In some ways it seemed like a deal with the devil.
In June, Shopify announced a new partnership with Walmart. As part of the deal, select merchants on the e-commerce platform would be able to feature their products on the Walmart marketplace. In essence, it was a way for the online platform for digitally native brands to offer a new and growing marketplace channel — one that many see as increasingly competing with Amazon.
“We wanted to ensure all our merchants had access to [Walmart’s] audience,” says Shopify’s head of retail, Ian Black, “in a way that’s as simple as using the Shopify platform.”
That, in a nutshell, is the formula Shopify has been slowly building on for years: trying to grow its presence as an e-commerce powerhouse by playing nice with as many companies as it can, but also trying to grow its own suite of premium products. The company grew by positioning itself as a facilitator of an ecosystem — a great facilitator. Now that it’s growing even more powerful, Shopify is quietly trying to control more of its domain while creating an even bigger ecosystem of large partners.
At its first quarter earnings report this past year, Shopify’s revenue hit $470 million, a 47% increase from the same period the year before. New Shopify storefronts too grew up 62% in the first quarter. Much of that was due to the unprecedented demand for e-commerce tools. But Shopify had also been laying the groundwork for years — and much of that had to do with its posture as both an easy and agnostic platform. Anyone could use it and it would most likely be able to work with anyone.