Cloud-based data platform

What is Snowflake?

What is Snowflake?

Seb Harris

6 minute read03 Mar 2022

Snowflake is a cloud-based platform revolutionizing how businesses manage and analyze their data. Offering unparalleled flexibility and scalability, it caters to a variety of data needs, from engineering to warehousing. Particularly for Shopify merchants, Snowflake stands out by seamlessly handling JSON format data, making it an ideal solution in the e-commerce landscape.


Snowflake is a cloud-based data platform offering numerous services to help clients extract the most value from their store data. It’s a software-as-a-service solution that’s flexible, scalable and efficient, saving businesses both time and money with their data analysis.

Snowflake offers the following:

Data engineering

Snowflake ingests, transforms, and delivers data to give insights that are far deeper than other methods. Data engineers spend far less time managing pipeline infrastructure and more time adding value to store data sets through experimentation and analysis.

Data lake

Combine structured, semi-structured and unstructured data from any format and any source, even across clouds and regions, into the Snowflake data lake. Data engineers, data scientists, analysts and developers across organisations can access governed data self-service for a variety of workloads, without resource contention or concurrency issues.

Data warehouse

A safe, secure storage facility that gives clients fast and reliable access to their data. Most importantly for this article, Snowflake’s data warehouse accepts JSON format. Those familiar with Shopify will know that store data from the platform only comes in JSON. Snowflake is one of the only data warehouses to accept this data. Read more on this below.

Data science

Snowflake is a unified, all-in-one data platform that makes it easier to realise the true value of store data. Cross-functional teams can collaborate on scalable data preparation and pipelines, transforming data into actionable business learnings and targets.

Data applications

Businesses can power data applications through the Snowflake data cloud. An SaaS solution, Snowflake will take care of infrastructure details, freeing time and effort for innovation via data applications. 

Data sharing

Data sharing is made much easier and happens much faster with Snowflake. It replaces traditional sharing methods, eliminating the need for copying, transforming, and moving data by providing access to everything all in one place.

Snowflake is a cloud-based data platform.

Snowflake and Shopify

There’s a lot of talk around Snowflake right now. Data is on the rise in e-commerce. Merchants are waking up to both its potential and its necessity in this new pandemic-forged e-commerce landscape. 

Shopify is the largest and most successful e-commerce platform in the world, boasting hundreds of thousands of merchants across the globe. The data from Shopify stores is slightly unique as it comes in JSON format and very few other e-commerce platforms also do this.

Because of its scarcity not a lot of data platforms accept JSON, making it difficult to store and analyse data from a Shopify store. Snowflake, however, accepts JSON in its stride. Couple this with its numerous other services and Snowflake announces itself as the ideal data solution for Shopify merchants.

We have explained the shifting state of the e-commerce landscape since the beginning of the pandemic, specifically in relation to the increasing importance of data and data-driven insights.

What is a data warehouse?

So let’s scale back a little. Snowflake is the best data warehouse for Shopify users, but what is a data warehouse?

Essentially it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a space to store and centralise massive amounts of data across an entire business or organisation.

Why do you need a data warehouse? Because data is much easier to analyse once it’s collated in one space. Data warehouses help businesses perform immediate analytics and data reporting, making it possible to be truly data-driven when taking e-commerce decisions.

Traditionally data warehouses were physical pieces of hardware. Huge, heavy, space-taking pieces of kit that needed constant maintenance and generated high and unnecessary costs. Data warehouses needed manually tuning for bigger scale projects and subsequently delayed the analysis that businesses sought.

How is Snowflake different?

Snowflake is an SaaS solution. A cloud-based data warehouse that holds no physical space and takes care of maintenance itself. It’s fast, responsive and highly scalable.

What does this mean?

Traditional data warehouses have rigid amounts of storage space and computing power. You buy a piece of hardware containing X storage and Y computing power, and inevitably won’t end up using it to its full potential. There’ll always be either storage space left empty or computing power sitting idle.

Snowflake’s approach is to decouple storage and computing power into two distinct features, and give users the flexibility to decide how much of each they want. With Snowflake you can choose X amount of storage and then later increase or reduce it when necessary. The same with computing power, if an upcoming project will require more than you currently have you can easily upgrade and then reduce the amount once you’re done.

You never have to pay for what you don’t need or aren’t using. 

On top of this, the software automatically handles remedial activities that would take up big chunks of time for your database administrator. Storage allocation, future capacity planning, scaling resources, encryption, backups, upgrades - all of these can be automated, giving your data team more time to invest in value-adding tasks and analysis.

Who uses Snowflake?

Yep, you guessed it. Shopify merchants use Snowflake. Well, the ones concerned about data do. And that should be all of them. 

Data today is the best tool available to e-commerce companies that want to continue leveraging growth in an overcrowded, hypercompetitive market. Through data analysis brands identify store optimisation possibilities that would otherwise remain undetected. They know exactly what their customers want and expect from a shopping experience, and are in the best place to deliver it to them.

Data-driven decisions take brands beyond their competitors by maximising every last drop of performance from an e-commerce store.

For more on this topic, read our article:

Snowflake decouples storage and computing power into two distinct features.

How much does Snowflake cost?

As already pointed out, the Snowflake pricing structure depends on which features the user requires and how much storage and computing capacity they need.

It also depends on numerous other factors, which cloud platform you’re using (AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) and which region you’re located in.

But as a general overview, Snowflake has three price bands: Standard, Enterprise and Business Critical, each with an increasing range of features. Prices stretch from around €2.10 to €4.30 per credit.

For a full rundown of all the ins and outs, we suggest you head over to the Snowflake pricing breakdown.

3 key benefits of Snowflake

To end, let’s recap with 3 ways Snowflake adds value to an e-commerce business. The cloud-based data platform’s benefits are numerous but here we’ve filed it down to our top 3 most important:

1. Flexible structure

Snowflake decouples storage and computing power to offer a fully flexible service that you can change from project to project. Need more storage for the next 3 months? No problem, just top up your capacity and then, if you no longer require it, you can change it back again.

This is radically different from traditional data hardware and truly sets Snowflake apart from the rest of the tools available.

2. Performance and speed

With the elasticity described above, Snowflake never has difficulties with speed. Because you can scale up computing power and storage to wherever you need it, Snowflake always performs at the highest level. 

Data engineers and scientists can complete their analytics and reporting instantly, making the results more accurate and subsequent data-driven decisions more effective. 

3. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured data

Snowflake data warehouse accepts data in essentially any format. Structured, semi-structured, unstructured. No problem. Collate all data into one place with ease and get on with the more important, value-adding tasks.

Crucially for Shopify merchants, Snowflake accepts JSON format. This makes Snowflake the undisputed best data platform for Shopify stores. If you’re serious about data-driven e-commerce and you own a Shopify store, you need Snowflake in your data tech stack. Simple as that.

How do we help our clients with Snowflake?

We use our Snowflake expertise to help clients in 3 ways:

1. We give Snowflake and data consultations.

Snowflake is a relatively new tool and its popularity and significance has grown considerably very recently. We see a lot of Shopify merchants that want to use Snowflake but simply don’t know how to extract the most value. We give consultation sessions to explore possibilities and set clients off on the right path to achieve their growth goals.

2. We build data pipelines to stream client data into their Snowflake data lake and create a single source of truth.

We have a top team of data scientists, analysts and engineers that build and maintain pipelines, keeping a steady flow of data into the right place. Ready and primed for experimentation and store optimisation.

3. We use Snowflake to help clients optimise their store based on data analysis and AI algorithms.

Whether we build the data architecture for the clients, or whether they come to us with a data architecture already in place, we help them extract the most value from it.We perform numerous tests and store experiments, searching for ways to optimise stores and increase conversion rates.

We build data-driven, scalable e-commerce

  • Do you have a Shopify store and want to start using your store data to its full value? 
  • Do you have an e-commerce store on another platform and you want to migrate to Shopify?
  • Or are you new to the e-commerce game and are looking for your first, data-driven store?

We want to hear about your ideas so get in touch with us today. 

We build data-driven, scalable e-commerce on Shopify and Shopify Plus for brands and businesses of all sizes that want to surpass their goals and grow to the next level.

For more of our thoughts on e-commerce, read the follow articles:

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