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Nick Perry
Mar 27, 2019
Customer Data Killed The Shopify-Mailchimp Partnership
Mailchimp is officially ending its partnership with Shopify. Here's why the 2 companies are no longer working together.
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Goodbye to The Shopify-Mailchimp Partnership

This past weekend, Mailchimp announced that it would no longer be offering the Mailchimp app in the Shopify App Store. Mailchimp is one of the most recognizable names in email marketing. The app, which helped ecommerce shop owners use their Shopify data to create targeted email campaigns to customers, was a flagship in the marketplace.

The fact that these two ecommerce titans are now refusing to work together is a curious development that signals shifting tides in the ecommerce world.

At its core, the split seems to have been precipitated over disagreements over customer privacy.

From Shopify’s release:

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. Specifically, Mailchimp refuses to synchronize customer information captured on merchants’ online stores and email opt-out preferences. As a result, our merchants, other apps, and partner ecosystem can’t reliably serve their customers or comply with privacy legislation.

And Mailchimp’s response:

Our shared users have complete control over their own data. By continuing to connect with Shopify through third-party integrations, we’re providing our shared users with the choice to share that data going forward. What we’re not willing to do is automatically and retroactively share all of this data with Shopify, including data acquired outside of and not connected to the Shopify platform, without the user involved. From our perspective, that data belongs to our users and isn’t ours to share directly with Shopify.

There’s a good deal of he-said, she-said going on here but there is plenty of writing on the wall as to why these two ecommerce leaders would so willingly part ways.

Hint: It’s about customer data, but less about the privacy of that data and more about each entity’s exclusive ownership of that data.

In a world where consumers receive hundreds of emails to their spam folders daily, any edge that companies can gain to ensure their messaging hits home is absolutely crucial. Under Shopify’s new terms, partners who try to get merchants to leave Shopify are “restricted” while they also request that all data collected by a partner that relates to a merchant’s customer “be sent back to Shopify.”

This move demonstrates that Shopify intends to get and keep its hands on any data that comes through the Shopify ecosystem, whether by customers buying directly on a Shopify-hosted ecommerce store or picked up through Shopify-integrated apps like Mailchimp. For instance, if a Shopify store owner is using Mailchimp to market to his customers, Shopify wants to ensure that they know who is opening these emails, who is clicking through, and how frequently.

As competitors like BigCommerce, Webflow, and, well, Mailchimp, are growing, Shopify wants to position itself as the premier ecommerce platform — a point that can be quantifiably proven by the amount of data they own.

Mailchimp, for its part, felt that retroactively asking its users to agree to new privacy and data-sharing terms to appease Shopify was excessive and unfair. However, there’s more to it than that.

As Mailchimp has partnered with Square to launch shoppable landing pages in recent months, they’ve made a concerted effort to get into the ecommerce business — in more direct competition with Shopify. They’ve also been hiring former members of shutting-down ecommerce brand LemonStand, signaling a desire to pivot into the ecommerce space.

Both companies took the safe stance, citing their customers’ privacy as the reason for terminating the partnership. However, it’s more likely that exclusive control over their customers’ data is the ultimate reason for the split. Content may be king but data is God and as two giants steer into more direct competition, this conflict was bound to arise.

This is very likely not the last time we see app integration as a catalyst for partnerships dissolving in the ecommerce world as the business grows and exclusive ownership of data becomes more precious. For users of both services, there are still plenty of other options who are likely excited about the new opportunities this dissolution presents.

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Topics: Ecommerce, Shopify