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10 Oct 2019

Scaling merchants to a global level (w/ Shopify Plus)

Amy Zobec (Senior Enterprise Sales) and Laura Tisot (Merchant Success Manager) from Shopify Plus share their insights on scaling merchants to a global level, and discuss the challenges that scaling brings with it in the ASEAN region.


Nikolaj Groeneweg (Host): Welcome to the French Tech Podcast here at the Big Data World Asia conference in Singapore. Very happy to welcome here, Amy and Laura from Shopify Plus. Could I ask the both of you starting with you Amy, to quickly introduce yourselves?

Amy Zobec: Yeah sure, my name is Amy Zobec. I am an Enterprise Sales Rep based in Sydney, Australia, and I work within the Shopify Plus organization which falls under Shopify.

Laura Tisot: And my name is Laura Tisot. I'm a Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus based in Auckland in New Zealand, and I work with a whole range of large emergence on Shopify Plus to help them grow and scale their business through a wide variety of topics as they maximize Plus. So we talk about marketing, about advertising, logistics and fulfilment, business operations - really helping them to scale and maximize the platform.


Nikolaj (Host): Now many people have probably heard about Shopify, but not everybody knows Shopify Plus. What does the “Plus” stand for?

Amy: Shopify Plus is our enterprise platform designed for larger, more complex merchants and when we say larger merchants, are typically merchants that are doing over a million dollars in revenue on an annual basis. Shopify Plus, we really give our enterprise merchants the tools to be able to grow and scale quickly through innovation, automation and reliability. So really a platform to help them take their sales globally faster and quicker.


Nikolaj (Host): So, what are some of the specific issues that companies are dealing with when they're in that Plus segment?

Amy: A lot of things you know how can we get all of the current tools that we're using internally? Most of the merchants that we work with have internal ERP systems, CRM systems, marketing automation tools, so how can we consolidate those as much as possible?

As well as really trying to grow, bring more products to market, manage internal teams. They may have a whole bunch of different teams that they're working with, and then how to streamline and automate as much as possible without bogging down internal resources. So I don't want to have a whole team of you know internal developers or technical resources maintaining the site. They want someone to manage the technology platform for them to really focus on what matters for their business which is that growth, that marketing, that product development.


Nikolaj (Host): So, Shopify Plus can provide value on all of those fronts?

Amy: Exactly right. We're a tech company, and we don't expect our merchants to become tech companies themselves. So, they move their e-commerce over to Shopify and then that's where we really help them to kind of drive them into the next phase of growth through their organization.

Laura: A lot of the time when they reach the Plus level, not only are they choosing to invest time and effort in e-commerce, but they're often going through change in a lot of different functions of the business. Internal capacities versus external for example, do they want to use an advertising agency or do they want to hire a specialist in-house? I do help with a lot of those types of conversations versus you know, what's worth investing in internally and versus outsourcing for like a very specific specialty. So, we do support them through all of those different types of business functions as well.


Nikolaj (Host): Right, so they reach the plus segment right at a pivot point when they have to start thinking about transforming the way they do business to keep their growth going and to reach a real global level.

Laura: Yeah a lot of them do and we actually see a lot of merchants who might start on basic Shopify and scale all the way through to Plus, so they grow in revenue obviously but also in complexity, so we are sort of alongside them as they're going through that transformation journey, and we try to bring a lot of the experience and expertise we have to the table to help guide those conversations.


Nikolaj (Host): So, you're in Merchant Success, right? That's really what you're all about, so here in the region it's mostly smaller merchants I think, as it is globally, I would say?

Laura: Yeah definitely, the trend is definitely the base of our merchants is mainly smaller. But Shopify Plus is gaining in traction and getting a lot more merchants on board at the moment.

Amy: So globally we have over 800,000 merchants on our platform across all Shopify plans, and then just over 5,000 of those are on Shopify plus, over that million-dollar mark.


Nikolaj (Host): So, I hear in the region, there are a lot of challenges that are quite unique when you're compared to the rest of the world and one of the things is really cross border selling right? Geographically there’s a lot of challenges. Companies start, merchants start in one market and they soon want to expand into other markets and as they grow towards the Plus segment hopefully, how do you guys help them on that journey?

Amy: That's a really good question and something that we love hearing our merchants that have started selling in the country like Singapore or New Zealand, and all of a sudden they've had international success and you know they've made it in the US, and they're seeing a lot of sales coming through and they become a global name which is really really exciting for us.

What we hope to do initially is because our platform is so easy, quick and simple to set up, we're really helping that test and learn phase, so you don't have to have a whole team of developers building out a website for you just to trial your product in another market. You can very quickly and easily set up a Shopify store and test it out in a new market, getting all those data, A/B testing, learning from that, and really deciding your strategy based on all of that, so that's kind of the mapping phase.

The second stage is the launch phase, so we help with that, getting your Shopify store setup, getting all of your logistics set up and then really helping around product development, localizing your content, your marketing messages etc, and then the final phase is that scalability.

So, once you've kind of nailed that down, you've got your marketing, you’re driving website traffic and conversions, how do you then scale and take that business even further within that country? And something that we support and what we've really focused on in the last sort of 12 months are things like multi-currency so being able to support local currencies across Asia in the world. So, customers can actually view products in their local currency and then checkout in their local currency - that's available on Shopify payments. And then also things like multi-language support as well, which is really important and really being able to localize so that customers really get a feel or a sense for their product in that country.


Nikolaj (Host): Well I mean as an entrepreneur I can only attest that all of these services when starting out are extremely useful right, and I think where you just said that some of your merchants stay with Shopify all the way through their growth up to that Plus segment just really speaks through the engagement that they have of you as a platform.

Laura: Yeah, we get a lot of merchants that are actually you know coming from the previous Shopify plans and they're wanting to maximize Plus, and as I said before it does often come at that pivotal point. And what Amy was saying about international and cross-border as well, like what we commonly find is especially in Asia-pacific is that because of the geography, the population sizes, merchant do tend to go global or go international a lot sooner. So, whilst they're progressing through Shopify and their needs becoming more complex, often it's at that time where they hit Plus, that cross-border selling is really a hot topic of conversation.

For New Zealand, the next common step is Australia, purely because of geography and then commonly it comes down to tackling local markets and English first, depending on where they're coming from. So, coming into Singapore and Hong Kong, I work with a number of merchants doing that as well. And then based on their product and their market fit which we sort of help step them through, then depends on what's the next step, what makes logistical and you know financial sense for them in terms of going into international markets with all of the multi-language and multi-currency support as well.


Nikolaj (Host): Well I noticed some of the French tech companies that we support do use Shopify, so it's great to hear that they will be able to stay with you as they hit that global scale, and as they hit their real success. Well thank you very much to you both for taking the time to speak to me today. Really very interesting, hope you're having a good time here at the conference?

Amy: It's been a really good two days. We've got the Shopify booth, and then our Shopify Plus VIP Lounge as well, so had a lot of really good conversations and yeah, we've enjoyed our time here in Singapore.

Laura: Thanks so much for your time.

Nikolaj (Host): Thank you very much.

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