Is Shopify Ready For Enterprise?

  • Strategy
  • November 17, 2021
  • by Freyja Wedderkop & Gregoire Barre

We’ve seen global brands such as Gymshark, Kylie Cosmetics and Allbirds start on the internet and experience global success through Shopify Plus. Despite these shining examples, there’s still some hesitancy from enterprises, brands selling at least £150m+ online and £200m+ across their business, when it comes to Shopify.

For legacy enterprises like Jigsaw, Budweiser and Lindt with hundreds of back-end processes, hosting an entire ecosystem on Shopify is daunting - can it host their centralized systems and withstand north of 100k SKUs? Is Shopify Plus ready for enterprise? 

Spoiler alert, it is and we have the portfolio to prove it. 

In this article, we’ll tackle some of the common concerns we’ve heard from enterprise-level brands coming to Plus and talk about why Shopify and enterprise are a match made in heaven.

A brief note on Headless

Before we dive right in, in this article we briefly mention Headless commerce. Headless commerce is obviously gaining momentum and plays an important role in the Shopify/enterprise readiness debate. But, for the purpose of this article, we’re focusing on Shopify Plus and its suitability. Read more on our latest overview of headless. 

So, let's get into it...

The usual objections to Shopify (and our answers) 

Misconceptions about Shopify

There’s a common misconception that Shopify is made for small merchants and is not enterprise-level ready. Shopify has invested in expanding its offering to businesses of all sizes through its technology partnerships, social media collaborations and new products (but we’ll get to that later). For now, let's look at some of the large brands thriving on Shopify Plus… 

Gymshark

Sales: £41 million in sales during 2017.

Reach: 5.1 million social media followers in 131 countries.

Gymshark became one of the fastest growing global fitness and apparel brands through Shopify.

Kylie Cosmetics

Sales: $52.1 million in 2020

Reach: 25.5 million social media followers on the branded account

Kylie's empire all began on Shopify and has grown from strength to strength, introducing her sub brands Kylie Skin and Kylie Baby to the platform.

HiSmile

Sales: Eclipsed $130 million in total sales

Reach: Shipped globally to customers in 182 countries

Starting off on Shopify and growing a cult following by using celebrity and influencer endorsements, HiSmile sold $5 million in one week alone over the 2018 holidays.

Allbirds

Sales: $219 million in revenue in 2020

Reach: 11 U.S. locations, and 10 global stores—from London to Auckland to Tokyo. 

On Shopify from the first sale to full scale, Allbirds became an IPO with a valuation of roughly $4.1billion.

Enterprise brands (and their boards) want to see a well-trodden path

Historically, the Shopify path has been led by hyper-growth DTC brands (like the ones above). This has been a challenge for enterprise brands as they’re much more complex, with their high volume stock, international reach, multiple departments or divisions, third parties and supply chain and so they assume the platform can’t handle their size and scale. Understandably they look to the likes of their peers, with similar complexity, like Nike, Adidas, Zara and Samsung (to name a few) for safety. This is all changing with brands like Staples, Hasbro, Conde Nast, JB Hi Fi, Jigsaw and Alessi coming into the Shopify ecosystem, and succeeding. After replatforming to Shopify Plus, Alessi experienced a 109% improvement in their conversion rate, 222% increase in their transactions leading to a 210% increase in their overall revenue. 

Handling of big product catalogs

A common theme we see in the usual objections to Shopify can be narrowed down to a legacy concept that Shopify is the ‘hero of entrepreneurs’, small businesses that often sell niche products and therefore have small product catalogs. However, there are stores on the platform that are managing catalogs north of 100k SKUs.

Fashion label, Fashion Nova has 100's of SKUs on their Shopify store

Checkout customization

Enterprises often have an established and well-recognized brand so customization can be a deal-breaker. It might be that they want to use customization for subscription services, to customize the overall functionality of their site or, to change the look and feel of the checkout. 

Therein lies the objection, Shopify doesn’t usually allow clients to fully customize their checkout (aside from the Shopify checkout where merchants can add or remove features to suit their brand) for multiple reasons. This was a bigger hurdle before the introduction of tools like Shop Pay, an accelerated checkout. Shop Pay allows merchants to create seamless checkout processes and increases checkout speed by 4x making it a beneficial alternative to a legacy payment processor.

But, for further peace of mind, Shopify’s long line of successful merchants using the Shopify checkout process can give enterprises confidence when it comes to swapping a legacy payment processor for a Shopify checkout. 

Monolithic System

Shopify is a monolithic system, which has its pros and cons. One con that could turn enterprises away is the lack of design flexibility, obstructing creative teams that want to create content-rich experiences. Although less flexible than perhaps a headless framework, monolithic systems like Shopify still offer plenty of design flexibility. Also, with the introduction of Hydrogen, Shopify’s latest react framework and Oxygen, Shopify’s answer to hosting Hydrogen storefronts on Shopify, merchants will be able to build custom storefronts without complexity whilst still being fast and global. 

Even without these frameworks, there are still content-led enterprise brands creating visual and creative stores on Shopify.

Pangaia are known for their focus on design

Connectivity with an external CMS

This is an issue for enterprises that have a centralized system and processes linked to the creation and launch of new pages and products. As it stands now, Shopify doesn’t support the use of an external CMS in parallel to a Liquid Theme. But, with the introduction of the Headless framework merchants are now able to be more flexible with Shopify as a front-end platform whilst maintaining their existing CMS in the back-end. Despite this flexibility, headless has had a slow uptake, but we see this changing. For now, here’s our take on some of the successful brands using headless on Shopify.

Why enterprise and Shopify are a match made in heaven

The services exclusively available to Plus merchants are the most cutting edge on the platform, meaning brands get a low cost of ownership for a high potential, which is a huge benefit in comparison to legacy platforms that don’t adapt or innovate with the trends and developments in e-commerce. 

Shopify is always growing

Shopify is conducting constant product growth in order to support their merchants by continually listening to feedback on common challenges and improving their offering and platform, giving merchants the tools to innovate and be a disruptor. Whether it’s adapting to mobile first or handling the synthesis of social media and commerce, Shopify has lots of features to offer. And as an added bonus, you don’t need to custom-develop everything to stay in line with the future.

Shopify’s Global ERP Program. Shopify’s new Global ERP Program is aimed at large-scale, high-volume retail businesses such as Enterprises that need to transform their operations to continue serving their customers in the best way. The new Program allows ERP partners to build direct integrations into the Shopify App Store connecting to global ERP providers like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Oracle NetSuite. This means a centralized system for their commerce platform and their financials and inventory information. 

Shopify x TikTok shopping. We know social commerce is one of the fastest growing channels for businesses both Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVB) and brick and mortar brands that have ventured into commerce. That’s why Shopify, with TikTok Shopping, became the first commerce platform to bring organic product discovery and shopping tabs to Tikok, allowing Shopify merchants to reach more customers and develop their relationships.

Enterprise and legacy brand Guess on Tiktok

Non-Fungible Tokens. Blockchain technology is quickly making its way into e-commerce. Staying ahead of the trend, it made sense for Shopify to start allowing eligible merchants to sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens) using blockchain. The NBA’s Chicago Bulls launched their first NFTs - digital artwork of NBA championship rings - on Shopify. On its first day of making them available, the NBA team sold out of the NFTs within just 90 seconds.

This opens the door up to merchants of all sizes, including enterprises, to expand their product offering and reach their customers in a new way. 

Cutting-edge partnership on all fronts. 

Shopify has technology partnerships with Affirm, GlobalE and Yotpo, to name a few, that can offer merchants products and services across multiple channels through their Shopify store in a seamless and easily managed way. On top of this, Shopify is working with their technology partners to integrate more natively with the platform, bringing new functionality and more preferred partners to the space without enterprise (or other businesses) relying on building their own integrations.

Shopify has a wide range of APIs to connect to merchants' external systems. This is particularly useful for enterprises with complex and existing solutions to enhance the DTC experience and help analyze their customers' behaviors and habits to make strategic and data-focused decisions.

Where you might find challenges

Large enterprise logistical challenges

Enterprise clients may find they still need to invest in enterprise products to support Shopify if they have lots of legal requirements. Shopify is a SaaS company with a standard ‘service’ in the sense that they sell a software product and their terms don’t alter much. 

Clients that might want to do everything quickly & cheaply 

Shopify for enterprise doesn’t come cheap (although the overall cost of ownership is lower on Shopify than that of a Magento or custom platform) especially if you want to continue using existing complex and enterprise-level internal rules and requirements. To overcome this it’s important to prioritize your discovery sessions so plenty of stakeholders are in the know, giving them confidence in Shopify and potential integrations from some stakeholders. 

Clients might have the perspective that Shopify is 'easy'

Therefore any limitations or areas of complexity that are presented to an enterprise client are seen as major and in some cases, can make them feel as if Shopify has been mis-sold.  Shopify can be 'easy' but only when a client is open-minded about making changes to their business processes - and this isn't always realistic for an enterprise client because there may be many stakeholders who would need to sign off on said changes.

Adopting new technology

Typically, the biggest challenge to any organization adopting new technology is the culture. If merchants are reluctant to integrate new technology or innovate their existing processes and user experience they'll face a challenge with creating an easy-to-navigate site. Although Shopify is ready for enterprise with all the bells and whistles to make a great website, enterprises need to be ready for Shopify. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom, if there is a culture of true innovation and willingness to make things better, then we usually see an easier adoption of Shopify. A great example of this is the work we’ve done with Hasbro. They have been fully invested in Shopify since day one and this has been a key ingredient to their success. 

Conclusion

For a long time, Shopify has been seen as a “risky” option for large enterprise brands. But with the exponential growth in e-commerce and Shopify’s consistent yearn to innovate and improve, it’s now becoming the go-to enterprise solution. Enterprise and legacy brands like Hasbro, Jigsaw, Budweiser, and Lindt have all made the transition to Shopify Plus and have seen tremendous success on the platform. 

This trend of enterprise brands joining Shopify Plus is not slowing down, so in conclusion, yes Shopify Plus has been ready for enterprise brands for a long time. But now it’s time for enterprise brands to get ready for Shopify Plus.

Thinking about a move to Shopify Plus but need more answers? Get in touch with one of our solutions team today. 


Authors

Freyja Wedderkop

Freyja joined We Make Websites in 2021 and brought over two years of B2B marketing experience with her. She has an MSc in Marketing and specializes in digital marketing, social media and content marketing. She also has a passion for design, events and, outside of marketing, loves cooking up a storm.

Gregoire Barre

Gregoire joined We Make Websites in 2020. He has degree in Economics coupled with 2 years of experience in retail and 4 years of experience in the e-commerce field as an e-commerce Manager and Business Analyst in the Agency world.


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