Shopify Unite

Shopify Unite. Sweden’s Take


Shopify Unite returned this year with a renewed focus on the development community, hosting developer conferences in three countries and packing the days with panels and workshops. For myself and those in attendance, the conference focused on the “current state” of platform development and the “next evolution” of some long standing features, but what does this mean for merchants and their partners? Why is that important? What are we here to talk about?


Shopify Unite

Checkout Extensibility. Shopify Functions. The Shopify Content Platform. Let’s crack on

Shopify is on a path of self improvement, with new features being loudly and quietly released almost daily. Just this year they’ve implemented their own filter and search engine, their own method of managing metafields, B2B functionality, and so much more (You can read
Summer Editions ‘22 for a full list of earlier releases). This month, it’s all about the checkout and creating its next evolution, and they are doing so with Checkout Extensibility and Shopify Functions, and making the case for why Shopify Scripts and the checkout liquid edits are things of the past.


Shopify Checkout Extensibility


Customizing the checkout in Shopify has constantly been a thorn in the side of merchants, creatives, and developers alike. The limitations placed on these edits, when they’re available at all, have led to the Shopify checkout being both iconic and ordinary. Being stuck inside of the ‘checkout.liquid’ file, using javascript to hook into various steps in the process, and attempting even the most basic extensions without having a 3rd party app has been a constant struggle. With Checkout Extensibility (and a little help from Shopify Functions), this becomes a maintainable, deployable set of app based features that can be used by partners and merchants across stores and themes. From post purchase offers and in-checkout upsells to gift messaging and shipping restrictions, the possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of merchants and their development partners.


At its core, Checkout Extensibility offers merchants and their partners the ability to add styles, content, and additional functionality to their checkout experience. They’ve done this by creating an app based way to deploy these features to a store, and then add them to the checkout page with a brand new checkout customization tool that mirrors the existing Customize tool. You’ll be able to page between steps in the checkout process and customize them accordingly, adding messaging, content, inputs, and other pieces of content and data wherever it’s needed. Additionally, with the new Pixel API, you’ll be able to mold and utilize the data layer in a way never thought possible in the checkout process, tracking events and interactions as you see fit, not just as the platform allows.


Unlike recent features, the creation and usage of a ReactJS based platform enables this functionality to be widely accepted and implemented by partners big and small, but at the moment any custom app features will be limited to those on the Shopify Plus plan. As it rolls out to all merchants over the next few weeks, we can’t wait to see what’s next in this new evolution of the customization of the checkout experience.


Shopify Functions


The backend of Shopify has eternally been its most closely guarded secret, preventing any changes to the way in which it functions without an immense amount of backend development knowledge. If Shopify Scripts cracked the door to reveal a much larger set of customizations than have ever been available before, Shopify Functions will break the door down. They are rightly starting by evolving the way that discounts are handled in the platform. Gone are the days of writing Ruby in an editor and scheduling script changes with Launchpad. Now these pieces of functionality can be brought directly into the discounts area and made completely configurable by the client in the existing discounts UI.


Before excitement levels get too high, it’s important to remember that functions are in no way as readily available as Checkout Extensibility. Functions are created with a custom app built on Rust (or an equally complicated WebAssembly language that compiles to WASI) and will be pretty gated for those agencies and partners without a backend team. Likewise the ability to add functions from a public app is now available to all merchants, but unfortunately custom apps are still available exclusively to Shopify Plus merchants. Shopify is also only currently running the program on discounts, but their roadmap includes every piece of functionality currently available to scripts as well as the ability to customize the way customers pay. With these limitations in mind and a bright future ahead for the service, we look forward to offering these services to our clients as they roll out and can’t wait to see what we can build together!


Shopify Content Platform


Shopify did something that it does rather well at Unite, which is to casually mention a platform evolving feature midway through a talk as calmly as discussing the weather. Something that large scale content management systems have always done well is the idea of modeling, giving structure and organization to your content. This is done, in its simplest terms, through the creation of content types that allow you to reference the same piece of content in multiple places. This has far reaching applications on the platform and for merchants that use content fields such as FAQ’s, size guides, or other content pieces that are site specific instead of page specific and that are generally difficult to manage. The possibilities are almost endless, limited only by the imagination of marketers and their partners, some of which were shown at Unite in the form of on page personalization and upsells/purchase refinement based on customer metrics. A beta program is currently underway, and as we get more involved we cannot wait to share more of what the future holds for the platform and its views on content.


The End


Shopify’s focus on developers enabling merchants to do what was previously not possible has been the theme of the quarter. Built with tools and platforms that developers understand to offer easily implementable features that work with a UI that merchants use every day, Shopify Checkout has become the latest target of the focus on content. What started with pages and sections everywhere last year has extended to a truly configurable checkout and deep content modeling, enabling Shopify to rival the content management systems it has long been compared to, and making it a more formidable force in the e-commerce space. This is only a small piece of what’s been coming out of the platform in recent months (most of which have only been in recent weeks), and now the fun and implementation begins.




Aaron Smith

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