Recommerce Revolution: From Thrift Store Finds to Digital Dominance

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, my art school friends and I were at the forefront of pioneering the art of “up-cycling” vintage clothing…long before it became a buzzword on every marketer’s lips. Our weekends were dedicated to scouring thrift stores in pursuit of that rare and unique 50¢ gem.

Fast forward to now, and the once humble practice of up-cycling has exploded into a substantial and colossal business. The realm of resale now encompasses everything from hypebeast GOAT sneaker drops to rare, six-figure luxury handbags. The world of resale is bustling with activity and jam-packed with a slew of new jargon, platforms, and rules.

Join me as we delve into this fascinating and complex world through the perspective of an E-commerce professional (who once was a devoted thrift store addict.)


In the ever-shifting landscape of sustainable fashion and consumer goods, the term “Recommerce” is entering the spotlight. This trend (which champions the sale of pre-owned items) is like a rebellious teenager in the world of traditional consumption, leading towards a more circular economy where reuse, recycling, and resale are in the forefront. It’s not just changing how we shop; it’s giving brands a modern makeover in their environmental and sustainability agendas.

Now, for the jargon: “Resale” is the OG, the transfer of goods from one owner to another. “Secondhand Commerce” is pretty straightforward, but emphasizes a prolonged lifecycle of products. “Circular Economy” is the big thinker, with Recommerce at its heart, aiming to minimize waste and optimize resource use.

Now enter the new kid on the block – “Pre-loved Commerce,” adding a bit of sentimentality to describe previously cherished items. “Thrift” has ditched its dusty thrift store image and gone digital, making sustainable shopping accessible to everyone, anywhere. Consignment” brings in a third wheel to guarantee “item quality,” because you know, we all have standards, right?

Upcycling” is more the artistic rebel, giving old items a makeover, while “Vintage Trading” is like the stock market for aged (yet high-quality) items. “Sustainable Fashion” and “Eco-Commerce” are the green warriors, underscoring the eco-friendly vibes of Recommerce.

Together, these terms are like characters in a fashion novel, telling an epic tale of Recommerce, promoting sustainability, reducing waste, and flexing creative reuse in this modern consumer drama.

Who would’ve thought that by snagging an old suit at a second-hand store (possibly with a questionable backstory), I was secretly saving the planet? Maybe a tiny part of me knew this was a better call than diving into the mall’s abyss of low-quality products or those overpriced poser outfits. It’s like I’ve been an eco-warrior in disguise all along.

Why Now? Why This Trend?

Recommerce is gaining popularity because it aligns perfectly with the rising sustainability trend. But It’s not just a passing trend; it’s a global shift towards eco-friendly alternatives, giving traditional shopping a run for its money. The choice to minimize waste and diminish new production demand has become a decision the customer wants to make (and not rely on brands to figure this out).

Recommerce is a rebellion against throwaway culture that has plagued us for years. Fast fashion’s heyday has left a sour taste in our mouths, and has prompted a growing preference for second-hand finds and high-quality clothing as sustainable alternatives.

This sustainable shift isn’t lost on environmentally aware consumers, especially younger generations who prioritize ethical consumption. Take my Gen-Z daughter, for example. She’s all about those swag-filled hauls (forgive the cringe, kids) at places like L-Train and Buffalo Exchange in NYC . Forget about throwaway, fast fashion that falls apart in a week; the kids are after sweet vintage pieces that come with a history of love, holes and all, hoping to last longer and sidestep the landfill dilemma. Sustainability is their fashion statement.

And it’s a fashion statement that is growing. According to Tech Crunch, Recommerce is expanding five times faster than the broader online retail market. Experts point this surge to rising environmental issues awareness as well as increasing preferences for sustainable and affordable shopping options.

Fashion Recommerce

The fashion and apparel sector, known for its huge carbon footprint, is currently witnessing a remarkable boom in the Recommerce market. Expected to hit $53 billion in 2023, the second-hand and resale fashion market is reflected in platforms like GOAT. This online platform, dealing in authenticated second-hand sneakers and accessories, boasts 600,000 sellers and 30 million users, and achieved a $3.7 billion market valuation as of June 2021. Levi’s has also entered the recommerce arena with its own site and buyback program, allowing customers to exchange old garments for gift cards. These items are then cleaned, sorted, and resold on Levi’s second-hand website, where they claim to reduce personal carbon footprints by over 30%.

One of our clients, Thousand Fell (a leader in sustainable fashion) has a mission to combat the industry’s waste crisis. With 97% of the 2.4 billion shoes sold in the U.S. yearly ending up in landfills, the company has introduced a buy-back program. Customers can send back their old Thousand Fell shoes for free and receive a $20 credit towards new, eco-friendly footwear. This initiative revolutionizes waste management in fashion, as returned shoes are broken down and their materials (like rubber and rPET) are reused in new products. Founders Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum also spearhead SuperCircle, a platform dedicated to facilitating the recycling of textile waste. This move by Thousand Fell and SuperCircle is a perfect representation of a fashion brand that’s both stylish and environmentally responsible.

Soho staple vintage shop, What Goes Around Comes Around, is another big player championing the luxury vintage fashion segment in the Recommerce space. This brand’s commitment to high-quality, pre-owned designer pieces has carved out a unique niche in the market. Seth Weisser and Gerard Maione established What Goes Around Comes Around NYC in 1993 when they noticed the absence of a curated, well-merchandised approach in the vintage market, unlike the successes seen in traditional retail.

When I first moved to New York, I remember encountering WGACA – it was the fanciest vintage store I had ever seen. The store was renowned for stocking the best of the best in vintage pieces. Pioneers in their field, their team had a knack for sourcing extraordinary designer items and rare jeans that became the envy of many collectors. What started as just a vintage store evolved under their vision into a veritable mini-empire.

We recently had the opportunity to collaborate with them on a brand positioning, research, and insights project. Our collaboration not only highlighted their understanding of the Recommerce market but also revealed the evolving dynamics of this sector. As we delved into the nuances of their business model, we discovered a remarkable alignment with the emerging trends in sustainable fashion, particularly resonating with the values and preferences of Gen Z, whose buying and reselling habits become both a statement and a savvy entrepreneurial venture.

One of Sweden’s Shopify Plus clients, Madison Avenue Couture, has become a standout in the luxury goods resale market, transforming luxury handbags into valuable investment assets. Founded in 2010 by CEO Judy Taylor, the New York-based company specializes in rare brands like Hermès and Chanel, appealing to both trend shoppers and avid collectors. Its direct ownership of a unique, authentic inventory enables swift deliveries and VIP personalized shopping experiences, either in-person at its NYC showroom or virtually.

The company’s distinct approach includes a meticulous authentication process, ensuring each item’s genuineness. Renowned for its exclusive inventory, such as the coveted Birkin Himalaya with diamond hardware, Madison Avenue Couture attracts top-tier collectors and offers educational support for new buyers. This strategy, coupled with a 92% increase in luxury handbag prices over a decade, cements the company’s position as a leader in luxury resale and a reliable choice for fashionable investments.

Depop is the cool cat of peer-to-peer social shopping. With a whopping 26 million users, 90% of them barely old enough to rent a car, Depop has crafted a fusion of social media and e-commerce. It’s not just an app; it’s a vibrant ecosystem of hip, eco-conscious buyers and sellers. So successful that Etsy took notice and spent $1.6 billion to make Depop its trendiest acquisition yet.

Patagonia isn’t just outfitting you for the great outdoors; they’ve mastered the art of sustainability with their Worn Wear program. This initiative encourages customers to trade in their used Patagonia garments for store credit. The company then cleans and repairs these items for resale. This program not only promotes sustainability but has also created a lucrative business model. In 2019 alone, Patagonia’s Worn Wear program generated over $10 million in sales.

Data and Market Analysis

According to a report by ThredUp, the global secondhand market is projected to reach $64 billion by 2024, nearly 1.5 times the size of the fast fashion market, mostly due to environmentally concious younger consumers. Gen Z and Millennials are adopting secondhand shopping at a rate 2.5 times faster than other age groups. This notable shift is the rise in luxury Recommerce, which is growing at a staggering rate of 12% per year, as reported by Bain & Company.

Technological Aspects

The rise of AI technology in recommerce, particularly in luxury goods, has been pivotal. For instance, The RealReal uses AI algorithms to authenticate millions of items, significantly reducing the time and cost associated with manual authentication. This technology can identify counterfeits with high accuracy, bolstering consumer trust.

Blockchain technology is also emerging as a game-changer. For example, companies like VeChain are using blockchain to track the lifecycle of products, providing consumers with transparent information about the origins and history of secondhand items. This technology not only combats counterfeit goods but also adds an additional layer of trust and assurance for consumers in the recommerce marketplace.

In Summary

Is Recommerce just a fleeting trend? It’s more like a revolution in retail. This model is not only eco-conscious but also economically viable and resonates with the next generation of consumers. Plus, the innovative business models and technology platforms highlight the sector’s adaptability and potential for growth.

Recommerce is about redefining value. It embracing sustainability and even fosters a sense of community. For those of us who started with modest thrift store hunts in the mean streets of Baltimore in the 1990’s, this evolution is both inspiring and validating. The Recommerce wave is here, and it’s reshaping the retail world in the most sustainable and fashionable way possible. While I do miss finding a Harris tweed blazer for $2 or an Eames chair for $10 (those days are NEVER coming back), I realize that a score is a score. And if you can turn a pre-loved item into a “peri-loved” item, then it’s all worth it.

 

Shopify’s New & Improved Order Routing

Shopify is about to launch a new and improved Order Routing UI that brings further control to merchants over their fulfillment process on the platform. Here, we look at some of the features and functions of this release and what it means for online merchants of all sizes, as Shopify continues its march toward ecommerce domination.

Out with the Old

Shopify has long since run their shipping and fulfillment services under a simple premise: Keep it simple. Merchant’s set a primary or default location and orders are fulfilled from that location so long as there is stock available, after which it defers to the next prioritized location. This is referred to as their “Preferred Locations” model, and in a few short weeks it will be a thing of the past.

In with the New

Smart Order Routing (Also known as Location Prioritization 2.0) is a complete overhaul of the existing fulfillment location prioritization, doing away with default locations and creating a robust UI for creating complex shipping rulesets based on proximity to customer, destination market, minimizing split fulfillments and preferred locations. Each of these options can be added and ranked to create a truly unique system that can fit any merchant’s needs. Smart Order Routing works by automatically applying these rules to an order and then prioritizing locations based on the results. The locations with the highest priority ranking are selected to fulfill the order based on the provided rules.

Rules run from top to bottom, and each rule is compounded with the former. If a rule fails or no shipment locations are found, it will proceed through the list until it is either found fulfillable or determined that it cannot be fulfilled.

Shopify Locations Shopify Locations Shopify Locations

Locations and Markets

Easily the most exciting set of features are related to Customer Location and Market. The service of shipping from the closest location or in the country/region of the customer has generally required at minimum a 3PL or ERP system integrated into Shopify, but this piece of the fulfillment puzzle has now been added directly to the platform itself. Location based shipping works by geocoding the user’s address in checkout and determines the closest location by measuring distance in a straight line using the Haversine formula. For Markets, it takes into account existing Shopify Markets and shipping zones on the merchant’s store selects the location based on country, state, province, or region. You can learn more about Shopify Markets and how to set up profiles and zones here.

Checkout and API

Checkout isn’t the only place to leverage this new subset of features. Each of the cart shipping rates API’s have also been updated to accept the customer’s location to generate real time rates and service before the checkout experience. This location is accepted in the form of 2 new parameters (Lat and Lng) so to take advantage of these new features on the storefront you will need to leverage your preferred geocoding provider.

Though currently limited to select partners and stores, Smart Order Routing will begin a wide rollout later this month. If you would like to learn more about this new service and begin planning your shipping future with Shopify, you can read more here.

 Shopify Out with the Old…

The Old – ‘There’s an App for That’

Trademarked by Apple in 2009, this one sentence has epitomized the advanced functionality of most e-commerce platforms since the first time it was heard. Shopify in particular, has embraced this idea of a semi-open ecosystem and created a diverse and expansive library of apps and functionalities that would otherwise have taken years to develop…

… which seems to have been exactly what they’ve been doing.

The New – ‘Built (on platform) to Last’

The platform of third-party apps is quickly becoming the platform of first-party apps. Though not as feature-rich as some of their competitors, search, internationalization, translations, marketing automation, and enhanced content management have been slowly rolled out over the last six months with some impressive results. They have learned from their app partners and created a subset of internal (see also: free) apps and resources that can quite literally save merchants hundreds of dollars monthly on contracts and fees.

Shopify’s investment in their existing feature set shows that they are also truly paying attention to trends in technology both in commerce and at large. From AI-driven product descriptions to the ability to manage complex datasets (called Metaobjects) and create bundles on the fly, Shopify has created an offering that can enable anyone to succeed without the need for previously bulky and expensive apps. In addition, the Shop App, previously used predominantly for tracking shipments and purchases, has also undergone an extensive overhaul allowing for store pages and integrated content that draws from internal and user-generated content.

This isn’t to say they don’t love their development partners. Shopify Functions and Checkout Extensibility’s replacement of Shopify Scripts and the checkout.liquid will truly test the mettle of all those wishing to truly expand the platform’s offerings moving forward. Hydrogen and Oxygen will also continue to favor those bold enough to use it, rewards (almost) befitting the effort.

For more on all of the new offerings provided by Shopify (and Sweden Unlimited), be sure to read through Shopify’s latest set of updates detailed in Winter ’23 Edition and see what Shopify can do to enhance your already successful business.

R.I.P., I.E., An Ode to Mystery

The news that Microsoft has finally killed off the inimitable Internet Explorer across all Windows O.S.’s, made us reflect on those early, innocent days of the adolescent world wide web.

When I began designing websites in 1999, when anyone with a website still added “http://” at the beginning of their address, the web felt like a brave new land. Nobody really knew what the heck they were up to when it came to browsing, let alone making websites themselves. It was a time of discovery, excitement, and like we were on the cusp of something big.

And, of course, we were. Reflecting on how much the internet is now built into our daily lives, it’s almost impossible to imagine how we survived without it. I mean, how else would you find out if Buckwheat is gluten-free?

Come to think of it, how would I even know about Buckwheat…?

Perhaps it’s an age thing – but there’s definitely an argument that today there’s less mystery around the web. The novelty of what it could be has worn off, and we’re seeing pretty much anything that could happen happend. Live fashion shows you can shop. Every film, song, and book ever made available to watch or download and let’s not forget the ability to see inside the lives of the rich and famous.

I miss mystery.

That said, the burgeoning web 3 appears to be building steam; there’s definitely an air of mystery around that. There’s not a great deal more we can put on the internet that hasn’t already been uploaded, so where do we go next? Having O.D.’d on content and shopping, we’re beginning to value our time and privacy more these days. Could we begin to see a more thoughtful attitude where everything doesn’t have to be ‘Shared’? Are there still things we can do that haven’t already been done?

Amid the celebration over the death of I.E., a part of me will miss it (not that I use it). That silly little E icon was symbolic of a generation (“I’m into The Internet”), and the name itself, ‘Explorer,’ alluded to a sense of discovery – a long path we were on where nobody had been before—no footprints in the sand or 1,000 comments from those before us.

Tomorrow I’ll continue to pick up my phone and Google whatever thing my kids are asking me about in order to keep their constant questions at bay, but wondering, if I couldn’t find the answer in a second, how else could I find it out?

R.I.P. I.E., You may be gone, but I – and many like me, will forever seek the unexpected as an Explorer of the Internet.

 

So Is AI Coming For Our Jobs?

Having recently used Jasper (an artificial intelligence tool that can write copy for you) our co-founder – Richard – was compelled to put pen to paper (so to speak), and offer his thoughts on where the future of AI might lead us, and asks “was life better when we had to do most things ourselves?”

 

 

There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is on the rise. We’re seeing it more and more in our everyday lives, from the way our devices interact with us to the ads we see online. But one area where AI is really starting to make its mark is in the world of art.

Yes, you read that right – artificial intelligence is making art. And in some cases, it’s even doing it better than humans.

Think about it – AI has the ability to process vast amounts of data quickly and accurately. It can identify patterns and relationships that humans might miss. And it can create things that are truly unique, based on those patterns and relationships.

So it’s no surprise that AI is starting to change the landscape of the art world. We’re seeing it in the way that artists are using AI to create new works, and in the way that galleries and collectors are using AI to identify new talent. 

The industrial revolution was a time when machines took over many of the tasks that had traditionally been done by human workers. This led to a massive increase in productivity, as well as a decrease in the need for human labor.

Could the same thing happen with artificial intelligence? Could AI eventually replace jobs like graphic design, website design,

The question is, where will this all lead? Will AI eventually replace human artists altogether? Will it lead to a new industrial revolution, where jobs that have traditionally been done by humans are taken over by machines?

Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure – AI is changing the art world, and there’s no going back. We all know that artificial intelligence is capable of some pretty amazing things. But did you know that AI can also create art? That’s right – AI is now being used to create stunningly realistic artwork, and it’s only going to get better. Does it mean that your website could soon be designed by a machine? And if AI can design websites, there’s no reason why it couldn’t also sell products or create new products to sell.

So what does this all mean for the future of ecommerce? Well, it’s safe to say that AI is going to have a big impact. We could see more personalised website designs and more targeted product recommendations. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll even be able to buy products from a machine!

Everyone is freaking out about how AI can make original detailed art. But the truth is, we’ve been using AI to create art for centuries. The first known instance of AI-created art dates back to 1873, when French poet Paul Verlaine used a mechanical device to generate random phrases. In 1950, American artist James Mondrian used a computer to generate random patterns, which he then used as the basis for his paintings. In the 1960s, American artist Harold Cohen created a program called AARON, which was designed to create paintings in the style of Abstract Expressionism. Cohen spent years fine-tuning AARON’s algorithms, and the results are strikingly human-like.

In the past few years, AI has been used to create music, poetry, and even novels. But it’s not just about creating art for art’s sake. AI is also being used to create more practical applications, like design and architecture.

For example, a team of architects in Japan used AI to design a house that is earthquake-resistant. And in the fashion world, AI is being used to create custom-fit clothing.

So what does the future hold for AI-created art? It’s hard to say. But one thing is for sure: the possibilities are endless.

[HAVE YOU GUESSED WHAT I DID HERE YET?  WELL IF NOT… EVERYTHING ABOVE WAS WRITTEN BY AN AI COPYWRITING TOOL CALLED Jasper.ai]

Now for my human version.  HMU about which you like better.

Everyone is freaking out about how AI can make original detailed art by combining two seeingly unrelated things. I’m less impressed with the results. It all still looks a little like the art you see sold in a headshop in Nyack. But even AI has to start somewhere. 

So what’s next? Soon, not just art but graphic design, after that website design, the UX/UI, brand strategy… will there be AI alternatives for this? Us agency world people were part of a digital revolution like the industrial revolution that led to a decline in agricultural productivity, as people left farms to work in factories. For America the “information age” revolution led to a huge decline in manufacturing jobs. Auto factory worker, coal miners, truck drivers are not really jobs of the future or even present. As with any revolution, there are growing pains, which we all suffer from. Like how all these displaced manufacturing workforces are so easily riled up to storm the seat of democracy.

Will the nerds in digital agencies be next to be replaced by an AI revolution and take up pitchforks against their AI surrogates? I hope that isn’t the case and until then, you can come and get 98% human-made creative at Sweden Unlimited. 

A Guide to Try Now, Buy Later 

You’ve been staring at those high-top leather sneakers online for half an hour now.  They look fantastic, but what if they’re too loose in the toes or tight around your ankles?

To buy or not to buy?

The question dates back to the dawn of commerce and the answer became even more complicated for Digital Age consumers.  Sure, online shopping is fast and convenient — yet how can you purchase a product you’ve never seen, touched, or worn in real life?

Fortunately, Try Before You Buy (TBYB) all but eliminates the hassles and risk of winding up with low-quality items in colors and fabrics you don’t like or sizes that don’t fit.  Now you can try on different styles of sunglasses from Warby Parker or sample a whole new wardrobe from StitchFix before paying a single dime.  And if there’s anything you don’t like, you can always send the order back.

Suddenly, any living room can be your own private fitting room.

Try Before You Buy (TBYB) is revolutionizing the way products are sold online

Specifically, TBYB (a.k.a. Try Now Buy Later) allows customers to sample a product at home for a set trial period prior to purchase.  That way, they can experience the fit, colors, fabrics, and style firsthand before making it their own.

TBYB Drives Sales

For retailers, TBYB can strengthen brand loyalty while reducing returns and increasing satisfaction.

Buyer’s remorse is real, especially when it comes to e-commerce, where studies have shown roughly 40 percent of goods added to shopping carts wind up being abandoned.  Yet when customers aren’t forced to commit right away, it gives them a chance to explore new brands and experiment until they find a look they love, increasing conversion while bolstering keep rates.

TBYB just got a lot easier

Clearly, Try Before You Buy can be a transformative experience for online shoppers and retailers alike.  But what about enterprise apparel companies that can’t afford the capital investment or disruption of current operations to design, implement, launch, and manage a TBYB platform?

Fortunately, emerging software providers like TryNow make the prospect of setting up and customizing at-home trial programs more accessible (even for independent merchants lacking Amazon-size resources).  Integrated and compatible with a brand’s pre-existing apps,  these types of solutions can help to provide a unified checkout experience while streamlining fraud prevention, smart tracking, analytics, and returns management.

As a result, retailers can more easily find new prospects and transform them into fans with a transparent process designed to boost satisfaction, since customers only purchase the products they love enough to keep.  Say farewell to buyer’s remorse and start welcoming repeat buyers.

 

Beyond Gaming: The Future of Metaverse Ecommerce

The term “metaverse” was coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snowcrash to describe an imaginary cyberspace environment where the digital avatars of real-world users could interact while purchasing virtual goods and services.

Thirty years later, the metaverse has jumped off the page into everyday life, enabling a range of experiences from virtual reality video games to augmented reality filters for morphing our faces and surroundings during WhatsApp chats.

Yet despite the successful use case examples of open world concepts and VR/AR technology in massive multi-user 360-degree playgrounds like Fortnight, Pokémon Go, and World of Warcraft, there’s more to the metaverse than its impact on the multi-billion-dollar gaming industry.

And, no, we’re not talking about growing digital crops in some Mark Zuckerberg holodeck version of Farmville decades from now.

METAVERSE CAREERS

Instead, present-day playtime applications of the metaverse are reshaping the future of work by opening exciting career paths for innovators with the right skill sets — meaning something as simple as a decent internet connection is suddenly more important than having the right “old-boy network” connections.

For instance, digital fashion designers combine an eye for style with abilities in graphics and 3D modeling to position themselves (and the brands they represent) in the virtual sector (like Adidas partnering with the creators behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs to launch a limited online collection of avatar wearables linked to physical clothing delivered to consumers in the real world).

Meanwhile, metaverse tour guides with a broad understanding of topics from pop culture to immersive navigation will lead new generations of sim-sightseers around limitless centers of interest from Esports tournaments to the digital galleries, showrooms, shopping districts, and performance spaces of vast virtual cities. 

As for the people building those structures, construct architects combine the traditional knowledge base of their profession with spatial computing and raw imagination, enabling new opportunities for both artistic expression and human interaction.  Why spend hours commuting to an office park or hotel conference room when colleagues can gather in simulated undersea kingdoms or lunar space labs to collaborate on projects in real time?  And who needs the hassle and expense of physical prototyping when digital twins of a product can easily be tested in virtual factories?

METAVERSE BRANDS & LUXURY

Metaverse-based try-before-you-buy sampling has similarly become a common marketing tool for the beauty and cosmetics industries — like My Dior, an app allowing customers to project a rainbow of digital colors onto their actual lips until they find the exact shade they want to purchase.  Meanwhile, in keeping with Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault’s recent push to futureproof the French luxury group’s brand identity, Gucci Beauty now offers online styling challenges to push metaverse glamor beyond real-world boundaries.

Indeed, such unlimited aspirational freedom is one of the biggest draws of the metaverse, allowing users to experiment with their appearances and experiences while celebrating their individuality with unique items that are impossible to replicate thanks to the innovation of blockchain.

The paradigm-shifting technology, which essentially timestamps transaction data, allows for scarcity (and, thus, big money luxury) in the metaverse, as evidenced by the recent decision of Sotheby’s to launch a high-end online auction house for the purchase and sale of NFT items and artwork.

Thus, a diverse range of new creators will have unprecedented opportunities to put their own indelible stamp on a boundless frontier while established brands and businesses can invest in more sustainable solutions for streamlining production while expanding into ever-evolving new markets.

In the metaverse, the possibilities are literally endless.

Pros and Cons of Using a Headless Code Approach for Your Shopify Build

Introduction

The rise of headless eCommerce has significantly shifted how online stores are built and managed. A headless architecture detaches the front end from the back end, providing greater flexibility and control over website design and functionality. This white paper aims to evaluate the headless approach specifically for Shopify websites, outlining its benefits and challenges to help businesses make informed decisions.

Understanding Headless Architecture

Headless architecture separates the concerns of data, business logic, and rendering. Unlike traditional Shopify architecture, which uses Liquid templates to handle these aspects within a single framework, headless architecture connects them via APIs. This modular approach allows for more flexibility in managing and updating each component.

Traditional Shopify Architecture

In traditional Shopify setups, the platform’s robust but somewhat rigid architecture handles the back end and front end together, using Liquid templates to render content dynamically. While this is convenient for smaller stores or those without complex needs, it can become a limitation for businesses seeking advanced customization and performance enhancements.

 

PROS: Benefits of Going Headless with Shopify

URL Customization

One of the standout benefits of a headless approach is the ability to customize URL structures freely. Shopify’s native URL structure can be restrictive, affecting SEO performance. With headless architecture, businesses can create SEO-friendly URLs that improve visibility and rankings on search engines.

Improved Website Load Time

Headless architecture can significantly enhance website performance by simplifying the site’s architecture and reducing load times. By decoupling the front end and back end, the front end can pull data via APIs, eliminating excess code that typically slows down websites.

Unlimited Omnichannel Capabilities

Headless eCommerce supports streamlined content management across multiple channels, ensuring a consistent customer experience regardless of the platform used. This omnichannel capability is crucial for businesses aiming to engage customers across various touchpoints.

More Design Flexibility

Freed from Shopify’s themes and apps, a headless approach offers unparalleled design flexibility. Developers can use preferred tech stacks to create a custom front end that aligns better with the brand’s identity and marketing goals.

Streamlined Localization and Translation

Managing localization and translation becomes more efficient with headless architecture. A centralized content management system allows for easier adaptation of content for different markets, reducing the complexity associated with multiple codebases.

 

CONS: Challenges of Going Headless with Shopify

Loss of Access to Shopify Apps and Themes

Going headless means losing the ability to use Shopify’s inbuilt themes and apps directly. This can necessitate custom theme development and reliance on third-party applications, which can be complex and time-consuming.

Increased Complexity and Customization

The headless approach requires extensive customization, increasing the complexity of the site’s architecture. This necessitates a higher level of technical expertise for both development and ongoing maintenance.

Debunking Common Arguments

Many misconceptions surround the headless approach, such as it being a one-size-fits-all solution. The effectiveness of headless architecture depends on specific project requirements and execution. Simply going headless does not guarantee improved performance or user experience; it unlocks the potential for these improvements if implemented correctly.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

While initial development costs for a headless setup are higher, long-term savings can be significant. The modular nature of headless architecture allows for efficiency, code reuse, and reduced risk of code degradation over time. This can lead to lower total costs compared to traditional setups.

Alternative Approaches

Hybrid solutions that combine Shopify themes with headless elements offer a middle ground, providing some benefits of headless architecture without fully committing to it. Third-party technologies like Nacelle and Shogun can bridge the gap, making headless capabilities more accessible.

 

Key Considerations for Implementing a Headless Approach

Due Diligence

Choosing the right developement team/agency and evaluating platforms and development processes is crucial. Ensuring control over hosting and CMS solutions helps maintain independence from the team.

Owning Your Architecture

Maintaining control over your architecture ensures that you can manage and update your system without being overly dependent on any single service provider. This includes controlling hosting accounts and CMS solutions.

Agility and Future Proofing

A headless approach offers greater agility and scalability, essential for future-proofing your eCommerce platform. By adopting a modular approach, businesses can adapt more easily to changing market demands and technological advancements.

 

Case Studies and Examples

Many businesses, such as Allbirds, Peloton, and Figs, have successfully implemented headless Shopify setups, demonstrating both the practical benefits and challenges of this approach. These companies have achieved faster load times, improved SEO performance, and a more flexible content management system. One of the primary reasons for adopting a headless architecture is the ability to integrate a more robust CMS for an extensive blog or editorial section. Additionally, it supports complex backend or back-office integrations.

However, we’ve encountered numerous clients seeking to revert their headless builds, often due to the setup becoming unwieldy, bloated, and expensive to maintain. Their primary complaint? Over-reliance on their systems integrator (SI), losing access to Shopify apps, and missing out on new benefits and features. Clients also report that updates in headless builds are more complex, slow, and costly, whereas, with native Shopify, updates are closer to a flick of a switch.

 

To Wrap it up

Reasons to Avoid Headless

  1. Higher Project Costs: Headless setups involve more development and complexity, leading to larger projects and higher initial costs.
  2. High Ongoing Costs: Maintaining a headless architecture requires specialized skills, often necessitating agency support or experienced developers.
  3. Limited App Integration: While apps can be integrated, they require custom approaches and API availability, eliminating “plug-and-play” simplicity.
  4. Loss of Theme Editor: You will lose Shopify’s WYSIWYG editing and previewing features, needing alternative tools for content management.
  5. Delayed Access to New Features: Shopify’s latest features won’t be readily available, requiring additional development to incorporate them.

 

Conclusion

Adopting a headless architecture for a Shopify website offers numerous benefits, including enhanced customization, improved performance, and the ability to handle complex requirements. Development purists may advocate that headless as the “right” way to go. However, it also presents challenges such as increased complexity and the loss of access to Shopify’s native themes and apps.

It’s important to carefully evaluate your needs and resources before going headless. You’ll either need a robust in-house development team with well-managed processes, ticket management, sprints, version control, a QA team, and hosting management, or be forever bound to a development agency. These are all headaches that can lead to much unhappiness for some businesses.

Ultimately, the headless approach can be the “right” way and best solution for those looking to future-proof their eCommerce platform and provide a superior customer experience. But as some wise person once said, “You can be right, or you can be happy.”

 

 

Appendix: Shopify’s Hydrogen and B2B Headless Support

UPDATED JUNE 2024

Hydrogen: Simplifying Headless Commerce

Shopify has introduced Hydrogen, a framework designed to simplify the creation of headless commerce storefronts. Hydrogen offers pre-built components and starter templates, enabling developers to build custom storefronts faster and more efficiently. This framework leverages React, providing a familiar environment for front-end developers and making it easier to create high-performance, scalable eCommerce sites.

B2B Headless Support

Shopify now supports headless commerce for B2B scenarios, offering robust APIs and tools to manage complex B2B transactions. This allows businesses to create tailored experiences for their B2B clients, integrating seamlessly with existing systems and offering the flexibility needed to meet diverse business requirements.

For more information on Hydrogen and B2B headless support, visit Shopify’s headless documentation.

X Marks the Spot: Understanding the New Found Power of Generation X

Always eager for the next big thing, media and marketing has become obsessed with the youths. We’re endlessly fascinated with trendsetting millennials, and gen-z, even allowing their influence to retroactively shape the consumer habits of older generations, heaven forbid we don’t appear “on fleek” or whatever they’re saying on TikTok these days. But if advertisers are looking for buried demographic treasure, it’d be wise to say “ok boomer” to the teens and twenty somethings and recognize the often overlooked Generation X. 

Born between 1965 and 1981, Gen-X’ers have been called many names, none too flattering. After all, Beck broke into the scene proclaiming “I’m a loser baby” and Nirvana’s biggest record was called _Nevermind_.  However wise marketers would be advised to do quite the opposite when considering Gen-X. 

Although once derided as slackers, Generation X has come of age. Though numbering only 66 million to Baby Boomers’ 75 million, Gen-X are now entering their best earning years, raking in an average $54,400 annually compared to struggling Millennials pulling in only $34,430. Although representing only 25% of the population, they control an outsized 31% of U.S. income. 

Their influence extends beyond their pocketbook too. With more than 56 million Americans now living in multi-generational homes, Generation X are increasingly taking care of not only their twenty and thirty-something children, but also their aging boomer parents. 

Sometimes described as the Sandwich Generation, Gen-X are quite literally positioned as a bridge between the old and the young, helming households that cater to both. Having entered the work force before the advent of the internet, the first generation to use email professionally couldn’t benefit from the luxury of tools like Slack and Basecamp. As a result, their interoffice personal and communications skills are naturally honed. This makes Gen-X ideal mentors to upcoming generations, and now as they ascended into the C-suite, taking the lead on corporate planning, Gen-X wield significant influence on industry. In fact, 55% of start-up founders are themselves members of Gen-X. 

While not digitally native like Millennials and Gen-Z, Gen-X are adept consumers of digital media, spending on average seven hours a week on social media. Less inclined to social promotion, 81% maintain Facebook accounts and nearly six million have Snapchat, but look to these platforms to stay connected to friends and their kids. But don’t discount traditional media either, as these nostalgic platforms still draw considerable attention from a generation that remembers the advent of the Atari. 

When reaching Gen-X, it’s important to avoid the obvious pitfalls. Unlike younger generations, Gen-X tend not to think of themselves as special, with only about 41% even self-identifying as Gen-X at all. The first work hard play hard generation responds to experiential offerings, but is quick to sniff out inauthenticity. The Cola Wars of the 90’s saw both Coke and Pepsi strike out, the former with their intentionally self-deprecating offering OK Cola, an obvious ploy, and the latter with the short lived and shallow Generation Next campaign. 

Generation X built a lot of the workflows millennials refined, relying on DIY ethics to get to where they are. With so much on their plates, they respond best to a succinct sales pitch sell that gets to the point and clearly outlines tangible product benefits and results. Eighty percent believe work-life balance is important and 48% fantasize about having a day off. Although they outspend all other generations in housing, clothing, dining, and entertainment, more than half of Gen-X’ers (54 percent) report feeling frustrated that advertisers treat them as an afterthought. With the most disposable income of any demographic, ignore them at your own risk. 

 

Leja Kress Joins Tim Richardson on Your Basket Is Empty Podcast

Leja Kress - Your Basket Is Empty - Tim Richardson
In this episode Leja and Tim share their passion for 80s new wave and post-punk music. Tim sat down with her to learn how the band she formed with her husband and twin sister led to the creation of the agency, what they’ve learned in 20 years of operation, how to maintain relevance, building culture, and who would be in her ideal line up for a show at CBGBs, circa 1985.

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