Shopify Plus new marketing chief eyes off brand awareness through local stories

Newly installed head of marketing APAC for the ecommerce platform talks through plans for the fast-growth enterprise offering

Building brand awareness for Shopify’s enterprise-level ecommerce offering is priority number one for newly installed head of APAC marketing, Robin Marchant.

The experienced B2B marketer took up the reins as head of marketing APAC for Shopify Plus in January, tasked with helping scale growth of the business regionally as part of a global push into the enterprise space.  The remit encompasses Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. Shopify was founded originally in Canada.

“Historically, Shopify has been known for small end, entrepreneurial customers, but we’re building out the enterprise side, Plus, as a core focus and priority,” Marchant told CMO, noting it’s a fast-growth part of the business.

With the mission of making commerce better for everyone in what’s a transformed retail market, Marchant put a particular emphasis on sharing local customer stories highlighting Shopify’s portfolio of direct-to-consumer startups, digital-only and omni-channel retail customers. Of Shopify’s 1 million global merchant users, local customers include digital-first players like Koala, as well as bricks-and-mortar retailers such as JB Hi-Fi.

The Shopify Plus business already has a significant employee base in APAC and globally. Shopify as a whole has customers in 175 countries and chalked up a 47 per cent year-on-year increase in Q4 2019 to US$505.2 million.

“From a marketing point of view, we are working very closely with the Canadian team on Plus, and there are about 60 people in global marketing for Plus,” Marchant explained. “It’s a very extended network and family of support, and some super smart people, which enables us to be very supportive of merchants, enabling them across their journey, and how we provide that thought leadership piece.”  

The big ambition is building brand awareness to ensure Shopify Plus is known as the main platform for ecommerce at an enterprise level. While Marchant reports globally and is part of a globally structured marketing team, he said he has complete autonomy for the region’s marketing approach.

“There’s leadership, but it’s not a directive, so we are focusing on what works for the region,” he said. “Yes, we need to ensure we are aligned, and importantly, we’re supported by the Canadian business. But we’re driving the agenda for what needs to be done in region.  

“It’s about what stories will resonate with each market, what brands we convey, and which successful merchants we drive through case studies and stories.

“We may have amazing brands in North America but that don’t resonate here. We have to make sure we tell the right stories to the right people so how they understand how it impacts them as a merchant, and how they can leverage learnings, but also see how to grow their business.  

One of the key marketing messages Marchant also wants to get across is that Shopify puts the merchant first, rather than technology.

“Utilising Plus ensures the money goes to the brand, not the platform, which is something merchants need to look at as they expand as well. It’s about ensuring the platform is just part of their infrastructure, so they can focus on the brand and user experience,” he said. “It’s about what they need to achieve.”  

Prior to joining Shopify Plus, Marchant spent two-and-a-half years with health software provider, MedicalDoctor. His resume also includes marketing roles with technology companies such as Squiz, Brennan IT, IBM, Arkadin and PGi.

Marchant described B2B marketing as still very much about human connections and marketing as a whole as a three-pronged game: Win, serve and keep.

“That doesn’t change fundamentally, just the logos does. We have to bring people on to product and position how it’s right for them. You’ll find that out by serving and supporting them to have what they need when they need it,” he said. “Then as they mature on the platform, it’s about retention because it’s about not just winning the customer but driving advocacy.

“The true sign of trust is when these customers become stories and case studies for you – they become your best sales people.”

Among Marchant’s first priorities is growing and building the capability of functions. “We’re trying to understand the nuances of the region to understand what we need to moving forward,” he said. “We are luck we have highly functioning support globally.”

And success will ultimately come down to customer knowledge, knowing what it is they are trying to achieve, their potential pain points or areas to focus on to grow, and how to help them sustain success, Marchant said.

“With over 1 million merchants on our platform of all shapes and sizes, there is a lot of insight, understanding and stories that can be told,” he added.

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