Shopify is making BIG changes and you’re going to be really excited about them. More flexibility in your store design, less dependencies on apps and developers, plus new functionality available to app developers that will serve YOU in the long-term.
Today we’re covering everything you need to know, what to expect and when you might want to make the change.
If you’re an eCommerce business owner currently using the Shopify platform, or one who has been wondering what all the fuss is about this is the episode for you. Last week Shopify held their annual Shopify Unite conference where they unveiled what’s coming to the platform. The event itself is really meant for developers and a lot of content is targeted to them – but it’s still a great insight into what’s to come for you as the merchant.
And I gotta tell ya—it’s really freakin’ exciting!
I’m breaking it down to cover the new features that are going to affect you directly as the merchant and a few other things that are developer-specific.
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Online Store 2.0 Let's You Customize Your Store Any Way You Want
This, my friends, has been a long time coming and I’m so damn excited. Online Store 2.0 is a new version of the theme customizer which is bringing sections to ALL PAGES on your website! Yep, all pages. So if you’ve been using a page builder like Gem Pages or Sho Gun to build out more complex pages this is all going to be built right into your theme.
Building out all the pages on your site is going to have a similar feel to how you build out your home page right now. But it’s even better and more modular. You’ll even be able to add multiple blocks to your header section and be able to turn them on and off with the little eye icon like your home page sections have now. So you can save some of your most-used blocks and just toggle them on when you want them.
Say Goodbye to Page Builders and Create New Templates Without Editing Code
Online Store 2.0 will give you the ability to build new page templates on the fly right in the customizer without having to touch a line of code.
Currently, if you want to have a different layout for two different product pages, you’d have to go into your theme code, and duplicate the existing product template so you could edit them independently of each other.
This is especially true if your theme has additional sectioned content on your product pages. You know, those newer themes that let you add additional images and text blocks under the standard product listing. But by default, whatever content you added to one product page would automatically show on all the product pages. So you’d have to duplicate the template if you wanted to show different content on different products.
Technically, it’s still going to work the same way. You’re going to have to create new versions of these templates when you want them to have different content, but now you’ll be able to do it on your own in the theme customizer. No more messing with code or having to hire a developer!
Just to make sure you can wrap your head around why you would want this—let’s pretend you have a small assortment of handbags and there is a lot of specific content you want to share related to each of these individual handbags. Maybe you want to show dimensions, features, with big beautiful imagery. If you wanted to have separate content on each of these product pages, you would need to go into the code of your theme and duplicate the product template.
Now, instead of having to go into the back-end code of your site you’ll be able to do it right from the customizer.
Another way you might want to use this is if you carry lots of different brands and you want to add additional information about that brand to their individual product templates. Now you can easily create a different template for each of those brands and assign it to the corresponding products!
It’s super cool and is going to make it so much easier to create the experience for your customers that you want.
Manage Metafields in the Shopify Admin & Display More Info on Your Product Page
The next big announcement Shopify made was that metafields will now be integrated right into the Shopify admin and you’ll no longer need apps to take advantage of them.
And you’re probably saying to yourself… what the fuck are metafields?
Metafields are just additional fields that you can use on Shopify to store information about products, pages, and collections.
If you think about your products now, you have few fields that you can use. You’ve got the title, vendor, product type, variant fields and the description. If you have additional information, like ingredients, care, a size chart, or even dimensions, these are things you’d have to put either in the description field, or if you worked with a developer they likely added it to your site using metafields and you may not have even realized it.
The benefits of more customizable metafields
With Online Store 2.0, you’ll be able to create metafields in the Shopify admin and add content to them right at the product level and the content or the value of the field is unique for each product.
You could, for instance, use a product metafield to store ingredients and then easily display it in an accordion field on the product page, without having to create a big long description. Now you can already do this in some themes, but those accordion fields are shared across all of your products unless you create a new product template as I discussed earlier.
In this case, you’ll assign the metafield content at the product level and then pull the info in dynamically in your theme customizer. So when you’re adding content to your product page, you’ll choose the section you want to display the content in and then you’ll be able to choose the metafield as the dynamic content you want to show there.
I know it’s a little hard to understand without seeing it, so if you’re not already part of the eCommerce Badassery Facebook Group, you should come join because I’ll be going live this Thursday to visually walk you through it.
Delete and install apps without editing code Using Shpopify's Theme App Extensions
Another kick-ass feature of Online Store 2.0 is that the way we install apps is changing. If you’ve been a long-time app user on Shopify you know that even when you delete an app from your store it often leaves unused code behind in your theme. And the only way to truly remove it is to go into your theme code and delete it, which can be intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. And the same is true for installation. Not every app fully installs on its own and often you have to copy and paste code into your theme, which can be a real pain in the ass when developers name their files differently than others.
But with this new set-up, called Theme App Extensions, will allow apps to contribute their own sections and blocks into the theme. So when you are editing your product pages for example, when you add a section and go to choose the type of content you want to add, there will be options to choose from the apps you have installed that are compatible. The easiest example of this would be product reviews. Instead of manually adding the code to your template, you would just add a section and then insert the reviews widget right from the theme customizer.
Now, caveat here is that developers need to update their apps to be compatible with Shopify’s Online Store 2.0 so it’s likely going to be a bit before every app you use works this way. At the time of this recording I couldn’t find any examples, but they only announced it on June 29th, so they’ll need some time. If you want to see an example, I’ll stick a link in the show notes for the replay of the presentation with a timestamp of when they demo the theme app extensions.
Customize your 404 page With Shopify's Online Store 2.0
This is the page customers land on when you have broken links on your site. Traditionally, all this has is some text that says oops, we can’t find that along with a button to keep shopping.
If you wanted to make that a shoppable page, you would have to edit your theme code to show products or categories. With Online Store 2.0 you’ll be able to add sections to that page just like you can anywhere else. It’s really easy to add a carousel of your best-selling products, links to your most popular collections and more.
Add additional content to your Shopify cart without an app
This is a great way to show some simple cross-sells without having to add an app to your store.
One quick note about the cart. In the presentation, they mentioned changes to the API that would open up the possibility to show shipping fees, discount codes and more on the cart page. After playing in the new theme, it looks like you’re still going to need an app for that, because the functionality isn’t built in, but my guess is that developers are going to be able to access more information than they were before making this possible. Or, it could just be that it hasn’t been fully released yet. I don’t actually know. But, I wanted you to know that it’s coming – I just don’t 100% know how it will be implemented.
Customize the Shopify Checkout Experience With Checkout App Extensions
Up until now, only Shopify Plus merchants had the ability to edit the checkout page. If you weren’t on Shopify Plus, you couldn’t do much more than add your logo and change some colors. But now, with these new extensions, developers will be able to create apps that can be installed on the checkout page itself.
We’ve already seen a little bit of the benefit of Shopify opening their checkout to app developers with the change in subscription apps. If you remember, those apps used to create their own checkout, whereas now they are fully integrated with Shopify’s native checkout. This change brought a lot of new subscription apps to the marketplace and has improved the quality of these apps overall. Competition has a way of making everyone step up their game.
With developers having access to checkout, I’m sure there are going to be a lot of new functionalities available. Cross-sells on the checkout page? I’m sure they’re coming. In the demo example during the Shopify Unite presentation, they created a text alert that would show to a customer located in California who was purchasing something that required a prop 65 warning. Essentially, he was able to build an app that would look for a specific product and the location of the buyer to determine if the text block would show. It’s a simple example, but it does give a little insight into what is possible moving forward.
How Do You Get Access to Shopify's Online Store 2.0?
You’re probably thinking, how do I get my hands on this! Well, that depends. At the time of this recording, the only way to get access to this right now is if you start a new Shopify store. All new Shopify stores will now come with Dawn, the new base theme.
If you’re already conducting business on Shopify, you’ll need to wait for the theme developers to rebuild their themes on this new base. My recent favorite theme developer, Archetype, announced on their site that new versions of the themes will be available in early August of this year. If you’re using a theme built by another developer, I would reach out to them to find out what their timeline is.
What should you do before you make the switch?
Now, before you go running out getting ready to make the update… let’s talk through what I think makes the most sense in terms of how to handle this.
If you were getting ready to or recently started a theme upgrade – you may want to wait at least until the newest version of your theme comes out or when Dawn is available to all merchants. Shopify said Dawn will be available to all merchants in the coming months and is requiring that theme developers get their products updated by the end of the year if they want to be in the Shopify theme store.
If you’ve already updated your theme this year or have a ton of custom content that was already done on your store, you probably want to wait until Q1 of 2022.
Switching themes can be a huge undertaking, especially with all these new features. Unless you have a separate team of people that can do the migration without interrupting your regular day-to-day or prepping for Q4, it just doesn’t make sense to do it right now. And that really depends on the timeline of when the new version of your theme is released. Now, of course, you could switch themes completely if you really wanted to… but either way, I urge you to really consider the time investment and if that’s really feasible for you.
Soooo… are you as excited about these new Shopify Changes as I am?
Even as someone who is super well versed in Shopify and who taught herself some code along the way, I’m so stoked for Online Store 2.0. The ease with which we’ll be able to customize our storefronts is so awesome and I can’t wait to dig in and learn more about what it can do.
If I were you, I would soak this in, get excited, and then pencil in time on your calendar for January of next year to implement these changes. As we learn more about it and it rolls out to all merchants, if I change my recommendation about this I will definitely let you know—but as of right now, I say leave this alone until next year.
Now, if you haven’t started your business yet, or you’ve been planning to migrate to Shopify from another platform, you will have access to Online Store 2.0 and the Dawn theme right away. All new stores created will start with that theme. You won’t have the app extensions because the app developers need to update their apps on their end. But you will have the new store builder which is super cool.
And… if you’re already in business but you’re dying to see the new theme, go create a trial store or join me in the eCommerce Badassery Facebook Group. If you’re reading this in real-time, I’ll be sharing it on Thursday, otherwise, you can catch the replay.
Listen to the Episode
https://unite.shopify.com/ — Theme app extensions: 15:04