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Shopify to expand in Waterloo, hiring up to 500 new employees

The expansion will power the Shopify Plus platform, which caters to large, complex clients such as Red Bull, General Electric and Nestle.

The new location will almost double the company’s physical presence in Waterloo, and triple its workforce in the area. Shopify established its location in the city back in 2014, a year before going public. Now with 500,000 businesses running on the platform, they need more brick and mortar space to keep up with the rapid growth.

The appeal of the corridor
General Manager and VP of Shopify Plus Loren Padelford says there are a lot of reasons for the company to be excited about the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

“I intentionally set us up here because of the unique nature of KW (Kitchener-Waterloo),” says Padelford. “It’s not just a tech centre. It’s an industry centre.”

With over 2,000 technology companies operating in the KW corridor, many tech businesses apparently share this enthusiasm for the region. Waterloo sports two major universities (University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University), and is close to Ontario’s other leading research institutions at Guelph University, McMaster University and the University of Toronto; this provides rapidly expanding employers like Shopify with new, highly educated talent close to home.

Padelford also indicated that there’s a lot of tech being adopted within the larger industry working within the region — such as the major financial service providers Sun Life and Manulife — providing KW tech companies with a unique relationship to the business sectors adopting their products.

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A 2016 McKinsey report supports this view of the KW region’s prospects. Waterloo’s industry contributes significantly to the burgeoning Toronto-Waterloo corridor, which currently contributes to over 17 percent of Canada’s GDP. The report points out that, “Turning the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor into a global innovation hub has the potential to deliver a $50 billion increase in direct equity value, $17.5 billion in direct annual GDP, and more than 170,000 high-quality jobs by 2025.”

Keeping up with the retail world
Shopify’s expansion in Waterloo will allow for greater resources to be given to Shopify Plus, a platform built by Shopify that caters to larger, more complex clients. The Plus platform deals with 2500 clients, including industry leaders such as General Electric, Rebecca Minkoff, Red Bull and Nestle.

These larger clients face a retail industry that is rapidly evolving, especially when it comes to the expectations of the customer. Many commentators are pointing out the revolution going on in retail, and the need for a forward-thinking strategy in order to participate effectively in the rapidly evolving digital space. Shopify Plus aims to keep these large clients apace of the digital tools that can help them keep up with the demands of their customers.

“Retail has changed dramatically over the last five to ten years,” says Padelford. “Consumers have become much more demanding of the experience they have. So as a retailer of any size, whether you’re offline or online, you’re having to create new experiences for your customers to engage with at a much higher frequency than you have ever had to before.

“There’s no longer the potential to create one website experience, a web store, and then leave it for six months. You have to be innovating and adapting your customer experiences on nearly a real time basis to ensure that those customers come back, to ensure that they have a great experience while they’re interacting with you, and to ensure that your brand is engaging with those customers on a variety of different channels.”

Shopify Plus works to advance the digital side of these larger retail companies, through a variety of new tools, focusing on e-commerce automation. Two such tools are Flow, which allows businesses to automate processes such as ordering based on inventory levels, and Launchpad, which helps companies schedule upcoming sales — an otherwise laborious task during the crucial days of Black Friday and the upcoming holiday season.

With these tools, says Padelford, Shopify Plus allows complex clients to “grow a lot faster and not have to worry about a lot of the mechanics with running their online stores.”

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