IAN BLACK Kenya Jade Pinto for Business Insider

Kenya Jade Pinto

Ian Black

Director of Retail, Shopify

Since joining Shopify as the head of retail in 2019, Ian Black has had a mission to expand Shopify’s products — which are best known for e-commerce sales — to serve brick-and-mortar retailers. Black spends a lot of time talking to smaller merchants about what they need from Shopify to better build their businesses and compete with the big guys.

“We have a strong belief internally that commerce is made better with more voices,” Black tells Business Insider.

That belief served as a guidepost for the company when the pandemic first hit North America, which caused a crisis for smaller businesses.

“We basically paused all of our plans and pulled forward the work that we knew could help merchants the most right away,” Black says.

Shopify nimbly pivoted and launched about a dozen new products that enabled socially distant commerce, including local delivery, curbside pickup, and online chat capabilities. As a result, Shopify’s retail merchants were able to replace 94% of their in-person sales with online sales.

“We’ve seen merchants and entrepreneurs respond to the new world in amazing ways by having the courage to still launch new brands, by totally changing their business models on a dime, and we’ve seen a lot of success stories come out of that,” Black says.

“That’s given us hope that this vision of more voices and independent retailers is here to stay and can win out.”