“Shopify is evolving into the world’s first retail operating system,” says Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein. “We think the future of retail is retail everywhere. A brand that’s going to be successful in 5, 10 or 15 years from now needs to sell across any platform and across any channel where they have customers. The idea is that it all feeds back in one centralized back-office, the retail operating system, which is Shopify.”
Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, discusses how COVID has dramatically sped up the timeline for commerce moving online and has also moved Shopify closer to its goal of becoming the world’s first retail operating system:
Shopify Evolving Into World’s First Retail Operating System
Most people assume that Shopify is an ecommerce provider. We have more than a million stores on Shopify. If you were to aggregate our stores in the US we’d be the second-largest online retailer in America. Of course, we’re not a retailer but we’re a platform. But we now have these great economies of scale that we’re using to level the playing field for entrepreneurs and small businesses. That being said, what really Shopify is evolving into is the world’s first retail operating system.
What we’re trying to figure out is what do brands and entrepreneurs and retailers need, not just now but in the future? We think the future of retail is retail everywhere. A brand that’s going to be successful in 5, 10 or 15 years from now needs to sell across any platform and across any channel where they have customers. This idea of enabling Shopify merchants to very easily push their products to the Amazon Marketplace or the eBay marketplace or now the Walmart marketplace, that gives them access to a new set of consumers. The idea is that it all feeds back in one centralized back-office, the retail operating system, which is Shopify.
Then we’ve gone ahead and asked what else can we do for these merchants? Can we do capital? We’ve now given out about a billion dollars worth of cash advances and loans to small businesses. We’re doing fulfillment and we’re doing shipping. We’re increasing the scope and the relationship that we have with the million stores on Shopify. This is allowing them to become category leaders.
COVID Speeds Up The Ecommerce Revolution
From our view, it seems like the commerce world that would have existed in the year 2030 has really been pulled into the year 2020 (as a result of the COVID crisis). We’ve seen ecommerce as a percent of total retail go from 15 percent to 25 percent in the last three months. That’s the same growth rate that we’ve seen over the last 10 years. What really has emerged here is sort of this tale of two retail worlds. On one side you have these resilient retailers that are doing great, they’re pivoting, and they’re expanding their businesses. On the other side, you have these resistant retailers who have not made it. In many ways, it’s probably the most exciting time for retail in a very long time.
We talk a lot about these direct to consumer brands that are becoming category leaders. The Allbirds and the Gymsharks who started on Shopify when they were very small and have grown to become the incumbents in their industry. Every 25 seconds a brand new entrepreneur makes his or her (products) for sale on Shopify. We talk a lot about those new startups, those new DTC brands. But actually, what we’re also seeing on Shopify are companies like Lindt Chocolate or Heinz ketchup or Chipotle. They are signing up for Shopify and basically from like five days from contract to launch they are completely changing their businesses.
This resiliency isn’t simply in the hands of just the smallest of brands. Big companies are also beginning to think a lot more about how to stay resilient in this time. They’re moving well beyond ecommerce or thinking about offline commerce now. They’re thinking about how do they sell across social media? How do they sell across different marketplaces? So no, I don’t think it’s too late (to enter ecommerce) but I do think they have to rethink their strategies.