Shopify sees its developer platform as key to driving the future trends of e-commerce

As Shopify continues to benefit from the shift in consumer habits amid COVID-19, the company says its developers and developer ecosystem have more power than ever to play a larger role in driving the future trends of e-commerce.

“Developers right now have more power than they’ve had in a long time to help shape the future of the industry by building technology to help brands quickly and effectively meet evolving consumer expectations,” said Fatima Yusuf, Shopify’s director of partnerships, ecosystem.

“Commerce accelerated so much in this last year, we’ve basically pushed the industry forward by 10 years.”

The ecosystem consists of both Shopify’s developers as well as partnered developers that agree to build apps directly on Shopify’s platform. Partners include prominent e-commerce software companies Klaviyo, PostScript and Winnipeg-based Bold Commerce. Shopify’s developer ecosystem consists of 5,900 apps.

“Commerce accelerated so much in this last year, we’ve basically pushed the industry forward by 10 years,” Yusuf said. “Not only are more consumers shopping online, but it also completely propelled forward the need for more e-commerce tools and technology.”

Yusuf, who oversees Shopify’s growing developer ecosystem, said as Shopify’s base of merchants increases and diversifies, their individual needs and problems can be personally addressed by the ecosystem.

“I want every single merchant that joins Shopify to have exactly what they need to build, grow and scale their business,” said Yusuf. “That’s the direction that we want to grow the ecosystem.”

To meet this demand, Shopify’s ecosystem is working to help merchants catch up by becoming what Yusuf called a “developer-first company.” She said one of Shopify’s top initiatives this year is to hire 2021 engineers. In January, Shopify announced plans to double the size of its engineering team by hiring 2,021 new technical staff.

“The ultimate goal is to get as many developers [as possible] building, to create value for merchants,” Yusuf said. “We want merchants to win, and we want as many developers on our side of the table.”

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“We now have 5,900 apps in the ecosystem, and last year we paid out $233 million (USD) to developers in our ecosystem, which is more than 2018 and 2019 combined,” she told BetaKit.

One of the ways developers are helping merchants reach customers directly during the pandemic is finding new ways to circumvent the in-store experience entirely, Yusuf said. Examples include making online shopping more personalized and interactive, and identifying emerging trends like social commerce through social media engagement.

Shopify’s investments in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and utilizing videos and 3D to preview products, are further examples of the company’s work towards redefining personalized online shopping.

“We know that 54 percent of younger consumers who purchase from independent retailers in 2020 discover brands through social media,” Yusuf said. “These channels are becoming more and more relevant to merchant marketing strategies.”

Yusuf mentioned Shopify’s social media partnerships with Facebook and Tik Tok as specific channels the company is exploring for other emerging trends, including live selling.

Live selling, which are live videos showcasing products to online audiences, is a popular trend in China that Yusuf hopes to see gain more traction in western markets. Livescale Technologies is one example of a live seller app that is part of Shopify’s developer ecosystem. The Montreal-based startup raised $2.5 million CAD in March to hire new employees and launch in Europe and the United States.

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As for the current landscape of e-commerce, Yusuf believes consumer behaviours and newly emerging channels to reach online consumers will remain unchanged after the pandemic.

In the midst of helping merchants transition to online and finding new ways to sell directly to consumers during COVID, Shopify has made gains in the e-commerce market share dominated by Amazon. Shopify continues to boast significant net income growth each quarter during the pandemic, hitting a record revenue in 2020 of $2.9 billion USD, an 86 percent increase from 2019.

During the company’s Q1 2021 financial results call on April 28, Shopify announced a total revenue of $988.6 million with growth accelerating to 110 percent year-over-year. This is up from $470 million in the first quarter of 2020.

“My view is a lot of these trends are definitely here to stay and the reason is because we were already trending in this direction,” said Yusuf. “The consequences of the pandemic really accelerated this path, as opposed to creating a new path.”

Image source Burst

Daniel Centeno

Daniel Centeno

Daniel Centeno is a multimedia journalist from Toronto. He covers sports, film, business and tech, and Canadian politics. Mighty Ducks aficionado and forever nostalgic for Back to the Future.