Episode 29 - Shopify ReUnite Recap

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Hello, Scott Austin here from JadePuma with another episode of the Shopify Solutions Podcast.  It this episode, I'm going to recap all of Shopify's recent announcements.  Each year, Shopify holds a conference called Shopify Unite where they announce all of their upcoming features and new platform initiatives.  Well, this year the in-person conference was canceled due to Covid-19.  Instead, Shopify held an online video stream for an hour and a half where the company execs discussed their plans for the future of Shopify and announced many upcoming updates to the platform. 

So I'll go through the list of announcements and give a bit of my commentary on them.  That said, I won't' go too deep into any of them as the list is long.  So I'll also include many links in the show notes to Shopify's supporting documentation so you can do more research on the things that interest you the most.

Now before I get into the announcements, let me first provide a word of caution.  Software companies are notoriously bad at setting expectations on the timing of releases.  And the way Shopify prevents setting the wrong expectations is to be purposely vague on timing.  Basically, timing expectations during this conference fell into four buckets.

  1. The first bucket is currently rolling out.  Now Shopify has over a million stores operating on it servers.  And I'd guess they have thousands of servers.  So when they deploy features, they usually do it in batches.  They'll do a set of servers at a time instead of rolling it out across all servers and stores at once.  That's why a feature can be currently rolling out.  It takes time to get it deployed across the board.  Some stores may already have access while others do not, but will in the short-term.
  2. The second bucket is coming soon.  I'd say that for this conversation, coming soon means before September 1st.
  3. The third bucket is this year, which is kind of self-explanatory.
  4. And the final bucket is when no release timing expectation is set.  I read this as something that may or may not happen next year.  In this episode, I'm not going to cover any of Shopify's announcements that did not come with a timing expectation.

So let's dig into the announcements as there are a lot of new features coming.  And I'm sure that every store will find more than one of these that will help them grow their business.

So let's start with the online store.

Shopify has, rather quickly, made a number of changes and improvements to the platform to help stores respond to Covid-19.

The first of these I've mentioned before and that is that gift cards are now available on all Shopify plans.

The next is also available now.  And that is tipping.  Customers can add a tip when they checkout.  That could be a normal tip provided for services.  Or it could be for the increase in tipping that many customers have started to do to help a store's cashflow during these times.  Another scenario that this could be used for is charity contributions.  If your business already gives a percentage of sales to a charity, you could allow the customer to increase their charitable donation.  You can access this in your Shopify admin under Settings > Checkout.   There is a Tipping section there now. 

The next feature is curbside or in-store pick-up  and that is available right now.  You can access it in the Shopify Admin under Settings > Shipping and delivery.  There's now a local pickup section.  And there are some new features coming for it including scheduling and customer arrival notification

And the last of what I consider the Covid features is local delivery.  Stores will be able to set up delivery areas by zip codes or radiuses.  Then during checkout, only customers that are within the delivery zone will see the delivery option.  This will be coming soon to all countries.  It will be in the Shipping and Delivery settings right above local pick-up.

The next features are for global stores that want a local presence.  Feature #1 is local country domain support for stores.  That’s coming soon.  And the second is the ability to use the customer's local currency even in the checkout.  This one is slated for later this year. 

Shopify recently launched Shopify email.  It's free until October 2020.  That said, it is currently nowhere near as capable as the popular Shopify email apps that have been in use for a while.  So my recommendation is to stay with your current email provider if you have one.  So for those of you that are not currently using email, take advantage of Shopify email while its free.  Send a couple of campaigns through Shopify email.  I've had a lot of clients that have had a lot of success with their first email campaigns these past couple of months.

Next, Google Shopping listings are now free.  To get started, install Shopify's Google Shopping app from the app store.

Shopify also announced new store experiences for inside of Facebook and Instagram that are powered by the online store.  This feature will be rolling out to all merchants over the coming months. 

Ping is Shopify's messaging app.  There are new ticketing features coming this year to help teams track their communication efforts with their customers.  But Ping is currently only available on iOS.  There's a waitlist for Android and no expectations set for desktop.  So this just doesn't seem ready for prime-time to me.

There are new product states coming soon, draft and archive.  Archive will be useful to keep old product history in your store without having it clutter your list of current products. 

Shopify is currently rolling out a new Orders interface in the Shopify admin.  It has been redesigned to help store staff more quickly process orders. 

Shopify is currently rolling out a Purchase Order suite of tools that will let stores order, track and receive inventory from their suppliers. 

Shopify is currently rolling out a rebuild of its server rendering engine.  The result, according to Shopify, should be at least a 40% improvement in load times for your store.  That's pretty awesome!

And coming soon, there will be a performance dashboard in the Shopify admin.   It will allow stores to see their site performance tracked over time and see what changes were made to the theme by staff and apps.  This should help stores understand the cause and effect that theme and app changes have on-site performance.

And the last set of changes, I wouldn't call features because these are much bigger.  I think of them as wholly new services.  And these fall under the bucket of finance. 

Shopify brands the first new service as Shopify balance.  It sounds to me like a business bank account.  But think how certain banking features, like a line of credit, could be different from Shopify as they will understand your current order volume and are focused on merchants.  Shopify says they'll roll out early access in the US this year.

And lastly, Shop Pay, will be adding installments for customers.  This is much like the services already provided by Sezzle, Affirm or Partial.ly.  Customers will have the option of paying in four equal installments with no interest.  Shopify is adding stores to the waitlist for this now.

So that's the full list of announcements.  There's a lot of good stuff there.  My recommendation is not to get too excited about the future stuff.  Instead focus on seeing if you can leverage the new features that are currently available.  Don't forget, there's links to Shopify's documentation on each of them in the show notes.  That said, make sure you focus on things that should have a positive impact on your business.  Don't get caught up in new features, just because they are fun and exciting.  Maintaining focus is an important part of being successful. 

That's all I've got for this episode.  Don't forget, I have a full-service Shopify agency, so if you need help, send me an email at scott@jadepuma.com.  My most common projects are new store builds, site redesigns, new store features and email.

Thanks for listening.  



Jade Puma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.


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