What is Shopify Plus?
Shopify Plus is Shopify’s enterprise software that is ideal for merchants doing $1.5M a year or more in online sales. Shopify Plus offers a ton of additional features above and beyond the “core” Shopify plans. With Plus you get dedicated support, discounts on apps, access to Shopify Scripts, Shopify Flow, access to Wholesale ordering and much more.
Brief History of Ecommerce
Historically the ecommerce platform space has been extremely fragmented with no company powering more than 11% of online stores. The top 4 leading companies in terms of # of stores (a different metric than platform gross merchant volume) are: WooCommerce, Magento, Shopify and Big Commerce. The first 2 platforms on the list are self-hosted platforms, the final 2 (Shopify and Big Commerce) are fully hosted SAAS solutions. If you want to learn more about fully hosted vs self-hosted ecommerce solutions, take a look at this post from earlier in the year.
Self-Hosted Solutions Require Extra Work
When you opt for a self-hosted solution you are required to manage your own servers and deal with infrastructure issues like: PCI compliance, credit card security site uptime, CDN’s and much more. To power Magento Enterprise or WooCommerce you need a programming team that can design and build your site, but they also need deep technical skills to power, manage and maintain your servers. If you think of the technology stack as a pyramid, self-hosted solutions require you to manage the bottom layer of the tech stack that is no longer value add for companies in the $1.5M – $50M space.
The Transition Period
Merchants have begun to realize that managing the bottom layer of the tech stack isn’t going to help them grow top line sales. Now the arms race has shifted from server administration to growth, how can merchants test new customer acquisition strategies, landing pages, products and apps that will help them grow their business.
Ten years ago the dominant player in the SMB space was Magento, but with the launch of Shopify Plus over 4 years ago there is now an enterprise level SAAS solution targeted towards businesses doing between $1.5M and $50M a year online. The introduction of a SAAS based enterprise solution has started a mind shift in merchants and they are rapidly moving towards fully hosted platforms.
Shopify is Pulling Ahead of Other SAAS Solutions
Five years ago, Shopify and Big Commerce both had approximately 40,000-50,000 stores on their respective platforms. Now in 2018 Shopify is at 600,000 merchants and Big Commerce is close to 80,000. Shopify is gaining momentum in total merchants, gross merchant value and most importantly the Shopify features have caught up to and surpassed many of the SAAS solutions. Shopify has been heads down creating augmented reality features, multi-language support, POS updates and making things simple for business owners. The announcements at Shopify Unite 2018 were an impressive list of advanced features that Shopify has on its roadmap for 2018.
Shopify Plus is Easy
Fast forward to 2018 and there are now more than 3,600 Shopify Plus stores. Shopify realized early on that small merchants don’t want to remain small, they want growth and a path to get there. Shopify Plus has many great features that allow for growth: customization of the checkout page, Shopify Scripts, wholesale channel, Merchant Success Manager, Shopify Flow and so many other great growth enablers.
“Something that potential investors must understand: we do not chase revenue as the primary driver of our business. Shopify has been about empowering merchants since it was founded, and we have always prioritized long-term value over short- term revenue opportunities. We don’t see this changing.”
Tobias Lutke, Shopify CEO illuminates the long-term vision he has for Shopify and the fact that Shopify is a purpose driven enterprise. Tobi has a mission to bring ecommerce tools to merchants everywhere and that resonates through his public presentations and give us the playbook to where Shopify is headed.
Rapidly Iterate on Customer Acquisition Strategies
On Shopify it is extremely easy to add functionality to your store without requiring extensive programming knowledge. There are over 2,400 public apps in the Shopify app store that you can quickly install on your site and test new features such as: loyalty programs, email capture, social media, shipping, customer service and much more. Connecting your social media and advertising channels through your store is simple and allows you to test out new ad copy, landing pages and other ways to bring new customers into your purchase funnel.
You can create custom designed landing pages and promote a special offer or giveaway to attract new customers. Implement Google Analytics and use the native Shopify reporting to gauge the quality of traffic to your site. Test many different traffic sources, does Facebook convert the best for you? What about Google product listing ads? Are you having a lot of success with content marketing? Dive in, iterate quickly and then drill down farther on the traffic that converts best for your store.
Shopify is the Future for SMB
Shopify announced support for multi-language, multi-currency and multi-location inventory support at Shopify Unite in May 2018. These 3 features were critical infrastructure updates as they set the stage for future Shopify Plus features. A common request from Shopify Plus stores is for multi store dashboard and analytics support and now that there is the ability to track inventory across different locations I wouldn’t be surprised if Shopify announces support for organizing data across many stores.
Shopify is now over 3,500 employees (in comparison WooCommerce has ~100 employees) and with these resources Shopify can tackle a multitude of new features each year. With Tobi as Shopify’s CEO and his commitment to making ecommerce simple for merchants, it makes my life easy recommending Shopify Plus to our SMB merchants.