Why You Should Build Apps That Address Merchant Pain Points

Apps that address merchant pain points

As the number of merchants selling online increases, so do each shop’s specific needs.

With it becoming easier to sell almost anything online, more types of merchants are getting involved in ecommerce, selling new types of products and services to current and emerging markets all over the world.

While Shopify provides the platform and tools for the essential needs of ecommerce entrepreneurs, there are still new challenges and opportunities constantly arising. It’s when these new opportunities appear that app developers are able to swoop in and save the day.

It’s when these new opportunities appear that app developers are able to swoop in and save the day.

At Unite 2017, Sarah Sui and Todd Coulthard of the Shopify Data Analytics Team gave a talk on opportunities for your next Shopify App. In this data-driven presentation, they shared Shopify merchant trends, observations on last year’s top performing apps, and opportunities for new app ideas. In addition, they delved into how new app developers could enter the Shopify app ecosystem and find success.

In this article, we’ll highlight the merchant pain points presented at Unite, pair them with the data trends shared by Sarah and Todd, and provide inspiration from some high performing apps who have already found success in building apps that solve merchant-specific challenges.

You might also like: The Essential List of Resources for Shopify App Development.

The merchant desire for apps is growing

Our data analytics team spends a lot of time compiling and analyzing data through merchant surveys, store trends, and app store trends. We already know that the average Shopify store has four apps installed, and that they usually hit this number by the end of their first year on the platform. But in 2017, data shows that new merchants are installing and keeping apps at an even faster rate.

Apps that address merchant pain points: App installs in first year
In 2017 data shows that Shopify stores are installing apps in their first year at a faster rate.

In addition to the growing appetite for apps, data shows that merchants are very open to using newly published apps. In fact, in 2016, half of the top 25 apps were published within the year. These triumphant new apps were found across all app store categories, as well.

This demonstrates that while there are already a number of great apps on the Shopify App Store, there’s room for new apps to win over merchant hearts. As Sarah put it in her Unite talk “The app store is ripe for disruption.”

How merchants look to apps to solve challenges

When the data team surfaced the list of last year’s most successful apps, a common denominator was the fact that each app addressed specific merchant challenges.

While it may seem that merchants visit the app store in search of unique tools or interesting enhancements, the motivator for installing new apps was in fact to fill a specific need or to alleviate a particular challenge; this could include sourcing inventory, creating marketing campaigns, and converting currencies for foreign customers.

The motivator for installing new apps was in fact to fill a specific need or to alleviate a particular challenge.

This demonstrates that tackling merchant pain points head on is a solid path to success for app developers.

To help move you further along on your own path to app success, we looked at the data from our most recent merchant survey and identified the top three pain points that drive merchants to the Shopify App Store:

  • Updating products and inventory
  • Understanding website traffic and trends
  • Editing the look and feel of their store

We’ve dug deeper into these pain points and looked at the growing merchant and category trends. With all this in mind, we’ve outlined some reasons why merchants need assistance with these tasks, and how best to position your app to solve them.

1. Updating products and inventory

Not only are inventory issues related to the quantity of products, they can also be tied to the type of products being sold within a particular category. Below are the top industries currently on the Shopify platform.

Apps that address merchant pain points: Top four shop industries
Fashion & apparel is the dominant category, followed by health & beauty, home & furniture, and food & drink.

The largest industry on Shopify is fashion and apparel. Apps like Return Magic have created solutions that address some of the biggest challenges in managing products and inventory in the fashion and apparel industry.

In Return Magic’s case, they built out a robust app for managing returns. Since issues such as size fit and fabric feel can only be tested through in-person interactions, the apparel industry is known for its high rate of online purchase returns.

Focusing on this specific industry insight, these app developers created a solution to make this part of retail purchasing smoother for both merchants and their customers.

Rewind is another great example of an app that focused in on a particular inventory concern. For shops that carry several different SKUs, and have in-depth details listed on each product’s page (common for fashion, health, and beauty products) product data is critical.

With so much detail living online, if their product data was ever lost, it would take hours for the merchants to re-input everything. This would result in store downtime and lost sales. Rewind alleviates this anxiety by backing-up store data, and giving these kinds of merchants better peace of mind.

One commonality between both these popular apps is that they took a look at a particular industry, identified headaches around managing products within that industry, and created effective solutions based around insights.

They took a look at a particular industry, identified headaches around managing products within that industry, and created effective solutions based around insights.

While there are already many effective apps focused around solving inventory issues specific to fashion and apparel merchants, there are other industries growing rapidly on Shopify that do not yet have the same breadth of app options. Beyond the current dominating industries, the three other fastest growing industries on Shopify are:

  • Pet products
  • Music
  • Adult products

These unique products may have their own sourcing, packaging, shipping, and distribution needs. By researching challenges within these growing industries, you may uncover a merchant challenge that your app could solve, and will have less competition from other apps at the onset.

2. Understanding website traffic and trends

All merchants want to attract as many visitors to their site as possible. But to help turn site visits into sales, they need to better understand details about how and why customers came to their online store. Some information that could be valuable to merchants includes:

  • Region — Helping merchants understand which countries site visitors are from, and any regional issues around shipping and payments.
  • Discoverability — Helping merchants become easier to find through search engines or social media.
  • Buying journey — Helping merchants understand how frequently customers visit their site, and what other sites they visit during purchase decision making.

Looking at the questions around region, it’s important to note that while Shopify’s merchants are currently predominant in English-speaking markets, we’ve seen significant year-over-year growth across all continents. Not only are merchants serving customers all over the world, they’re based all around the world themselves.

One of our fastest growing merchant regions is South America. When looking at search terms among merchants in South America, the following graph represents the most predominant.

Apps that address merchant pain points: Merchant search terms South America
Top search terms among merchants in South America.

One of the most popular search terms is “correios”, which is Portuguese for “post office.” Apps like Correios - SIGEP - Etiquetas have taken note of this strong desire for better shipping solutions, and have created an app to help Brazilian merchants ship their products.

Beyond South America, Asia is our second-largest growth market. By doing a similar exercise and looking at what’s trending in that market, you’ll have the opportunity to gain a first-mover advantage among a growing merchant audience.

You might also like: Show Merchants How Your App Drives Sales With Shopify’s New Marketing Events API.

3. Editing the look and feel of a store

Not only is it important for merchants to make the store feel like a reflection of their brand, they also want to make certain adaptations to fit with industry or regional expectations, as well as emerging trends.

One app developer that does a great job of creating simple apps that help merchants add visual features to their stores is Hextom. They’re the creators of multiple apps that are included in the list of top apps of 2016, including Free Shipping Bar, Quick Announcement Bar, and Countdown Timer Bar.

Although these features may seem small, clearly they’re of great importance to merchants. By looking at regional search trends, as well as trends within industries, you may discover that there are new features or functions that merchants would like to incorporate into their stores, such as capabilities around virtual reality, augmented reality, and better user experience on mobile devices.

Although these features may seem small, clearly they’re of great importance to merchants.

As Sarah advised at Unite, staying on top of new trends Shopify merchants are reading about and discussing may present an opportunity for your app to become a leader in providing new functions or features.

A few places to look for these trends are sites like The Verge and The Next Web. It’s also a good idea to consult with the Shopify Forums to see what merchants themselves are discussing.

You might also like: The Essential List of Resources for Shopify Theme Development.

There are still merchant challenges to solve

Although there’s a robust selection of apps available to merchants on the app store, there are still many untapped opportunities not yet addressed. As our merchant base continues to grow, so will the opportunities to build new successful apps. Perhaps after a bit of research into region, industry, and shop traffic comprehension needs, you’ll find yourself on the list of 2017’s most successful apps!

Want more app inspiration? Watch some of Unite 2017’s other great talks.

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