Why the Shopify, Mailchimp integration battle is just a sign of what's to come

As it's increasingly clear that customer data is the only asset that matters, get ready for a bevy of vendor battles over APIs and integration.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Shopify has cut off Mailchimp from its app store in a battle over treatment of customer data and the two sides are blaming each other. Get used to it as the industry is likely to see more battles over data and application programming interfaces.

The modern cloud infrastructure and services ecosystem is held together by APIs. APIs are what allows services providers pass through customer data. In the Shopify-Mailchimp integration, the two parties passed through data so merchants could integrate with their email marketing tools.

Shopify said:

Over the past 18 months, Shopify has had growing concerns about Mailchimp's app because of the poor merchant experience and their refusal to respect our Partner Program Agreement. Our terms require app partners to share all important data back to the merchant using Shopify's API to help them run their businesses.

It's critical for our merchants to have accurate, complete insight into their businesses and customers, and this isn't possible when Mailchimp locks in their data.

Mailchimp said:

For months, we've been trying to work with Shopify on terms that would be fair and equitable for both of our businesses. Throughout these negotiations, we refused to agree to terms that jeopardize our users' privacy and require us to hand over customer data acquired outside of Shopify. From our perspective, that's not our data to share.

The new terms also make it clear that Shopify wants to control which providers their partners work with and how they conduct their business. We believe small businesses are best served when they can choose which technology they use to run their businesses, which is why Mailchimp integrates with more than 150 different apps and platforms. We won't compromise on that just because Shopify sees it as a competitive threat.

The only clear thing in this Shopify-Mailchimp spat is that customer data is the key asset. Remember how Apple cut off Facebook and Google internal apps over customer data abuses?

Why blow up a Shopify-Mailchimp issue into something broader? Data is the only commodity that matters and the vendors that have the most customer data win. There's a reason Salesforce has Customer 360, which connects customer data from all of its clouds as well as outside sources. Oracle houses customer data in its cloud and databases. AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform all have spins on the customer data under management theme. Pick your enterprise vendor--Workday, SAP, Infor etc.--and know that data is their biggest asset.

Also see:  Over 100,000 GitHub repos have leaked API or cryptographic keys 

While APIs connect cloud services everywhere you're going to see more of these battles over connecting data. For starters, there's GDPR and other privacy regulations that can be used excuses to disconnect. And then there's the plain old power grab.

We haven't seen these integration skirmishes en masse just yet, but enterprise buyers may want to start getting ready for them.

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