Shopify opens a storefront to support its online merchants

Discussion
Photo: Shopify
Oct 15, 2018
Tom Ryan

Shopify, the e-commerce platform provider, has become the latest online specialist to open a physical location.

The “Entrepreneur Space” in downtown Los Angeles, which TechCrunch described as similar to an Apple store, will feature 20 trained Shopify “gurus” providing free in-person support to “merchants and aspiring entrepreneurs” ranging from start-ups to established, multi-location retailers.

The space will host workshops and talks from industry experts at least weekly to accommodate around 50 people covering a range of topics from product photography to paid search advertising and the ups and downs of independent business ownership. Smaller classes supporting around 10 people will be held each day and merchants can set up one-on-one appointments online. More than 100 registered for sessions last Thursday on the first day of the location’s opening.

Shopify chose Downtown Los Angeles because the area has over 400 top-performing of its merchants who have each individually earned over $1 million in GMV (gross merchandise volume). There are 10,000 Shopify merchants in Los Angeles alone, and the state of California hosts about 80,000 of the vendor’s 600,000 merchants.

The location builds on the assistance Shopify’s network of gurus have provided to merchants online, via telephone, through live chat as well as at some in-person events over the years.

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Said Satish Kanwar, VP of product at Shopify, in a statement, “We know that making more resources available to entrepreneurs, especially early on, makes them far more likely to succeed, and we’re happy to now be offering that through a brick-and-mortar experience in LA.”

The location is also expected to serve as a networking spot for online merchants.

“The path to being your own boss doesn’t need to be lonely or isolating,” said Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein. “With Shopify LA we wanted to create a hub where business owners can find support, inspiration and community. Most importantly, entrepreneurs at all stages and of all sizes can learn together, have first access to our newest products and propel their entrepreneurial dreams.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the greatest appeal of a physical Shopify location to the online merchants that use its platform? Would other tech vendors benefit from a similar selling, learning and networking space?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Creating an environment for value-added services like this in a highly concentrated independent merchant area is a great move for Shopify. "
"Sure the space is going to support its existing customers, but it will also serve as the ideal place for prospective new customers to find out more."
"It should appeal to many small businesses and entrepreneurs who would rather talk to someone in person about their tech issues, rather than online."

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13 Comments on "Shopify opens a storefront to support its online merchants"


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Jon Polin
BrainTrust

The exposure that Shopify merchants get if they are featured in the physical store is great, but the main benefit is the feeling of companionship that Shopify is creating. Being an entrepreneur is lonely. Everything Shopify does to build a sense of community among their entrepreneurial merchants is good for the merchants and solidifies the merchants’ loyalty to Shopify.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

I’m with Jon that the community aspect of this move is most powerful. There’s only so much that can be created online — physically bringing people together takes the experience to another level. I don’t think the approach necessarily applies to all tech vendors, but the idea of a more connected community is applicable across the board.

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

Great initiative. Sort of like Apple’s Genius Bar — but for B2B! The brilliance here is that smaller retailers have the opportunity to go and meet with someone in-person, to work out problems, snags or learn new aspects of the product.

Having a networking space like this definitely makes sense. This is the first I have heard of a B2B initiative like this and I think it is brilliant. Many B2B tech players work on providing videos online of various training and assisting tidbits. But having an in-person opportunity — which is always there (unlike trade shows) — is definitely a great investment. Good work Shopify!

Joanna Rutter
BrainTrust
8 months 3 days ago

I can envision Google opening similar support center storefronts for the same reasons you listed here!

David Weinand
BrainTrust

Creating an environment for value-added services like this in a highly concentrated independent merchant area is a great move for Shopify. If they can can help their merchants better their chances for success, what better marketing tool is there? They’ll add loyalty to the platform and ensure long term clients.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Interesting move. Putting a “retail support center” (for lack of a better term) in the middle of the customers who may need what Shopify sells. If this works, I can see Shopify and other software companies creating a center for their current and future customers to learn more and get help as needed. If this is something the customer needs, then it is potentially a good community builder.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Interesting move to foster more community relationships around their customer base. The comparison to Apple Genius Bars makes sense. This looks to be a nice boost to all the local LA retailers on Shopify’s platform. Not only can they now learn face-to-face from Shopify experts, but they can also share knowledge with fellow retailers in an environment that fosters collaboration locally. If this is successful we could see more platform vendors follow this approach.

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

This is a good call for Shopify, and a low-risk, high reward move. It should appeal to many small businesses and entrepreneurs who would rather talk to someone in person about their tech issues, rather than online. It also looks to be a good location for learning initiatives and community events. All of this keeps Shopify top of mind and should help grow their customer base.

Jennifer McDermott
Guest

This is the experiential roll out of Shopify’s Fraud Protect, launched last week. The physical stores are a great merchant engagement strategy to communicate the new product and convert new entrepreneur targets.

Seth Nagle
BrainTrust

Online merchants/entrepreneurs don’t have time to search discussion threads and/or play email tag with customer support. They need answers quickly and Shopify’s new store and seminars should do just that.

With companies like BigCommerce competing for market share, this is a great added value service to make Shopify stand out against their competitors.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

It’s a great marketing initiative by Shopify. Sure the space is going to support its existing customers, but it will also serve as the ideal place for prospective new customers to find out more. Having a physical presence can help brands to feel more legitimate and this may encourage more people to come over to Shopify. Plus, there is always the store as an advertising discovery element too. I think the idea is a nice one though. The classes and workshops seem well pitched and the option for one-on-one advice and support in-person will be attractive. There’s just something about speaking to people face-to-face that makes you feel more connected than other forms of communication. The space also gives somewhere for Shopify to build its community — not just its own customer relationships, but for businesses and entrepreneurs to meet one another.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Aspiring entrepreneurs have a lot of questions and need a lot of help to solve challenges that are common to many other online retailers. Solving these problems in a collaborative in-person environment with other entrepreneurs and experts from Shopify will make the process more effective and enjoyable. Entrepreneurs are often holed up in their garage or basement working long hours, and often by themselves. Having a place to interact with peers and get free training and support will be a welcomed service.

As the Entrepreneur Space expands, they may want to consider adding additional elements that we have recently seen introduced by Amazon (Amazon 4-star stores which offers top rated products from online retailers) and Re:Store (physical marketplace and office space for entrepreneurs).

The store continues to morph from what it was to whatever comes next and Shopify is just another example of the relevance of the in-store experience.

Dan Frechtling
BrainTrust
The Entrepreneur Space answers a great question for online merchants: if they can find dozens of places to service their laptops, why can’t they find one to service their e-commerce businesses? It is a great part of Shopify’s training and loyalty program. But it needs to make money ultimately. To that end, there is actual selling going on in the center. These include trialling the Shopify POS system and the Printful sample service. I imagine a Shopify Capital representative is on hand as well. But it’s hard to imagine this concept will succeed on physical reach. Geographically, LA provides access to 10,000 Shopify merchants. But what about the other 590,000 in 175 countries? And while the center may help Shopify compete with direct competitors like Magento, how will that help them win against the real competition: Amazon, Walmart.com and other online marketplaces? The answer could be to use the Space in conjunction with Shopify’s online support and in-person roadshow touch points, and continuing a strategy of bundling merchant services to yield more revenue per customer.
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Creating an environment for value-added services like this in a highly concentrated independent merchant area is a great move for Shopify. "
"Sure the space is going to support its existing customers, but it will also serve as the ideal place for prospective new customers to find out more."
"It should appeal to many small businesses and entrepreneurs who would rather talk to someone in person about their tech issues, rather than online."

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