Two weeks ago, the Shopify Unite 2018 circus put up its tents in our own backyard: the Toronto Evergreen Brickworks. For several days, the Shopify team, hundreds of their partners, and even the Prime Minister of Canada the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, came together to share insights, learn from each other, and discuss one thing: what is the future of entrepreneurship and commerce?

More specifically: how can the Shopify Partner eco-system enable entrepreneurs and merchants to grow beyond their current borders?

After all, it’s an exciting time to run an eCommerce business! With the help of platforms, such as Shopify Plus, it’s never been easier for entrepreneurs and merchants to sell their products or services online. Whether their customer is around the corner or across the globe, rapidly-evolving eCommerce technology can empower them to reach new markets.

That being said, outgrowing the single store concept, with rapid market expansion across languages, currencies, geographies, and distribution diversification, comes with its share of complexities and challenges. Maintaining product information consistency is just one of them.

It was great to experience the passion of all attendees to help solve these issues for the Shopify merchants!

In this post, we won’t go into detail on all the product announcements that were made (you can read those right here: https://www.shopify.com/enterprise/unite-2018). Instead, we’d like to share some key takeaways of Shopify Unite 2018, and about the Shopify partner eco-system in general.

Bringing Commerce to Everyone, Everywhere

“It actually made a lot of sense for us to have Unite in Canada.” Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke shared with the mostly non-Canadian crowd during his keynote; calling out the vision and culture his company shared with that of the True North: a place of diversity and inclusion, tolerance and acceptance.

“The future of commerce as we envision it has more voices, not fewer.” Powerful words in today’s ever polarizing world.

Tobi obviously landed that message to tee up Shopify’s vision of breaking down borders for their merchants. Shopify’s vision is to make its platform truly global, and that vision was supported by many product and feature announcements. The company understands they need to enhance their platform – which will now be available in six languages – for both the Shopify customers who started as small-scale entrepreneurs and are growing and for the enterprise market they target with the Shopify Plus platform.

As a SaaS Product Information Management solution, the Jasper PIM is a solution built exactly to help merchants scale their business into a thriving global enterprise. The focus of Shopify is to build a platform that can support growing global businesses. Including new native features to tackle growing pains of growing merchants, it’s exciting, to say the least!

Building a Partner Eco-System

A conference is only ever as good as its audience and the passion it brings to the table. That passion was strong with the Shopify Partner eco-system during Unite! You simply had to be there to see the excitement and the energy of Technology and Agency Partners coming together from across the globe to share insights and help solve merchants’ challenges.

The Jasper team witnessed this first-hand during our own Shopify Unite social event at the Northern Maverick Craft Brewery in the heart of Toronto. How could we not host something special when Unite was happening in our own city? A select group of partners came together to bond, share industry best practices, and sample some of the city’s greatest craft beer.

The entire conference really had a very comfortable vibe – in part due to the beautiful weather which was a nice change from the frozen rain storms just two weeks earlier. Several partners have described Unite as more like a summer camp than a traditional conference. If anything, that shows the great atmosphere at Unite and within the eco-system.

During all this, it’s only fair to congratulate the Shopify team as well. It is simple enough to preach inclusion and transparency, but the on-going engagement and soliciting of feedback by the Shopify team at numerous side events and office hours, shows a genuine partner obsession.

Let’s get started

At the end of the day, there was lots of networking, several exciting announcements, and now Shopify and their partners need to put words into action! Together we will be building an evermore efficient path for merchants to truly take their business global.

That growth into different markets and across several languages and currency regions, will rely on consistent product information. The consolidation and publication of your data can quickly become a crippling administrative burden. To succeed, you’ll need a powerful eCommerce platform like Shopify Plus and a robust yet flexible product information management (PIM) solution. The Jasper PIM team is here to help! Feel free to reach out to us via https://www.jasperstudios.com/free-demo

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Do you want to relive Shopify Unite and all of its exciting announcements? Check out the keynotes on the Shopify Blog and browse Shopify’s YouTube channel to watch recordings of all the break-out sessions.

Keynotes at Shopify Blog: https://www.shopify.com/partners/blog/unite-keynotes-2018?utm_campaign=partner+blog+rss&utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_content=180518&mc_cid=d25202de41&mc_eid=9e2349ba02

Break-out sessions at Shopify YouTube Channel; https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvQF73bM4-5Vxu_b8ofskvvRuitNOHnM_

E-commerce platforms are competing for your company’s business. Here’s how to make the right choice

There was a time when choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business was a relatively easy task. Back in the mid-2000s—a lifetime ago in the world of digital commerce—there were only a tiny handful of platform providers to choose from. Think the likes of Shopify (which launched in 2006) and Magento (that made its debut in 2008).

BigCommerce would launch a year later, followed by a plethora of platforms that catered to both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B)-focused organizations. Now, the choices for eCommerce businesses are vast. WooCommerce, SAP Hybris, Oracle Commerce Cloud, SalesForce, commercetools and other competitors have joined the likes of those early eCommerce trailblazers.

Organizations now have more choice than ever; that also means headaches when attempting to assess each platform’s utility, customizability and applicability to their business model.

Indeed, the highly-documented ‘eCommerce platform wars’ have been raging for years, with no single vendor able to completely outflank and defeat their industry rivals in the way that Google or Facebook have managed in the search and social media sectors, respectively (and whatever other technology field they happen to be trying to invent or dominate as of the publishing of this article).

But organizations and their IT and marketing departments are wise to rise above the fray as they make a choice that could effectively make or break their eCommerce business. Today’s consumers are savvy and demand an optimal experience when interacting with any company online, particularly when it comes to purchasing goods or services. Your choice of eCommerce platform will not only define your customer service experience when making purchases, it will also largely dictate ongoing customer and community engagement.

No second chances

If there was a core truism in the digital era, it’s that consumers rarely afford companies the opportunity to make a great second impression. Their first experience with a platform will inevitably dictate their willingness to give it a second try. Many organizations choose an eCommerce platform because it seems easy to implement, but the complexity of merging incompatible applications and then ensuring effective use and adoption across internal departments, can often sink their chances of success soon after launch. In those cases, customer engagement fails to gain traction and sales suffer as a result.

Needless to say, this is a very expensive lesson to learn. We’ve encountered several organizations that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars cycling through multiple eCommerce platforms, with no end in sight to their digital dissatisfaction or bottom-line woes. That’s why we recommend taking a 360-degree approach to the eCommerce procurement process. It’s only possible to choose the right platform if you understand exactly how it will be deployed across your organization, what your core eCommerce requirements are in the first place, and whether the platform can scale and offer the resiliency needed to address your ongoing operational requirements. Most importantly, is it the right platform for your customers today, as well as in the future? That’s an important brand question that needs to be explored with your marketing, sales and operations departments.

Implementing a new eCommerce platform that best serves your company in its current form, therefore, is a mistake. The focus should instead be on choosing a system that’s best-suited to supporting your company’s long-term growth objectives.

Breaking up is hard (and expensive) to do

Remember that for many organizations—and possibly yours—an eCommerce platform is the very foundation of its business model. A platform needs to be able to help manage everything from inventory and pricing to customer and product information—more on that later. It should complement existing technology in use across the business and provide a cost-effective, efficient solution for managing all eCommerce activities. It should also provide enough functionality to ensure the consolidation (or elimination) of legacy technology that’s outlived its usefulness. If the platform’s functionality ticks all of these boxes—be it BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify or whichever other system you might test-drive—then you have a winner.

Regardless, make sure that the system you choose also comes with a parachute. Consider it your eCommerce prenup. As any good divorce lawyer will tell you, the best way to enter a marriage is to have an exit strategy. While that may be a highly unromantic way to look at what might otherwise prove a blissful union, it makes sense—especially when it comes to digital technologies. Once your business is built on an eCommerce foundation, it’s very difficult (in some cases virtually impossible) to switch systems.

Ensure that you have a backup plan should the eCommerce marriage fail, or better still, make the right choice of partner in the first place. Does the vendor have a strong industry reputation for providing effective support, with relevant industry experience serving businesses the size of yours—and with a strong business model of their own—to ensure the longevity of the relationship? These are all important questions. And remember, involving team members in key departments such as IT, marketing, sales, finance, operations and senior management in the decision-making process is critical to choosing a platform that makes sense for your company.

A focus on flexibility

Above all else, the eCommerce platform war is largely being won by providers that can provide a client-centric experience and flexibility to users of its technology. It’s important to consider any eCommerce platform engagement as a partnership. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need other partners to maximize the return on those investments. You’ll likely want to centralize product information to manage multiple SKUs across platforms and across different languages and currencies, with the aid of product information management (PIM) software.

Ensure that any eCommerce platform you select has the flexibility to support a robust PIM system. A PIM platform will allow your team to centrally manage attribute data and publish to various channels and marketplaces, then aggregate all order information back to the PIM. Retailers, for example, can manage product pricing changes and sub-brands across channels without the need to edit information across platforms.

Here’s the important takeaway: as eCommerce platform providers compete for your organization’s business, remember that taking a strategic approach to procurement is key to making the right decision. Take your time to choose the right provider and do your homework before signing on the dotted line.

The Technology Partner Program provides Shopify Plus Merchants with access to Jasper’s innovative PIM and iPaaS solution.

Toronto, ON, February 12, 2018

Jasper, one of Canada’s leading SaaS Product Information Management (PIM) providers, is pleased to announce that it is joining the Shopify Plus Technology Partner Program.

Joining the Technology Partner Program gives Plus merchants access to the kind of sophisticated product management technology necessary to take their retail operations to the next level. Jasper’s innovative Product Information Management (PIM) and Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) solutions are flexible, affordable, and powerful. It is an effective complement to Shopify’s industry-leading eCommerce shopping cart platform.

“We’re proud to join this curated list of innovative technology and service partners,” said Jasper founder and CEO Jon Marsella.

“Our solution enables significant cost reduction and top-line revenue growth that can provide immediate measurable benefits to Shopify Plus customers.”

He continued: “Our aim is to help retailers organize their products, reduce labour costs, reach new markets, and achieve rapid ROI on their overall technology spend. We believe that Jasper, working with Shopify Plus, will give businesses of all sizes another set of indispensable tools to help realize these goals.”

A division of Shopify that focuses on emerging brands and high-volume businesses, Shopify Plus is a centralized commerce platform for the next-generation of retail. From mobile ready stores to innovative pop-up experiences, to direct-to-consumer experimentation, the Shopify Plus platform is enabling the creation and innovation of today’s modern, global merchant, while providing world-class scalability, reliability and flexibility.

To maintain growth, those same merchants often require unique software solutions as their logistical and operational requirements become more complex. The Shopify Plus Technology Partner Program is designed to connect merchants with a curated and vetted list of industry-leading technology and service partners across a wide variety of disciplines that address the unique complexities of high-growth, high-volume merchants, further enabling their continued growth.

Jasper’s PIM enables retailers to operate across multiple brands, languages, currencies and publication channels, including multiple eCommerce storefronts and marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. The Jasper PIM is an advanced product merchandising tool (powered by its iPaaS layer) that synchronizes product data across all connected eCommerce business systems. Features include: product data categorization & workflow management, automated language translation, pricing comparison logic, business intelligence augmentation, advanced reporting, inventory synchronization & fulfillment systems integration.

Retail customers of all sizes that leverage Shopify Plus and Jasper’s PIM solution can centralize product management and scale their retail operation across an unlimited number of external eCommerce stores, catalogues and product databases, point-of-sale systems, affiliate feeds, and marketplaces with greater consistency and accuracy.

“Jasper is a proven provider of SaaS Product Information Management applications, and we look forward to working with their team as we continue to find innovative ways to service our merchant community,” said Jamie Sutton, Head of Technology Partnerships.

For more information, visit www.jasperpim.com

CONTACT: Michael Durance, VP of Strategy
michaeld@jasperstudios.com

About Jasper

Jasper is a leading PIM and iPaaS solution provider. Our SaaS cloud-based solution enables retailers, wholesalers and brands to quickly create, categorize and publish products across multiple outbound channels, centralizing product management into one flexible platform. We help our clients decrease time to market for new product, optimize merchandising workflows, build brand equity and ensure absolute product accuracy when publishing to channels such as: Shopify, Google, Amazon, eBay, ChannelAdvisor and others. Featured clients include: SkullCandy, Avery Dennison PFS, Mad Dogg Athletics (Spinning.com), and Mrs Bow Tie.

For more information, visit www.jasperpim.com