In June, Ben De Jonge and Scott Sanders – directors of Perth’s only Shopify Plus agency, The Cut – travelled to Toronto for Unite 2019, the annual Shopify conference for 1,700 agencies, partners and developers.
Shopify Unite is the most significant ecommerce event on the planet right now and for us, the Unite conference delivered a huge opportunity to enhance our ecomm expertise and expand connections across the Shopify ecosystem.
Our focus as a Shopify partner is on helping ecommerce businesses grow. It’s as simple and as complex as that. Constant up-skilling is crucial and Unite gave us brilliant opportunities to learn, hear the latest updates and feature releases and return to Perth ready to share.
The key headlines and highlights for us included:
This term was the most loved, and most hated, jargon nugget of Unite 2019. In brief ’Headless Commerce’ means omni-channel ecommerce where selling is done via multiple channels, not just the Shopify site itself. The idea is not new, but the term is. Welcome to the jargon horror show.
Continuing with the jargon theme, ‘ecommerce’ is so, like 2018. If you want to stay super current, it’s not ‘ecommerce’ any more, it’s just ‘commerce’. Drop the ‘e’, ok.
Shopify is big and getting bigger. Unite was characterised by a distinct focus on global expansion, services expansion and increased access for many more countries, languages and currencies. Eglobal perhaps?
In terms of Shopify as a company, the announcement of their move into fulfilment was the biggest deal of the conference. Starting in North America, Shopify is opening their own warehouses and packaging and fulfilment centres representing big expansion for the business.
While online shopping hurts physical retail, it is also driving an obsession for customer service and better shopping experiences. So, bricks and mortar stores are (re)finding their place in the (e)commerce landscape. It seems that there will always be a place for direct, real-life interaction in the shopping experience.
KEY NOTE ANNOUNCEMENTS
Feature releases at Unite 2019 were based around the concepts of merchant access, design flexibility, globalisation and growth. Take languages for example, with 6 new languages launched in 2018, this year, 11 more languages make Shopify accessible to the 2 billion people who speak those languages. That’s significant.
The first focus of the key notes was User (Merchant) Experience with key messages about making the design and content management process simpler. This is all good news for DIY merchants and the agencies who help bigger merchants.
Sections & Master Pages
The expansion of ‘Sections’ is a great example of this. Sections will now apply across the whole store, on every page. Sections allows for the content of the website to be designed and arranged based on simple modules – Easier, faster and more efficient. Master pages are a new addition, and a welcome one because they allow for specific page types e.g. Cart page or Standard page, to be designed and controlled by the Master Page. When changes are made to the Master Page they can be deployed across all pages of that type.
Physical & Virtual
As mentioned above, the importance of physical stores was a repeated theme at Unite. You may think that Shopify’s focus would be digital-only, but the truth is different. Ecommerce in general has created a laser focus on delivering awesome customer service experiences. In-line with that concept, the Shopify ecosystem has a focus on the importance of physical stores and the great experiences that can be delivered in real-life.
Shopify’s own focus on off-line is growing too, with their own store in LA, which we visited, and they are also expanding and refining their range of Point Of Sale (POS) hardware that already powers over 100,000 physical stores.
Shopify POS offers flexibility with mobile POS and the ‘Tap and Chip’ case that turns a mobile into a payment device. This means that any merchant can deliver an experience just like you get in the Apple stores, with no queues at the checkout. The Shopify POS range extends to cash draws, monitors and more, and to make merchant-life easier in more ways, the Shopify POS systems interface has been redesigned to optimise the user experience for merchants with multiple stores and sales channels.
Workflows have been made more efficient and more visual with a new ‘Smart Grid’ making it easier and simpler to create and modify the processes that happen online. The search function in the new POS has been powered-up so merchants can instantly search all products, customers and stores – a significant time saver.
Facebook & Ecommerce
We attended a key note workshop from Facebook, in their Toronto offices, with the theme ‘Friction Vs Friction-less’. This simply means making it as easy as possible for customers to connect with products and make a purchase fast.
The Facebook workshop was scattered with stats and metrics, like this one: 40 – 50% of users will abandon if they have to wait 4+ seconds for loading. So, we’re not patient. We’re not willing to wait, and with online shopping, lightning fast delivery and instant gratification is demanded as the standard.
Without doubt, one of the biggest sources of friction in ecommerce is fulfilment and delivery time. Facebook has a number of channels designed to help ecomm businesses display, attract, engage and sell and for Facebook and ecommerce in general, mobile reigns supreme.
So, to some more metrics:
• Mobile commerce will grow by 30% in 2019;
• 81% of transactions via Facebook and Instagram happen on Mobile;
• And, 50% of shoppers will shop somewhere else is they don’t find enough good quality product content.
Facebook gives ecomm merchants the opportunity to give customers great product content and shopping experiences and a good example of this is the ‘micro sites’ that can be set to appear in Facebook feeds. They give potential customers a teaser product preview. They are fast, snack-able and a great way to pull traffic to store sites, collections and product pages.
Product collections within Facebook’s feed work the same way. Merchants can display product collections like best sellers, seasonal favourites and new releases within Facebook and then link customers to the specific product pages on their ecomm websites. Product previews in social media give immediate gratification and fast, one-click access to product pages and the opportunity to click ‘Buy Now’.
UNITE 2019 WRAP UP
Shopify’s approach to technology and ecommerce is based on community and Unite is the perfect example of bringing people together to learn and share. At Unite, 1,700+ partners and developers shared 3+ days of announcements, product demos, presentations, workshops and events, all about the future of ecommerce and the growth of opportunities. At the product-focused keynotes, we were among the first to hear announcements on feature releases, emerging opportunities and new tools for merchants to help them scale and grow.
Workshops allowed for collaboration and the chance to focus on solving technical ecommerce challenges and to give direct feedback to Shopify staffers on functionality, themes and integrations. We engaged directly with senior Shopify team members from regional managers and technical experts to ecommerce specialists in business strategy, sales conversions, marketing and growth.
Over the past few weeks, our team at The Cut have been able to apply learnings to current projects, better help existing clients with ecommerce challenges, and give the Perth Shopify community the chance to learn about what is coming next and the emerging opportunities.
We have also created new partnerships with app developers and other agencies in Australia, across APAC and into North America and Europe.
So is Toronto on the list for 2020? Absolutely!