Introducing the Shopify App Challenge: Commerce and COVID-19

Shopify app challenge

Whether you’re a small business owner yourself, or you rely on one of the small businesses in your community, by now you’ve seen how COVID-19 is creating challenges for businesses everywhere, and posing a particularly large threat to merchants who previously relied on in-person sales. 

We’re working as fast as we can to create new resources for merchants facing tough times, but we also believe that app developers like you can play a big part in helping local merchants acclimate and find new ways of doing business.

That’s why we’re inviting all skilled app developers to lend their technical and problem solving skills to build solutions for merchants whose businesses are affected the most by COVID-19.

Introducing the Shopify App Challenge: Commerce and COVID-19.

What is the Shopify App Challenge?

Shopify app developers have always been skilled at finding new and innovative solutions to problems faced by merchants. Right now, more than ever, we need your help to address our merchants’ needs by building or improving apps for this new world, which is why we’ve introduced the Shopify App Challenge.

We’re inviting app developers to build unique, creative, and impactful solutions that help merchants, right now. 

Registration is now open. This competition requires a Shopify Partner ID, so sign up as a partner today if you haven't already. Eligible apps must be created in your Partner Dashboard after 9:30AM EST on April 13, 2020.

All registrants will receive support and access to special workshops through the Shopify Community forums. Our expert panel of judges will then review and choose the winners. We’ll help winners grow their app businesses by:

  • Providing winning apps a share of a $100,000 USD prize pool, to a max of $20,000 USD per app
  • Awarding $1,000 USD in ad credits for the Shopify App Store, and a feature on the app store
  • Granting access to mentorship from the Shopify product and engineering team

While all developers are welcome to participate and we’ll be highlighting as many participants as we can, in order to be eligible to claim prizes you must be a legal resident of any one of: The United States (excluding Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Vermont, Delaware, Louisiana and Montana), the District of Columbia, Canada (excluding Quebec), The United Kingdom, New Zealand, or Denmark.

Learn more about the Shopify App Challenge by following the link below!

Register for the challenge

Need some ideas to get started?

In this article, we’ll take you through four key areas where we’ve witnessed increased merchant demand over recent weeks:

  • Shifting offline businesses online
  • Creating new ways to sell more
  • Creating and maintaining relationships with customers
  • Providing more delivery and pick up options

These are the areas where you can have the biggest impact right now as a Shopify app developer.

1. Shifting offline businesses online

Shopify app challenge: person holding credit card at computer

The mom and pop shop that’s been a staple in your neighborhood, the coffee shop you used to visit every morning, the bookstore with staff who knew every new release and underrated classic—these businesses are all now in danger of not only closing their doors today, but potentially being forced to close permanently because of decreased cash flow during COVID-19.

Fortunately, while these shops may have to close their physical stores for a while, they can still live on by generating business-critical sales with an online version of their store. If you’ve ever created an online store, however, you know that the process of setting up one can feel new and overwhelming, especially at a time when merchants already have so many new challenges on their plate. 

This is where apps come in.

We need your help to guide merchants to set up faster, and allow them to replicate online the things that make their brick and mortar stores so special. Here are some ideas to consider.

Store migration and inventory syncing

Existing stores are information-rich, with product SKUs, inventory counts, customer data, and sales information. Migration and other syncing apps already exist, but given that a more overwhelmed and potentially less technically-savvy audience may be turning to these apps soon, this is an opportunity to create simpler solutions, and a more turnkey approach to syncing store data.

Banners and page builders

Just as these merchants spent time on creating beautiful in-store experiences, they’ll be looking to add the same unique customization to their online store. Any apps that bring some of their offline shop’s personality online—even simple page builder or banner tools—can go a long way to help merchants recreate their store online. 

Product pages and imagery 

It’s time for window displays and well-arranged shelves to move online. Any apps that help merchants create beautiful and effective product pages (including things like detailed product descriptions, proper SEO keywords, and stunning product imagery) will translate that well-lit shelf display to the online world. 

You might also like: How to Move Your Client's Brick and Mortar Business Online.

2. Creating new ways to sell more

Shopify app challenge: row of shopping carts against brown wall

Most offline retailers coming online already have inventory ready to sell. Some of these products may have a limited shelf life and need to be sold quickly. Other products may be high-touch, and require a lot of merchant explanation or customer support to get set up, like custom or customizable products. 

Merchants may also need to boost sales even more than usual right now, to create additional cash flow that will keep their business running for the long term. Here are some types of apps that can help.

Discounts, bundling, and upselling 

Consider building or improving an app that provides easy ways to discount or bundle products, or provide smart recommendations on “things you might also like.” This type of app can help merchants move inventory, and also make the buyer experience better by helping them find more of what they need all in one order. This is especially useful for merchants who need to move inventory quickly because of limited shelf life or storage space. 


Especially during uncertain times, merchants may need some certainty and predictability around their revenue. Pre-orders are an example of apps that help lock in sales now. Anything that encourages buyers to place future purchases will be a gift to merchants who are looking for recurring or guaranteed cash flow in the coming months.

Digital downloads

For service-based businesses or businesses selling services alongside their products, being able to sell digital products may be crucial for their business. Finding simple and beautiful ways to enable a great digital download experience for a buyer could be just the solution a merchant needs to stay afloat right now. 

3. Creating and maintaining relationships with customers

Shopify app challenge: smiling man wearing headphones

Daily habits, like purchasing a coffee from your favorite shop up the street, are being derailed as COVID-19 requires those businesses to close up shop. As time passes, people develop new routines and purchasing habits, and it can be hard to reignite their old purchasing behavior. But customer love and loyalty doesn’t have to stop when a shop closes its doors.

Even if a shop is still open, there may be other issues weighing on relationships with customers and preventing purchases—variations in stock, shipping delays, and complex delivery arrangements, just to name a few. 

The old adage that “communication is key” still applies, but when you’re used to face-to-face conversations being your primary mode of messaging, how do you create new communication channels in light of today’s logistical challenges? Below are some different solutions.

Customer chat channels

From email to chat apps to SMS, different people have different preferred channels for staying in touch. Looking at ways to help merchants take advantage of every type of channel for marketing and support can be a huge opportunity for you. 

Smart alerts

There’s a lot of information overload happening right now. If a merchant has a really important update about a product that they need to convey, it’s important that they can find a way to push that message through to their customers in an effective and convenient way that encourages sales. 

You might also like: Important Product Updates for Shopify Partners.

4. Providing more delivery and pick up options

Shopify app challenge: woman holding a package on her doorstep

For offline retailers who primarily make sales through their cash register, delivery used to be as simple as passing the product from hand to hand in the store.

Now, many of those retailers are trying to navigate shipping and delivery for the very first time. This is a challenging task at the best of times, but COVID-19 is making it even harder. With people socially isolating and different condo and apartment buildings instituting new rules around couriers and deliveries, new custom delivery options are becoming necessary. Here are some apps that could help.

Store and pickup location finders

Healthy and able buyers may choose pickup as their preferred option to receive their goods. Apps that help merchants choose and communicate pickup points, timing, and additional instructions, are table stakes for optimizing these types of arrangements. 

Appointments for delivery and curb-side pickups

With new and inconsistent rules in different areas and types of residences around delivery, merchants and buyers need clear ways to establish how, when, and where items are to be dropped off or picked up.

Unboxing experiences

When a merchant can no longer rely on the charm of their offline store experience, they need to get creative to translate that personality to their online store. We need apps that make sure merchants’ brand and store experiences carry on while they sell and deliver in new ways. 

From custom packaging to freebie add-on selectors, packing and package customization apps can allow merchants to create an unboxing experience that’s consistent with their brand, and that will delight buyers as they unwrap their new purchases at home. Bonus points if the experience is so good that they can’t help but share with their social networks.

New challenges mean new opportunities for developers

We hope these four key areas inspire you to build new and improved solutions for merchants, but we know this list only scratches the surface. What are we missing? We welcome our developer community to continue challenging the status quo and improving the way merchants do business online. 

We believe that through the extensibility of Shopify’s platform, apps can be the very solution we need to help merchants around the world adapt, grow, and find new ways to thrive during these changing, challenging times. As always, and more than ever, we can’t do it without you. Register for the Shopify App Challenge, and help merchants face this challenging time.

Register for the challenge

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