Shopify Inc. presented a series of product enhancements and partnerships aimed at expanding its merchants' reach as the company grapples with shifts in pandemic shopping habits and a recent stock slide.
At a new, semi-annual showcase called Shopify Editions on Wednesday, the Ottawa e-commerce giant laid out more than 100 product updates made over the last six months, including several that launch this week.
The updates are meant to usher in a new era of business Shopify has dubbed "connect to consumer."
"At the beginning of the direct-to-consumer revolution 10 (to) 15 years ago, it was enough to just make it easy to buy online and complete the transaction, but today, things have changed and just getting the transaction is no longer enough," said Glen Coates, Shopify's vice-president of product, core, at a media roundtable ahead of Editions.
"It is absolutely essential for a commerce business in 2022 to build those lifelong connections, lifelong fans, and deep relationships with their customers in order to make the business work, frankly."
Shopify will work to facilitate those connections through a Twitter partnership that will prominently display products on profiles, making it easier to facilitate sales through social media, and a move to sync merchants' local inventory with Google, so they can automatically let nearby customers know when a product is available in store.
The company will also launch a tap-to-pay offering, allowing U.S. merchants to process transactions through their iPhones.
"This is a really big deal for merchants who want to test offline retail with things like pop-ups or people who are just getting started and want to wet their feet with a farmer's market," said Kaz Nejatian, Shopify's vice-president of product, merchant services.
"It's going to be super easy for them now to experiment with in-person selling without having to invest in buying more hardware or carrying this faceless dongle around that just takes up space for no reason.''
Asked whether the feature will eventually launch beyond the U.S., he said, "we want to expand that as quickly as we can."
However, global Shopify merchants will now be able to manage direct-to-consumer and business-to-business (B2B) operations and sales in a single platform, eliminating much of the complexity and archaic technology that companies encounter when pursuing both streams.
"The world of wholesale traditionally is a nightmarish world of spreadsheets and order forms and fax machines and just super old school stuff," said Nejatian.
"The world of B2B commerce software isn't much better. It's usually apps and plug-ins that are kind of off to the side of the main product and don't really integrate that well ... And so with B2B on Shopify, we're changing all of that."
Shopify will also expand its merchants' reach through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) _ data stored through blockchain technology providing proof of ownership of a digital asset such as an image, audio clip or a tweet. Shopify will allow shoppers to connect their NFT wallets to a store using Shopify software to validate they own an NFT, which will then unlock perks like exclusive access to online shops, products and collections.
The announcements meant to boost Shopify's value proposition come as retailers are grappling with whether the surge in online shopping seen during the COVID-19 pandemic will be sustained and how to cater to those that have returned to in-person shopping now that masking and other health measures have been dropped.
With economists fearing an upcoming recession and many businesses trying to make up for prolonged closures and cover off debts from the last two years, maximizing sales has never been more important for Shopify's merchants.
There's a lot at stake for the company too. Amid a broad market selloff that has particularly weighed on the tech sector, the price of Shopify's stock has sunk more than 70 per cent since its late 2021 peak of $2,228.73. It sat at $423.84 at Tuesday's close.
Meanwhile, global technology companies are implementing hiring freezes and carrying out layoffs as the exuberance around tech stocks fades and some predict a market correction or recession is forming.
Shares in Shopify's biggest competitor, Amazon.com Inc., have fallen about 40 per cent from its 52-week high of US$188.65 in July 2021 to US$106 in recent days, but the company still looms large because it's seen as the go-to online shopping and delivery platform and is bolstered by profits from Amazon Web Services, its cloud computing arm.
Shopify unveiled Editions around the same time as it would typically hold its annual Unite conference, which drew developers to Toronto for several days of significant announcements before the pandemic forced the company to take the event online.
Rather than host Unite again in a single city, Shopify said in a May blog that it is "branching out" to hold events in multiple regions around the world.