Shopify Inc. SHOP-T is launching a live-video shopping feature and other enhancements for its e-commerce platform as the Ottawa-based company seeks to navigate a sectorwide downturn by broadening its services.
The 100 or so products that are being rolled out are part of a spate of recent moves by Shopify to appeal to new audiences. E-commerce growth has slowed significantly and the technology sector as a whole is facing a number of headwinds, creating a renewed sense of urgency for companies to innovate.
“We need to be the fastest-moving commerce company in the world,” said Shopify president Harley Finkelstein in a statement about Thursday’s new-product showcase. Customers expect more from their online stores now, such as “seamless checkout and fast delivery,” he said. “Our merchants depend on Shopify’s innovation for their own longevity.”
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, customers around the world embraced online shopping in droves. Now, however, many consumers have turned away from pandemic-led habits, and are cutting back on discretionary spending amid higher inflation and rising interest rates. This has left few e-commerce companies unscathed. Shopify saw its stock price drop by more than two-thirds last year and faced a whirlwind of changes, including a slashing of more than one-10th of its global work force.
Many of the new products and enhancements focus on the company’s Shop app, which provides customers on mobile devices with a hub to keep their billing information in a single place and track their deliveries from different stores.
Shopify merchants will now be able to build more functionality on the Shop app through a suite of new software development tools, dubbed “Shop Minis.” These tools include the option of a live-streamed video component, where customers may tune in to different channels set up by merchants. Through these tools, merchants may directly interact with the “100 million users and 10s of millions of shoppers” that use the Shop app every month, according to Shopify, then convert them into paying customers.
One of Shopify’s first partners for these new features on the Shop app is Toronto-based Stage TEN, a live-shopping company that also works with Netflix, YouTube, Google and Target. Dave Lazar, chief executive officer of Stage TEN, said that merchants have had difficulties in gathering an audience for their live-shopping channels.
“Discovery changes everything,” Mr. Lazar said. “Imagine having a real person thank you in real time when you buy online. That’s conversational commerce.”
But Rick Watson, CEO of RMW Commerce Consulting LLC, a New York-based strategic e-commerce consultancy, said “Shopify usually throws the kitchen sink” with its product launches, “such that it’s sometimes hard to know what is new and what isn’t.” He described the new products as “incremental improvements.”
On top of the changes to the Shop app, the company is also streamlining its checkout page with a redesign to make the payment process easier for customers. The new point-of-sale page will allow merchants with long-desired flexibility to customize as they see fit for their stores.
Shopify is also bolstering its fulfilment network, which it provides as a paid service for stores to deliver products to customers, much like Amazon.com Inc. The changes include a new tool called “Shop Promise” that Shopify says will help merchants with better communication and more reliable delivery. This update to the delivery network could help stores achieve up to 25-per-cent higher customer conversion rates, Shopify claims.
Shopify, which provides businesses in around 170 countries with tools to set up their online stores, is set to report fourth-quarter financial results next week.