26 June 2018

The Future Of ECommerce: Shopify’s Perspective From Unite 2018.

In the 25 years I have been using the internet many things have changed, but quite a lot is still the same. The Product > Basket > Checkout model remains intact. This looks to be a model that will stay with us forever, with progress seeming to be focused on refining aspects of the online buying model rather than completely reinventing it. After attending the Shopify Unite Conference in Toronto, it’s clear that Shopify is at the forefront of refining the online buying model we all know so well and improving the e-commerce experience overall. 

Future directions for Shopify

After attending the Shopify Unite Conference in Toronto (Read: My summary of the Shopify Unite Product Announcements 2018), Shopify laid out their plans on how they saw the increased maturity of the eCommerce model. Their efforts were a mix of sensible improvements to fixing gaps with the commerce model in addition to forward-thinking improvement. While Shopify is primarily used as a digital retail solution, they seem to be increasingly looking at how they can play a better part of the whole retail experience. Specifically, Shopify looks to be focused on the following weak components of the current digital retail experience:

  • Fragmentation of the online to offline experience

  • Limitations of static images for product representation

Online / offline experience fragmentation

Shopify was originally founded as a purely online commerce solution, so it is interesting to see them pursue improvements to their POS system. There are two very interesting areas that Shopify is looking to improve upon.

  • The development of a range of sleek-looking hardware which will fill out their POS offering, and

  • Creating a more seamless multichannel retail solution.

What does this mean? While Shopify is increasingly cementing its position as a go-to solution for eCommerce, it may well come to pass that Shopify may consume the standardised elements of traditional POS for retail.

Implications for merchants

If you were a small retail store that needed a basic website and integrated POS system, Shopify now becomes a very appealing turn-key option. The combination of a single POS and eCommerce solution that will enable cool capabilities around having a single view and management of customers.

Multi-channel capabilities

  • Single system management for sales

  • Elimination of separate retail systems, eliminating a potential point of system failure.

  • Streamlined management of returns and exchanges

  • Improved tracking and alignment of offline and online behaviour.

  • Cost savings from integrating two different system

Implications for existing POS system providers

This could create problems for mass-scale lightweight pure-digital POS providers, like Vend. As Shopify can look to offer a more complete solution, without the complication of an integration. Within the retail system ecosystem, this could push back-office and POS providers to become more niche and with Shopify taking place as a solution for common POS. The existing providers could deliver more value-added industry-specific solutions. Shopify will definitely go for the mass market, so I don’t see this change affecting specialist or enterprise providers. 

3D content in your Shopify store

Shopify presently only supports fixed product imagery, a very simple but powerful improvement is to allow the embedding of 3D content. Particularly in industries where 3D models are readily available, this could be a very quick way to step up the e-commerce experience. For example, this could be an exciting development for online furniture sales. But, it may not be economically viable for lower volume low-value transactions (like fast fashion). 

Shopify and Augmented Reality

I am a huge fan of VR. I have all 3 versions of the Oculus Rift (DK1, DK2, CR). Unfortunately for me, I suffer from a profound case of motion sickness, which makes for a rough ride exploring the area while VR experience best practices are worked out. My deep interest in VR naturally extends to Augmented Reality (AR) as well. I have a good understanding of the capabilities and limitations of both VR and AR platforms. So when the head of VR for Shopify stepped onto the stage at Unite 2018, I was sceptical about what kind of value he was going to bring. But, I have to say I was surprised - they had a working demo for an Augmented Reality experience that allowed you to select a product and place it on a physical flat surface using your mobile phone. I think their idea is smart.

My own thinking for AR and VR had been focused on the “perfect” experience and capabilities of VR like trying clothes on virtually, as opposed to an incremental one. Perfect experiences don’t currently work very well in VR and AR. But that doesn’t mean there are other ways to use their capabilities to give a focused value offering such as a flat lat. The value of being able to place items onto a flat surface provides a more realistic means of placing items next to each other and comparing them, to look at how products can compare. I see this as really exciting in a couple of instances:

  • Visually comparing two different products - Do these pants and shoes in my shopping basket match?

  • Comparing or complimenting a physical and a virtual product - Does this chair match my table at home?

  • Potential Improving special awareness - Will this couch fit in my living room?

Bottom line

Shopify definitely is thinking about the future. Time will tell if the Augmented Reality changes will come to fruition. There are a number of factors that will determine the commercial viability of creating 3D models for every product. However, the Shopify POS solution with its multi-channel capability and opportunity to streamline the number of systems in use would be an enticing consideration for many merchants.

Want to know more?

If you would like to talk to us about how these and other changes apply to you, get in touch at greg@lamb.com.au or check us out at http://www.lamb.com.au

About Lamb Agency

Lamb Agency is a Shopify expert. We specialise in premium solutions on the Shopify Plus platform. We work with national brands including Dissh Boutiques, Oz Trail, Price Attack, Rhythm Livin' and many others. We have extensive experience with eCommerce, specialising in the construction and optimisation of online stores.

Greg is the Managing Director of Lamb Agency, a digital agency focused on creating industry-leading websites.

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