Mediaplanet spoke with Ian Black, Shopify’s Managing Director, Canada, to learn about how Shopify helped small businesses in Canada pivot during the pandemic, current retail trends, and what’s in store for the retail industry’s future.
Managing Director, Canada,
Being a leader in commerce solutions, how have you seen Canadian businesses adapt to the challenges that have been forced upon them due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ian Black: Last year accelerated the need for Canadian businesses to adapt to the digital economy, and embracing omnichannel commerce gave new life to retailers. Shopify helped thousands of Canadian businesses by offering them the tools and services they needed to not only survive, but to become resilient in the face of challenges during the pandemic. We supported brands in their shift to online through local programs, including ShopHERE and Go Digital Canada, and provided brick-and-mortar retailers with a lifeline through Shopify’s Point of Sale (POS), which enabled them to provide safe curbside pickup and local delivery options to their customers.
How do you think these pivots in strategy will impact the retail industry in the long term?
IB: The centre of gravity in commerce has shifted from in-store to online, and retailers that pivoted to an omnichannel strategy — selling online, offline, and everywhere in between — saw greater success during the pandemic and will likely see greater success long-term. Shopify’s 2021 Future of Commerce Report also found that omnichannel features and experiences will give new life to physical stores, and allow businesses to take advantage of their proximity to local shoppers, such as offering contactless payments and non-contact pickup options. In fact, the number of shops offering contactless payments on Shopify increased by 122 percent compared to 2019.
With this rise of e-commerce and decline of brick-and-mortar retail over the past year, how should businesses leverage the relationship between online and physical retail?
IB: Building a strong omnichannel retail strategy has never been more important, as physical retail will continue to transform. When the pandemic hit, it was crucial for retailers to either establish or expand their online selling capabilities to offer the best shopping experience possible to their customers. In this new world of borderless commerce, business owners must have the right tools to serve customers anywhere, whether in-store, curbside, or mobile. We launched Shopify’s POS and our Tap and Chip Card Reader, to help bring in-person and online sales into one convenient location and to offer easy contactless payments to Canadian businesses.
Another trend that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic is the growth of entrepreneurship and direct-to-consumer businesses. How is Shopify helping lower the barriers for entrepreneurship in Canada?
IB: Shopify is focused on helping our merchants, and we’re on a mission to create a new generation of diverse entrepreneurs by continuing to remove barriers to business ownership. Entrepreneurship will be the backbone to economic recovery, and as a Canadian- founded company, helping businesses at home is extremely important to us. Last year, we launched Shopify Capital in Canada to help provide our merchants with quick and easy access to funds, introduced Go Digital Canada to help entrepreneurs get online quickly, and launched our first consumer app, Shop, to help our 1.7 million merchants develop deeper relationships with their consumers. The cost of starting a business has never been lower, and we envision a future where everyone is an entrepreneur.