Omnichannel. Multichannel. FBA. BOPUS. Not that long ago, simply “setting up an online store” with one of a handful of available technology solutions was the beginning and end of how brands approached ecommerce. Today, the digital commerce landscape is broader than ever with multiple solutions for everything from platform selection to fulfillment operations to help businesses meet growing demand from their consumers. I recently talked with Multichannel Merchant to share some insight on our approach to developing ecommerce sites for our clients.Read more about it here.
Shopify’s rise through the ranks of e-commerce notoriety has been fast-paced and historic, with market share and stock prices increasing tenfold in the last 4 years. But one thing has always held Shopify back from achieving its true potential: content management. At Unite 2019, Shopify was determined to fix its content management problem. They rolled out a plan that would not only allow them to catch up to their competitors, but in many ways surpass them and improve the experience for both merchants and development teams alike. Coming later this year, these changes will revolutionize the way in which Shopify manages content, and push the platform into a new realm as a competitive force in the Content Management System space.
The New Normal for Content Management.
Shopify is currently in the process of revamping its content management platform with the ability to add custom sections to every page of a merchant’s online store, create master pages, and content starting points for merchants and content editors. Although the homepage has traditionally had robust content editing capabilities, this functionality has been expanded throughout all pages on the Shopify platform. Users of enterprise-level content management systems such as Sitecore and AEM are familiar with some of these concepts, but for smaller merchants, this high level of flexibility and speed could give their business the tools to rapidly grow.
When sections were initially introduced in Shopify, it revolutionized its content management capabilities and moved away from the days of hard coded content and over-reliance on meta fields in the admin. The only recurring problem with the highly flexible content entry system was that it was only usable on the homepage. Although alternative means have been proposed by many development and app workarounds, there was no way of properly recreating the experience offered on the index page of a Shopify site. With the introduction of global sections, every page will have the same powerful content management system that powers the homepage, giving merchant’s total control over what content goes where across their site. Shopify has not released the full details, but the company also plans to add even more functionality to sections, allowing users the ability to build and add apps directly to any page as simply as a block of content. We’ll have to wait until its release to know the full extent of these innovations.
Master pages allow merchants and their partners to define content that will appear on multiple pages. This is beneficial on pages previously unreachable by sections or global content, such as product detail pages and collection pages. Additional sections can now be added to these areas with content seamlessly applying to the entire product catalog, each collection page, or similar areas where site-wide, consistent content is needed. Once one of these master pages has been applied, each page and product will offer a subset of Master Page Overrides, which will allow merchants to tailor their content to suit any urgent or evolving business need. Starting points offer a pre-existing page template comprised of pre-configured content sections that help make store setup faster. In contrast to master pages, starting points do not share content across pages but instead help fulfill business needs such as the expedited spin-up of marketing or content pages.
Drafts are a new area in the Shopify admin where merchants can draft changes to their store pages. Previously, merchants were forced to duplicate their themes in order to make content changes they did not yet want to have published. Merchants can make edits to the content and aesthetics of new and existing online store pages without affecting their live site, and mass publish them when they’re ready. This simple change will completely change the way merchants can update their sites, allowing for promotional or seasonal changes in a way not previously possible on the platform.
Bring Product Presentation into the Future.
Shopify has also given merchants the ability to create richer, more powerful product detail pages with the addition of site-wide sections and master pages. Because the previous implementation of product data focused primarily on simple content, limited to descriptions and product images, these pages often felt dull or lacking.
Additional enhancements helping merchants deliver a full, informative package to users will also come through the new video and 3D model support coming natively to Shopify products. Usable across the site but leveraged fully on the product detail pages, the CDN for Shopify’s storage of product assets has been expanded to allow for new assets, bringing with it the ability to offer more to users without causing additional work for merchants. This will make Shopify the first e-commerce platform provider to make this an integral and native part of its platform, paving the way for its competitors as they break new ground on what is considered a product asset. As these features are implemented, with them comes the power of WebGL, leveraging the same speed and flexibility that the Shopify CDN and Liquid programming language already offer for other site-wide assets.
The new online store design experience should debut before the end of the year and will make it easier for merchants to create and customize their storefronts to quickly accommodate their evolving business needs.
FortyFour Managing Partner Adam Roe chats with Internet Retailer about Aubuchon Hardware’s strategy shift towards omnichannel commerce. Aubuchon replatformed to Magento 2 with a focus on buy online pick-up in-store to help serve their loyal customers and shifted their marketing mix towards digital marketing strategies that helped drive engagement and sales.Read more about it here.
The e-commerce sector saw huge news recently: Shopify announced at its annual conference that it’s expanding from an e-commerce platform to a full suite of solutions for its audience of retailers. Already an industry leader for enabling online purchasing, Shopify is now essentially targeting every part of the e-commerce “value add” infrastructure – meaning this transformation has major implications for the entire online retail space.
Specifically, Shopify introduced the Shopify Fulfillment Network that will allow retailers to partner with a dedicated network of distribution centers in order to get their products to customers quickly. While solutions existed for individual merchants to do this before, the cost was almost always going to be prohibitive for all but the largest sellers. Now, thanks to Shopify’s scale, small and medium businesses will be able to get their products to customers faster, cheaper, and with customizations that help enhance the customer experience.
Which segments does this move affect and how?
If you’re a retailer, Shopify’s announcement is great news. There are estimates out there that Shopify’s combined reach across all sellers would make it the third largest e-commerce site behind Amazon and eBay. With that kind of scale, they are in position to execute this next offering well. And while there are plenty of existing third-party logistics providers retailers could use (Fulfillment by Amazon, UPS, FedEx, etc), Shopify is already plugged directly into retailers’ existing systems and will offer additional value adds that others can’t or won’t currently deliver. And since Shopify Fulfillment Network will support merchants who ship anywhere from 10-10,000 packages a day, this program will be available to some pretty small sellers.
For custom box makers like WestRock and Pratt Retail, this move presents a fresh challenge in a vertical where they previously saw huge opportunity. Shopify will now be able to offer custom packaging to merchants using Shopify Fulfillment Network, which will make the entire buying journey from purchasing to unboxing more connected for the customer and positioning the retailers as premium options. As these packaging companies are actively targeting e-commerce retailers, Shopify’s introduction of custom box options to go along with their existing selling, reporting, and now logistics offerings poses a real threat.
For Amazon, Shopify’s move presents more formidable competition in the ever-evolving world of online retail. Shopify will connect merchants with 3PLs who can fulfill packages in a similar timeframe as Amazon Prime, but with more customization options available to the merchant.
One way to think about this is that Amazon and Shopify are trying to lead the evolution of retail with two distinctly different strategies.
Amazon, through product selection initially but increasingly through value-add offerings like 2-day shipping, photo storage, and streaming video, has built up a massive audience of consumers. They use this scale as a bargaining chip against retailers, similar to how Walmart traditionally operated. As a company selling products, you feel like you have to go where the customers are, and with online retail that means Amazon.
Shopify, through an easy-to-use e-commerce platform that has evolved into a full suite of retail solutions like point-of-sale, online payments, and now fulfillment logistics, has built up a massive audience of sellers. Their bet is that by helping merchants offer more of the services that customers have grown to expect (payment options, fast fulfillment, premium unboxing, etc), those merchants will grow significantly thanks to the connection they’re able to maintain with a customer in a direct sales relationship.
Rather than building up a big following of consumers and then designing products that appeal to them (think Kylie Cosmetics or Rhianna’s Fenty), Shopify has built a huge following of businesses and are now innovating on new ways to provide value and extract revenue from them. And since Shopify owns the full cart, unlike some of the other e-commerce platforms, they own all of the data about customers, purchases, and velocity that they can use to identify more opportunities for these kind of solution expansions going forward.