Shopify kicked off the second day of Shopify Unite with a keynote from its chief technology officer, Jean-Michel Lemieux, who compared e-commerce to the open and free passageways of the Silk Road trading route and said international politics could ruin that open and free passage.
“Commerce needs roads that are accessible so the products can actually keep flowing. As Silk Road merchants knew too well, trade boycotts between different regions and failed political allegiances would wreak havoc and actually stop the flow of goods. That picture is something similar that we’re seeing today,” said Lemieux. “And on the internet, there are people in states and companies that are trying to put up borders and walls. But those who were around when the internet was created, remembers that the internet was created on open standards. We have to protect and enhance this because it’s the open internet that’s providing so much flexibility around commerce.”
Lemieux then made some announcements.
3D product images and augmented reality
The big news of the day was the announcement of 3D product images as well as augmented reality (AR) capabilities for products; which could revolutionize online shopping.
Allowing for 3D product images is not new. Shopify had previously released this function for iOS devices last September; which they say led to a 2.5 times increase in conversion rate on products with 3D images.
But AR is something Shopify says they are the first to provide for merchants on an e-commerce platform.
“When you’re in a retail store, you can pick up products, you can move them around, you can see how big they are. You can’t quite do that online. So as much as possible, what we’re doing is trying to bring that retail experience to people online,” said Dan Meeking, a product manager for Shopify. “3D, and particularly AR on top of 3D, allows you to see things in your space without even having to purchase them. And so this is even better than retail.”
Using a baby stroller as an example in the demo booth, Shopify showed how shoppers could not only use their phone or tablet to judge how the stroller would navigate the space in their house but also how by using an AR version of a folded up stroller, a shopper could make sure the stroller fits in their car before making the purchase.
“You don’t have to go to a store. You don’t have to wait for something to be shipped for you. You can see what the stroller looks like or a folded version of the stroller looks like in your car without even having to leave the comfort of wherever you are in the world,” explained Meeking.
Additionally, shoppers should soon be able to upload photos of themselves to test out clothes they are interested in. Sort of like a virtual dress up doll!
Site speed analytics
As Shopify looks for ways to speed up its merchant’s stores, Lemieux pointed out that the onus is also on the merchants.
“Partners, you also play an important role in keeping Shopify fast,” he said. “Think about all the flexibility that we’ve given to customize the experiences and extensions. And with great power… ”
To which someone in the crowd responded: “Comes great responsibility!”
To aid its merchants in optimizing their stores, Shopify is releasing an analytics dashboard that will monitor all factors that could affect the speed of their online store.
“Now I know it might sound intimidating, but we really have to band together and consistently push for a fast web experience. So we’ve been collecting performance data across the entire Shopify platform for the last year. And we’re going to make that available for you,” explained Lemieux.
One way in which Shopify is taking action to speed up its stores is the addition of a faster liquid render. The liquid render takes your stores theme and converts it into HTML.
“What we realized is out of the box our themes have always been fast. But as they scale and grow and be more complex, they were slowing down,” said Lemieux.
Lemieux said that the new liquid render will be seven times faster than the previous version.
WebP image capabilities
In another move to speed up its stores, Shopify announced that it will soon be allowing for the use of WebP images, which Lemieux says are 30 per cent smaller than usual image formats, and therefore will have 30 per cent less of an impact on the speed of your store.
WebP formatting was developed by Google Inc. after the acquisition of On2 Technologies.
In addition to the speed of stores, Shopify is trying to enhance the security of its stores with the announcement that its identity vault will now allow for users to use identity mechanisms on their devices like Apple Touch ID and Windows Hello.
As well, for users who have multiple Shopify logins, they can now consolidate everything into one account with one password and one security setting for everything on Shopify.