Shopify has been enjoying a period of rapid growth as it aspires to become what an executive has described as the “world’s first retail operating system.”
But it’s not outgrowing the small sellers that have made it one of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world.
“Micro-sellers, solopreneurs, SMBs — however you choose to refer to them — they are the foundation of Shopify,” explained Lola Oyelayo-Pearson, Shopify’s director of UX.
“Shopify was built as a scalable retail operating system for merchants, which means early entrepreneurs — or those that decide to stay small — have access to the same game-changing technology that empowers commerce for some of the world’s most-recognized brands,” Oyelayo-Pearson said in an email interview.
Indeed, the fundamental premise of Shopify is a low barrier for entry for small sellers, while offering the premium Shopify Plus service that handles ecommerce for major brands like Heinz, Staples and Molson Coors.
Basic plans with Shopify start at $29 a month, which buys a website and online store, unlimited product listings and multichannel sales options so sellers can reach customers on an array of online marketplaces and social networks. Shopify then offers two more robust plans, at $79 and $299 a month, as well as its enterprise-level Shopify Plus option.
For small and large sellers alike, Oyelayo-Pearson says that the company has been working hard on improving “discoverability,” aiming to deliver what she calls “multichannel commerce out of the box.”
A major part of that effort involves connecting sellers with buyers on social sites, and the company is planning to expand its partnership with TikTok in multiple regions of the world this year.
“Finding customers is a longtime pain point for merchants,” Oyelayo-Pearson said, noting the company’s partnerships with Facebook, Google, Pinterest and others “to empower our merchants to tap into the world’s largest audiences.”
“The ability to develop a direct relationship with customers is the superpower of Shopify merchants, but a business isn’t built with a single channel,” she said. “So it’s important that we enable our merchants to be wherever their customers are.”
Shopify is also planning this year to roll out Balance, its finance services tool that will offer banking, credit and a rewards program for merchants. The company is currently adding names to a waiting list for the service.
Oyelayo-Pearson did not directly address speculation that Shopify might launch its own marketplace, bringing it into full competition with the likes of Amazon.
“We believe merchants should have direct relationships with their customers, and everything we do is in pursuit of enabling that,” she said in response to a question about whether the company is thinking about its own marketplace. A company spokesman declined to comment further.
But one thing that won’t change about Shopify is its embrace of small sellers, Oyelayo-Pearson insists.
“Shopify operates on the premise that the world is better off with more entrepreneurs,” she said. “So we’ve built a platform that is accessible to business owners with varying levels of experience, without sacrificing the capabilities that are usually only afforded to enterprise brands.”