22 June 2022
A look at how DTC is evolving, through 10 Shopify product releases
Shopify has new tools for B2B sales, Twitter and in-person payments.
Shopify has new tools for B2B sales, Twitter and in-person payments.
With tools that made it easy for entrepreneurs to set up online stores and sell consumer goods, Shopify became synonymous with the rise of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model. The Ottawa, Canada-based company helped to normalize a setting for ecommerce marketplaces beyond Amazon, and created its own ecosystem that flipped the established model on its head in the process. Over the last decade, the brands that set up web-based shops were many, but a large number were powered by the Ottawa, Canada-based company's software and the DTC playbook it enabled.
Now, following a spike in digital adoption that included shopping during the pandemic, ecommerce generally and the DTC approach in particular are more established parts of how we shop. This has led a growing number of platforms to make space for commerce. In turn, DTC brands have more places than ever to meet potential customers. These startups are not only advertising on Facebook and directing customers to their websites. They’re also testing new marketing channels and social media shopping functionalities, expanding to physical stores, exploring web3 and more. What's more, the merchants that tapped Shopify to get started are now seeking tools to scale.
It’s in this context that Shopify on Wednesday rolled out Editions, a look at more than 100 recent product releases that expand the scope of what the company offers merchants. Some of the releases are freshly announced, while others were rolled out in recent months. Each is the reflection of an identification of specific places in a merchant’s process where software can play a role in solving a problem, product strategy about the best approach to address it and engineering that brings a solution to life.
Taken together, they make a bigger point about commerce and how it has evolved. Shopify said Editions points to a new era: Connect to Consumer (C2C).
So what will characterize the C2C era? Admittedly, Shopify didn’t share a treatise to define it. However, it's clear that each product release is part of the equation.
Given that, here’s a look at 10 Shopify product updates that reflect key themes shaping commerce. These are just some of the 100+ features Shopify detailed with the release of Editions, but they each point at a bigger shift taking place:
Shopify merchants are increasingly selling to other businesses, while others want the opportunity to do so, the company said. This is reflected in part through a rise in DTC businesses selling wholesale. To enable growth in this area, Shopify is debuting a new feature called B2B on Shopify. Initially available to Shopify Plus members, this will allow merchants to sell to businesses using the same platform where they sell to consumers. Shopify created a store experience that is designed to be optimized for businesses, with considerations such as bulk buying and flexibility in pricing for individual customers. It also partnered with ERP providers such as NetSuite, Brightpearl, and Acumatica to integrate data.
Social media is becoming more shoppable, as platforms integrate features to enable not just discovery of products, but also buying and selling. A new Shopify partnership with Twitter is growing the presence of stores on the bird app. Shopify has a new app allowing brands to create a sales channel through Twitter. This allows brands to showcase products on their Twitter profile through Twitter’s Shop Spotlight or Twitter Shops. The idea is that after a user discovers a brand's product on Twitter, the path to a purchase gets easier.
As they embrace a return to in-person activities and seek to create a venue to meet shoppers in-person, direct-to-consumer brands are adding physical retail channels. At the same time, they’re embracing digital tools to help reinvent the experience. Shopify itself is seeing this, as the company’s GMV for offline commerce grew 80% year-over-year in Q1 of 2022. A new Shopify release called Tap to Pay on iPhone allows for more seamless payments. Partnering with Stripe, Shopify created a payment tool for iPhone that doesn’t require additional hardware. This is initially rolling out for Shopify point-of-sale merchants, but the company pointed to potential for using it in other settings like farmers markets, pop-up shops and new stores.
Google has noted that searches for “in stock near me” are an increasing trend of online shopping behavior. It reflects a consumer mode where a shopping journey might start online and end at a store, or vice versa. Shopify has a new product enabling brands to sync local inventory. Available through Shopify’s Google channel, this allows brands to automatically notify customers when a product is available in store.
The rise of web3 will usher in an era where an exchange of currency for ownership extends to digital items, as well as physical ones. Non fungible tokens (NFTs) are one of the early constructs allowing brands to offer digital ownership. Rather than selling goods one-to-one, many brands see these as an opportunity to power loyalty by allowing NFT ownership to build communities and unlock rewards. A new release called Tokengated Commerce on Shopify allows merchants to give NFT holders access to perks and products. This gives shoppers the ability to connect their crypto wallets to a Shopify store. Then, they can use their NFTs to unlock experiences. There’s also collab opportunities, as brands can invite NFT holders of other brands to their storefront where a specific experience is being offered.
On the topic of loyalty, Shopify also put the early word out about a new product called Shop Cash that will provide rewards through the Shop app, and allow brands to boost their own presence, providing a promotion tool.
The trend toward headless commerce reflects a desire by brands to create experiences that are unique to them. Shopify previously released Hydrogen and Oxygen, a set of developer tools to create custom storefronts. Now, it is providing tools for the backend. Shopify Functions allows developers “to extend or replace Shopify’s backend logic with custom code,” Shopify said. An initial tool called Discounts is designed to enable the building of customized volume discounts or free gift with purchase offers.
Rising customer acquisition costs and privacy-oriented changes rolled out by Apple with iOS 14.5 are changing the landscape for brands in digital advertising. Where Facebook ads were once a primary source of scale, brands are now exploring other advertising venues, like TikTok and even offline billboards. However, Meta properties remain a part of the marketing mix, and brands are seeking new tools to succeed there in a post-App Tracking Transparency world. In response to this, Shopify rolled out Shopify Audiences last month to allow brands to leverage Shopify’s network to build high purchase intent audiences, and export them to other ad networks. Read a full breakdown here.
As the saying goes in international trade circles, a business is international once it stands up a website, with a digital presence enabling access to a brand from anywhere. Selling goods internationally requires a considered approach, however, as currencies, culture and regulations create unique selling environments. Shopify last year released Shopify Markets to enable global sales. This allows businesses to create customized storefronts for particular markets, sell in the language of a country and collect fees for selling across borders.
Influencers and creators rose as a force in ecommerce as Instagram and then TikTok became key channels. To provide tools for brands, Shopify in April acquired Dovetale, a platform which helps brands manage influencer campaigns. As they take a bigger role in connecting people and products across different platforms, creators are forging a bigger presence as entrepreneurs themselves, as well. To that end, Shopify released Linkpop, a link-in-bio tool that allows creators to promote their presence across multiple business lines and channels, and syncs with a product catalog.
As ecommerce becomes more normalized and shoppers move across online and offline channels, consumers will increasingly want items to be available where they are. At the same time, supply chain issues of the last two years made fulfillment and logistics a top concern for brands and customers alike. To give brands a way to provide peace of mind for consumers, Shopify is rolling out Shop Promise, a badge that provides a two-day delivery and “hassle free returns.” Shopify is also building out a fulfillment network to power merchants shipping and delivery behind the scenes. It acquired logistics platform Deliverr in May, and is looking to combine it with its own capabilities and previously acquired fulfillment tech company 6 River Systems. Check out our full analysis here.
Etsy sellers and the retailer Camp were among those affected when the bank to startups shut down.
The swift collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on Friday had far-reaching ripple effects in the startup world that extended to ecommerce platforms and brands.
Regulators shut down SVB on March 10 after the bank’s move to raise capital in the face of rising interest rates and a slowdown in tech funding left trust teetering, and gave way to an influx of withdrawals. This left depositors unable to access funds. Read a full explainer here.
SVB was a major lender to startups, as it catered to early-stage companies with financial products tailored to the capital needs of fast-moving and flexible young companies, and the investment firms that backed them. While startups remain a small segment of the economy as a whole, the closure of a bank that was synonymous with tech both in stature and balance sheet left an entire sector reeling.
While deposits up to $250,000 are insured by the banking regulatory arm FDIC, the move to put the bank in receivership meant accounts were inaccessible to many businesses that were already operating lean as they sought to prove out new business models. Those with more than a quarter-million dollars in the bank were left with serious doubts about whether they would see their money.
While the collapse left many fretting over the weekend about being able to make payroll and cover expenses, there were signs of a rescue in sight on Sunday. Regulators announced that all depositors would be able to access funds on Monday, March 13.
The marketplace Etsy was among the ecommerce companies affected, as funds it had at the bank to pay sellers appeared to be inaccessible over the weekend.
“We recently experienced a delay in issuing payments to some sellers related to the unexpected collapse of Silicon Valley Bank,” the marketplace wrote. “Our teams have been working around the clock to implement a solution, and we expect to pay sellers via our other payment partners within the next several business days.”
Following the FDIC’s announcement on March 12, Etsy said it expected to begin issuing payments on Monday.
Shopify, which provides software used by emerging brands to run ecommerce stores, was also among the companies with funds in Silicon Valley Bank. The company posted an FAQ through its Shopify Capital service, which provides financial products for brands that helps provide access to working capital.
"If you have an SVB account on file for Shopify Payments, then your payouts have been temporarily paused," the FAQ stated at one point.
Shopify Capital in the U.S. was also "impacted" by the collapse, the FAQ stated. This meant offers through the program were temporary on hold.
On Twitter, Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke said Saturday that the collapse had a “very minor impact for us.”
“We use SVB as one of ~12 or so banks spread over mostly Canada and US. Canada has stricter banking risk regulations,” Lutke wrote. “A small portion of our US operational fund flows is tied up in SVB but we are working around it and it should be business as usual.”
After seeing the bank where its funds were held shut down, one retailer turned to the tried and true tactic of issuing a promo code to generate fast sales. On Friday, the family experience retailer Camp advertised 40% off for customers who used the code “BANKRUN.”“Unfortunately, we had most of our company’s cash assets at a bank which just collapsed,” cofounder Ben Kaufman wrote in an email to customers.
The popup ad that greeted visitors to Camp's site on Friday captured the mood of the moment:
(Screenshot via Camp)