The History Of Shopify

When was the last time you purchased something from an independent business? Some toiletries? A gift hamper? Pet food? Clothing? Unique Christmas presents? The chances are that your purchase was handled through the Shopify platform... and you didn't even know it!


Shopify is all around us, from local independent businesses to brands that are recognised globally. Where did this rising behemoth come from, and why is 2022 looking like the year that Shopify dominates the digital market?


Humble beginnings


Officially the company was founded in 2006, sixteen long years ago... but you could say that Shopify was born in 2004. In Ottowa, Canada a small group of friends wanted to start up their own online store, the products would be snowboarding accessories and equipment – one of their joint passions. Branding the store 'Snowdevil' they looked for a suitable e-Commerce platform to set up their shop, and start making sales. There was just one issue; back then, there wasn't an option for such a thing.


Of course there were publishing tools available, and the internet had been publicly available for around a decade. Hosts and platforms were giving users some customisation choices, but in reality it was a difficult process full of coding, templates and unless you had connections in the IT world, you'd need to pay of team of people to set up a professional store for you! WordPress and Blogger were in their infancy, people were shopping online for niche products, but many people still preferred high-street shops to buy large ticket items.


The three friends knew that they had a great brand, and they decided to create something that suited their needs. One of the group, Tobias Lütke, was already a software engineer who enjoyed snowboarding. He was looking for a career path where he could combine his skills. As a bit of a 'passion project' he helped his friends create a unified eCommerce platform based on the technology that was available at the time. Snowdevil was created and ready to launch.





The next step?


The internet in the early 2000s was not as saturated as it is today. As we mentioned, high-street shopping was the norm, social media such as MySpace was very new, and brands were exploring the possibility of selling online for future profit. This meant that a lot of effort went into research and development... Research that led people to discover how Snowdevil was implemented.


After enquiries kept coming in from other brands wanting to use Tobias' customised e-Commerce creation, the group of friends realised that they had an amazing tool that would benefit a wider user base. They worked on the platform, ensuring that early adopters would find all the basic elements they needed to easily set up their online stores. Originally called 'Jaded Pixel' it became Shopify after it's official launch in 2006.


You see, the key benefit of the friend's creation was the open-source template language. This meant that with limited knowledge, you could still set up and customise your own online store. It was versatile, interesting and opened up a world of possibility. It was almost serendipity that a year later Apple launched the iPhone, and with its success they offered creators a chance to develop their own apps to sell in the store.


This was exciting, however it didn't go as smoothly as expected! With people making apps left right and centre, and consumers trying to customise their iPhones as much as was possible back then – beyond installing games or new camera software – there were many compatibility problems and glitches. The thing that the Shopify team found amazing was the emergence of 'bug fixes' being produced by developers. Based on feedback from users, app creators could solve software problems...


Growth and development


On its own, as a platform, Shopify couldn't always satisfy 100% of the customer's wishes. How could you offer consumers a product that was entirely specific to them, whilst being user friendly and relevant for other brands? The answer came with integration. Moving beyond the first few years of the iPhone and App Store, the team behind Shopify took advantage of new technologies so that they could provide integration with social media, marketing, SEO and shipping.


Staying on-trend was tough in the fast-paced market of the late naughties, but Shopify was always there in the background working to keep their e-Commerce platform on the front line. The issue for the general public was... they had simply never heard of Shopify because they didn't need to! Unless you were starting a business or wanted to migrate your current business for better results – why would you be seeking out Shopify?

As technologies became available, Shopify added them to their list of compatible apps, and they went from success to success. POS devices meant that businesses could now take payments in physical stores or pop-up markets, and have them processed via the eCommerce platform. Everything could be streamlined. Shopify had long been the preferred platform for smaller or medium enterprises, but as time progressed to 2015 and beyond, larger businesses started to see the benefits of this seamless process.


Here was an option for people to sell, provide services, update catalogues of items, provide special or seasonal offers, manage shopping and returns – all in one space.


Plus you get more from your store!


It was inevitable that after so many years Shopify 1.0 would be getting an upgrade.

"Shopify Plus is a more exclusive tier of the service specifically for larger retailers with a higher volume of sales, with tailored support and services specifically for a much larger retail operation. The Plus programme now means Shopify provides e-commerce stores for brands such as Gymshark, Heinz, and Staples, serving customers in hundreds of countries around the world."


Shopify Plus was launched in 2016, and then in 2021 Shopify 2.0 premiered. These options are desirable because they offer specific elements of the (already amazing) Shopify catalogue of apps and features.


Here at pear Digital we are advocates of technology and platforms that we believe are truly beneficial for our clients. We are proud to work as experts in the field of Shopify, so if you'd like to check out our success stories for brands and businesses please click here!