Shopify continues its constant metamorphosis by spreading its wings into the advertising sector. Development on this new feature started shortly after Apple announced new iPhone features that will limit Facebook's ability to collect data from apps. According to analysts, these changes will cost Facebook around $10 billion in revenue this year alone. Google also recently announced that it will no longer be supporting third-party cookies, which means that there is a significant shift in the way marketers will need to strategize their first-party data collection. 

This crack-down on user privacy has sparked an industry-wide race to find the solution for marketing post-iOS 14, and Shopify is one of the first to have its answer ready to use.

This new feature from Shopify is called ‘Audiences' and has been created to help online merchants discover new customers on social media channels (e.g., Facebook & Instagram). 

What is Shopify Audiences?

Shopify Audiences utilizes bleeding-edge tech in artificial intelligence and machine learning to anonymously pool purchase-intent data between its merchants and customers. This creates a data exchange web that uses mass conversion data to develop custom audiences across all opted-in Shopify merchants. This approach helps vendors target their audience based on past purchasing behavior rather than just looking at generic demographics like age or gender.

So far, the new tool has been quite positively received by Shopify store owners – many believing this new feature fits the company's overall mission of delivering its merchants with an all-in-one solution.

Here's an example of how a merchant selling jewelry can utilize Audiences:

  • Once the seller opts into Shopify Audiences, they can utilize and share data about their purchased products.
  • Shopify can then construct a custom audience of people interested in particular products you peddle (in this case, jewelry). The credit goes to data shared by additional merchants. For instance, Shopify can use data from rings and necklaces often bought together to see what products people are most likely to purchase simultaneously.
  • The data collected can leverage your social media followers and produce highly targeted, more engrossing ads – increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Why did Shopify launch Audiences?

As mentioned previously – Shopify Audience's development was started shortly after Apple announced new iPhone features that will limit Facebook's ability to collect data from apps. Ever since Apple began cracking down on the data you could get from apps, companies like Shopify are trying to replenish that – and indeed, this type of tool is exemplary of an industry-wide mad dash to make up for lost data.

Shopify, from its side, says it didn't create Audiences as a way to work around recent platform updates but instead to deliver Shopify store owners a more robust toolset. “Shopify Audiences will give merchants a new, effective way to find prospective customers — which is one of the hardest challenges in growing a business — while enabling merchants to meet obligations under their applicable privacy regulations,” said Kaz Nejatian, VP of Product at Shopify, in an emailed report.

Audiences also fits in with Shopify's overall mission, which is giving the little guys an edge in the wild west of business.

Does Shopify Audiences respect data privacy?

Shopify has confirmed that all accumulated data is anonymized and securely hashed, so store owners cannot view any confidential information or statistical data to be included in the audiences.

Once the audience list has been encrypted, it is transmitted securely to the ad platform and cannot be downloaded. Once the audience information is matched to records held by Facebook, the data is permanently deleted. 

Adding the Shopify Audiences app to your Shopify store lets, you contribute detailed data to the audience network alongside other Shopify merchants. It is vital to disclose data assemblage and how it may be used in your privacy policy. You will also need to allow customers the possibility to opt-out. You can turn off data sharing from your store, but you will be incapable of creating new audiences if you decide to do this.

Final Thoughts

Shopify Audiences is an exciting new tool in the platform's extensive suite. It allows Shopify merchants to advertise across other platforms to acquire more customers at a lower price. It is a refreshing approach to advertisement, where users are not flooded with ads, and their privacy is respected.

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