Notes from Shopify Unite 2019
What a whirlwind week we just had in Toronto for Shopify Unite 2019. Unite has become the exclamation mark that punctuates Shopify's yearly cycle of design iteration, customer requirements research and seemingly relentless software development to push the Shopify platform to the next level. This year did not disappoint and indeed the 2019 two-day Unite event was unique both in terms of scope of the announcements and size of the event itself. We learned some fascinating insights about the inner workings of Shopify's platform, salivated over the exciting new features that will make our lives and our clients' lives much easier and of course will push their online stores to be even more profitable. The announcements are always a highlight but it was great to catch up with our friends in Shopify, our peers in the community and to meet new and interesting people and agencies who have built their businesses around the Shopify platform. We're looking forward to getting to work on all of these great new features.
The key announcements were delivered on the main stage over two days by the management team at Shopify. They covered all the areas of Shopify that we and our merchants were anticipating: new store features in Core and Advanced plans, Point of Sale (POS), Backoffice, Shopify Plus (some stellar improvements there - kudos to the Plus dev teams who really pushed the boat out here), developer products and of course the incredible news that Shopify is moving into the fulfilment business with their own fulfillment network (initially launching in North America) that will rival some of the world's biggest fulfilment and distribution networks.
Core Online Store Announcements
The Shopify admin on every store has undergone some serious design and feature changes. Sections are now available on every page - that means as a merchant you have even more control over how your homepage, collection pages and product pages look without the need for a developer or designer to go in under the hood to make layout changes. Master pages are another great feature that will allow you to define a master page that is associated with a group of pages so you only need to edit one single page to affect the layout of all the pages assigned to that master page. Content will now no longer be stored in themes.
Advanced Online Store Announcements
For merchants with more specific and unique requirements, there have been some significant updates to the Storefront API which will allow you to sell in multiple currencies, utilise multiple languages for different global regions and to leverage and benefit from the improvements in speed across the Shopify platform. Multicurrency will now be rolled out for all Shopify merchants, not just those on the Plus platform.
Shopify POS Announcements
We saw some very positive improvements to the Shopify POS offering. Shopify is really pushing this aspect of their business as they strive to ensure the in-store experience is just as powerful as their online offering. Speed enhancements have been announced along with much better loyalty and promotions placement directly within the app. No more leaving the POS app to view details of your customers' loyalty rewards. The POS app itself has been redesigned from the ground up that prioritises quick and seamless workflows at the till. This will ultimately help your staff focus on what they do best in-store which is providing human-to-human interactions that contribute to making each sale a positive experience.
Backoffice Improvements + Enhancements
There were some very significant announcements around the Shopify admin tools. These range from a new fulfillment API (currently in beta) that will enable app developers to give their users more control into order fulfillment. Shipping rules will now be set using per-product shipping meaning you can set shipping rules based on product characteristics like bulky, fragile or food items. After a very long wait, Order Editing will soon become available. This is one of the most requested features we see and so we are delighted Shopify have finally moved on this and have enabled orders to be adjusted after a sale has been completed.
Shopify Plus Announcement
Shopify's enterprise offering - Shopify Plus - has seen some game-changing changes applied to it. Shopify Flow will now be available across all stores under a single account and the dashboard for the main Plus store will now show detailed, aggregated stats for all stores. If you are a Plus merchant or are considering moving to Shopify to handle your business online and in-store you should check out the new Plus page on Shopify's site and then get in touch with us.
Developer Products Announcements
The tools we use to build some of Ireland's highest-performing Shopify stores are varied and Shopify has given us a great boost this year by providing some improvements and updates to their developer tools. Libraries for GraphQL have been updated to allow some of the most popular languages to utilise the GraphQL approach to getting data from Shopify's servers - this essentially means amazing speed increases for your store as we utilise Shopify's preferred way to interact with their servers. New tools to allow development stores to be seeded with test products and complex scaffolding tools to ensure custom themes are developed quickly and efficiently means a faster workflow for us and an overall better shopping experience for your merchants.
Shopify Fulfillment Network
Shopify announced their geographically dispersed network of fulfilment centres at Unite this year. This was by far the most unexpected and exciting development of the two-day event. By utilising smart inventory-allocation technology and combining it with machine learning that predicts the closest fulfilment centres and optimal inventory quantities per location Shopify can ensure fast, low-cost delivery (across North America only for now while they iron out the kinks). Shopify is promising a 99.5% certainty and accuracy. This means orders are picked, packed and out on time without error. Their fulfilment network will also support returns and exchanges, custom packing options, multiple sales channels (online, retail Instagram, eBay and Amazon etc.) as a dedicated account manager who has logistics and Shopify expertise will also be on hand for each merchant.
Overall we were blown away not only by the number of announcements but also by how broad they were; almost every aspect of the store owner and store developer/designer experience has been improved. We were also very excited by the fulfilment network announcement which now positions Shopify within the top 5 global ecommerce platforms. As Shopify COO Harvey Finkelstein said at Unite, Shopify is now a global "retail operating system" and we're stoked to see what the next 12-18 months holds for our clients and the platform itself as things continue to progress with such lighting speed at Shopify and Milk Bottle!