It all started to fulfill an own need to create an online shop: Back in Ottawa in 2006 Tobias Lütke together with a bunch of friends was looking for the perfect software to start selling snowboards in the WWW–and could not find anything suitable.

So he started to build his own software to create an online snowboard store called Snowdevil. “It quickly became obvious that the software was more valuable than the snowboards,” the company says, and the idea to launch an all-in-one commerce platform called Shopify was born.



Still headquartered in Ottawa, Shopify’s core business today is the supply of cloud-based shop-systems: the company designs, sets up and manages retailers’ stores across multiple sales channels, including mobile, web, social media, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar stores, and pop-up stores. It manages everything–from payment to shipping.

Online shopping
Photo: Shopify
Online shopping
Although it was initially addressed to small and mid-size companies, now businesses of all sizes use Shopify’s software and platform, whether they are selling online, in retail stores or on the go. And whether they sell plants or pullovers or papers. Brands such as Allbirds, Gymshark, Staples, Ryzon, Buckle & Seam and Giesswein already work with Shopify. Its services can be used in 19 different languages and besides the mere technical tools the company offers 24/7 support, tutorials, a blog full of case studies, help centers and organizes meet-ups in every single region it operates. The Canadian company offers solutions stating from $29 per month.

The next step towards making business increasingly easier is the Shopify Fulfillment Network, “which will provide merchants with a network of distributed fulfillment centers and utilize machine learning to ensure timely deliveries and lower shipping costs,” the company recently reported. “It is designed to democratize commerce and make it easier for our merchants to reach for independence,” says Lütke.

Smooth processes and uncomplicated services are what Shopify aims to offer. And while the company is growing in its existing markets as well as entering more and more new countries, the service concept still is priority number one and that is the reason why Shopify has opened and opens more and more branches in its newer markets–one of which is in Berlin, Kreuzberg. There, in one of Berlin’s typical backyards, we met Roman Rochel, responsible for international growth at Shopify, an economist with lots of start-up-experiences who joined the Canadian company in February 2019. “We have been focused on the North American market so far, now we want to work even more on our product to consider even more of the needs of every single local market,” Rochel says.

Roman Rochel, Head of European Growth, Shopify
Photo: Shopify
Roman Rochel, Head of European Growth, Shopify
What does that mean in practice? “Different markets have different needs, for example different preferences regarding payment, construction of the website, marketing. In Germany for example the topic compliance is a very huge issue,” Rochel says and adds, that “a local team understands much better the feelings and particularities every single market has to deal with than a headquarter from far away.” However, reducing the barriers for every single market participant seems to be Shopify’s DNA; the company acts in a very sensitive way regarding local peculiarities–because this also means offering best service. “All we want is a democratization of technology: Years ago technology was only accessible and affordable to huge companies. What we do is providing technical possibilities to everyone. The best thing about our product is: You don’t have to be a techie to get along with Shopify,” Rochel says. Although most of Shopify’s clients offer an online business, he still believes in brick and mortar: “For me, stationary retail is absolutely relevant. We see that even more online shops start with real stores such as Allbirds, and Shopify, by offering the right cash systems, for example, is the right partner for these projects as well.”

What about social media? “Social media is really a huge chance for retailers,” Rochel thinks. “90% of all online shoppers are using social media channels.” Whether retailers should work with Instagram or other providers really depends on the products they want to sell as well as on their aimed target group, Rochel believes. “For fashion business I think videos would be very suitable.” The main thing is, the economist says, that everything is connected–retailers’ created posts with Instagram with product tags, so the user gets the impression that everything happens on only one website.



Today in Europe about 100,000 retailers work with Shopify. “In Germany we have almost doubled the number of our merchants,” Rochel says. “We have to show our customers new ways to be successful, how to reduce hurdles, how it becomes easier for them to sell. So we grow as a platform as well as our merchants’ businesses grow.”

 

Shopify is a listed company and has grown to have more than 4,000 employees with over one million businesses installed and powered by Shopify in more than 175 countries covering a total sales worth of US$135 billion, the company says.


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