Masters of Inbound Marketing is a new feature which examines how amazing businesses have implemented inbound strategies to their advantage.
Since its inception in 2006, Shopify has revolutionized commerce. In case you’re unfamiliar with the service, here’s what you need to know: Shopify is an e-commerce platform which enables its users to create and manage online stores. You go to their site, sign up, pick or create a template, and your new shop is ready to be filled with awesome products. Picture it as WordPress-esque but specifically designed for online stores. Shopify, has secured over $100 million in funding, employs 369 people, and has offices in Ottawa, Toronto, as well as Montréal. Not bad for a business that was born out of selling snowboarding equipment.
There’s no doubt that Shopify has mastered the art of inbound marketing. The organization offers a quality service, excellent resources and support, and provides an incredible employee environment that will make you want to quit your job. And perhaps rethink your entire life.
Let’s take a look at how this company took a seemingly simple idea and turned it into something amazing through the use of the inbound philosophy.
The Quest for Quality
Shopify was founded by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake. Lütke and Lake originally tried to sell snowboarding equipment online, however, this proved to be challenging in 2004. The e-commerce platforms of the time did not fulfil Lütke’s needs. In an interview with Year One Labs, Lütke expressed his disappointment in existing online store services by stating that he was disgusted with their levels of quality. He started coding his own store, and the rest is history.
Shopify emerged out of a need, a real-world purpose, and offers something that has the potential to benefit an actual human being. That’s inbound 101. Lütke’s passion for quality can be seen in every aspect of the company and its services. For example, Shopify’s website is extremely user friendly, a tutorial exists for virtually every element of the service, and the actual platform itself is designed with the user in mind. Furthermore, the Shopify platform is customizable through the use of various apps. The company understands that store owners want to manage their shops in a variety of ways and allows them to do exactly that.
“My tolerance for poor design in function and looks is almost non-existent.” – Tobias Lütke (source).
Excellent documentation and a superb user experience are only 2 vertices in Shopify’s triangle of quality. Customer support is offered on a 24/7 basis over the phone, via email, and even through live chatting. A massive database of common questions is also available for anyone to consult.
Shopify powers over 80, 000 active stores and has attracted massive organizations such as General Electric, Tesla Motors, Encyclopedia Britannica, and even the Foo Fighters. It’s obvious that something of value can be appreciated on a grand scale by all sorts of people and groups.
There’s no point to a world class service if nobody wants to make it go. It might sound silly or seem obvious, but Shopify has always realized the importance of its employees. You spend a significant part of your life at work, so why not make that time as fantastic as possible, right? Employee happiness is a concept that’s lost on many people and is sometimes forgotten even by inbound marketers.
Happiness doesn’t kill productivity, and Shopify understands that. Employees are given plenty of space, health/dental benefits, flexible hours, allowances, catered lunches, and housecleaning services. The office even has a slide, a foosball table, beer taps, pinball, and game consoles.
The employee-employer trust is critical to the success of Shopify. The employees of the company aren’t just workers, they’re brand advocates thanks to the wonderful corporate culture. If your own company can’t generate positive sentiment from within, your inbound efforts will most likely fail. High levels of employee happiness and motivation allow Shopify to thrive in the ever-evolving digital space. Efficiency is never achieved from working pointlessly long hours with no goal in sight.
“If I can get five concentrated hours out of someone, that’s all I can ask, myself included.” - Tobias Lütke (source).
The Future and Beyond
Shopify is looking to fuse e-commerce with retail. In August 2013, the company launched a point of sale system which enables users to sell items in physical stores under the same overarching platform. The Shopify POS is actually an iPad app which can communicate with credit card readers, receipt printers, and cash drawers. It brings offline and online sales under one roof, thus making it easier for store owners to manage their business.
It’s pretty clear that online shopping has put a dent into retail, but the need for physical stores will probably always exist (or at least until the machines build the Matrix and take over). Shopify has recognized the inevitable fusion of retail and online and has made efforts to stay on top of their game, just as all inbound practitioners should.
Inbound marketers have a lot to learn from Shopify’s success. It takes patience and efficiency to produce quality. It seems like Shopify’s growth has no end in sight, and you’d be wise to keep an eye on them. Live and learn.
Find out how Shopify can improve it’s blog in part 2 of this feature.