in the ecosystem, with 12 Shopify employees on the apps team. They’re so important to the ecosystem, in fact, that Shopify hosted Unite Conference exclusively for apps ecosystem.
MANTRA: “Freedom, flexibility and scale”
The Shopify Partner and Developer Conference: Unite 2016 left quite the impression on us as we came together with other Shopfiy Partners to determine the future of eCommerce integrations. Here are my key takeaways:
Commerce has rapidly evolved. Ten years ago, if you wanted to purchase a jacket, you would step into a store, ask for guidance, maybe visit a few other stores to compare prices, and then make your decision. Today, consumers search online, read reviews, peruse social channels and click a button to make a transaction. Satish, Director of Product said, "More than 25% of our merchants are actively selling on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.” Shopify Sales Channel SDK enables merchants to add commerce to any mobile or website and let the platform handle the back end. The implication, Satish said, is that “instead of having to link them back to online stores, merchants can close those deals right where their customers are looking.” Like APIs, magical for the end user, but game changing for businesses.
Shopify prioritizes giving their partners all of the tools they need to build into their ecosystem and be successful. APIs are at the heart of all eCommerce integrations. SVP of Engineering, Jean Michael Lemieux, said it best: "Something has happened, Shopify is getting really good at scaling commerce, and have given you a lot of power with apps. But you’ve got to run your apps and keep up with us. And that’s a burden on your app developers. What we’d much prefer is that you stand on our shoulders and leverage all of that building we’ve done.” Sounds a lot like our mantra at Cloud Elements.
Shopify is for the enterprise too. After saturating the entrepreneur and SMB markets, “we realized quickly that we can do to the enterprise what they’ve done for entrepreneurs… the Goal is to deliver enterprise commerce in weeks, not years.” - Loren, GM of Shopify Plus. "Their customers should not be in the business of IT, managing infrastructure, worrying about store shutting down on Black Friday. We’re going to make them comfortable, safe, wrap their arms around them and say “a new world has begun, a place where you don’t have to live in fear.”
Their CEO Tobias “Tobi” Lütke is brilliant and full of insights. Virtual Reality is coming, and will come to commerce soon. He asked the audience how many had tried out the VR machine the day prior, and then said “do you realize that you have memories of something that has never happened? Just let that sink in. It’s fundamentally changing the planet in a significant way.”
Lütke reflected on his journey with Shopify and what an amazing feeling it is to sit there and think about the business he had built, and the ecosystem it has given life to. He likened working for a startup to a frog in water that’s incrementally getting hotter, as opposed to being dropped into a pot of boiling water. You don’t realize it, and all of a sudden you’re a publicly traded company. “The human mind likes thinking of things as slices of pie as opposed to infinite opportunity," says Lütke.
With every feature, API and SDK, Shopify is opening up the doors to entirely new businesses. Lütke said that it’s exhilarating to think that with every feature and release, a business can be built around it that someday might IPO itself. Lütke closes with, “There’s so much coming, there’s so much change. When winds of change are coming, some people put up walls and others build windmills.”
People are at the heart of it all. This was quite obvious upon meeting the Shopify team. Company culture is so important, and I believe the culture (alongside an incredible platform) is what has given way for this company to explode.