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Shopify Unite 2019 Recap: Empowering Merchants of All Sizes


presentation at Shopify Unite 2019 with Harley Finkelstein standing on stage.

"Shopify is on a mission to democratize e-commerce and empower e-commerce merchants of all sizes to compete with the biggest brands. And to do it, we are building the world’s largest e-commerce ecosystem powered by the world’s first global retailer operating system."

That was the message from the Shopify Unite 2019 conference. As I sat in the crowd over the two-day event in Toronto, Canada, the message of empowering merchants of all sizes served as a common thread throughout the weekend. Every talk, every technical update, and every new feature revealed throughout the keynotes and speeches contributed directly to that mission.

Shopify’s message of empowerment struck me personally because at Pixelz we are so proud of our own efforts to do the same. Our entire business is built on bringing world-class photo-editing and workflow software to entrepreneurs, photo studios, and online retailers of all sizes. For me, hearing that message echoed by a global powerhouse like Shopify was incredibly validating of Pixelz' own mission.

presentation at Shopify Unite 2019 with Harley Finkelstein standing on stage

Harley Finkelstein, Shopify COO, discusses Shopify's role in supporting entrepreneurs around the world.

Because there were so many major announcements at Shopify Unite this year, I will be writing several posts over the coming weeks to cover all the exciting news and explain the impact that Shopify’s announcements may have on your brand and operations.

But first, I want to start by highlighting some of the announcements from the weekend that aligned best with the overall theme of empowering brands of all sizes.

Shopify Introduces Augmented Reality Support

To a loud round of applause from the crowd, Cynthia Savard Saucier, Director of UX Channels at Shopify, unveiled Shopify’s new native support for product videos and 3D product images.

Shopify's Director of UX Channels introduces Shopify's support of Video & 3D

Shopify's Director of UX Channels Cynthia Savard Saucier introduces Shopify's support of product videos & 3D product images.

The excitement and applause were more than warranted. Saucier explained that, based on Shopify’s data, customers who interact with a 3D model of a product are more than twice as likely to complete a purchase than when they didn’t. In terms of immediately impacting conversion rates, you can’t ask for much more than that if you are a Shopify merchant or partner.

It isn’t only the technological aspect of native video and 3D support that sparked those cheers from the crowd. It is the accessibility for all merchants that got the crowd excited.

In the past, 3D product images and video support have been reserved for only the biggest brands with the largest budgets. Now, Shopify has made it possible for all merchants to take advantage of the benefits that those technologies have to offer, leveling the playing field and helping smaller brands compete with their industry leaders.

Shopify Point of Sale Receives Major Updates

In his keynote, Arpan Podduturi, Director of Product at Shopify, unveiled a whole host of upgrades to Shopify Point of Sale (POS), which he informed us is currently being used by over 100,000 merchants.

In my eyes, the star of this announcement was the new "Tap and Chip" case. Building off Shopify’s POS system, the Tap and Chip Reader turns your phone into a full point of sale. This is technology we have seen larger brands like Apple take advantage in the past to improve customer experience but that wasn’t very accessible for companies not worth $1 trillion dollars.

The use cases for a POS as powerful as Shopify’s and small enough to fit into a pocket are endless: big brands can use it to eliminate long lines, a single stand at a Saturday market can use it as their full POS solution, and businesses can use it at trade shows and industry meet-ups. A tool like this has the power to instantly improve the customer service experience and business operations for brands of any size.

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Shopify’s POS app itself also received upgrades. Merchants are now able to look up inventory across multiple stores and make sales using inventory from other locations. Shopify has also integrated their multi-channel CRM directly into the POS. Podduturi explained that this makes it possible for merchants to make suggestions to customers based on past purchases or process a return with only a customer's name.

Shopify has also done a full rebuild of their POS channel which now offers store management functionality like viewing sales by store location and sales by employee.

Again, this is all technology and functionality that was available in the past if you had thousands of dollars to invest in it. But what Shopify recognizes is that there is a huge market of smaller merchants who benefit from these tools and they are doing everything they can to make those tools better, more affordable, and more accessible to everyone.

Shopify Is Investing $1 Billion in Their Own Distribution Network

Over the two days of Shopify Unite, the loudest cheers I heard came when Shopify CPO Craig Miller announced Shopify’s $1 billion investment in developing its own distribution network.

Miller explained that many merchants are priced out of effective shipping options or are considered too small and insignificant to serve by current distribution providers. Shopify’s solution is to build a network of Shopify-owned and partner distribution centers. This will allow them to provide 2-day shipping to merchants who are shipping anywhere from 10-10,000 items per day with plans to scale “up and down” to serve merchants who ship anywhere from 3-30,000 items per day, putting a ton of pressure on other legacy logistic providers.

Shopify's CPO Craig Miller announcing Shopify's fullfillment network on stage

Shopify's CPO Craig Miller introduces Shopify's $1 Billion investment in a Shopify fullfillment network.

The logistics are impressive in and of themselves, but Miller also dropped some neat details about what services and functionality Shopify’s distribution network would offer, including:

Simplified Contracts: as opposed to normal distribution contracts, Shopify can set up a merchant for distribution in a few mouse-clicks.

Leveraging Machine Learning: Shopify distribution centers will be using machine learning to inform merchants when to restock their products and which node in the network should have which SKUs of their products .

Customer Packaging: Custom packaging will also be an option so packages arrive with a merchant’s logo and not Shopify’s.

This is Shopify again walking-the-walk by investing in ways to bring the barrier of entry to e-commerce down, giving merchants of all sizes access to simplified logistics solutions previously reserved for only the largest brands with the deepest pockets.


These were all major announcements for Shopify and the industry, but there is still so much to share. I spent all weekend meeting people from around the industry, hearing their stories, developing future partnerships, and understanding better how Pixelz can contribute to the same mission that Shopify repeated all weekend: empowering business owners and entrepreneurs of all sizes.

Be on the lookout on the Pixelz Blog in the coming weeks as I report back on other exciting news from the event!


Want to learn how Pixelz can you help you scale your business by giving you access to hundreds of highly-skilled photo editors, world-class software, and AI technology? Check out our pricing page for all that information and a lot more.