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7 expectations for Shopify Unite 2019

We’re less than a week away from Unite, Shopify’s headline annual conference for the global Shopify Partner community.  Now in its fourth year it has come a long way from its humble beginnings in March 2016 when the first event took place in San Francisco.  It returned to San Fran in 2017 before finding (we hope) its permanent home in the wonderful city of Toronto.

Last year’s event was a breakthrough in terms of the scale and ambition of the event which was matched by the sheer volume of new product feature announcements and global expansion of the Shopify Partner community.  We were particularly taken with the ambitious commitment to deliver so many significant product updates across a wide swathe of Shopify’s offerings - everything from Shopify Plus to Shopify POS saw feature releases/announcements including the most requested trifecta - Multi-Location, Multi-Currency and Multi-Channel. At the time we had reservations that Shopify could deliver on such a large number of non-trivial platform improvements but we needn’t have had such concerns … the Shopify teams have walked the walk and the platform is significantly improved with these new capabilities.

So that brings us to next week...what should we expect?  Well here at the Milk Bottle Creamery we’ve been gazing into the crystal ball and making our predictions… here’s some random things we think might be covered next week:

1. The Global Opportunity

Most of Shopify’s customer base, revenues and focus has been centred on the North American and English-Speaking world (including us here in Ireland!).  But the world is a much bigger place. Following on from the multilingual platform improvements during 2018 we expect more progress on addressing the other 6 billion non-English speaking citizens of the planet.  Certainly the attendees at UNITE 2019 will represent a broader canvas of cultures, countries, languages and backgrounds than ever before and we expect that many of the product announcements will reflect this larger market opportunity for Shopify.

2. Retail Still Matters

The Shopify POS solution has slowly evolved into a fresher Shopify Retail brand.  What was once an “Oh, we also have a point of sale solution for your pop-up shop” is transforming into an Omnichannel stronghold for Shopify.  If our own experiences are anything to go by when engaging with the market over the past 12 months, building or migrating an online store is no longer a standalone exercise. Frequently, retail POS and wider business processes are increasingly being included in more and more of our projects.  Essentially, more and more of the larger businesses are undertaking what is essentially a Business Transformation project and placing Shopify at the heart of their business. On the back of this market dynamic, we expect many new announcements around the Shopify Retail offering.

3. Entrepreneurs tend to build more than one business

We’ve seen at first hand our clients build multiple businesses on Shopify having seen the benefits of the platform.  The platform as it currently stands could do more to help those merchants save time and resources when managing and running those businesses.  Expect to see core improvements in how merchants can collate, report, import, export and update across multiple Shopify stores - all designed to smoothen the path of the entrepreneur and embolden them to build new businesses and enter new markets.

4. The Tech, the Whole Tech and Nothing but the Tech

When you are supporting ~1million businesses across the globe you gotta make sure you are taking advantage of the best-in-class technologies out there.  We’ve always been struck by how forward-looking the technology teams are in Shopify. We're expecting to hear of advances in how they will be bringing GraphQL to the front of Shopify app and theme development to improve performance and reach and to offer a speedier way of interacting with the data on Shopify's servers that is a departure from the traditional API approach.  We are also expecting to hear announcements around specific developer tools (things like Theme Kit and Slate that we use everyday to design and develop hi-traffic, hi-volume Shopify stores) as well as progressions with Polaris (Shopify's design system used to create apps that look and feel like part of the Shopify eco-system).

5. Partnering Partners

One of the best things about UNITE is simply the face-to-face time we get with our fellow Shopify Experts, Partners, App and Theme developers and the wider Shopify ecosystem.  Last year I wrote a post on the way to UNITE 2018 which is still valid today - that sense of collective camaraderie when meeting fellow Shopify Partners is essential to the whole UNITE experience.  Lately, we’ve begun to notice a network effect taking hold across the Shopify App developer community. More and more of us are working collaboratively to cross-promote each other’s offerings to their merchant base.  It’s the start of what I feel is a wider cross-pollination of solutions that ultimately will lead to mergers between independent app and agency partners to come together to address an even bigger market opportunity. It’s not all just keynotes and parties ;-)

6. Plus-Size fits All

Shopify’s enterprise platform Shopify Plus continues to sweep all before it, with many of the World’s leading brands launching on Shopify Plus.  We’re expecting a bunch of Plus-centric product updates that will make it easier for larger businesses to manage and run both B2B and B2C channels, increased performance improvements for merchants on the plus platform and streamlined integrations via a range of new Plus technology partners that will see Shopify being chosen for more and more large-scale deployments by businesses that would previously have never considered Shopify. We also expect the Plus product team to make it easier to manage and monitor who gets to do what in a Plus store - in particular the audit trail could be stronger and providing more restrictions on staff and collaborators would be welcomed.

7. Toronto is the Star

For me the city is the ideal backdrop to UNITE.  It’s a perfect reflection of the Shopify Partner community - inclusive, modern, grounded, accessible, interesting, fun, humble and wanting to be better.  We’re really looking forward to connecting again with so many of our friends and meeting new faces and opportunities. Get in touch if you will be at the event and want to catch up … and we can see how we’ve done with our predictions above!