Shopify in 2018: No Longer a Startup

Welcome to the first ever shopping cart month at eCommerceFuel!

I’ll be spending all of February diving deep into the most popular carts in the eCommerce space with people who know them inside-and-out.

This week I’ll be talking Shopify with Carson McComas from FuelMade.com. He really knows his stuff and was crucial in the redesign of my own store.

We’re starting with Shopify because over 40% of our community members have adopted Shopify.

We chat about:

  • How Shopify’s culture has shifted over the last 5+ years
  • When Shopify is – and isn’t – a good fit
  • Thoughts on Shopify Plus and if it’s worth the premium over the core offering

…and lots more.

Just a disclaimer: Shopify has sponsored past episodes and events with us.

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Carson McComas of FuelMade.com)

Andrew: Welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast, the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, guys. It’s Andrew here. And welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in today for the kickoff of shopping cart month on the eCommerceFuel Podcast. I’ve never done this before, but I’m gonna call it the first annual shopping cart month. It would be fun to do this on a regular basis. Shopping carts are one of those things we can talk about and, you know, they’re always underlying the conversation. Of course, they’re what powers most of our stores, all of our stores.

And we’ve never really done a deep dive on the top carts in the space. So I thought it would be kind of fun to totally nerd out on those. Half of you are probably turning this podcast off right now. And the other half are probably giddy with excitement, or maybe 20%. Not everyone is probably as geeky as I am, but we’re gonna be doing four kinda episodes this month. Today we’ll be talking about Shopify. Next week, we’ll be talking about Magento. The week after that, we’ll be talking about WooCommerce. And then the final episode will kinda be a grab bag of just kinda some comments area on a handful of other carts in the space.

And why did I pick those carts? Well, those are the carts that are most popular, at least as told by our community software in the eCommerce field private community. So we have a review and software directory that we’ve built for our community members. And it actually goes out every week. And it scans everybody’s website to see what software they’re using so we can tell what, you know, shopping cart or email service provider or hosting provider. It builds a database. It emails all of our members when they install new software and asks them to review it.

So we have real-time stats and reviews from a lot of our members on what they’re using. And we can see on all of our members what they’re using. So I looked at our database to really see, you know, what the most popular carts were. And that’s how I found out.

So in terms of Shopify, you look at the adoption of that in the eCommerce community, in the eCommerceFuel private community. And as of, you know, kinda the beginning of 2018, 401 of our 1,000-ish members were on Shopify, either Shopify or Shopify Plus. So 401 on Shopify. Of that, there were 65, so about 15%, of that 400 were on Shopify Plus. And Shopify had an average review of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

So to put that in context, Magento, the next second most popular cart, in our community is being used by about 80 members. So that’s an enormous gap. You’ve got almost 5X the adoption of those on Shopify versus Magento. So that’s probably not, you know, news to anyone, but Shopify, they’ve been killing it the last two years, at least in terms of the number of people on their platform and have really grown.

A lot of people have been moving there from other carts. So we’ll get into that on today’s show, but yeah, they’re by the far the number one cart, at least, you know, in the six and seven and maybe even low eight figure range, I would say, because that’s really where the wheel house for our community. So that’s a little bit of context for you. A quick disclaimer, Shopify has sponsored the eCommerceFuel Podcast in the past. They’ve also sponsored our events. And I’ve worked on them, you know, with books and other content.

So I co-authored a book with one of the guys over there on drop shipping. And I just have a friendly relationship with them. So I want to make sure that, you know, you guys are aware of that and as we get into this discussion. So Carson McComas from Fuelmade.com is gonna be the gentleman chatting with me today. Gentleman, that sounds so official. He’s a good friend, a great guy, knows Shopify inside and out, and does, in my opinion, the best development work on the Shopify platform, maybe even just in general I’ve ever seen.

He’s a pleasure to work with. He did my redesign at Right Channel Radios. He’s who we’ll be chatting with in a discussion today and really knows this space well, but before we jump in, we want to thank our two sponsors who help make this show possible.

First, a big thank you to Liquid Web, who is now offering completely managed hosting for WooCommerce. And we’re talking about Shopify today, of course. And this is not a pitch to try to convince you that WooCommerce is better than Shopify. Even the team over there sure would single it out and say, “You know what? Shopify is a better fit for some people than others,” but if WooCommerce is a better fit for you, if it’s really important to have, you know, all the keys to the castle to be able to customize your data and your source code and you’re on WooCommerce, you’re gonna be hard-pressed to find a better solution than Liquid Web’s hosting for WooCommerce.

And the biggest thing is how elastic and how scalable their solution is. One of the biggest benefits of having, you know, a hosted service like Shopify versus Woo is that, you know, if you get a ton of traffic, they deal with it, kind of the trade-off you make between the customization and the hosting side, but with Woo, you get the best of both worlds. You get highly scalable and you have full customization. So if both of those things are important to you, if Woo is something that you’re on or looking toward, check them out at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And secondly, I want to say a big thank you to Klaviyo, who makes email automation easy and powerful. And Klaviyo just gives you an insane amount of precision when it comes to creating targeted automated flows that you can send out to your list. And I’m in it right now.

And a few of the metrics you can use to create and trigger those segments, those email lists, out to people, one, how long somebody’s been active on your site, whether they just placed an order, whether they have cancelled an order, whether an order has been fulfilled, if they’ve purchased X product within the last certain amount of time, if they’ve purchased X product, but not why, they’ve purchased a certain number of times in the following months, it goes on and on and on. One that’s kinda cool, you can even target based on location.

So say, for example, you sell drones, you know, those cool little insect drone things, in California. You can set up a flow once to maybe everyone in California to say, “Hey, thanks for buying a drone. Here are the top 10 places in California where you can get gorgeous drone photography.” Do that for your top five or six most popular states. That’s pretty cool. So if this sounds interesting and you want to apply this power to your own business, you can get started with a free trial. Check them out risk-free at klaviyo.com.

Shopify in 2018

Andrew: All right. Let’s go ahead and get into today’s discussion. Carson, the way I’ve been kicking off all these discussions for shopping cart month is to kinda get my sense of just where I see, you know, a given cart in 2018 and get your thoughts on if it’s a fairly, from your perspective, accurate portrayal or maybe not quite as accurate as what you see.

So for Shopify, you know, I feel like they’ve become more or less the industry standard for most or at least a great many use cases, and especially with merchants like the ECF community, you know, high six, seven, and even potentially low eight figures, in some cases. Not everyone loves them, but I’d say a large percentage of people do. A large percentage of people respect them and, you know, look at the metrics like I mentioned at the top of this podcast. I mean, they’re 4X adopted.

They have four times as many users as the next closest cart. I’ve seen a slight shift, you know, maybe over the last one or two years from more of a complete kind of free-wheeling up-start type culture to one that’s maybe a little more intentional, more focused on growing profits. I’m sure in becoming a public company, you know, that nudged that along.

A lot more effort behind Shopify Plus, again, on capturing higher end market and end profitability like with acquisition with overload trying to widen their user base a bit. So it’s still a great company, but kind of that modest shift in their focus and kind of intention. Do you think that’s a fair snapshot for where they are in, you know, 2018?

Carson: Yeah, I do. I think I would agree with almost everything you said. They’ve lost a little bit of their sort of scrappy feel, which for those of us that were kind of in in the early days when it felt fun and scrappy, some of that has faded and been replaced with a little bit more of a mature, grown-up company, but yeah, I agree with you. I think that’s an accurate portrayal of kinda how they feel, as well as I agree they are a pretty good solution for most use cases that we run into, as well.

When Shopify Doesn’t Make Sense

Andrew: I said this. You said this. They’re probably a great choice for most use cases. When do they not make sense for people? Obviously, they’re a hosted platform. And so if you want 100% complete control, you want to be able to dive into every aspect of the source code, if some reason the data’s really important to you, you can’t go to Shopify, but let’s assume that’s not the case. Let’s assume you want to be hosted. Are there any instances where they’re not a great fit, where someone should maybe consider another hosted option that’s, you know, based on certain needs that Shopify isn’t the best to cater for?

Carson: There are… Honestly, it’s a tough one in part because I know all the workarounds in my head for the things that, but, I mean, I think the times when it doesn’t make sense is if you have a lot of technical complexity and frankly, if you’ve got an in-house team that you want to keep busy.

If you’ve got a lot of technical complexity and you need a very, very flexible solution to deal with that, I would maybe have a side argument with you about whether you need all that technical complexity to accomplish your goals, but if you do feel like you need that, Shopify cannot fit as well and if you’ve got like a really, really large catalog and a lot of complexity in that regard, it can make sense to use something else.

And by really large, I mean many hundreds of thousands of SKUs or if you’re running into like there are some technical limitations that are kind of frustrating with Shopify, which we can get into, you know, some variant limits and some stuff that can get frustrating and if you want a solution that doesn’t have those limitations, I could see maybe floating to another platform.

For Multi-Store Users

Andrew: What about a multi-store? Is that a big one? Have you seen any good…I know some other platforms, some people have… Multi-store, isn’t it Ali supported with their Shopify or Shopify Plus?

Carson: So the way it works with Shopify Plus today is when you sign up for Shopify Plus, you get 10 stores essentially under that account to use for the same brand and the same products. So the way multi-store is handled today is, let’s say you want to have three international stores and a wholesale store, you’ll set up your B2C store. And then you’ll create these clone shops essentially for those international stores and then for the B2B. And you’ll typically use an ERP as kind of your multi-store management component to that.

Andrew: Like tying NetSuite or something into it to manage all of them.

Carson: Exactly.

Andrew: Yep. Yep, but those are all under one admin, right? You’d have to have separate logins for individual admins.

Carson: Today, that’s correct. Exactly. You know, hopefully your product management and that is being done with your ERP and order management, but if like you need to go in and update home page or things like that, you’re going to have to go into each individual store and do it. That’s correct.

Other Shopify Weaknesses

Andrew: Got you. We’ll kinda maybe touch on a few more shortcomings, and then go to some of the big strengths for Shopify, given that, you know, obviously, they have a lot because they’re kind of top of the heap at the moment, but kinda wrapping up on the weakness side, any others that you see that Shopify has its weakness, relative to others?

Carson: So the weaknesses that we run into and, again, I feel like I have workarounds for all of these, but the weaknesses we ran into is the 100 variant limit can be frustrating. There’s workarounds for that, but that can be a little bit limiting, if you’ve got some complexity. Multi-store, multi-currency. I mean, that story that I just outlined is okay, but not great. Shopify’s working on that though, which we can talk about.

One of the strengths of Shopify is the ecosystem, but I will say that some of the app store quality I would say is mediocre. You can get some kind of poor apps that can create a poor experience. I don’t know if that’s directly Shopify’s fault, although, you know, they are vetting what goes into the app store, but it does seem to be a little bit of the Wild West in terms of quality in there sometimes, especially for larger merchants.

Not being able to take credit cards, that’s a weakness I would say in Shopify that can drive people crazy. You know, as an admin, if somebody buys a pair of shoes and they call you up and they want to buy, you know, a different pair that costs more, you can’t go in and just like charge them the extra $10 for the new pair. You’d have to like cancel the order and reorder and do some stuff. So that part kinda drives people nuts. And then I think maybe another weakness is…this benefits us as an agency, but finding good help.

I think the Shopify development community and the design community is still kind of ramping up relative to demand. And that seems to be a little outpacing that right now, which is, again, good for us, but I think for merchants, it can be a little frustrating. I think you find that probably anywhere. That’s just technology, but it’s an aspect, as well.

And Their Biggest Strengths

Andrew: In thinking about some of the strengths on there, I think the three that I kinda see…and I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m sure you have some more, are I feel like they have best tech stack, and platform for just maybe not out of the box. They’re a little bit more. Their kind of philosophy it seems to me is more create a really great foundation. They’re a liquid foundation to customize everything and not include every bonus under the sun, but create a great ecosystem where people can add in.

On one hand you could argue…it’s not like you could, but some people say, “I have Shopify. Yeah, you pay $200 a month for the core, but then you can add $250 in apps every month to get what you need to do.” And that is a down side in some sense. It’s also a nice aspect in that it fosters a great ecosystem to really customize it well, but I think it’s hard to argue…well, you could argue, but in my experience, their tech stack and platform seem really solid. And they have a good ecosystem.

And their team has always impressed me in terms of the quality of people they hire and, of course, just kind of the product comes, you know, right out of that. So those are the big strengths I see. And any more that you see or any that you take issue with on that list?

Carson: No, I agree with what you just outlined there. And I was being slightly hard on the ecosystem there, but there are some great apps. There really are. They have some really good solid stuff, a good platform. It’s very, very customizable. I think there’s a misnomer. Folks think that you can’t customize Shopify, but man, we have built some ridiculously diverse, different, and unique stores on that platform. I think the other things that Shopify, you know, other strengths, especially for merchants that aren’t gonna do a custom build, the themes in the theme store are really solid.

They’re optimized for mobile. They’re gonna be design-focused, functional. For the most part, they’re really strong. I mean, an interesting side note about the theme store. There are 61 themes in the theme store. And like that’s nothing for 500,000 plus merchants, right? I mean, this just speaks to Shopify’s extreme care in making sure that if a theme shows up in the theme store, it’s gonna be pretty optimized and good.

So I think that they have strong themes, you know, sort of the self-hosted versus SaaS argument, of course, is…we could go into length on that at some point, but that’s obviously a great strength for Shopify. You know, they’ve got good channel integrations. They’ve worked really hard to lower the barrier of entry for a lot of different things. Like you want to get on Amazon, eBay, you know, Facebook, Instagram. It’s like these are channels. It’s easy to set those up.

And Shopify’s done a good job of kind of making that very approachable for nontechnical folks. And, you know, I think the admin is pretty friendly. You know, I’ve looked at the admins over on the other sites, other platforms, and they’re not friendly and easy. Shopify works really hard at making that admin really easy to use and, you know, kinda mobile first in some ways.

So if you want to manage your entire site from your phone, you can, which is kind of a handy perk, plus, you know, scalability and that strength of, you know, they did…over Black Friday, Cyber Monday, I think they did $1 billion in GMV. So this is a platform that can handle a lot of volume. And it’s kinda peace of mind for merchants that are tired of their server going down when there’s a spike in demand.

A User-Friendly Cart

Andrew: It’s funny you mentioned the admin. When we moved from Magento to Shopify, I had, oh, probably six or seven SOPs just dedicated to placing orders and editing orders and cancelling orders in Magento because it was a nightmarish…if you consider all the things with refunds and replacing, it was just a nightmare. And with Shopify, I was planning on getting right to SOPs, but then my VA got in there and did not need it.

You could say it was very intuitive. They’ve done a great job with that. How about Shopify Plus? You know, I’ll speak for myself. At least a couple of years ago, two, three years ago, in the early days of Plus, they rolled it out. And I kinda told the team this. I thought the Plus differentiators versus their core offering, it made sense for a few people, but I think broadly it was a tough sell for the difference between the two platforms.

And I feel like that’s gotten stronger in terms of the feature set that you get bumping up from just kinda the core plans, professional plans, to Plus. It’s like they’ve differentiated it better in the last, you know, 18 months. Do you feel the same?

Carson: Yeah, definitely. And I think I agree with you. I think in the early days when Plus came out, they were trying to create a solution for bigger merchants that kinda wanted to use it, but paying $29 a month didn’t feel right. And so they created an offering. At that point, it was $1,000 a month. And you got dedicated support.

And you got some of these things, but it was a difficult case from a technical perspective to differentiate, but this year particularly, I think 2017 has been sort of the strongest evolution in that differentiation, you know, with things like Shopify Flow, which is awesome, amazing. It’s sort of an automation tool built into the admin. It’s kinda like Zapier meets Shopify admin. It’s amazing. Shopify scripts are really strong and handy to deal with, with the complexities we see merchants run into. Shopify Launchpad that’s recently come out is pretty slick, as well. That’s a way of…

Andrew: Yeah, sorry, what’s Launchpad? You were trying to explain that. And then I interrupted you.

Using Launchpad

Carson: No, you’re good at this. The Launchpad, it’s functionality so that you can automate pushing things live to your site. So for example, we’ve got a client who did a 12 days of Christmas launch. And so each day, they had a new promotion. So we had a new Shopify script that would run. On their home page, they had like a new banner and a new way of presenting it.

And so we set up all these 12 different days of Christmas themes and scripts and all this different stuff, automated it all with Launchpad, and just stand back. And for 12 days, it just runs all runs all by itself using Launchpad. And that’s pretty slick. And then there’s the multi-store that we just talked about earlier that’s a nice differentiator with Plus. So, you know, if you’ve got international stores and a wholesale store, pretty soon it starts adding up. And Shopify Plus starts making more sense on that.

Andrew: Another big thing too is with Plus, you can use an extra external gateway and not have to pay that, you know, half a percent, percent, or whatever it is on their non-Plus plans in terms of transactions for credit card fees, right?

Carson: Well, for the most part. So actually, you do pay .15%. If you don’t use Shopify payments, you do still pay a transaction fee on Plus. They didn’t use to. It used to be no transaction fee, but that changed when they did the big price change earlier this year. So you do still pay .15% on transaction fees, if you’re not on Shopify payments.

Shopify Payments

Andrew: How is Shopify payments? When I was on it, it integrates really nicely, as least for me. And this is a little outdated. It’s been a year plus since I was on it and, you know, really using it day to day, but it integrated nicely. I’m not sure if it was, you know, rock bottom pricing, but it was somewhat reasonable. Your thoughts on payments in terms of competitiveness of rates and also, you know, usability, chargeback issues, fraud detection, and the whole package. Does it make sense for merchants? Is it a pretty good solution at this point?

Carson: I think so. I mean, on Plus particularly, which is kind of more where we spend time, they’re paying 2.15% plus 30 cents on domestic VISA and MasterCard, which is…they might be able to get it lower somewhere, but it’s at least competitive, right? Some people are like grandfathered into these old amazing rates. And they don’t like to or they don’t want to move from those, which is understandable, but I think it’s pretty competitive.

I mean, to be honest with you, I would say probably 80 plus percent of our merchants are picking Shopify payments, you know, a small sample size, but it is I would guess broadly reflected in how people are using it. In terms of like fraud and that, a nice thing about Shopify payments is there is some of that that’s built in already. And then like chargeback response is kind of built in.

You’ve got Shopify support and a team that’s working with you to sort some of that stuff out, which is nice. It’s kind of all integrated into one piece there. Another thing worth mentioning with Shopify payments, you also get Apple Pay and you also get Shopify Pay, which is pretty slick. Shopify Pay makes it so that if somebody goes to a Shopify checkout and checks out… So on any Shopify checkout, they check out for the first time.

After that, any time they hit any other Shopify checkout page and they punch in their email address, they’re gonna get a code that shows up on their phone. They punch that in, and everything’s saved for them, including their credit card payment information, which is I think a pretty nice feature that’s built in with Shopify payments too. So there’s some perks for having it, as well.

When You’d Need Plus

Andrew: Yeah, that’s really nice, especially Apple Pay with the finger. I just finally, you know, and I’m kind of a dinosaur here, upgrading to a current day era MacBook Pro. And having that little fingerprint reader is pretty slick. You know, when does it make sense for someone to go with Shopify Plus versus regular? Is it in that $1 to $2 million range? Is it higher than that or does it just vary by the person?

Carson: You know, I think it’s more a case of… Like if you’re at I would say $750,000 and growing, it starts to make sense. What we notice though is the pull to move to Shopify Plus is generally a technical one, sort of a complexity one. If you’ve got complexity that can be addressed with Shopify Plus, it starts to make sense.

If you want access to those nifty apps and features that we talked about, that’s kinda when it starts to make sense, if you want that sort of dedicated support that you’re gonna get with Shopify. You know, if you’re doing a lot of volume, it’s nice to have sort of the red phone in Shopify, if you will, with some of that. So I would say, yeah, probably $1 million and up is when it starts to make sense or maybe below that, but growing pretty quickly.

In The Shopify Pipeline

Andrew: Well, what about what you see coming down the road for Shopify in 2018? I’m gonna throw four of them out here, which you can maybe comment on and, of course, anything else that I don’t mention, but you alluded to credit cards on file. That seems like such a no-brainer, especially when you can tokenize it with something like Stripe or authorize.net. And it would make things so much easier for reorders, for admin. So do you think we’ll see that?

Do you think we’ll see multi-site in an authentic, like a real, you know, all tied into one admin, multi-currency…I mean, this drives people crazy. Unless I haven’t caught it, I still don’t think you can just edit an order in core and without having to cancel and reissue. Any of those things you see or anything else that’s really notable coming down the next year in terms of Shopify development?

Carson: They’ve gotten a little more opaque about their road map, but I would say saving credit card and full tokenization, I don’t see that coming in 2018 or maybe ever. I don’t know. I think they’re trying really hard to be PCI level one compliant. And there are some mechanics that I think they’re trying to adhere to when it comes to that stuff.

So I haven’t seen a lot of interest in moving to that. Again, I don’t have any insight on whether they’re doing it or not, but I kinda don’t feel that way. Multi-site, multi-currency, definitely that’s coming. I don’t know if it’s coming in 2018, but it’s a priority. They’ve talked about it at Shopify Unite. They said, “This is our number one priority. We’re working on this now.” So I definitely see that coming soon. You know, I don’t know how soon as in months or years, but it’s definitely a priority internally for them.

In terms of other stuff, it’s tough. I do have a teeny bit of inside information, but I’m under NDA. So I can’t share that, but I can say sort of broadly Shopify is investing a lot of money into growth and making sort of that barrier to entry into Shopify lower and kind of focusing on…maybe this is just my visibility, but a lot of focus on the plus end of the market, the sort of growing and booming ecommerce segment of the market. So there’s a lot of energy and resources being put towards that. So it will be fun to watch.

Competitors in Carts

Andrew: Do you see anyone being able to challenge them in the next two to three years? Like, I can’t talk about the top, I feel like they have become the de facto choice for a lot of people. Again, not everyone, but, you know, close to half of the people. And on one hand, that’s great. On the one hand, it’s great that there’s a team out there and a product out there that is, you know, solid enough and has a good enough reputation team behind it that that can be an option.

On the other hand, the long term, the competition’s always good, right? And even the best people can get complacent, if they don’t have someone nipping at their heels. And I feel like, at least on the hosted side, they’re quite a bit in the lead in terms of especially adoption. Is there anyone that you look at that you think could potentially, and obviously not overtake them, but provide like a compelling alternative in the next two to three years? And if so, who would that be?

Carson: Honestly, I really don’t see anybody in the next two to three years. I mean, I think there may be a longer-term play for someone, but if you look at the way that Shopify challenged Magento, who’s really sort of the market winner, they did it by like, very disruptive, right, moving to a SaaS model, moving to a different approach to ease of use and development and all that. I think it’s gonna take that kind of a big change, a big challenge, for Shopify to be credibly challenged at this point.

I mean, you know, they’ve got gobs of money in the bank, so to speak. I mean, they’ve got essentially unlimited funding when it comes to being able to grow. And I think they’re using it to grow pretty aggressively. They’re working really hard to snap up market share right now. I think it would be tough for somebody, especially in the next two to three years. I mean, is Magento or WooCommerce or BigCommerce, anybody, gonna do it?

I don’t think those guys are gonna do it. I think it will have to be somebody new that comes in that says, “Hey, guess what? Ecommerce is moving to virtual reality now. And we’ve got the best platform. And, you know, we’re gonna overtake them,” or something like that, but I just don’t see it being any of the current players or anybody that I’ve seen anyway.

A Honeymoon Phase?

Andrew: Does that worry you at all or do you feel…on the other side, I mean, does it make you happy because they’ve got a great enough product to be able to do that?

Carson: Well, it’s a good question, right, because I think Shopify is kind of at that phase. Do you remember back when Google said, “Do no evil,” and we believe them, right, and we’re like, “Okay. Yeah. They’re acting like that.” And then in time, they became a little more evil, if you will. I think Shopify’s kind of in that, “Do no evil,” honeymoon right now. How will they proceed? Will they stay that way? We can hope, but I don’t know. So yeah, I definitely feel there’s value in having strong competition. So, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Both.

The Shopify Ecosystem

Andrew: You touched on the ecosystem a little bit earlier, but I’d love to just ask you to give me a dedicated answer. How is the ecosystem and particularly the app extension market looking, you know, today? It seems like it’s one of the healthiest in kind of the shopping cart space, but you also touched on the fact that, you know, there’s some stuff out there that isn’t quite as vetted or fleshed out in terms of quality and code base. How is it looking today?

Carson: I think that’s exactly right. I think it’s a little bit hit and miss today. Shopify, I mean, they’ve reached out to partners. They’re calling for, “Please improve the apps. Please make apps that are better capable of servicing larger merchants.” There’s definitely a push from the Shopify side toward doing that. So I think things will get better. There are some really interesting players who are coming in like Pixel Union is one.

Those guys are coming in. They’re taking a look at the app marketplace. And they’re saying, “What are some apps that are working that people are using, but that we can improve drastically on?” And so they’re going in and kind of picking these apps to greatly improve on. And there’s other app vendors that are doing the same thing. So I think it will just continue to improve and evolve. And also, I think the offering toward sort of higher end merchants will get better.

It will be interesting to see the evolution of things like virtual reality and augmented reality. And I don’t know how much of that’s gonna be in 2018, but I think that’s an interesting avenue that things will start to drift in. And Shopify is paying attention and putting resources into thinking about that kind of stuff. So that’s probably the most interesting evolution that I think we’ll see about just sort of quality improvement and what there is already.

Leading the Charge in VR

Andrew: Yeah, I think if anyone is going to lead the VR fund, at least in kind of the carts we’ve talked about or will talk about this month, it would probably be Shopify, given just they’re talking about it, you know, at their conferences. And I know Toby is, at least from what I’ve seen, very interested in it. So Toby’s their founder, of course. Your thoughts on the Oberlo acquisition and the business model. Any broad thoughts on that purchase by Shopify?

Carson: You know, it’s interesting. They’ve taken some heat for that. And I think it’s an unfortunate timing with the Citron criticism that came out to Shopify. My feeling is that Oberlo, I think they bought Oberlo for two reasons. Number one, people are going to AliExpress. They’re trying to do the drop shipping thing. They’re trying to do the importing.

They’re doing that. So Shopify is sort of moving to where the puck is in some ways, I think, with the acquisition of Oberlo trying to grab that market and help it, you know, have it be on Shopify. The other thing I think they’re doing with that is, you know, Shopify’s all about lowering barrier of entry. You know, with Oberlo, it’s pretty simple. It lowers the barrier of entry and lets you kinda get in there and dabble with that pretty easily.

And frankly, I think it’s interesting. You know, not everybody that uses Oberlo is gonna be a millionaire. I think that’s the misnomer that needs to be dispelled perhaps, but, you know, I look at like my little brother who’s trying to get into e-commerce, right? That’s interesting to set up a shop, do an Oberlo connection, find some interesting products, and just try to get that first sale, right? I mean, you know, there’s something magical about that.

Anyway, so I think those were the appealing things from Shopify’s standpoint. You know, I mean, Oberlo, 85 million products sold I think they said. So it’s not like Shopify’s sort of inventing that. I think they’re just, again, trying to move to where the interest is and capture that market space.

Andrew: And actually, to give a little context for people that weren’t familiar with Oberlo, Oberlo used to be a company that was independent and, of course, bought by Shopify. And they allow you to really tap into the AliExpress, which AliExpress is a marketplace for drop shipping products directly from China to consumers in the U.S.

Parting Thoughts on Shopify

And so the purchase by Shopify just allows people to very easily populate a Shopify store with products they find on AliExpress and just streamlined that whole process of setting up a drop ship from China to a U.S. Shopify store. Any parting thoughts on Shopify going into 2018? We covered a bunch, but anything that is worth saying that I didn’t ask you about?

Carson: You know, Shopify looks strong to me. Like the merchants that we work with, the livelihood of my company is very tight, our choice of platform and who we’re recommending to our clients. And I still feel like Shopify is a safe bet and a good bet. I like where they’re going. I don’t see anybody else that’s really able to serve merchants in the same way and at the same level. And I like the leadership at Shopify. I think they’re thinking about the right things in the right ways. So yeah, I think going into 2018, I’m excited to see how they continue to ramp that up.

The Lightning Round!

Andrew: All right, Carson. I’m gonna do a few lightning round questions with you here before we kinda sign off, if you’re cool with that.

Carson: I’m cool.

Andrew: If you had to identify the number one thing you’re trying to optimize your life for right now, what would it be?

Carson: Happiness.

Andrew: Who’s someone you strongly disagree with?

Carson: Trump.

Andrew: How much money is enough? So, you know, the number in the bank where you’d feel like, “This is good. I’ll work more if I want, but I could be happy here.”

Carson: $20 million.

Andrew: Worst investment you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Carson: Health insurance.

Andrew: That might be my favorite answer so far in this round. Best investment, apart from your business, that you’ve made in the last 10 years.

Carson: Having a business where I can be part of my kids’ lives, definitely the best investment.

Andrew: The first CD you ever owned.

Carson: Well, first of all, thank you for making me feel old. I don’t remember the first CD I ever owned, but I do remember the first cassette tape.

Andrew: I bet that works.

Carson: Michael Jackson “Thriller.”

Andrew: Oh, that’s a good one.

Carson: It was a good one.

Andrew: Yeah, nothing to be ashamed of there. I usually am open for like, you know, people to be like, “TLC Waterfalls,” and, you know, get them on the record with that, but it’s hard to get embarrassed about “Thriller.” And then finally, given that you work with Shopify, and I don’t know if you can answer this, I hope you can, your prediction for the Shopify stock price a year from now?

Carson: Oh, that’s interesting. It’s kind of leveled out.

Andrew: It’s going from people who maybe haven’t tracked this…it IPO’d it around $20 and it has shot up to 5X in the last, I don’t know, year, year and a half, to $100 or so.

Carson: Yeah. I think it will go up maybe 20% more, but I think it’s probably gonna calm down. I don’t know. I’d love to be wrong about that because I own some stock, but that’s my prediction.

Andrew: Nice. Carson, I appreciate you coming on and doing this. If you guys aren’t familiar with Carson’s work and his company over at fuelmade.com, he does incredible high-end to Shopify work focusing a lot especially on Shopify Plus merchants and really beautiful build-outs. He worked with me back in the day when I actually was a legitimate store owner as opposed to just some guy who did a podcast about it and the best contractor I have ever worked with. So I can’t recommend him enough. And also, you guys are doing Klaviyo email work, as well, now, right?

Carson: We do, yeah. We’re Klaviyo platinum partners. So we do email automation with Klaviyo. And it’s a ridiculously effective way to make money. So we’re in on that for our clients, too. Yes, thank you.

Andrew: Yeah. So if you’re looking for, you know, excellent Shopify work or if you want someone to manage your Klaviyo flows and really, you know, help you move the needle on email marketing, Carson and the team at FuelMade is who you should talk to, fuelmade.com. And he’s also our Shopify expert in the forums at eCommerce, so you can hit him up at the @carsonmccomas, if you wanna tag him in any of the discussion. So Carson, I always love chatting with you. And thanks for your expertise, sir.

Carson: Well, thank you, Andrew. I appreciate you having me on and all those kind things you just said about me.

Andrew: Easy to say when you earned them. So thanks, Carson. That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode, but if you enjoyed what you heard and are interested in getting plugged into a dynamic community of experienced store owners, check us out at ecommercefuel.com. eCommerceFuel is the private vetted community for ecommerce entrepreneurs. And what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that is a member to make sure that they’re a great fit, that they can add value to a broader community.

Everyone that joins has to be doing at least $250,000 in sales via their store. And our average member does over seven figures in sales annually. So if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

And I also have to thank our two sponsors that make this show possible, Liquid Web. If you are on WooCommerce or you’re thinking about getting onto WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have host your store, particularly with their managed WooCommerce hosting. It’s highly elastic and scalable. It’s got built-in tools to performance test your store so you can be confident it’s gonna work well. And it’s built from the ground up for WooCommerce. And you can learn more about their offering at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And finally, Klaviyo, for email marketing, they make email segmentation easy and powerful. They integrate with just about every card out there and help you, you know, build incredibly automated powerful segments that make you money on autopilot. You can check them out and get started for free, klaviyo.com. Thanks so much for listening. And looking forward to seeing you again. Thanks. Bye.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven ecommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least a $250,000 in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com. Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Well done article but it seems to glance over the problems of using Shopify.

    One is how the subscription cost has risen over the years. Then there is an addition fee for using your own credit card payment systems.

    Also not mentioned is the restriction on third party shipping rates. A large volume shipper (in terms of orders) is required to get the Pro account to take advantage of volume shipping discounts.

    Monthly app fees? That is a new one.

    1. Good points Angelo – should have talked a bit more about how much costs of apps can creep up – that’s definitely a downside for a lot of people. Appreciate you tuning in and we’ll try to cover it next time.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    a timely episode as a lot of Magento 1.xx merchants think about what to do in the next few years. Would it be a good idea to have a podcast on the pitfalls/letdowns of Shopify?

    (I am on Magento so can’t comment at all.)

    Seeing as the above commenter also mentioned a problem of using Shopify, my guess is many people would like to listen to that content. I understand this is just a quick episode but I wonder if there are merchants in the forum who have frustrations and wouldn’t mind airing them?

    Cheers,

    Steve

  3. Nice blog. How the subscription cost has risen on the summit of the years. Then there is an accumulation press on for using your own version card payment systems.Thank you for sharing a such and helpful blog.

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