Shopify will continue to be a dominant force in 2021 e-commerce and it will remain the launching pad for many startups and entrepreneurs looking to compete in e-commerce due to its cost, stability, and ease of use. But the folks at Shopify are not satisfied with being a leader for small businesses. They have continued to attract larger businesses with Shopify Plus (dedicated support team, staging services and more) and the ability to add features, functionality and unique experiences. With the cash and the established brand there’s no doubt Shopify will look to solidify its leadership among the SaaS platforms while still looking to shed a fading reputation that it’s not flexible for the mid market and enterprise. Clearly it is because many large retailers and merchants are using it. Here are the features we see merchants leveraging in 2021 and the e-commerce trends we think the Shopify roadmap will look to exploit this year.

Conversational Commerce and Explosion of “Ping” Usage

Shopify recognizes that social conversations, texting, and product recommendations are all coming together as a part of customer experience and so they developed Ping and easy-to-use messaging app that allows merchants to easily talk with their consumers. Ping really took off during the pandemic in support of e-commerce and contact-less experiences and it is poised to be adopted with exponential growth in 2021. The stats around its growth are pretty amazing, per Shopify’s growth report.

  • From March 16 to July 1, interactions between customers and merchants increased by 85% on Shopify Ping (compared to the same time period prior). Conversational commerce is driving genuine connection with customers–and sales.
  • From March 16 to July 1, the number of merchants using Shopify Ping to engage with their customers increased by 72%.
  • Sales attributed to chat increased by 185% during the same time period.

Selling in China with Alipay

Alipay is available on other platforms but is a recent addition to the Shopify infrastructure. For this reason it will provide merchandising and selling capability to smaller businesses and niche brands that want to sell overseas in places like China. It will be an easy growth play for many B2C merchants and and brands with D2C opportunity to expect it to grow and to have very high adoption this year.

For more details, check out what Shopify has to say about the partnership.

Social Commerce: Branded Facebook Shops

For Shopify merchants that support their online sales with digital marketing and awareness building using targeted facebook / Instagram this feature is a no brainer. It’s a social headless play and allows for easy seamless merchandising between the ad and product information without leaving Facebook.  Look for increasing adoption as merchants and consumers expect more seamless merchandising on social platforms.

Better Checkout – More Innovation in 2021

Shopify solved its checkout problems recently by allowing customization of the cart and checkout experience. Continuing innovation with Shopify Checkout (like subscriptions and post purchase up-sells) will enable it to have rich checkout experiences like its competitors and more custom cloud platforms. Shopify has the most data of any SaaS platform – it will allow merchants to tap into that data and customize checkout in a way that continues to increase total cart value…and it has all the incentive in the world to do so given how it charges.

Experience Design Polaris Adoption

Bigger, bolder designs beyond the Shopify base themes with Polaris and support for GraphQL API. Innovative brand experience designers will be able to push the limits of interactive merchandising. Integrating “try on” and “see what it looks like” apps into the UI and product pages will be easier with additional flexibility provided by tGraphQL. I

Subscription Enhancements

In October 2020, Shopify announced the first APIs and tooling that enable partners and developers to build new subscription experiences directly within Shopify Checkout: the Shopify Subscription APIs and the Product Subscription App Extension.  These will see very wide adoption this year.

Banking Flexibility – Shopify Balance 

Shopify Balance will give merchants access to innovative  financial products to start, run, and grow their businesses. Shopify Balance will include:

  • Shopify Balance account. A one-stop-shop within the Shopify Admin where merchants can get a clear view of their cash flow, pay bills, track expenses, and make decisions about the future of their business, with no monthly fees or minimum balance.
  • Shopify Card. Physical and virtual cards that merchants can use to access their money faster, when spending in-store, through mobile, or online.
  • Rewards. Shopify claims to be working with partners to offer cash back and discounts, designed for everyday business spending.
  • Shop Pay Installments – allow merchants to provide and their customers to pay in installments right within Shopify / no integration of 3rd party app

Enabling International Expansion

Shopify will promote the use of local domains this year to enable international expansion.

The Bottom Line

Shopify will continue to add an impressive number of features (or plans for features) in 2021 but the exact timing and rollout of new ones will be TBD. There are plenty of recently-added features and apps like most of the ones mentioned here that should be the most popular ones this year. Shopify will continue to be an outstanding choice for B2C merchants and brands the question will remain around the cost of adding apps and features and will the flexibility be enough for merchants looking to truly differentiate their user experiences. Given the explosion of customer experience innovation and the need for e-commerce merchants to move beyond the “catalog-shopping cart” metaphor we think Shopify will be right there leading the charge for its merchants in 2021. Here at Accorin we have tools and apps that can help Shopify merchants with additional integrations and flexibility – for example our RocketFlowz app is already being used by a number of merchants to provide custom app functionality within the shopping experience. Read more about RocketFlowz right here.