TORONTO - Shopify Inc. says it is expanding into fulfilment centres as it looks to grow its footprint in the highly competitive world of online retail.

The Ottawa-based tech company, which provides online sales platforms, says the network of centres will help qualifying U.S. merchants lower shipping costs and ensure timely deliveries.

Shopify says the fulfilment centres will provide warehousing and shipping services as well as inventory technology that will help small merchants distribute their goods more efficiently.

The company did not disclose if and when it will expand the fulfilment network into Canada.

Shopify's expansion comes as it faces increased competition from other online platforms that are adding direct sales options, such as Instagram, while online retail giant Amazon continues to push for faster and more reliable shipping options for its customers.

The fulfilment announcement was made at the company's annual Unite conference, where the company also announced more language and currency offerings, updated designs for online stores and point-of-sale, and a new platform for larger merchants.