Shopify’s CPO on How to Keep Building for Its Merchant Community

Craig Miller discusses the company's new fulfillment network and revamping the point-of-sale system

Shopify announced a series of new features at the company's annual developer conference.
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At Shopify Unite, Shopify’s fourth annual developer conference, it was business as usual—lots of conversations, lots of panels, lots of coffee. That is, until Craig Miller, the company’s chief product officer, announced the Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN), which gives merchants another fulfillment option than other third-party logistics providers or Fulfillment by Amazon—a choice that Miller said is part of “what’s core to Shopify.”

Adweek sat down with Miller after his keynote to chat about some of the announcements Shopify made, as well as how the company decides what’s best to build for merchants.

Shopify’s in the business of democratization

The SFN, Miller explains, came about to help businesses achieve a “best-in-class experience” to merchants of all sizes. Since Amazon’s known for its capabilities in ecommerce, Shopify decided to bring that same experience to merchants—and let the merchants focus on building their brand instead.

“[Fulfillment is] something where we can take something that used to only be available to the largest companies in the world and democratize it to everyone,” Miller said. “Now, they don’t have to think about those things—they can just focus on the aspect of the business they want to do and outsource that to Shopify.”

However, building out a fulfillment network isn’t without numerous challenges. A big one, for example, is how workers are treated at these centers—a controversy Amazon has yet to absolutely resolve. Miller said Shopify’s vetted every single warehouse, has at least one staff member supervising the process, and is “trying to set the best experience possible.”

What merchants want, Shopify tries to build

Some of the announcements at Shopify Unite, such as revamping its point-of-sale system or upgrading the online store design experience, are updates that Miller said Shopify can build in-house.

“Our philosophy has always been to build and power what most merchants need most of the time,” Miller said. “The challenge is what do merchants need the most.”

While the new network and product updates pose a risk to the Shopify partner ecosystem, Miller said there’s still opportunity for others to build on top of what they’re building—and that they’re not the ultimate solution for every merchant.

“The point of Unite is to say, ‘Here are some of the things we’re doing and here are some of the things we want you to go build on,’” Miller said. “It’s not like we’re competing for some space of a finite pie. I look at it more as there’s lots of opportunity for us as well as other companies.”

Miller said ultimately, Shopify’s goal is helping new and legacy businesses, and deciding on a product roadmap based on the needs of these merchants.

“Our roadmap is much more based on where we see the future heading and what we hear from our merchants,” Miller said.

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