Shopify

The 4 Most Innovative Platform Developments Revealed At The Shopify Unite Conference For Shopify Partners

The Shopify Unite Conference: A Gathering Of Shopify Partners

Last week the annual Shopify Unite Conference was held in Toronto, Canada over three days from June 18th to 20th. In case you haven’t heard of it, Shopify Unite is the annual conference that Shopify holds for partners and developers on the platform. Members of the Shopify ecosystem gather to hear what product changes and new developments will be rolled out by the e-commerce giant over the course of a year. 

As one of the main players in global ecommerce, new Shopify revelations made by members of the Shopify executive team have the potential to not only impact Shopify partners, developers, and merchants, but also the ecommerce industry as a whole. Now that Shopify Unite 2019 has concluded, I think we can all say with confidence that this year’s announcements are poised to change the ecommerce landscape for the foreseeable future. But what were the key takeaways from the conference this year and how will they affect merchants? The HeyCarson/Storetasker team sent four representatives, CEO Jonathan, Project Manager Gabriel, and two HeyCarson team members. Stay tuned for a summary of highlights from Shopify Unite 2019!

The CEO of Shopify participates in an on-stage discussion at Shopify Unite 2019 with the Shopify logo in the background
The CEO of Shopify participates in an on-stage discussion at the Shopify Unite 2019 conference for Shopify partners

Shopify Platform Developments And The Impact They Could Have On Shopify Partners And Merchants

The Shopify team is well aware of the impact that changes they make to the platform will have on Shopify partners and Shopify store merchants, so they have already posted all of the announcements that were made at the Shopify Unite Conference this year on their blog here. Some of them have already become trending topics in the Shopify ecosystem due to the perceived impact that they will have around the globe, perhaps none more hotly anticipated than the first announcement on our list. 

1. The Shopify Fulfillment Network

An Image of the Shopify Fulfillment Network at Shopify Unite
Shopify CPO Craig Miller presents about the new Shopify Fulfillment Network at Shopify Unite 2019 in Toronto, Canada.

How do I choose a fulfillment center? Which fulfillment center is the fastest? I am losing sales due to slow shipping times. How can I speed this up? The fulfillment center I am using to fulfill orders needs too much support from me. Where can I go to find a more independent fulfillment center? What is the most trustworthy fulfillment center? These are questions that those of us who work in ecommerce hear regularly. Why? Because fulfillment is one of the aspects of running an ecommerce business that often causes the most headaches for merchants. Everyone wants to find the cheapest, fastest, and most reliable fulfillment system around. 

We get a lot of posts related to fulfillment in the Shopify Entrepreneurs Facebook Group. Are you looking for an extensive fulfillment network? As we all know, for a long time Amazon has had a strong hold on this market with its Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) service, which allows merchants to let Amazon fulfill all their orders for them from Amazon’s own fulfillment centers across the globe. But with prices ranging from $2.41 (per unit) for a standard size small product that weighs 10 oz. to $137.32 + $0.91/lb (per unit) above the first 90 pounds for a special oversize product, some merchants feel that Amazon’s control over the fulfillment network space allows it to beat out competitors by offering lower prices, while still being able to make a hefty profit and further it’s ecommerce dominance. 

In 2018 Amazon benefited from a 31% gain in revenue, with overall revenue reaching $232.9 Billion in large part due to its proven ability to squash competition. However, Amazon is expected to control even more of the ecommerce market through its ad business, due to its unrivalled ability to harness masses of consumer retail data to deliver next-level targeted ads to consumers. According to a study by Juniper Research, Amazon’s 3% of global digital ad spend is projected to increase to 8% of global digital ad spend with ad revenues reaching $40 Billion by 2023

This will place Amazon just behind Google and Facebook in terms of share of global digital ad spend, but Google’s share of the total dropping 1% over the next four years due to competition from Amazon and other companies. An even larger portion of merchants will not only fulfill their orders with Amazon, but advertise their products on Amazon.com as well, giving the company increased control over the entire ecommerce experience of both buyers and merchants. 

A platform for merchants like Shopify could be the best candidate to develop a fulfillment network that would provide another viable option to merchants besides FBA, and at the Shopify Unite Conference last week, Shopify’s Chief Product Officer, Craig Miller, announced Shopify’s own fulfillment network in his keynote address. Although other 3PL companies exist none of them has scaled to the size required to become real competition for Amazon. However, based on what was unveiled in the speech, Shopify’s third-party logistics system sounds like it could become a true competitor to FBA. Many merchants experience poor service and delayed deliveries with many of the existing 3PL companies. Buyers often wait for days or sometimes weeks to receive their orders. 

As a geographically dispersed network of fulfillment centers, The Shopify Fulfillment Network includes smart inventory-allocation technology powered by machine learning that  predicts the closest fulfillment centers and optimal inventory quantities for each location so that buyers are guaranteed to receive fast delivery at an inexpensive price.

This will help merchants by cutting down on the number of complaints they receive from buyers due to delayed orders. The network will initially start in the U.S. Rather than a back office for each fulfillment center in the network, Shopify’s network will have only one back office, providing the most up-to-date order and inventory data in a system that seamlessly links all of the warehouses and channels. Even better, Shopify guarantees that the network will have at least 99.5% accuracy

The question remains, will The Shopify Fulfillment Network be able to challenge Fulfillment By Amazon’s dominance in the fulfillment services sector, or will Amazon continue to increase control over the entire ecommerce experience for merchants and buyers?

Either way it is clear that a 3PL system from another ecommerce giant will be a worthy competitor to Amazon, perhaps the biggest competitor for FBA since Amazon began offering that service. Competition is always good for the customer (in this case merchants and buyers), because it forces the company that has dominated the sector to drop prices further in order to keep their share of the market. If the Shopify Fulfillment Network is able to compete at all with Fulfillment By Amazon, both will have to set low prices, meaning that merchants will be able to get the service for cheaper, which will allow them to drop the prices of the products they sell and still earn a profit, ultimately benefiting the buyer. 

It is because of the possibilities that this announcement offered to all ecommerce professionals and the entire ecommerce industry that it became the most talked about topic during and after Shopify Unite. Also, by offering their own fulfillment network, Shopify has created an environment where merchants can go to one place and handle all aspects of running their store from there, rather than using many different services outside the Shopify platform to make sure products are delivered and advertising goes to the right places. This will ultimately offer an easier, less confusing, and less time consuming option to merchants than they have had until now. 

2. Shopify Video Player

Merchants can now display products in both video and 3D models in order to create a more interactive experience for buyers and give them an unprecedented look into what the products will look like when they receive their order. The disadvantage of online shopping over shopping in a brick and mortar store was that it was more difficult to visualize the product and see what it does in a simple 2D format. Now, the brick and mortar store experience can be had from your laptop at home, essentially eliminating one of the few drawbacks to online shopping.

3. 11 New Language Capabilities Plus Shopify Translations

At Shopify Unite last week, it was announced that 11 new languages are now available in the Shopify Admin. Shopify continues to attract more and more merchants and buyers internationally every year so it is excellent news that the company is continuing to role out compatibility in more languages. Now more people than ever before will be able to participate in everything the Shopify platform has to offer. Shopify merchants and buyers who would prefer to use one of these 11 languages for communication can now interact with each other more easily. 

In addition to this, the Shopify Translations API will allow merchants to provide the same experience to buyers in multiple languages by storing translated content. This way if a merchant has run all communications in English but for example, they have a lot of customers that speak Korean, they can store translated English-Korean content and use the Korean content when interacting with their Korean-speaking customers.

With more languages now being offered on the Shopify Platform as well as new translation capabilities, more people will be able to buy and sell on Shopify who found it difficult to do so previously due to language barriers. With more people who may not speak English well likely joining the Shopify community, Shopify partners may need to adapt to these new language options as well if they want to sell their apps and services to merchants and buyers who speak them. 

4. Sell Products In Multiple Currencies And Get Paid In Your Local Currency

Globalization has increased the number of cross-border online transactions taking place every year. However, merchants and buyers have been frustrated at times with the lack of currency choices available with the platform. Now merchants can sell products in multiple different currencies, making transactions easier for buyers, while accepting payment in their own local currency. This will make cross-border transactions much easier and encourage deeper connections between members of the ecommerce community around the world!

Since Shopify store merchants and buyers (shoppers) will be able to trade freely between currencies on the platform, it is possible that merchants may start to expect the same capabilities when buying apps and services from Shopify partners in order to improve their stores. 

A Shopify Partners Conference Focused On Connecting The eCommerce Community Across The Globe

If you take a closer look at the four innovative platform developments that were announced last week and included in this article, you will notice one common goal that Shopify seems to be working toward; a more interconnected ecommerce community across the globe. The Shopify fulfillment network is designed to connect Shopify to their customers, the merchants, and merchants to their customers, the buyers. By offering another major fulfillment network besides Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), the Shopify team is providing yet another way that members of the ecommerce community can easily connect with each other and complete timely transactions.

By developing the possibility for a more interactive experience for the buyer through videos and 3D models of products, Shopify is offering additional forms of direct communication that make the buyer feel as if they are right there in the store with the merchant, even if they are thousands of miles away from the merchant and the fulfillment center where the particular products are being stored for shipping.

By offering 11 new languages and a translation service on the platform, Shopify is committing to providing a way for speakers of other languages spoken around the world to participate and feel welcome in the ecommerce community, and making it easier for two or more people who speak different languages and perhaps live in different countries to feel closer and more connected to each other. People of many countries, languages, and cultures buying and selling from each other seamlessly, almost as if they were interacting with each other in the same room rather than over the internet. Creating a system for transactions to take place between different currencies will encourage new connections across borders.

On Shopify’s page on their website dedicated to the 2019 Shopify Unite Conference, in big, bold letters after Shopify Partners Conference, it says “The Opportunity Ahead.” Perhaps to the Shopify team, the opportunity ahead is to facilitate increased connections between themselves, Shopify merchants, Shopify store customers, and the many Shopify partners who are part of the Shopify ecosystem. In doing so, they would be directly contributing to the effort to make the ecommerce community and the world more interconnected. 

Shopify Partners And The Importance Of Partnerships

By planning and putting on Shopify Unite every year, the Shopify team shows their commitment to close partnerships with the teams who help make their product even better. Besides Shopify, many companies that are focused around providing apps and/or services for the Shopify platform place a strong emphasis on partnerships as well. Just like how Shopify partners are an added bonus to what Shopify offers, at Storetasker we believe that our partnerships with other companies in the Shopify ecosystem help ensure that we are successful in providing the best service we can to Shopify merchants. One of the suggestions we make to merchants that we work with is to try to build brand partnerships. 


Shashank Kumar, who is the founder of PushOwl, a Storetasker brand partner, gives a talk about partnerships at Shopify Unite 2019. Pictured behind him is the Shopify logo.
Shashank Kumar, who is the founder of PushOwl, a Storetasker brand partner, gives a talk about partnerships at Shopify Unite 2019.

By increasing the number of strategic partnerships that your business has, you can increase the number of referrals you get from respected businesses, while offering to refer your partners to your clients as well. Some of our partners at Storetasker, like our friends at Recart, have even offered to embed our project request form on their websites, which helps us get the word out about the services we offer to Shopify merchants who may not know about our company yet. We also love telling people about our awesome partners and what they offer. Did you know that 78% of online shopping carts are never purchased? Are abandoned carts giving you a headache? A good way to get the almost-buyers to actually become customers is by sending friendly Facebook messenger reminders. That’s the reason they named their company Recart…because the messenger ads they develop can get people to return to their abandoned carts! 

Looking Ahead

Are you excited about the new developments that Shopify announced last week? Which one are you most excited about? Are you hoping to increase your own brand partnerships this year? Are you looking for an expert to help you with a store design, development, or marketing project? Want to talk about Shopify Unite 2019? Send me a message at [email protected]. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hear what Shopify has planned for next year. I guess we will just have to wait until Shopify Unite 2020!

The Storetasker/HeyCarson team enjoying  an event at Shopify Unite 2019.
The Storetasker/HeyCarson team taking a selfie at a Shopify Unite 2019 event.