Shopify now has a million businesses using its service. From 2016 to 2018, the platform generated $183 billion in economic activity around the world. That still pales in comparison to Amazon, which generated $207 billion in retail operations globally in 2018 alone. (Amazon is responsible for almost half of all e-commerce sales in the United States.) But Canada-based Shopify seems committed to giving Amazon a run for its money by continuing to grow at a fast clip. Over the past few months and years, Shopify has built tools that make it even easier to use the platform, from faster checkouts to chatbots to launching a fulfillment network.
In Shopify’s Global Economic Impact Report, the company points out the main differences between itself and its gigantic competitor. While Amazon consolidates many brands and sellers within its marketplace, Shopify gives individual companies and entrepreneurs autonomy by allowing them to create their own branded store. This, Shopify argues, contributes to “fostering more competition,” which, by extension, means “economic prosperity spreads—from business owners to their families to communities.”
Shopify is presenting itself as a fairer alternative to Amazon, giving brands the opportunity to control their own messaging, pricing, and supply chain. This may be an increasingly compelling message given that consumers and brands have been increasingly frustrated with Amazon’s monopolistic practices. Last year, my colleague reported about how a growing number of people had been canceling their Amazon Prime accounts in the lead up to Black Friday, given how poorly the company treats its warehouse workers. Brands, for their part, have noticed that Amazon appears to keep track of top-selling products on its own marketplace, then creates cheaper copycat versions of them, thereby undercutting the companies that sold them.
Shopify also says that it’s facilitating entrepreneurs and startups in places that historically haven’t been major hubs for e-commerce, including rural communities, small towns, and developing countries. Companies in India using Shopify generated $250 million in revenue between 2016 and 2018. And companies in the U.S. Midwest that were outside the top 10 largest cities generated $4 billion in revenue during that same period. In other words, Shopify is making the case that small businesses don’t need to sell on Amazon in order to survive in the competitive world of e-commerce.