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eCommerce

Key takeaways from Shopify Unite 2021

Gibson Toombs
June 30th, 2021
6 MINUTE READ

On June 29, 2021, Shopify leadership announced a number of exciting new updates surrounding the eCommerce platform’s developer tooling, infrastructure, and technologies. The annual Shopify Unite event covered a range of topics, from the release of Shopify’s Online Store 2.0 to various Storefront API updates. 

For developers and merchants alike, these improvements can help build better customer experiences and streamline internal processes. By staying in the loop on new products, features, and updates, Shopify Plus members can get more value out of the platform, which is why we created this blog post—a roundup of the key takeaways from this year’s Shopify Unite. 

Here are the essential announcements from the event, and what they mean for developers and merchants who employ Shopify to power their eCommerce operations: 

Online Store 2.0

Online Store 2.0—Shopify’s biggest update to date—offers developers a more streamlined system for building online stores. Let’s take a look at some of the new features and tools:

Upgraded theme architecture

Online Store 2.0’s theme architecture comes with more advanced customization capabilities so  merchants and developers can quickly and intuitively update various aspects of their online storefronts. Templates that were previously available just for homepages can now be applied across an entire website—including product detail pages, collections pages, and so on. Since these templates define the structure of a page with pre-determined sections and configurations, merchants can use them to personalize certain areas of their site—without needing any heavy customization work from front-end developers.

Dynamic product page content

Developers using Online Store 2.0 may no longer have to update theme source code or implement APIs to make certain additions and modifications to product pages on multiple channels. Any front-end changes that can’t be made via the core store editor can be deployed using standard metafields—making life much easier for developers, especially those who work with businesses that are constantly adding and updating content for product pages. Plus, these new metafields support digital files like JPEGs and PDFs, so developers can upload relevant media to product pages across verticals with little to no hardcoding involved. 

More tools for developers

Here are some of the new developer tools that come with Online Store 2.0:

  • Dawn: By leaning on native browser features instead of JavaScript libraries, this open-source reference theme loads 35% faster than Debut—the theme currently used by over half of Shopify’s merchant base.
  • GitHub integration: The new GitHub integration—which includes native support for version control and the ability to share preview links from local servers—makes it easier for developers to implement new workflows and collaborate with their clients.
  • Shopify CLI: The newly-expanded Shopify CLI allows developers to preview, test, and collect data on site theme changes—helping to ensure that themes are fully developed before going live. 
  • Theme check: This tool helps expedite the theme development process by running automated tests—designed to recognize any issues involving the theme’s code, templates, performance, and more. 

Checkout customization capabilities

Up until now, Shopify’s editor only allowed small changes to the checkout experience, while bigger changes had to be made by modifying the Liquid code. Moving forward, developers and merchants will be able to implement significant checkout enhancements via apps. Here’s a closer look at the main features included in this update: 

Post-purchase checkout extension

Merchants can build and deploy personalized experiences for customers in the stage between making a purchase and exiting the site. This may include upselling offers, discounts on future purchases, requests to fill out a customer survey, or the option to sign up for an email newsletter. The update enables developers to design their own customized post-purchase experiences directly from the Shopify Checkout portal. 

Script building

Shopify Scripts—a feature that helps developers build custom backend logic for online stores—has been redesigned to facilitate a more streamlined experience. Developers no longer have to use the provided Script Editor, and can use their own local development workflow instead. Plus, all Scripts are deployed via apps as opposed to manual code updates, so developers can install their Scripts on multiple online stores faster and easier than ever before. 

A new payments platform

Developers will no longer need to integrate with Shopify Checkout through Active Merchant and Hosted Payment SDK to build payment solutions for eCommerce sites. Replacing these integration points is Shopify’s new payments platform, which allows developers to create payment gateways as apps while leveraging various extensions and APIs. Shopify will continue adding new tools and features to the platform, further streamlining the process of building payment solutions. 

Storefront API updates

With a focus on improving performance and scalability for businesses across the globe, Shopify is making big updates to its Storefront API. These new features and capabilities put more power in the hands of developers, and will ultimately facilitate better eCommerce experiences for both merchants and consumers. Here are some of the exciting new improvements made to Shopify’s Storefront API: 

Additional cart capabilities

By providing predictably low latency responses, Shopify storefronts will be able to process immense amounts of customer, product, and transactional data—from the moment buyers add items to their cart, to the moment they checkout. Ensuring fast page loading times on cart and checkout pages is a key ingredient to success in the eCommerce space, especially during peak traffic periods like Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Shopify carts will also come with stronger security, along with more helpful features for customers—like estimated totals, discounts, duties, and more. 

International pricing

The Storefront API will provide merchants with more flexibility in cross-border selling. Before, the API only supported presentment currencies, so that customers could view prices and make payments in the currency of their choice. Now—for businesses that sell products at varying prices depending on the country—developers will also be able to set up international pricing structures through the API. 

Local pickup

Due to COVID-19, many consumers have gotten used to purchasing products online, then picking up those items at physical locations. Since this selling method is likely to stick around post-pandemic, Shopify added local availability into its Storefront API—so that businesses and their customers can continue leveraging this option. This API update makes it much easier for merchants to present customers with nearby stores, along with the product availabilities at each location. 

Selling plans

With selling plans, merchants assign specific billing, pricing, and delivery policies to their products. Developers will now be able to use the Storefront API to create, modify, and retrieve these selling plans. This will help merchants better initiate and manage subscriptions, preorders, and more. 

Hydrogen: Shopify’s new developer toolkit

Shopify created Hydrogen to help web developers set up online storefronts as quickly as possible. It’s referred to as a “batteries included” toolkit, as it comes with a collection of intuitive tools and features to forge an approachable path for building functional storefront applications. This includes scaffolding for getting sites up and running, as well as React components for establishing a site’s foundation. And there’s more to come with this update in the near future, including Oxygen—a solution for hosting Hydrogen storefronts directly on Shopify.  

Maximize the potential of your Shopify storefront

Over the past decade, Codal has designed, developed, tested, and maintained countless online storefronts using Shopify. As a trusted Shopify partner, we know everything about the platform and its various extensions, APIs, and so on. We’re also kept in the loop on updates—like the ones discussed above—before they get announced, and we regularly contribute feedback to improve the platform for our current and future clients. We’d love to help your business get the most out of its Shopify storefront via superior UX design, cutting-edge tools, and a data-driven approach—so you can sell more products online, cut costs, and elevate your digital presence. 

Interested in learning more about how Codal—in collaboration with our friends over at Shopify—can help increase revenue for your eCommerce business? Get in touch with us today!

Gibson Toombs
AUTHOR

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.

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