Yaguara's Shopify Unite 2019 Recap

June 26, 2019
eCommerce
Jonathan Smalley

Shopify Unite is Shopify’s annual developer and partner conference. This is my (and Yaguara’s) first year in attendance, so we thought we’d chronicle the experience. 

The format:

Unite consists of 4 different types of events: Keynotes, Breakout Sessions, Office Hours, and Parties and is attended by 2 main cohorts service providers (mostly marketing and dev agencies) and technology partners (largely companies who build shopify apps).

The actual conference runs 2 days and begins each day with a Keynote. These are where shopify leadership speaks about the broader shopify landscape, new release (more to come here), and opportunities that exist. 

Breakout Sessions focus around a specific topic such as “how to make good apps great” or “Choosing GraphQL: APIs for the future.” I know they sound riveting. These were lead either by Shopify middle type management or a highlighted partner. 

Additionally, Office Hours gave attendees a chance to get 1-on-1 time with shopify employees where you could ask direct questions around App launching and support, deepening partnerships, helping customers utilize Shopify technology better, etc. 

Finally, the Parties. While there was only 1 official Shopify party there are events going on every night (M-T) around the conference. They present a good chance to get more face time with other attendees and potential partners. 

Okay, who cares about the format. Let’s talk about what we thought mattered at Unite. There were many large releases, but the following were the most meaningful in this order:

  1. Fulfillment
  2. Everything else

Fulfillment

Holy sh*t -- Shopify is getting physical in a very real way. This was the talk of the town as soon as it was announced. Shopify is launching a fulfillment network which will give merchants a seamless end to end experience from creating your eCommerce site to selling at a brick & mortar (more to come here) to the final pick, packing, and fulfilling of orders to customers. This is a big move. One of the data points Shopify shared was that by number of orders Shopify is the largest retailer in the US behind only Amazon and Ebay.

Image courtesy of Shopify

Along with the fulfillment network, Shopify also launched a fulfillment API. This allows your 3PL/logistics providers (like say... Shopify Fulfillment) to easily communicate order status back into your Shopify store allowing merchants and customers alike to have a better, more up-to-date idea of where their order is, shipping costs, and time to fulfillment. 

Shopify has always had an ethos of empowering entrepreneurs and by rolling out fulfillment they are encouraging merchants to bet on themselves and ditch the behemoth that is Amazon. Shopify made it clear their “operating system” is designed to give merchants the infrastructure they need to be empowered and not to take advantage of their brand and customer base to drive sales for themselves. We're looking at you Amazon.

Everything Else

Shopify plus customers can now manage all of their stores under a single login! This is big for us here @ Yaguara and for many of the merchants we work with. This will allow for apps (like Yaguara!) to have access to data from all your stores with a single authentication. Additionally, it will make spinning up a new store significantly easier. This is particularly interesting with some of the improvement around international support

International focus was another point of emphasis. Shopify is drastically increasing the number of languages and currencies that are supported and improving user experience around regional things like date formatting. 

Image courtesy of Shopify

Shopify is also rolling out some compelling updates to their core product: eCommerce stores. Mainly around improved customization of store templates, offering 3D modeling of goods, and increased site performance (load speed, etc.). These feel a bit more incremental certainly than the fulfillment announcement, but should nonetheless improve merchant and customer experiences. 

Image courtesy of Shopify

The final release worth noting is POS updates. D2C brands are increasingly investing in popups or their own long term brick and mortars and Shopify is evolving to better support those needs and tie data together across physical and digital. Some notable updates are inclusion of loyalty programs and promotions. Additionally, these updates will make the POS much more partner friendly, meaning that many of your favorite apps will be available soon via POS. 

Summary

My first Unite experience was extremely valuable to us as Shopify partners. The production value was top notch, but without feeling like you had to drink the Kool-aid to be inspired. Shopify is continuing to push forward merchant infrastructure at an incredibly impressive pace.