Shopify intros Balance financial service for SMBs, expands access to AI fulfillment network

Shopify Balance is meant to help merchants organize commingled business and personal finances.

E-commerce platform provider Shopify on Wednesday unveiled a new financial service for its small business merchants that aims to consolidate business transactions and cash flows into a single business account. The service, called Shopify Balance, will include a business account and a business card and allow merchants to manage finances, pay bills, and track expenses from within a single dashboard without leaving the Shopify admin page. 

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The company also announced expansions to the Shopify Fulfillment Network, a new deferred payment option for merchants to offer their customers, and a new local delivery product to help merchants respond to the uptick in online orders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The slew of announcements are tied to the company's annual customer conference, which was held virtually this year because of the health crisis. 

At its core, Shopify Balance is meant to help merchants organize commingled business and personal finances. Shopify said that two in five of its merchants have admitted to using their personal bank and credit accounts for business transactions -- a practice known to cause headaches when it comes to bookkeeping. With Balance, merchants receive a business card for in-store and online purchases, as well as an online account that offers a centralized view of cash flow. Shopify also plans on offering rewards to merchants on business-related purchases.

The company said the Shopify Balance card is not a traditional debit or credit card. Rather, it provides merchants with access to their balance, which includes money from sales revenue generated through a Shopify store.

Meanwhile, Shop Pay Installments is Shopify's new "Buy Now, Pay Later" option that will let merchants offer more flexible payment options at checkout.  Merchants can offer their customers the option to split purchases into four equal payments over time, with no interest and no additional fees. Shopify plans to launch Shop Pay Installments with an unnamed partner later this year to US merchants eligible for Shopify Payments.

The new local delivery service is one of the company's more direct responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Shopify's data, as of April 24, 26% of brick-and-mortar merchants in Shopify's English-speaking geographies were using some form of local pickup and delivery service, compared to 2% at the end of February. With the service, merchants can use a new Shopify Local Delivery app to create optimized delivery routes, and send notifications to customers when deliveries are en route. 

"Right now, we're dedicating ourselves to helping as many small businesses as possible survive this," said Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke. "We've looked far and wide into our roadmaps for everything that might be helpful right now, and have tried to pull as many things forward as we could, shipping them and getting them out the door for our merchants."

As for the Shopify Fulfillment Network, Shopify said the program is out of the early access stage and is currently accepting merchant applications. Launched in 2019 the fulfillment network uses smart inventory-allocation technology, powered by machine learning, to match orders, route inventory and negotiate rates. As it worked to optimize the network with robotics, Shopfiy announced in September that it bought 6 River Systems, a warehouse automation and industrial robotics startup, for $450 million. 

Shopify also recently released Shop, a mobile shopping app designed to provide seamless payment and checkout, transparent tracking and customized recommendations.

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