Shopify: the e-commerce platform to watch in 2021

February 17, 2021
Francesca Rünger-Field

Looking back, it’s pretty remarkable that only a couple of years ago experts were passionately debating about how much of the retail market e-commerce would be able to capture. Defenders of brick and mortar stores insisted that consumers would be highly resistant to buying most things without being able to see and touch them in person.

Today, consumers have proven that they are perfectly happy buying everything from t-shirts, to toilet paper to tomatoes online. If this was a boxing match, COVID-19 provided the knock-out punch, winning the bout for e-commerce.

Societally, e-commerce looks promising on many fronts. It can be better for the environment, put more power in the hands of the consumers and reduce the barriers for new products from smaller companies to be offered to the market.

But on the vendor side, this change can look overwhelming. Suddenly your sales and delivery channels have changed. Getting your products on shelves is a totally different proposition when those shelves are now virtual. Logistics are completely different when instead of shipping high volumes to one or a few retailers’ distribution centers, you are sending small volumes to (hopefully) tens of thousands of locations. 

The cloud software makers of the world have taken up the challenge and provided many tools to make this easier. One of these tools is Shopify.

Who is Shopify?

The e-commerce giant has humble beginnings; it started out as an online shop selling snowboarding equipment. When Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify, found that the online sales platforms available at the time didn’t cut it, he coded one himself and Shopify (née Snowdevil) was born.

Fast forward to 2020 - the platform saw its total revenue for Q1 of 2020 reach $470 million, a staggering 47% percent increase year-over-year. Total revenue in the third quarter of 2020 was $767.4 million, a 96% increase from the comparable quarter in 2019. Now we’re all waiting with bated breath on what their 4th quarter 2020 financial results will look like (though if this trend is an indication, we have a pretty good idea already...).

What does the platform do?

In their own words, “Shopify is a leading global commerce company, providing trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size.” The platform makes it easy for people to get online and start selling; from mom-and-pop stores with limited resources to mammoth brands like Gymshark, Staples Canada, and Kylie Cosmetics. Everyone wants a piece of Shopify’s pie - and it’s easy to see why.

What does Shopify offer?

At its foundation, Shopify offers merchants the ability to start selling their products online fast. It offers a customizable storefront with no design or developer know-how needed, a smooth shopping experience for customers, and on the backend, merchants can store data, add products, and process orders. The platform is user-friendly, trusted globally, and affordable. 

And then there’s Shopify Plus. This is Shopify’s out-of-the-box offering for rapidly growing enterprises and big businesses that require a reliable platform to scale with them. It’s designed to handle large sales’ volumes, give in-depth reporting and analytics, and allow for total personalization of a merchant’s brand, with impressive reliability for high-traffic websites (they maintain a 99.99% uptime) and cool features such as Shopify Scripts, that allow merchants to tailor their customer’s checkout experiences. The mobile-first design makes it a must-have for modern merchants and coupled with their Shop Pay option, the platform really becomes a no-brainer.

A closer look at the platform

 So, how much of a no-brainer is it really? How easy is it to get up and running? We signed up for a free trial to take a quick look at the platform and walk through their suggested steps.

1. Brand

You can start off by making your small business dreams a reality with Shopify’s company name and logo tools. These helpful resources can be incredibly useful if you’re still lacking a brand name, don’t have a designer, or are just experiencing a creative block. The logo editor will even let you change fonts, colors and icons.

2. Website - pick a domain and use their website builder

Once you’ve got your assets together, you can start building your online presence. Pick a domain for your store, and then use their drag and drop website builder to select templates and give your storefront a customized feel. If you’re an avid content creator, the builder even has a blog function where you can tell your customers about your new products and upcoming releases - and it’s even SEO optimized!

3. Add products

Once you’ve got things looking good, you need to add your stock. The clean, user-friendly product module makes it easy-breezy to add your items - give them a name, a description, and media. Then decide on pricing, SKU/barcodes, shipping information and which sales channels you’re selling on. Once that’s done, you’re good to start selling! 

It is safe to say that in the space of a day, you could set up a fully functioning online storefront that is tailored to your design preferences and is ready to take orders. What’s more, Shopify won’t charge you an arm and a leg for your subscription and when getting set up, you really get the sense they’re genuinely helping you along the way. No big corporate scary vibes - it’s an easy, simple, enjoyable experience.

So, the Canadian behemoth delivers on its promises. In a time when supporting small businesses has never been more crucial, they truly level the playing field by providing simple and user-friendly tools for businesses of any size to sell their products. And where the platform lacks in more enterprise-level functionality, such as advanced inventory management, procurement, and reporting, it makes up for in its connections to platforms that do. It’s no surprise that Shopify has skyrocketed and is expected to continue to own the e-commerce space through 2021. 

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