Fintech

Shopify is betting on NFTs to unlock a new take on shopping

Shopify is letting merchants use NFTs for their customers to unlock special products, perks and experiences.

Shopify on a smartphone

The idea is that NFTs are a kind of loyalty card that a brand’s top fans can use to access exclusive items.

Photo: Shopify

Despite the crypto crash, Shopify is betting that NFTs will change the way people shop online and in person. The ecommerce giant has a new service to enable customers to use NFTs to unlock special perks, products and real-world experiences with merchants.

Last year Shopify added the ability for merchants to sell NFTs using Shopify so customers don’t have to go to another site to buy them. With this new product, Shopify is taking that a step further through what’s known as “token-gated commerce.” The NFTs can come from anywhere the merchants want.

The idea is that NFTs are a kind of loyalty card — in the form of a cryptographic key — that a brand’s top fans can use to access exclusive items.

The current crash in the crypto markets has hit NFTs as well. But Alex Danco, head of blockchain at Shopify, says he is excited about the current market because it removes distraction and is good for focusing on actual ways NFTs can be used to help merchants and decreases the interest in pure speculation.

As a result, merchants aren’t shying away from NFTs, Danco said. “If anything, it's the opposite, right? The fact that this is very clearly not about ‘double your money in the next week or whatever by NFTs.’ The fact that it's not that anymore is actually a great sign for real businesses and real brands.”

Some retailers are dubious, but Danco believes crypto wallets and NFTs will be a big benefit for merchants, once he persuades them to “wander into something that is so drowned out by noise of all of the speculative mania.”

The biggest benefit of crypto and NFTs is crypto wallets, he said. “Everybody sort of jokes about ‘This is a big bubble and it left behind no infrastructure.’ It left one very, very important piece of infrastructure: Everybody has a wallet now.”

The NFT can also be used in person. Shopify tried out the product with Doodles, a popular NFT project, at this year’s South by Southwest. Doodles NFT holders could buy exclusive merchandise or access a Doodles experience at the show. At the NFT.NYC conference this week, NFT project Cool Cats is using Shopify to offer access to special products for token holders.

One other use of NFTs is collaborations between brands, especially between Web3 and non-Web3 companies, Danco said. Superplastic, a toy company, partnered with Bored Ape Yacht Club to create toys for ape holders. Gucci also recently collaborated with Superplastic.

Danco sees this as akin to an old, famous band and a new, popular band playing a show together and sharing fans. NFTs enable that kind of experience, he argues. ”The funny thing is, it's very hard to authentically do these kinds of exclusive collabs online where people invite each other in. But what people are seeing as token gating is actually just perfect for this.”

He believes companies will move beyond simply using an NFT to buy a product, but that is the easiest way for companies to get started. Danco also sees app developers that build on Shopify adding many more uses for NFTs. “I have an inside view of what some of these app developers are doing in the pipeline, and it's gonna be nuts,” he said.

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