The cost of innovation

Last week I was writing about how most innovation is a waste for your Shopify store.

Let’s look at a common software example. Say you want to add a banner message to mention your new sale but the one that came with your Shopify theme doesn’t do what you want. Before you create custom code, compare using what your theme already has to a custom code solution:

  • Does this directly make more money from your customers?
  • Does this help your store run a lot more effectively?
  • Does this remove or reduce an expense?

Perhaps this banner does seem valuable and you’ve measured that it’d be much better than your theme’s and any other off-the-shelf app’s solution.

That’s not the whole story though.

Most innovations also come with costs. Both the upfront research and development but also the ongoing maintenance of the innovation.

Using the banner code example, do you have a developer on staff who can keep the code running?

How much computing power much does that code cost to run? (you either have to pay for servers or you use Shopify’s which could mean your store slows down).

What about theme upgrades, will they now take longer and need to be done manually?

What if a theme introduces this exact banner feature in a future version?

Costs can throw a wrench into your plans, often making the value of an innovation plummet.

When I did development consulting, most clients were surprised at how much it takes to keep code running. A decision to do something custom years ago means that they are limited in their options now and have to pay for its maintenance with every upgrade.

This is just a code innovation example too. Something that is purely digital and has a low research and development cost. Innovation around physical things and assets that you have to purchase upfront can get way higher.

I’m not saying never innovate though. I’m saying be mindful of where you’re innovating at.

I run a software company and have access to a lots of software resources and research. Innovating with custom code makes sense for me (sometimes).

In a POD store, innovating around getting orders sent to fulfillment can make sense. Same for return processing.

In a DTC food store, innovating around ingredients and packaging make sense.

But outside of those core areas (the value chain), innovation is wasted and just slows you down.

Analyzing your customers, orders, and products with Repeat Customer Insights can help find which marketing strategies attracted the best customers over the long-term.

Eric Davis

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