For most of its history, Shopify has made a virtue of anonymity.
On most e-commerce platforms, individual retailers are less important than their service provider. It’s painfully obvious at Amazon, where every merchant competes for attention in a never-ending digital big-box store. Even on an artisan-friendly site like Etsy, the branding of the tech giant is more prominent than the names of the individual sellers.
But ever since its founding, Shopify has positioned itself differently. It’s a utility company, not a retailer. You aren’t aware of which electrician installed the cash register at a local boutique, so why care about which company facilitates its online transactions? The Ottawa-based tech firm exists to boost its clients’ profile, not the other way around. As president Harley Finkelstein once explained it: “Shopify is a brand to merchants—it’s not a brand to consumers.”
Through this quiet support of other brands, Shopify has built an overwhelmingly strong one of its own. Earlier this year, we partnered with the polling firm Ipsos to see which business-to-business brands Canadian executives hold in the highest regard. The goal was to understand which companies are seen as trustworthy, innovative and focused on their clients’ needs. Ipsos surveyed more than 400 executives, asking—among other attributes—which companies are trailblazers, which are easy to work with and which best serve their communities.
Shopify came out at No. 1 on our inaugural ranking. It frankly wasn’t even close; the brand came first in 22 of 42 categories. For example, 81% of respondents agreed Shopify was ahead of others in leading the digital transformation, a stunning 19 percentage points ahead of the second-place company, Microsoft. On average, Shopify was eight percentage points ahead in all the areas where it took first place.
These results suggest Shopify’s brand now rivals global leaders, such as Google. The technology behemoth has come first on Ipsos’s ranking of the most influential brands in Canada for the past nine years and landed in the top spot this year in 13 out of 49 categories. Coincidentally, Google led second-place brands by an average of eight percentage points, just like Shopify.
The difference, of course, is Google has been widely known for nearly two decades (it’s so established, its name isn’t just a brand but a verb). Shopify is certainly better recognized by consumers than it once was—a year of pandemic-driven growth in e-commerce helped, as did replacing RBC as Canada’s most valuable company. But it remains a resolutely business-to-business brand that makes itself look good by keeping the spotlight on others.
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