Aeolidia headed out to San Francisco last week to attend Shopify’s Unite conference. This was their first conference, and it was exclusively for their partners – Shopify designers, Shopify developers, app developers, and others who make up the external system that supports Shopify. They want to make sure that we have what we need to succeed, so in turn, we can help you shop owners be successful on their platform. It’s all very symbiotic, – they emphasized that we’re all on the same side of the table (Shopify, us designers, and you store owners), and I believe they mean it. They are an enthusiastic group of people who truly love commerce and enabling anyone to have success with it.
They made five big announcements, which I’ll summarize below, and share what it might mean for our clients and you.
Shopify’s new online store editor
This will be coming later this year. It’s a new way to rearrange content on your site, and the example they showed us will be familiar to anyone who has used MailChimp’s drag and drop editor. For instance, if your home page has a slideshow up top, three featured category blocks below, a paragraph of text, then a list of featured products, all of this can be changed by you in the admin. Instead of just changing the content (text and photos), like you do now, you’ll be able to drag and drop each of these elements to where you would like it located on the page. Decided the paragraph of text should be above the featured products? Just pull it up there in your admin, and the change will be reflected on your site.
New design themes will be divided into sections and blocks. There are settings for sections and for blocks (for instance, “collections” could be a block, which you could place into a home page section, and adjust in its own settings menu). It looks to be quite flexible.
We love this change, because we always aim to empower clients to be able to update their sites and control content as needed. This is a great way for us to build the general look and feel of the website, but allow the content itself to be controlled with more detail by our clients. Great news!
Shopify Scripts for making small custom changes
This is currently only available for Shopify Plus customers, but I am hoping that it will trickle down to the non-enterprise Shopify plans. Basically, Shopify Scripts allows your Shopify developer to make micro customizations to Shopify, rather than using apps. The customizations will be created just for your shop, and less bulky than using an app. The scripts allow you to make changes to taxes, shipping, discounts, and promotions, and make changes to the cart.
The example they showed was choosing one particular product, and giving a percentage discount to Shopify employees who purchase it. This seems like a great way to set up your own custom wholesale solution, which I know a lot of our clients want.
If your business makes at least six figures a year, Shopify Plus may be a good solution for you (if not, the cost of the enterprise plan won’t make financial sense). Shopify Plus is meant as a next step if you feel that your business has outgrown Shopify. On the Plus plan, your checkout is on your own domain, and more in your control (rather than moving your customers over to shopify.com for checkout). If you have 3rd party integrations (shipping/fulfillment, warehouse, ERP, CRM), you can hire Shopify developers to make everything connect easily. If your sales volume is high enough that you’re paying a lot in transaction fees, you might like that Shopify Plus has no transaction fees. You can learn more here: Shopify Plus. And hey, if you want to check out these new scripts, we’d love to work with you on it.
Power any site with Shopify
If you have been wanting to use Shopify for ease of use, multi-channel sales, and other great features, but you don’t want to move off of your existing website platform, this news is for you. Previously, Shopify announced Shopify Buy Buttons that you could add to your site (much like PayPal’s), and did you know that you can add buy buttons directly to MailChimp email campaigns?
The most recent announcement was the new Shopify WordPress integration, which is going to be huge for bloggers who also sell products. Shopify’s blog doesn’t have enough features for anyone who is primarily a blogger, and trying to set up what looks like a single site using both WordPress and Shopify can be done, but isn’t super fun for the developer or shop owner.
Multi-channel on Shopify got even more powerful
If you have a Shopify account, you can sell directly on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook right now. I’m talking actually sell, not direct people to your site. People can buy from you on these platforms without leaving their feed. How powerful is that? You’ve removed the step of social media where you lose most of your potential customers – the one where they have to decide that moving to your site is preferable than staying on the platform they intended to be on.
This new sales channel software development kit will let Shopify developers expand this to many other platforms. The ones mentioned during the conference, which are in the works now, are Amazon, Wanelo, Houzz, and Ebates. Soon, when you’re adding a product to your Shopify admin, you’ll be able to just check a box to make it available for sale on Wanelo as well.
Shopify is making a big point about going out and selling where your customers are, rather than trying to convince the customers to come to you. This could be super huge. When they described how this could work, the main idea is that your products can be for sale on multiple other sites, but with no middleman – any sale made is made from YOUR Shopify admin, and shows up like any of your other orders.
No one addressed this use case specifically, but we’ve turned down a healthy handful of potential clients who wanted to set up their own marketplace, to sell the work of others without needing to micromanage it – like their own smaller version of Etsy. It was just a service we weren’t able to offer. This may be something you can do more easily with Shopify in the future.
Selling via native mobile apps
At the conference, they shared the statistic that visits to shops are made from mobile devices 67% of the time. More than half of your visitors are on a phone or tablet, and if they aren’t able to easily use the site, they’re out of there. The interesting part is that conversions on shop sites (people that make purchases, converting from visitors to customers) are mostly from desktop computer users (54% of purchases are from a computer, not a phone). That means that a lot of these mobile visitors aren’t having an easy shopping experience.
Of course you want to have a responsive website now, which looks and works equally well across all platforms and screen sizes. But with Shopify’s new mobile development kit (for iOS and Android), developers will be able to work with you to create your own mobile app to allow people to shop right from their phone.
This presents its own challenges. If a customer only buys from you once or twice a year, for instance, they’re not going to want to commit to having your app on their phone if all they can do there is shop. Amazon app on your phone? That could make sense. But an app for a seller who makes crocheted hats is less likely to take off, because how often do you need to shop for a crocheted hat?
The area where I can see this working very well is in apps where shopping is something you can do, but is not the main point. For example, if you sell stationery, you could create an app that reminds people of birthdays and other occasions and automatically notifies them when to order a card, then makes the order process super simple with suggestions for that occasion. Or if you sell to girls, like our current fabulous client, Handcrafted Honeybee, does, you could have a fun app that includes games, challenges, learning, and an entertaining experience, while also allowing a parent to order a kit.
This is all pretty new for smaller businesses. It’s amazing that Shopify’s making such powerful functionality available to the little guy, and I’m so interested to see what everyone comes up with.
Don’t see the feature you want?
We have been talking about specific features and needs in the Aeolidia Biz Tips Facebook group (join us!), and many people are frustrated by what feel like missing features to them. Shopify leadership shared their strategy as regards features with us. They told us that 80% of ecommerce features are things that most people want most of the time, and that’s what their focus is on. They described the remaining 20% as being “deeply personal” to each business. These are the things that Shopify Experts and app developers can help individual store owners with, but aren’t ever going to be rolled into the core product. That makes good sense to me.
When your needs are that specific, it’s unlikely that a generic solution is going to work for you, anyway. That’s why Aeolidia exists – to help you do what works for your company, custom to you. Sometimes you have to suffer through “good enough” until you’re at a point with your business where it makes sense to hire help to make it just right.
How will this affect you?
So many changes! Many of these aren’t released yet, and the rest are brand new to the community of Shopify experts and developers, so it’s hard to know what to expect. I’m sure we will see themes in the theme store become that much more flexible over time. Instead of being stuck with their layout, you’ll be able to drag and drop all the pieces to make a site that is more custom to you.
Expect many new apps that can do a wide variety of things for your shop, as well as more powerful upgrades to existing apps. Shopify is now allowing developers to do more than ever with analytics, tax settings, refunds and transactions, and POS tools.
You’ll be seeing more and more purchasing happening directly on social media and through email. Maybe going to a website to go shopping is going to become archaic, and we’ll all just be shopping through (whatever replaces) Pinterest in the future! We’ll be interacting with brands more on our phones, and often on native mobile apps, rather than viewing their websites through Safari or Google or Facebook.
If you’re planning to work with us in the near future, we’ll be incorporating the technologies that make sense for our clients as soon as they’re available.
I’m so glad we jumped on the Shopify rocket when we did! There are no other ecommerce platforms out there making multi-channel selling as easy as Shopify is beginning to, and we are so glad to be able to recommend software we can stand behind to our clients. Go ahead and sign up for a free trial of Shopify here: Shopify plans & pricing. If you follow that referral link and get started, send me an email with your number one question, or what feels like a roadblock, and I’ll do my best to help out.
Looking for Shopify designers? We’re your team! If you’d like to get on our schedule for summer, and have our support in setting up some of these features, you know where to find me. Contact us soon – we have been talking to a lot of shop owners lately, and our schedule is filling up.