Shopify – cautious outlook despite strong Q4 2022 results

Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce company, reported excellent results for Q4 2022, with gross merchandise volume up 12% to $61bn, of which a record $34.2bn was processed by Shopify Payments. However, despite the strong performance, investors were unnerved by management’s more pessimistic outlook for growth in 2023.

Revenue was up 26% supported by a 30 basis points increase in take rate to 2.84%, indicating the company’s success in upselling value-added services to its existing customers. While Shopify does not provide a detailed breakdown of its revenues by geography, management noted that 45% of its merchants are based outside North America although these only account for 27% of revenue. 25% of merchants are in EMEA, 15% in Asia Pacific and 5% in Latin America.

Shopify Payments, which is a processing solution provided to Shopify by Stripe, saw volume up 23% and now accounts for 56% of total sales through Shopify merchants, up 5 percentage points on Q4 2021. Shopify Payments is steadily squeezing out 3rd party processors from over $200bn annual payment volume. It’s a very impressive performance.

Shopify’s strong payment performance was attributed to several positive factors, including an expanded penetration for Shop Pay, a one-click checkout, cleverly supplemented with BNPL options powered by Affirm for US merchants. Shop Pay has been a resounding success, accounting for $11bn GMV in Q4 alone. Shopify Payments was also aided by strong growth in Shopify POS which is available in 14 countries. 

Shopify has seen offline volume grow quickly, up 25% in Q4 and up over 40% on a full-year basis. POS merchants tend to be larger merchants that value Shopify’s ability to “control the end-to-end experience on the device from app updates, to permissioning, to point-of-sale onboarding.”

Harry Finkelstein, President of Shopify, is especially pleased with the POS performance and its ability to help Shopify reach larger omni-channel merchants. He said: “Now that [our] point-of-sale can power 1,000 retail stores, our merchants that come first and foremost for point-of-sale and then expand to online store as well.“ For example, Shopify has helped Culture Kings, an Australian streetwear brand, open a flagship store in Las Vegas.

Shopify’s Merchant Solutions business, which includes payments, saw revenue rise 30% year-on-year to $1.3bn. However, gross margins contracted 5 percentage points to 36%. Merchant solutions margin was impacted by higher credit card usage, which increased expenses while merchant prices were fixed.

Management confirmed that it is in discussions with Amazon about offering “Buy with Prime” to Shopify merchants. However, there are clear concerns about disintermediation, and Finkelstein emphasized that it must be done in a way that maintains merchants’ relationships with their end-consumers.

In other product news, Shopify’s Commerce Components, launched in January, offers complex merchants the opportunity to use selected items from the Shopify stack, which they can integrate with their existing systems. Mattel, the toy brand, is the first to take the product. As a sign of how big this move could be, Accenture, Deloitte, EY and KPMG have all signed up as delivery partners to help their clients move to Shopify.

Looking ahead to 2023, Shopify’s management is cautious about the macro-economic environment, guided revenue growth expectations lower and sought to reassure investors that it would not be overinvesting. CFO Jeff Hoffmeister said: “We recognized a challenging macroeconomic backdrop and are focused on carefully balancing our growth investments with strict operational discipline.” 

Shopify – payments growth but margins contract

Shopify surprised the market by losing less money than expected in Q3 although the Canadian eCommerce platform still has work ahead if it is to convince investors that it can turn topline growth into cash.

Shopify’s software is used by over 1m merchants spread across 175 countries. Gross merchandise volume grew 11% in Q3 to $46.2bn. Of this figure, Shopify Payments processed 54% or $25bn. Shopify is a payment facilitator for Stripe and is steadily squeezing out 3rd party processors. Its success underlines the need for merchant acquirers to secure their own ISV distribution as Shopify merchants are increasingly off limits.

Total revenue from all products grew 22% in Q3 to $1.37bn. Shopify reports two segments, Subscriptions and Merchant Solutions. Merchant Solutions (which includes Shopify Payments) was up 26% to $990m “driven by GMV growth and by merchants utilizing our solutions to run greater parts of their business in this inflationary environment.” 

Cost of sales outpaced revenue growth and was up 37%. This slowed gross profit growth to just 9%. Merchant Solutions reported “lower margins in Shopify Payments due to merchant and card mix shifts and industry-wide network cost increases,” according to Amy Shapero, the outgoing CFO. This sounds like Shopify has been unable to pass on increases in scheme fees to merchants. Also, its fixed price model is vulnerable to increased usage of higher cost cards. 

Operational expenses, notably R&D and general administration, grew 64% to $1bn, consuming a chunky 74% of Q3 revenue. Shopify has a new CFO who is likely to be looking carefully at cost control in 2023.

Loss from operations $345m compared to a deficit of just $4m in the same quarter of 2021.

Shopify was first to report signs of a reversal in the Covid eCommerce boom and has been keen to reassure on its omnichannel credentials. This should help it capture some value from the rebound in store-based shopping.

The nascent POS business grew GPV 35%. Harley Finkelstein, CEO, explained that “over half of the rapid adoption of point-of-sale is being driven by new SMB retailers coming to Shopify to get their start as a new omnichannel business. Additionally, over 1/3 are from established offline retailers who are entirely new to e-commerce or selling only on point of sale.”

POS Go – an mPOS device running Shopify software – “has seen enthusiastic adoption among new and existing merchants with strong performance right out of the gates.”

The addition of POS capability has helped Shopify attract larger merchants that trade across multiple channels. Finkelstein spoke about “8 new merchants with over 20 locations each and 1 with over 175 locations” including “including department store, Schoffields; and designer apparel, Totima.” The push to enterprise is backed by new heavyweight SI partnerships with KMPG and EY. The latter promises to train 500 consultants in Shopify implementations which should begin to worry the established enterprise players such as Oracle and Salesforce.