A lazy Sunday afternoon wandering through the boutique shops of Queen Street West in Toronto reveals a wealth of clothing, furniture and home accessories from independent retailers.
It’s fitting that Shopify would choose the ground floor of the Bourroughs Buildings near the intersection of Bathurst and Queen – a gateway of sorts between the financial, fashion and boutique business districts of Toronto’s downtown – to showcase its retail hardware.
The major announcement from the media event on Monday night was that the hardware is that Shopify’s credit card reader, launched eight months ago in the United States, is only now available to Canadian businesses due to lagging approval from banks. The event also kicks off a week of courses for merchants who want to learn about Shopify’s online and offline offerings.
Online and offline systems unified
The credit card reader is reminiscent of similar offerings from Square, Paypal and Moneris, but, if the retailer also uses Shopify for online sales, allows access to a unified system of inventory and customer history that encompasses the entire business.
“A lot of them [our merchants] are using Square just to accept payment,” explained Craig Miller, Shopify’s VP of Marketing & Growth, “but what our customers told us was that they didn’t just want something that accepts payments, they wanted something that connects with their business.”
Miller lamented the fact that many retailers, despite the sophistication of their online retailing efforts, still use an ancient computer to run their cash registers.
“If you want to have one single list of customers, orders, products, one single system that knows it all and connects to apps like your tax software [then] that’s really what we’re building with Shopify.”
Bringing these systems together opens doors for loyalty programs and customer service that spans online and offline purchases, if the transactions are made with the same credit card and email address. Miller said that Shopify is one of only a few retail platforms capable of this.
Miller describes the system as “Taking what Square did – and we think – doing it a lot better.”
Sessions offered at event space
Though the hardware was at the centre of the event, the space will be used throughout the week for classes on using the Shopify hardware and software, plus product and fashion photography. Shopify employees described it as the neighborhood to reach up-and-coming merchants that are selling either online or offline, and are looking to expand with an online store or pop-up brick-and-mortar location.
Shopify also announced that gift cards will soon be available from its merchants for use in both online and offline purchases.