On Thursday, May 23, TechCrunch broke news that Shopify quietly acquired Handshake.
Shopify is widely known as a B2C/DTC platform, and its Shopify Plus offering is aimed at a B2B audience. Handshake brings Shopify a more advanced set of B2B capabilities. How advanced? Handshake was listed in “The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites For Midsize Organizations, Q3 2017.”
Beyond the table-stakes B2B capabilities, one thing that’s notable about Handshake’s offering is that it provides sellers with a mobile app optimized for both assisted selling and buyer self-service. Setting aside the edge cases of complexities of B2B products and buying processes, Handshake’s mobile apps provide well-designed experiences without the need to customize. Why is this important? Think about your last experience with a manufacturer’s online ordering portal. Was it as easy and delightful as buying Levi’s through Pinterest?
More and more, we’re seeing firms that exist outside the four walls of traditional buyers and sellers coming onto the scene to solve the experience friction of both sides. Pinterest optimized its visual search and made an actionable platform for commerce. It’s neither a seller nor a buyer, but it’s positioned to put fresh eyes on solving the problems of both those personas. Deploying world-class design talent armed with a massive amount of feedback from app analytics (250 million-plus monthly active users) is a recipe for delightful, time-saving, action-oriented experiences. We put Pinterest’s use of AI into context for CMOs in our report, “Artificial Intelligence Will Spark A Real Marketing Renaissance.”
Handshake focuses on solving pervasive yet particular B2B challenges for brands’ field merchants doing their reordering, as well as for store managers taking care of replenishment. Handshake’s case studies show evidence that it does a better job than a brand itself could do with a customized site. How can this be? For those of you with over a million followers, ask yourself how much you’d need to spend to provide your fans with a better experience than they get from Instagram.
The economics of customizing a platform vendor’s starter store tend to break down; we’re seeing more new entrants with apps proving that. We know it’s a pervasive problem in B2B for manufacturers and distributors to not actually know how their customers buy from them. The result is an experience riddled with friction and missed opportunities throughout the buyer’s journey. But when a platform vendor is targeting a specific segment, all of whom have that same pervasive problem, the economics required for them to build a great experience dramatically shift for the better. Handshake capitalized on those economics, and its case studies show it.
Now we get to watch how Shopify scales Handshake while integrating it into its existing offerings. B2B E-Commerce World shared some of its thoughts on how this could all play out.
We have evidence that Shopify has already made inroads to the enterprise. Digital leaders are using it to rapidly prototype and test new business models and markets. For digital leaders who aren’t already aware of this, now’s a great time to see what you can do with Shopify + Handshake for testing your B2B hypotheses.
Look for my first report on how large enterprises are using Shopify to test new business models coming soon, and in the meantime, feel free to set up an inquiry with me to get my take on this deal and to discuss my upcoming research.