Wait… Is Shopify Killing Your Business?

Henry Davis

What if the thing constraining your business most isn't Facebook, iOS 14, or your content. What if it's Shopify?

We all know what Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. With that in mind, if you are a DTC business leader, can you tell me: has your CAC improved recently?

You might not think you’ve repeated the same behaviors – you've changed your creative, your channel strategy, your agency, and maybe even your VP of Marketing. But these changes haven’t made an impact. Why?

What if it's not you? What if it’s not even Facebook, iOS 14, or your content? What if it’s the platform you’ve been relying on to power your commerce efforts? What if it’s Shopify?

Why are so many founders happy to allow their biggest store — their ecommerce store — to be built on the same generic platform as everyone else?

Imagine a DTC founder was looking to build their flagship store in New York, and they were told they’d receive the same cookie-cutter white box that all the other nearby stores have. They could choose from a series of off-the-shelf tools to customize that store, but it would ultimately be the same components as the store next door, and the one across the street. No brand would accept this. After all, a flagship store should offer an innovative, exciting, one-of-a-kind experience to your customers.

So why are so many founders happy to allow their biggest store — their ecommerce storefront — to be built on the same generic platform as everyone else?

Well, Shopify is the safe option! No one gets fired for choosing Shopify, right? Plus, it has an app ecosystem that makes it easy to do things for your customers. And it’s cheap, right?

Sure you can easily stand up Shopify. You can easily add one of Mailchimp / Iterable / Klaviyo. You can add one of Zendesk / Kustomer / Giorgas. You probably are gonna want Yotpo in there. All as JavaScript integrations on the front-end. Sound familiar? Yup — because every other commerce business is doing exactly the same thing.

That’s ok, right, because you totally just copied everyone else with your product and packaging, right? No, of course you didn’t! So why are you happy to do it with your commerce offering?

Yeah, but what if my agency said Shopify is the best?

Agencies LOVE Shopify, and that’s because there is a whole ecosystem based around maintaining Shopify’s dominance. There is a strong chance that your agency will push Shopify because it's "easier" and "faster." But just because it’s easier and faster for them doesn’t mean it’s best for you. So they will take your money and do what they know how to do – give you what they give every one of their clients.

We are in the era of Web3, yet still somehow you are stuck manually populating Excel. How does that help you truly understand and quickly respond to your customers?

But doesn’t Shopify just get the job done?

Does it? Is getting the job done having to download data from Shopify, Google Analytics, and from all of your point solutions, then putting it in a spreadsheet to do manual analytics? Because that does not sound very 2022 to me. We are in the era of Web3, yet still somehow you are stuck manually populating Excel. How does that help you truly understand and quickly respond to your customers? We all want to compete with Amazon, which uses AI to do real-time merchandising and pricing updates. If you rely on Shopify, you are bringing a water balloon to a gunfight.

The truth is Shopify is built on infrastructure that is now nearly twenty years old. It was also designed for small businesses, not growing DTC businesses that need to scale.

Shopify changed commerce and should be lauded for making it more accessible to so many. But when the product was built, the founders did not conceive of the world we have now. This world has sophisticated DTC founders with unique brands and a desire to grow to the next level. DTC today is full of people looking to engage and understand their customers in new and innovative ways. Shopify can’t serve these brands and can’t keep up.

Need evidence? Take a look at Shopify’s approach to many things considered “table stakes” for today’s ecommerce leaders. Subscription, internationalization, and personalization are painful to deploy with Shopify’s template-based approach. You can’t make the most of significant technological advancements like the JAMstack, either.

With Shopify backing your store, you sacrifice…

  • Unique brand positioning in favor of templates
  • The ability to easily use data to understand and engage with your customers
  • So many features that should be table stakes
  • Site performance and site speed

All in, it isn’t even cheaper than more modern, sophisticated solutions on a Total Cost of Ownership basis

Sure you could architect and code around some of these challenges. But why should you have to? I know very few DTC founders who started their companies with the intent of worrying about tech and data architecture.

If you are an ambitious brand, you don’t compromise on product quality. You don’t compromise on branding. You don’t compromise on customer experience. You don’t compromise on hiring. Why would you compromise on your tech? If you aspire to be more than average, then Shopify isn’t the answer.

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