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265. Shopify Platform Updates: Winter 2024

265. Shopify Platform Updates: Winter 2024

It’s that time of year again! Shopify Editions Winter 2024 went live on January 31st, which brings 100+ updates for the Shopify platform to streamline your operations and marketing. We’re going to go through some of the biggest highlights here together, but make sure you check the show notes for additional resources and to learn more about what was released. 

Prefer to listen to the episode? Click here.

Shopify Subscriptions App

Before we get into the details of the announcements they made, let’s go back to their Summer 2023 event. At that event, they announced the release of the Shopify subscription app. At the time they were taking early access signups, but it wasn’t fully released to all merchants. 

Good news… Shopify Subscriptions has been officially rolled out worldwide. I was able to play around with the app a bit and while it’s super basic, it’s the perfect app for anyone who wants to add a subscription option to their store without having to pay for one of the fancier apps. 

This will let you offer products on a recurring basis, they give you weekly and monthly intervals. And you can offer a discount for those subscriptions as well. It works seamlessly with customer accounts so users can pause, skip, and cancel their subscriptions on their own too. 

It can’t do fancy things like auto-switching them from an initial kit product to the replenishment product, or give the ability to add on individual products before their next shipment – but it’s an easy way to get started and it’s free. 

Shopify Plus Exclusive Updates

These first few features are Shopify Plus exclusives. I do recommend you listen through even if you’re not on Shopify Plus because I’ll be sharing alternatives for these if you feel they’re important for your business.

As far as whether or not you should be on Shopify Plus… we’re not going to get into that conversation today but in most cases it comes down to your sales volume and your feature needs. There are a handful of features that are exclusive to Shopify Plus, but the additional cost generally isn’t worth it UNLESS the reduction in payment processing and shipping fees and/or app replacement can pay the difference for you or if you need those Shopify Plus exclusive features to run your business successfully. 

Semantic Search

The search engine on Shopify Plus has gotten an upgrade now with semantic search. It sounds fancy, but essentially it just means that Shopify’s search algorithm can understand the meaning of words and phrases. Instead of having to match an exact query in a product title or description, if a consumer were to type in a phrase like something warm to wear in winter, Shopify will be able to serve up the right products. 

While I know this sounds cool, and you might be getting a bit of FOMO here… it’s unlikely your customers are searching your website this way. Before you start thinking about upgrading for this feature alone, go check the search report for your store. If you do happen to see a lot on-site searches with natural language and think you might be missing out then it might be worth it to look into a 3rd party search app. 

Combined Product Listings

Combined product listings allow you to create each of your product variants as an individual item in Shopify with its own URL and page content, and then combine it with the other variants to present it as one listing. 

Presenting your products this way gives you the ability to create SEO-friendly URLs and customize the listing to each variant. This can be super helpful when you have multiple images for each variant reducing clutter for the customer and making it easier for them to see 

 Additionally, having each of your variants listed separately allows you to manage publishing at the individual variant level. If you were to retire a particular variant you could unpublish that item without having to delete it altogether. 

This could also come in handy if you’re pushing your product listings to other platforms and want to only share specific variants. 

If this feature is giving you FOMO, good news. You don’t need Shopify Plus to do this. While they’re making it a lot easier and more seamless to accomplish with their Combined Listings app, you can do this on non-shopify plus stores with something called siblings. 

The process is essentially the same. You create all of your variants as individual items and then the sibling product presents it as one product to the customer on the front end. The main difference is that instead of using an app, you’re using meta fields to tell the theme which products should be combined as siblings. The other requirement is that your theme is coded to accept siblings. There are a handful of newer Shopify 2.0 themes that have siblings built in (I’ll link those in the show notes) but it can also be custom-coded if needed. 

Other Shopify Plus Updates

There were a handful of other Shopify Plus exclusive updates such as upgrades to Shopify audiences, automatically capturing payments with each fulfillment – this is great if you’re often shipping orders in smaller batches and more checkout extensions. 

Shopify has released a number of new APIs for Shopify Plus checkout that gives developers the ability to expand the checkout functionality without losing compatibility with standard Shopify features like Shop Pay. 

While I don’t recommend custom checkout development Shopify Plus stores can expect to see new features rolling out from their favorite apps. If you have done custom development in the past with checkout.liquid you have until August to switch to the new structure before you lose your changes. Make sure to book that update with your development team. 

And if you use Shopify’s built-in B2B functionality for your wholesale partners, there were a lot of updates around this too so make sure you take a deeper dive. 

Developer Updates

Speaking of developer updates… while there were a lot of them the one I’m most excited about and expect to have the biggest impact on individual merchants is the updated product discount API. 

Updated Product Discount API

Native discounts on Shopify have always been a point of contention for me and one of the main reasons being on Shopify Plus was so important to us at my previous day job. Shopify Plus has access to discount scripts which gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of the types of discounts you could run on the platform such as a Buy More, Save More promo with one discount code. 

The updated API now gives the ability for one discount to have multiple effects on a cart. While this doesn’t mean much on its own for merchants, it does give app developers more flexibility in what they can create and I’m excited to see what new functionalities pop up in the app store. 

Product Merchandising Updates

Shopify is also making big updates to the product creation and organization process. From an updated category taxonomy to increasing the available variants, in their words, they’re making the biggest update they have in a decade. 

Up to 2000 variants per product on Shopify

Shopify hinted at an increase in the number of variants per product in Summer 2023, but this January they gave us the tea. At the moment the maximum number of variants you can have on any one product is 100, but moving forward that limit will increase to 2000. 

Because this update affects A LOT of their app developers they’re giving them a year to make the necessary changes and expect to fully roll out this variant increase by 2025. 

If you’re one of the merchants who has had to use an app to get around those variant limitations… you’re going to have to hang on a little bit longer. 

New Category Taxonomy & Attributes

Shopify is also introducing a new product category taxonomy 5 levels deep. This new taxonomy also comes with built-in recommended attributes that will be automatically created through meta fields when you create your products. 

Category Example

For example, let’s say you sell snowboards. The new category taxonomy will be:

Sporting Goods > Outdoor Recreation > Winter Sports & Activities > Skiing & Snowboarding > Snowboards

Attribute Example

If you’re an apparel retailer, when you add a new t-shirt to your store you’ll see attributes such as color, size, and material get automatically created. You can set the hex codes for your colors, and these fields can be used to push additional data to other marketplace listings. 

Out of everything they announced this is honestly one of my favorites because the lack of product data has always been a thorn in my side. Having access to meta fields in the admin and being able to manually create them has been super helpful, but this is taking it to the next level. 

This one is a little harder to explain without a visual so make sure you check the show notes for a link to a video walkthrough. 

At the time of this recording, these features are in early access, and if we consider it took them 7 months to fully roll out Shopify subscriptions it might be a while before we see this come to fruition but it’s exciting to see it coming soon. 

Other Merchandising Updates

There were a couple of other updates but I’m not super clear on the timeline for when they’ll roll out. It was somewhat implied that it will be part of the Shopify Products 2.0 upgrade, but don’t quote me on that. You might see them sooner. 

First is an updated variant listing card. This will make it easier to manage the details of your variants on the product page vs. clicking into a separate section. 

The second is a native feature to add color swatches to your product pages. At this point, most themes already have this functionality available. But it’s limited to working with existing CSS colors or manually uploading images to act as those swatches. This new version will work from the meta field color attribute that will be automatically created when you assign categories to your products and you’ll be able to set the hex code you want that swatch to be which will be a huge time saver moving forward. 

It will be a minute before you see this in action though. Not only do you need Shopify products 2.0 to be released, but if you’re using a non-Shopify developed theme you’ll need that theme developer to release a new version of their theme with the necessary code.

Again, they didn’t give us a definitive timeline on this, but if this could be a time saver for you and is important for your business, you may want to pencil in some time at the beginning of next year to plan for a theme upgrade. Sure, it might be released sooner than that but I wouldn’t upgrade a theme too close to Q4 for something as simple as updated product swatches. 

Shopify Gift Card Updates

Another exciting update, sort of related to products is the Shopify Gift Card updates. Customers will now have the option to add a recipient, a custom greeting, and be able to schedule their gift cards to be sent at a later date. 

This is independent of your theme and should already be available on your store. There is a checkbox on the product page that says I want to send this as a gift. When the customer clicks that it will open up the additional fields for them to fill out. 

Shopify App Updates

There have also been several updates to Shopify-developed apps which is nice to see because their apps are typically pretty bare-bones. While I don’t ever expect them to be as robust as some of the paid apps available in the app store (they would piss off a lot of their development partners) they have made some pretty cool updates. 

Shopify Markets Pro

Shopify Markets is an app that allows you to start cross-border selling all from one store. I’m not going to go into all the details of the app itself today, check the show notes for links to learn more, but what I’m super excited about is the full rollout of Shopify Markets Pro. 

While Shopify Markets is a great tool it still leaves a lot of the heavy lifting on you as the merchant to manage taxes and duties. This can get super complicated and for many merchants, not worth the hassle. 

Shopify Markets Pro on the other hand offers additional features that are powered by a platform called Global-e. Global-e becomes the merchant of record which means they handle all the logistics of collecting and remitting any taxes and duties. 

With Shopify Markets Pro also comes DHL eCommerce with USPS first-mile delivery meaning you only have to get the package to USPS and they pass it off to DHL. 

There are of course limitations on who is eligible for Shopify Markets Pro such as being located in the US, using Shopify Payments, and limitations on the products that you can sell.

Shopify Marketplace Connect

Shopify Marketplace Connect which was released during the summer 2023 editions is also getting an upgrade. This is the app that lets you sync your product listings with other marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Etsy.

I’m really excited to see this because after a couple of my clients tried it, we quickly realized for more complicated product and inventory configurations it just didn’t have the features they needed for a seamless integration. 

The latest updates aren’t necessarily going to solve everything but it’s proof that Shopify is committed to creating a more robust solution so I’m hopeful it will fit the bill for more merchants. 

The two releases they announced were auto-populated fields for Amazon apparel listings and the ability to select different regional inventory locations. 

As mentioned, it’s not exactly an overhaul, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Shopify Collective

Shopify Collective was also announced at the Summer ‘23 Editions and this is the app that lets you connect to other Shopify stores for dropshipping products. Unlike most apps, this is not one that you can install from the app store and start selling on or pulling products from. There is a waitlist/application process to be able to use it. 

I appreciate that Shopify is vetting merchants before they can become a supplier on the app since merchants have to rely on these suppliers to create a great customer experience. But I do wish it was easier to start using it as a retailer. 

If you were to try and install it right now it would more than likely put you on a waitlist, but one of my clients said that a brand she buys from who was already an approved supplier on the platform was able to invite her and she was able to start using the platform right away. 

All that to say the two announcements Shopify made about the platform were better search and filtering so retailers could find what they’re looking for and synced reviews. If you’re using one of the integrated review apps, your store's product reviews will now appear inside Shopify Collective. This should go a long way to converting potential dropshipping customers when they can see how much your customers love your products. 

Shop App

Speaking of synced reviews; these will also sync to the Shop app as well. 

I haven’t looked at the latest statistics but the Shop App has a lot of users… it’s essentially become another marketplace to get your products in front of your perfect customers. 

And you can be sure Shopify will continue to invest in the growth of the Shop app because they’re even rolling out new ways to advertise on the app. When a customer pays with shop pay, they automatically earn shop cash, which is 100% funded by Shopify. As a merchant, you can now target customers who have available shop cash.

I love that the focus is on customers who have earned shop cash because it means you’re able to target actual customers who are likely to make a purchase vs. looky-loos who just love to browse. 

Shop minis are another way you can market your business on the shop app. These are apps created specifically for Shop that let you do things like create shoppable videos and even create a product recommendations quiz. 

Shop Pay

Shopify is also upgrading the Shop Pay product. In addition to showing installment payments right on the product pages to make it easier for customers, they’re also rolling out Shop Pay to non-Shopify stores. 

This is a really exciting development because it means more trust and recognition with online consumers. It’s about to be at Klarna and Afterpay status, which should even trickle back to the Shop app and Shop Cash. Pretty Cool. 

Shopify Collabs

Another Shopify app update is Shopify Collabs, the app that lets you connect with content creators. In addition to new filter and search options to find creators, they’re also giving you the ability to adjust commission payouts based on Shopify’s customer segmentation tool. This is a great way to reward your best partners and create deeper relationships with them. 

Additionally, all creator commissions will now be paid out automatically through Shopify billing. They announced this through email a while ago, so I’m not sure if they’re just reiterating it or if this is the official rollout. 

Either way, if you are using Collabs, I would pay close attention to how they adjust your funds as it could create a bit more bookkeeping complexity. If you’ve hired that out, you probably don’t have to worry about it, but if you’re doing it on your own it’s something to be aware of. 

For my affiliate payouts I have them pay out directly from my bank account vs. deducting from my PayPal balance because it’s easier to track, but I have no insight into how Shopify is going to process those transactions. 

Other Shopify App Updates

They also announced updates for Shopify flow with a new run code action and failed workflow notifications. Shopify Magic their AI tool now offers in-Shopify image editing, think removing, and adding backgrounds. 

Faire Wholesale App

Another existing announcement is the official release of the Faire wholesale app for Shopify! This has technically been available for a while, but you had to ask Faire directly to get access. It seems like it was quietly released in the app store a few months ago, but it was fully launched at Shopify editions. 

If you’re selling on Faire, having the app means you can sync your products and fulfill Faire orders right from your Shopify admin. 

I personally haven’t used it so I don’t know what the interface is like, but my hope is that you can use meta fields to sync over custom info vs. just your existing customer-facing descriptions. 

I also saw a review in the app store that said on the initial sync it duplicated her products, so you’ll want to do a little research on the right way to connect them, but in the long term I’m sure it will streamline your operations, and fulfillment. 

Shopify Operations & Fulfillment Updates

And that brings up to our final group of updates, operations, and fulfillment. 

While most of these are relatively small updates compared to the majority of what they announced, they’re the most impactful in terms of running the day-to-day operations of your business. 

Reporting

The one I’m most excited about is that all Shopify reports are available on all plans. In the past, report access was tiered along with their pricing structure which was super annoying, but that is no longer the case.

If you’re on the lowest Shopify plan I would take some time to peruse your report options as they are probably some new and exciting data in there for you to look at. 

Exchanges & Editing Unfulfilled Orders

Shopify has also released native exchanges and the ability to edit unfulfilled orders. This is a great option if a customer chooses the wrong shipping method at checkout or maybe they forgot to apply a discount code. As long as the order hasn’t been marked as fulfilled, you’ll be able to make those edits right from your Shopify admin. 

Shipping & Fulfillment

Shopify announced 2 new shipping options as part of Shopify shipping.  UPS Ground Saver which is where USPS does the last mile delivery, and USPS Ground Advantage. Depending on your shipping settings you may have to turn these on as options before they’ll show up on the front end of your store. 

They’ve also added always-on address validation at checkout, and they’ll even recommend the best shipping options based on the individual order. 

Another shipping announcement they made was in regard to carbon-neutral shipping with the Planet app. Using the Planet app essentially just collects a small fee for each transaction, which funds CO2 removal operations to create carbon-neutral shipping. If I’m understanding the update properly, the app now gives you the option to collect directly from the customer as well, ultimately sending more funding to Shopify’s CO2 removal partners. 

Truth be told, by the time I got to this announcement my brain was starting to melt and I wanted to get this episode out to you on my next publishing day, so I didn’t go super deep into it. If this is important to you and your brand, I recommend you do some additional research. I’ll stick links in the show notes. 

Shopify POS

There were also several updates for Shopify POS, but the one I’m most excited about is that in-store orders can be completed online and the store will still get credit for the sale. 

As someone who spent years working in retail stores, I know how important it is to credit where credit is due. This is great if you have brick-and-mortar stores but maybe you’re out of a particular size in your store, but it’s available somewhere else. Now the in-person associate can create a cart, send the customer a link and they can complete their purchase on your website while the initial referring store and associate will get credit for the sale. 

This can also come in handy when exhibiting at in-person markets. Whether you don’t have enough inventory in person or just can’t bring your entire collection, you can still make it super easy for the customer to buy the exact item they want from your online store. 

Shopify Balance Bank Account Features

Shopify is also making it easier than ever to automatically set aside sales tax you collect through Shopify payments in a dedicated Balance bank account. 

They’ve also introduced rewards for Balance accounts, I’m not sure if this would count for a tax-specific account, but you’ll essentially earn some interest on the money you keep in that account. They didn’t say how much, I imagine it’s not a lot but hey it’s free money. 

3D Models

The last update I want to touch on is creating 3d models of your products right in the Shopify app. 

Before you get too excited there are some limitations on this at the moment. This can only be done with an iOS Pro device on the iO17 operating system. 

That said, investing in one of those phones is less expensive than outsourcing it, so if having 3d models of your products would make a big difference for your customers, it might be worth the investment. 

All the Shopify Editions Winter ‘24 Updates

The updates we went through today were just a sampling of everything they announced. Make sure you check the show notes for links to all of the updates and dive deeper into what we discussed today with video walkthroughs and documentation straight from Shopify.

For those updates that are rolling out in the future, remember it could be months or a year before they’re available so if there is something you’ve been waiting on that can be solved with another tool I wouldn’t necessarily sit around and wait for the Shopify version to be released, especially if it will positively affect your business financially. You can always switch later. 

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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