Takeaways from Shopify Unite 2021

Shopify just wrapped its 2021 Unite conference, the company’s annual event for the worldwide developer community. As always, the event was filled with product announcements which will shape the future evolution of the fast-growing SaaS commerce platform.

Online Store 2.0

The biggest news out of Unite might be the biggest news out of Shopify since the platform’s launch: the release of Online Store 2.0. Online Store 2.0 (OS 2.0) brings a host of new features to the platform and a rethinking of the underlying tools to build, optimize, and operate a high-performing ecommerce channel.

Content Management

In OS 2.0, Shopify is introducing “sections” and “blocks”, bringing drag and drop functionality to key page templates from the homepage to product detail pages. This no-code functionality promises to make site management easier for business users, encouraging more frequent content updates and experiments in how content is presented to shoppers.

Changes to how content is managed extend to what Shopify calls metafields, a new way to store data and content to be used in various ways throughout the digital experience. Accessed via the admin panel rather than maintained by developers, metafields allow business users to append content to any, or specific, product pages to create richer product detail pages and provide information to lower barriers to purchase.

Conversion Optimization

Getting shoppers to become (repeat) customers is a primary goal for every merchant, and OS 2.0 adds new functionality to provide more flexibility and options during checkout.

Checkout extensions, via the app store, can enable customized checkout experiences. This can range from displaying upsells during checkout to integration with store loyalty programs. Shopify Scripts add new features for shipping and payments. So, merchants with retail locations can add BOPIS or BOPAC as a fulfillment option for customers within a geo-targeted vicinity of a store.

Shopify’s Payment Platform has broadened to include additional payment gateways to enable merchants to accept a broader basket of currencies when expanding internationally and to accept a wide range of cryptocurrencies should a merchant’s business model support that. Interestingly, in response to the surge in demand for buy-now-pay-later options, Shopify has built its own functionality to support this. Shop Pay Installments enables interest-free split payments for orders up to $1,000, providing another way for store owners to boost conversions.

Wholesale Commerce Features

Not to be overlooked in the flurry of announcements is the addition of new B2B Commerce functionality on Shopify. Building upon the 2019 acquisition of Handshake, Shopify has fully integrated the technology to bring a B2B marketplace to its more than one million sellers. This curated marketplace, managed by Shopify, provides a new way for manufacturers to reach qualified retailers to grow their businesses. Managed via the Shopify admin panel, this commission-free program adds an entirely new digital commerce channel that can be embedded within existing Shopify storefronts.