Is Shopify Plus a Scalable Ecommerce Platform for Enterprises?

Is Shopify Plus a Scalable Ecommerce Platform for Enterprises?
  • Fashion Nova — the fourth most Googled fashion brand of 2017 and the world’s fastest-growing fashion brand in history — relies on Shopify Plus and their Partner, Simplistic, for flawless performance
  • Death Wish Coffee made +$2K in sales per minute when their Super Bowl commercial aired and Shopify merchants processed $1.1M per minute in sales at Cyber Monday’s peak
  • Cupshe grew 259% YoY in 2016, increased sales another 59% YoY in 2017, and now operates north of $50 million in annual revenue leveraging a host of third-party integrations
  • Kylie Cosmetics handled 200K visitors simultaneously during the biggest product drop in ecommerce history and helped Kylie become a billion-dollar brand in just three years  
Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Enterprise ecommerce requires enterprise infrastructure. It demands serving exponentially more customers than it took to initially grow your business along with the ensuing back-office operations, integrations, and support.

Next to customization, the headline of this article is easily the most-common question we get asked at Shopify Plus. 

To answer it, we’ll examine …

Five challenges all high-growth merchants face and what to look for in a scalable ecommerce platform:
  1. Traffic & Sales Spikes without Fees
  2. Order, Fulfillment & Customer Management
  3. Ecommerce Automation to Do More with Less
  4. Sell Anywhere Customers Buy with Multi-Channel
  5. Data and Customer Security That’s Beyond “Compliant”

Given this article’s depth and length, you can …

Download it here

Or, connect with an ecommerce expert here to request pricing.

1. Traffic & Sales Spikes, Without Fees

Having helped generate more than $100 million in online sales over the last five years, Simplistic is easily the biggest ecommerce agency you’ve never heard of.

Its clients, however, are anything but unknown. Names like GE, Black and Decker, M&Ms, Electrolux, and Fashion Nova — the fastest growing fashion brand in history — adorn their portfolio.

So, why haven’t you heard of Simplistic?

Because, as Shopify Plus Partners, Simplistic specializes in creating online stores that can withstand the enormous traffic and sales surges that — in Fashion Nova’s case — come from being the fourth most-Googled fashion brand in the world and announcements like Cardi B kicking off her own Fall fashion line.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Image via Harpers Bazaar

For their other powerhouse clients, the agency often builds one-off flash sale sites to accompany major media appearances like Good Morning America, Shark Tank, The Ellen Show, and more.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Image via Simplistic

In other words, not hearing about Simplistic is exactly the point. As Greg Merrell, the co-founder of Simplistic explains:

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

“Shopify Plus is the only platform we trust to handle the massive spikes in traffic and transactions that come from Good Morning America, The View, and other nationally televised flash sales.

With over a thousand successful flash sales we can unequivocally recommend Shopify Plus for all of your high traffic needs.

After all, few feelings are worse than drawing hundreds, even thousands, of visitors to your site, only to have it crash.

You could ask David Heath, the CEO and co-founder of Bombas, who estimates his company lost upwards of $15,000 in sales the night of their first Shark Tank appearance.

And it wasn’t a one-time problem — when Bombas made the exponential jump from 500 transactions a day to as many as 5,000, their site grew increasingly unreliable. According to Heath, the “upgrade” that would make their site stable would cost them $150,000.

Or, you could talk to Brian Lim. In anticipation of the traffic spikes and increases of their Shark Tank appearance, Lim’s company, Emazing Lights, spent $200,000 trying to bulletproof their site. It was in vain … the site went down.

Of course, these kinds of major online events aren’t just driven by Shark Tank or major media appearances. Gymshark’s website crashed on Black Friday.

 

Billions of dollars in transactions move in these volatile events. On top of that, they can be the start of countless customer relationships … but only if those buyers actually become loyal customers.

That’s why no matter what your business is, and whoever your customers are, you need your site to be able to handle visitors without crashing or slowing down. It’s not worth it to sacrifice performance and reliability, especially through these exciting, and lucrative, events.

When faced with these overwhelming opportunities for profit, and the need for uptime, your provider options are limited — especially if you need to scale on demand.

For years, high-volume merchants allocate upwards of $1 million to maintain and keep their websites functional. What makes Shopify Plus uniquely suited to deal with enterprise demands without the enterprise price tag? 

Shopify Plus’ cloud-based infrastructure — which powers over 600,000 merchants at 80,000 requests per second at its peak — works on a cluster of Shopify’s own servers running Docker with the Rails app, along with a few AWS feature-based augmentations.

It was built to be resilient, with systems for controlled latency and solutions to ensure no single point of failure.

To maintain peak performance, the in-house team manually performs extensive passive load testing and optimizations by combing through critical parts of the platform.

The results speak for themselves and, while we’ve highlighted a few already, three more stand out.

(1) 200,000 Visitors, All at Once

In August 2016, Kylie Jenner hosted two of the largest pop-up stores in history to launch her cosmetics brand. The IRL turnouts were massive, but nothing compared to what happened online: over 200,000 people flooded the Kylie Cosmetics store simultaneously.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

“We launched at like 3 o’clock,” says Kylie, “and I refreshed the page and it was gone. It was under a minute. It had to be like 20 seconds and it all sold out. I was just in shock. I never imagined it would become as big as it has.”

(2) Super Bowl Traffic (Literally)

In 2017, Death Wish Coffee won the biggest advertising competition in the world: Quickbooks Big Game Super Bowl Challenge. The spot appeared in front of 111.9 million viewers the world over.

For two hours, new customers inundated Death Wish’s site — generating a quarter of a million dollars. That’s more than $2,083 a minute.

Even better, since then, the company has …

  • Continued to grow at 200% year-over-year
  • Create a predictable stream of recurring revenue via subscriptions
  • Capitalized on wholesale opportunities by getting picked up in 250 Safeway grocery stores

(3) Black Friday Cyber Monday

Nearly a quarter of a million visitors at once or $2,083 sales a minute is impressive for a single site. But — as you likely know — the real ecommerce scalability test comes during the holiday shopping season.

During Black Friday Cyber Monday’s peak, merchants on Shopify processed …

  • $1.1 million in sales per minute
  • 10,149 transactions per minute
  • With a grand total of over $1 billion in sales

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

For a full examination of BFCM, check out our Holiday Online Shopping Infographic: Data & Insights from Black Friday, Cyber Monday for This Year and Beyond

What About Global Performance?

With the increasingly international nature of ecommerce, leveraging a content delivery network (CDN) — or in the case of Shopify, dual CDNs — is a non-negotiable ingredient your platform should provide and optimize regularly.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Data compiled within The Enterprise Guide to Global Ecommerce

Shopify provides merchants with a world-class CDN powered by Fastly at no extra cost.

It allows sites to render instantly anywhere in the world, particularly the U.S., U.K., APAC region (Asia, Australia, and New Zealand), and both South America as well as southern Africa.

Rather than create thousands of small, scattered points of presence (POPs) — as legacy CDNs did during in the dial-up era — Fastly takes a fundamentally different approach:

“We’ve focused our efforts on placing fewer, more powerful POPs at strategic locations around the world,” the provider explains. “High-density POPs enable us to serve more from cache, including static and event-driven content. This improves your cache hit ratio, resulting in better user experiences.”

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Image via Fastly Network Map (March 2018)

As a redundancy, Shopify also provides access to Akamai’s CDN, what the company calls its “Media Delivery Network”:

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

As Red Dress Boutique owner Diana Harbour explains, CDNs are about both increasing speed and reducing cost:

“An annual license with Magento Enterprise starts around $50,000 and goes up. Hosting was costing us another $6,000 per month and the CDN was $2,000 per month. Getting our license, hosting, and CDN from Shopify Plus saved us about $100,000 per year right off the bat compared to Magento.”

Don’t have time to read the rest of the article right now?

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2. Order, Fulfillment & Customer Management

Front-end performance is one thing …

But, behind-the-scenes operations can make or break a multi-million dollar business.

Large-to-enterprise operations require a platform that integrates your store with a host of other critical systems. Done right, these integrations can result in labor drop costs, as well as increased accuracy and productivity.

Moreover, new technologies are launched rapidly. This type of adaptation requires flexibility that most platforms don’t offer.

When a high growth merchant starts out on Shopify Plus, the platform’s out-of-the-box CMS and OMS capabilities are a strong foundation to get started with. It makes managing multiple online stores, multiple fulfillment centers, multiple channels, and multiple relationships easy.

When a merchant’s needs expand beyond that foundation, Shopify Plus finds the best developers and partners in the world, builds a community around them, and incentivizes them to scale and build their businesses on the Shopify platform.

Thanks to its open API and technology community, the expandability and flexibility that Shopify Plus offers can work with any high-growth merchant's or Fortune 500 company’s backend technologies, including:

And for the problems that can’t be addressed out of the box, Shopify Plus also has alliances with some of the world’s most forward-thinking technology companies:

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

For luxury baby essentials brand MORI, Shopify’s scalability for custom orders was a godsend. MORI relies on the Shopify API to connect multiple channels and international storefronts with its third-party logistics (3PL) for fulfillment that allows the founders and customers to monitor performance in real time.

100% Pure leverages the Shopify API to power their collection of custom connections that allows the company to easily sync inventory, product information, and digital marketing resources.

“I just hit the sync button and it’s done,” says Quan Nguyen, the company’s Vice President of Technology. “We save so much time being able to sync everything across multiple stores.”

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Four of 100% Pure’s international storefronts: US, Germany, South Africa, and Australia

Cupshe uses Shopify’s Partners like:

  • Zendesk to power their customer service
  • BVAccel for marketing and international expansion
  • Yotpo to generate just under 100,000 reviews

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

On Shopify Plus, Cupshe …

  • Grew 259% YoY in 2016
  • Increased sales another 59% YoY in 2017
  • Generates approximately 35% of sales from social
  • Lifted both their conversion rates and AOV 30% in 2018
  • Now operates north of $50 million in annual revenue from multiple stores

Perhaps the most sensational example of managing orders, fulfillment, and customers was the limited edition launch collaboration by Jordan Brand, Snapchat, and Shopify.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Fans who saw Snapcodes during NBA All-Star 2018 weekend could unlock a live, in-app commerce experience and most purchases were delivered the same day via fulfillment centers run by Darkstore.

3. Ecommerce Automation to Do More with Less

Traffic, sales, and order management are important fundamentals of a robust ecommerce store …

But what really sets Shopify Plus apart are its ecommerce automation tools to give clients back their most valuable resource: time.

Merchants using Shopify Plus can leverage ecommerce automation, so their team is free to focus on actual growth and providing great customer experiences, as opposed to spending time performing low-level, repetitive, and tedious tasks.

(1) Shopify Flow

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

There’s an endless range of low-level, repetitive tasks that require attention in order to keep operations going. Before, you’d have to assign an employee to this mind-numbing work …

But now, Shopify Flow automates common tasks to:

  • Track and reward top customers
  • Tag and segment customers from campaigns
  • Organize products for visual merchandising and search
  • Hide, pause, and republish products based on availability
  • Automate inventory management and reordering
  • Notify customer service of new draft orders
  • Expedite shipping notifications for your logistics team
  • Flag, halt, review, or cancel high-risk orders

Amidst these use cases, it’s important to note … there’s no single use case for Flow. It’s flexible enough to adapt to every merchant’s store across a wide range of scenarios.

For example, denim company GOOD AMERICAN automates inventory publishing and product information tagging with Flow. “We’re excited to see how much more we can do with Flow, especially as it continues to evolve,” says Mehmet Dokumcu, Head of Digital & E-Commerce at GOOD AMERICAN.

“On other platforms, every time you need to do something — like create custom workflows — you have to build them from scratch. So to have a user-friendly app like Flow that allows us to start doing much of this ourselves is very encouraging.”

Apparel retailer Shelfies automates custom orders and fraud detection. In the words of Nicholas Montgomery, Founder of Shelfies:

“Shopify Flow is really powerful because it allows me to focus on growing the business I love and doing more of the things that are going to have a long-term impact. With Flow you’re able to focus on growing revenue but still improve the customer experience. That’s a multiplier effect and the kind of stuff that ripples across your business.”

Interline, which owns home furnishing brands like SCANDIS and Dania Furniture, uses the tool to automate refunds, employee discounts, and out of stock levels.

Their team also tracks retail sales commissions with Flow. Julio Giannotti, Web Manager at Interline, says, “The more you automate with tools like Flow, the more money a business can make. It’s an exciting time and we see a lot of opportunity with Flow. The more we use Flow, the better off we’re going to be tackling the more important parts of our growing business.” 

Using Flow, 2,376 Shopify Plus businesses have offloaded 150 million decisions and 20 million tasks in the eight months since its launch. 

If you’re a Shopify Plus merchant, you can get started with these 14 downloadable Flow templates in this article.

(2) Launchpad

Major events — like flash sales, product drops, and holidays — are crucial to business. They can also be incredibly stressful and taxing …

That’s why the Shopify Plus team created Launchpad, a tool that makes launches smooth, peaceful, and automatic. It schedules and coordinates sales and events, and keep track of your success with real-time analytics.

This frees up your team from frantically coordinating the chaotic launch to promoting it harder on social or with paid ads, knowing that Launchpad will take care of the operations.

For instance, when Frankies Bikinis launches a new product, employees would work frantically behind the scenes manually changing homepage images, videos, and making the new collection live.

Then, the company started pre-planning and automating product launches with Launchpad. In addition to saving time, a recent Launchpad-powered product release generated $150,000 in sales in one hour with one style selling out in two minutes.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Frankies Bikinis recent Black Friday (above) and Cyber Monday (below) events used Launchpad to automatically roll out and roll back discounts, theme changes, and products

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

“I’m going to use Launchpad for all this so I don’t have to stay up so late,” says Brittney Bowles, Director of Marketing and Ecommerce at Frankies Bikinis. “It’s great that we can rely on Launchpad to schedule what needs to be done during normal business hours and roll it all back automatically. I trust Launchpad to handle everything.”

Since its release in April 2017, Launchpad has helped Shopify Plus businesses generate over $3 billion in sales … on autopilot.

(3) Shopify Scripts

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Shopify Scripts enables you to create personalized experiences with ease. 

There are many different script types — ranging from line-item discounts to automatic shipping rates to customized payment methods.

In a recent AMA, Pura Vida Bracelets CEO Griffin Thall emphasized just how critical customizing closest to the money (i.e., the checkout) is:

“The biggest piece for us was being able to customize the checkout: how people process payments, what kind of messaging we have in the checkout, whether it’s utilizing balance exchange, to fire a coupon or an exit offer, customizing the look and feel of the checkout so it matches our brand style.”

Shopify Scripts produces real, direct, business results. For example, after Merchology re-designed their site — including dynamic and live pricing with Shopify Scripts — they increased their mobile revenue by 340%.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Brooklinen used it during Black Friday Cyber Monday to combine a free gift alongside three discount “thresholds,” thus increasing average order value:

  • Spend $250 and get $50 off
  • Spend $500 and get $100 off
  • Spend $800 and get $200 off

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

If you’re a Shopify Plus merchant, you can get started with these 15 downloadable Scripts in this article.

4. Sell Anywhere Customers Buy with Multi-Channel

The vast majority of shoppers — 86% to be precise — research and visit more than one channel.

That could be through traditional outlets like brick-and-mortar locations, mail order catalogs, and even direct-to-consumer telemarketing. It could also be through online outlets like ecommerce sites, social media, email marketing, and marketplaces.

Even if your business started off as an online store, it exists in people’s minds as far beyond that. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to sell everywhere your customers are.

On average, shopping cart customers who sell through one marketplace, like Amazon or eBay, make 38% more revenue than those with no marketplaces. But with more than one channel, the increase soars to 120% … and 190% with three or more:

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Data from The Enterprise Guide to Multi-Channel Ecommerce

Trying to run a multi-channel marketing strategy, checkout process, inventory management, and analytics manually is impossible. Multi-channel software enables you to optimize inventory control, leverage merchandising templates, expedite listing and updating products, streamline orders and fulfillment, and measure channel effectiveness.

Mava Sports started selling exercise gear on Amazon in 2015, and generated $8.1 million in revenue in 2017. They decided to expand their brand to their own website, built with Shopify Plus. In 2018, the company set without reservation monthly revenue targets of $1 million per month through its website.

In the opposite direction — from onsite to offsite — mattress retailer Purple sells their WonderGel cushions through Bed Bath and Beyond and Amazon. Apps like Sellbrite and Stich Labs make it easy for Shopify merchants to list and sell their inventory through a multiplicity of channels.

And, if you’re on Shopify Plus, you can sell across over 20 channels, all offered natively in the dashboard.

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

The five types of channels enterprises use to sell anywhere their customers buy

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

A sampling of the native sales channels available on Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus also integrates into offline channels as well (for example, check out the Tap & Chip reader we announced at Unite 2018).

“Shopify is really scalable. Especially as we started to transition to brick and mortar, the fact that Shopify has a POS system and everything links up — it gave us an impressively slick operation in the shop. People come to the shop and see our POS and how slick it looks and they’re all really impressed by it,” says Neil Waller, Co-founder at Shore Projects.

Given this article’s depth and length, you can …

Download it as a PDF

5. Data and Customer Security That’s Beyond “Compliant”

It’s been nearly a year since Equifax’s crushing data breach. The full horrors are just coming to the light. With events like this, security grows to be a greater concern for everyone — including the people visiting your store.

According to a study by Blackhawk Engagement (via Data Mentors and Entrepreneur), “Millennials are sensitive to cyber security issues and identity fraud, and 64% of Millennials believe that gift cards are safer to use online than any other digital payment method. Moreover, 66% believe gift cards limit identity fraud.”

If you’re a merchant, you’ve got to make sure your ecommerce solution guards your customer information closely and remains secure. Some platforms are more secure than others…

As written in Trustwave’s Global Security report, “In the ecommerce space, the Magento open-source ecommerce platform was the target of choice for attackers, with Magento installations accounting for 85 percent of compromised systems.”

William Harris, VP of Marketing at Dollar Hobbyz, writes at Elumynt:

“That was an awful email to have to send out to our list of over 150k people. It broke our hearts, and frustrated our customers.

“That wasn’t entirely Magento’s fault – but it’s based on the way our Magento site was set up. All of that data, all of that information – it was all stored on our own hosting server. If one area of the website security was weak, it opened up issues with critical pieces in our backend.”

Similarly, International Military Antiques (IMA) Vice President Alex Cranmer was left holding the bag when his site was hacked, through a piece of JavaScript in the footer scraping credit cards.

Cranmer says many Magento sites have experienced this problem:

We spent $50,000 and three months of sleepless nights trying to secure the site.

Over 10,000 Magento sites were victim to the Guruncsite malware in 2015. Google was forced to blacklist over 8,000 storefronts in the first 90 days of the breach alone. And more recently, Flashpoint reports that Magento is being targeted by attackers trying to install crypto-mining software and steal credit card information.

These hacks happen because Magento is an open-source solution. Security breaches to the software itself are a regular concern, and Magento is forced to play defense. Thankfully, Magento has been responsive by releasing security patches when threats are identified — 10 of which have been released since January 2015.

However, every security patch takes time and resources to deploy and test. This is time, and resources, taken away from what should be your core focus: growing your business.

With Shopify Plus, you can rely on the safety and support that undergirds the security of over 600,000 merchants. Consider it an economy of scale for peace of mind.

PCI compliance is the gold standard of verifying security standards for organizations that handle any online payments. PCI compliance goes well beyond the software itself; it creates dependencies on how the software is managed, deployed, and hosted.

While on-premise solutions provide the ability to deploy PCI compliant storefronts, you as the vendor are responsible for ensuring that compliance, which can create headaches that distract you from your business.

With Shopify Plus, your site will be hosted and protected in full compliance with Level 1 PCI DSS out of the box.

Shopify Plus also takes care of various compliance assessments and risk management, making sure your site is secure, without the need for you to manage a regular assessment of your site.

Most ecommerce websites use SSL encryption technology and HTTPS protocols to protect a shopper’s personal information during the checkout process. In contrast, Shopify covers the entire shopping experience: from the storefront to the admin.

This means credit card, payment, and other sensitive information in operational data stores is encrypted in transit and at rest, including user passwords being salted and hashed through the bcrypt hashing algorithm.

As an added level of trust and security, while Shopify sites redirect traffic through Domain Validated SSL (DV SSL), Shopify Plus offers all customers a free Extended Validation SSL (EV SSL).

Is Shopify Plus A Scalable Ecommerce Platform For Enterprises

Extended Validation SSL Certificate — also known as EV SSL — as they appear in the URL window of major browsers

If you’re already a Shopify Plus merchant, here’s how you can activate your EV SSL certificate.

Final Thoughts on Finding a Scalable Ecommerce Platform

Shopify Plus serves as the foundation for high-growth ecommerce startups and Fortune 500 companies alike. And we didn’t even highlight additional enterprise examples, like …

  • Audi
  • Magnolia Market
  • The New York Times
  • Rebecca Minkoff
  • Kswiss
  • GE, Unilever, and more

Despite their differences, each needs to provide a great customer experience with a reliable, robust, and innovative technological backend.

Not only does Shopify Plus have the ability to scale, it also comes with a scarce resource that high-volume merchants would kill for … peace of mind.

About the Author

Aaron Orendorff is the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus as well as a regular contributor to sites like Mashable, Lifehacker, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, The Huffington Post and more. You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.