Credit: Getty Images by Marko Geber
Rare is the e-commerce small to midsize business (SMB) that has the time, resources and expertise to build its own website. It’s basically Amazon.com, Shopify, a Shopify competitor, or bust.
Thanks to a bunch of artificial intelligence-powered releases from Shopify in the second half of 2023, that’s not necessarily as limiting as it might sound. Shopify is now giving SMBs a ton of AI-powered clout to make user- and conversion-friendly websites that will smooth a path to greater revenue.
Let’s look at some of the biggest releases — and their potential significance for e-commerce SMBs.
Shopify Magic is the e-commerce industry’s first real foray into generative pre-trained AI. This will help speed up the process for SMBs to produce blog posts, product pages, product descriptions, email nurtures, and more.
The flashiest part of Magic is a feature called Sidekick, which is, in theory (it hasn’t been publicly released yet), a digital assistant that will give instructions and recommendations to SMBs for how to build and optimize their Shopify sites. This is a huge set of promises and will likely come with a fair share of bugs even when it’s fully launched, but you can see why we’re excited to test it.
Magic has a bunch of other sub-releases. One that may prove sneaky-useful is App review summaries, which will ingest user reviews from the Shopify community to let SMBs see, at a glance, which apps might be worth testing and incorporating and which should be left alone.
A final note on Magic: generative text, creative and intelligence isn’t meant to be an end product, but rather a starting point. Whether it’s copy for a product description or recommendations for product merchandising from Sidekick, your first reaction should always be a healthy layer of skepticism. Your second should be to apply your personal and business knowledge to make the output your own.
The Bundles App
The Bundles release is more than merchandising functionality (though that’s part of its significance); along with helping SMBs create product sets, it syncs with your inventory in real time to prevent things like overselling and customer service issues.
Shopify Plus sellers get a nice bonus here: access to an API that enables all kinds of bundles, including customer mix-and-match options, which removes a lot of logistical headaches for SMBs trying to keep their catalogs flexible and pricing user friendly. With Bundles, for instance, you won’t need to add huge shipping charges for each item; you can provide reasonable shipping fees that improve conversion rates.
More Clout in the Customizer
The Customizer is Shopify’s WYSIWYG store editor, and the 2023 releases include a lot more flexibility for site owners and developers determined to do things on their own.
Two caveats apply here. First, not everyone can just plug in and go; you’ll need a developer to get things set up. Second, if you’re working with third parties like design agencies or SEO consultants, you’ll need to keep them in the loop as you’re tinkering with changes, otherwise things might break.
Ultimately, though, this set of updates puts a lot more power in the hands of site owners.
Your Move, SMBs
Even if these features aren’t yet broadly available, SMBs already using Shopify should make sure they’re on the waiting list. If you’re on Shopify and do have some features available, set up a safe testing environment and start playing with them immediately (or at least when the holiday dust settles).
SMBs on competing platforms, like Woocommerce, Wix, or BigCommerce, might be casting a jealous eye on these releases, but don’t jump ship just yet. Instead, monitor the effectiveness of the tools from third-party reports, and watch your platform’s releases like a hawk since they’ll be under pressure to release similar — or even 2.0 — functionality.
David Lachowicz is the senior director of creative and UX at DMi Partners, a Philadelphia-based digital marketing agency founded in 2003.
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