Shopify’s Evolution and the Impact of Facebook and Apple


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 25, 2023

5 min read


Shopify’s Evolution and the Impact of Facebook and Apple

The world of e-commerce has undergone significant changes over the years, and one platform that has played a crucial role in this evolution is Shopify. Shopify was initially launched in 2009 with the introduction of the Shopify App Store. This platform allowed developers to access the Shopify API and create new plugins to enhance the functionality that merchants might need. It was a way for Shopify to collaborate with partners and deliver specific features.

However, Shopify didn't stop at just being a platform for developers. The company took a bold step in 2013 by vertically integrating and incorporating features that were previously left to partners. One of the most significant integrations was Shopify Payments, which later rebranded as Shop Pay in 2020. This move allowed Shopify to become more independent and offer a seamless payment solution to its users.

The independence provided by Shopify has been a game-changer for many entrepreneurs and brands. It has allowed them to build their brands independently of major players like Amazon. Brands like Gymshark, Rebecca Minkoff, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, and FIGS have leveraged Shopify to establish their presence in the market and thrive outside the shadow of Amazon.

While Shopify was revolutionizing the e-commerce landscape, another tech giant was making waves in the advertising industry. Facebook's App Install product quickly became the go-to channel for acquiring new users, especially for game developers monetizing through Apple's in-app purchase API. The combination of Facebook's vast user data and developers' understanding of the expected value per app install led to a massive increase in App Store revenue.

This partnership between Facebook and Apple was mutually beneficial. Facebook became the most efficient way to acquire new users, while Apple reaped the benefits by earning a 30% share of the revenue generated from those users. Similarly, Facebook plays a crucial role in driving e-commerce for independent sellers on Shopify. Facebook's advertising platform serves as a powerful tool for advertisers, thanks to its shared resources and API. Advertisers can leverage Facebook's conversion data to target users who are likely to make a purchase, resulting in a cost-effective customer acquisition strategy.

However, the dynamics of the advertising landscape underwent a significant shift with the introduction of Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. ATT brought changes to both the app install and e-commerce advertising fronts. On the app install side, Apple made the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) an opt-in feature, leading to a decline in user consent for tracking. On the e-commerce side, Apple's ATT policies restricted Facebook's data collection capabilities, impacting the effectiveness of e-commerce advertising.

One can speculate that Apple's enforcement of ATT policies may have influenced Facebook's decision to comply, even with parts that were technically unenforceable. The threat of being expelled from the App Store could have pushed Facebook to compromise and adapt to the changing landscape. Consequently, Facebook's app advertising business suffered a loss of data, while the e-commerce advertising segment was also affected to some extent.

The impact of ATT was not limited to Facebook alone. Amazon, which faces no data restrictions, became an attractive alternative for e-commerce sellers who saw a decline in performance due to ATT. Amazon's data-rich ecosystem allowed sellers to shift their products and advertising spend to a platform where conversions could be tracked effectively.

In this changing landscape, the role of Shopify becomes even more crucial. While Amazon may be able to commoditize suppliers and control the entire customer journey, Shopify provides merchants with an opportunity to differentiate themselves and build their brand independently. Shopify acts as an interface between modularized pieces of the value chain, empowering merchants to have control over their businesses.

To further strengthen its position, Shopify has been integrating with key players in the industry. For instance, the company's integration with Facebook has been significant. Facebook's incorporation of Shop Pay into Facebook Shops allows conversions to be tracked more effectively, resulting in more targeted and efficient advertising. This integration showcases Shopify's credibility and importance as a partner in the industry.

As the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, it is essential for merchants to adapt and find ways to differentiate themselves. Here are three actionable pieces of advice for e-commerce sellers:

  • 1. Diversify your advertising channels: While Facebook has been a dominant player in customer acquisition, it is crucial to explore other advertising platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, and even Amazon. By diversifying your advertising channels, you can reach a broader audience and reduce dependence on a single platform.
  • 2. Leverage audience data: Take advantage of the audience data available through various ad platforms. Use custom audiences or lookalike audiences to target users who are similar to your past customers. This can result in higher-performing ads and a lower cost per conversion.
  • 3. Focus on differentiation: In a competitive market, it is essential to differentiate your brand and products. Find unique selling points that set you apart from the competition. Shopify provides merchants with the flexibility to build their brand and offer personalized customer experiences.

In conclusion, Shopify's evolution and the impact of Facebook and Apple have shaped the e-commerce landscape in significant ways. Shopify's independence from major players like Amazon has empowered entrepreneurs and brands to build their businesses on their own terms. While the introduction of ATT brought challenges, it also highlights the importance of diversifying advertising channels and leveraging audience data. By staying adaptable and focused on differentiation, e-commerce sellers can thrive in this ever-changing industry.

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