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3 Key Takeaways from Shopify Unite 2021

David Schripsema

By David Schripsema



At Unite 2021, Shopify announced updates in developer tools and capabilities, changes to payment structure, and updates to the checkout experience.

Did you get a chance to tune into Shopify Unite 2021? We’re pretty excited about some of the changes they announced. In this post we share three big takeaways for retailers.

What’s new?

As Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify, aptly said in his introduction to Shopify Unite 2021: 15 months ago at the start of COVID, there were two distinct industries: the retail industry and the e-commerce industry. Now there’s just the e-commerce industry. A lot has changed.

A lot has changed indeed. Expectations around performance, accessibility, and employee-facing technologies have drastically shifted. Companies are investing in employee experience, and customer experience, and ensuring that they have the capability to deliver a true omnichannel experience.

At Unite, Shopify made some major announcements across developer tools and capabilities, changes to the payment structure for their app store, and the ability to extend the checkout experience in new ways. While nearly all of it matters to most retailers, we think there are three takeaways that stand above the rest.

With Shopify building more capabilities into their platform, it’s now easier for brands to maintain a single source of truth within Shopify that has vastly more extensibility and useful metadata.

Shopify’s improvements to metafields

Shopify is inching closer to a proper Product Information Manager (PIM). Historically, the challenge of managing product metadata within Shopify has driven many retailers seeking a true omnichannel experience to explore third-party alternatives like Amplifi or Salsify. With Shopify building more capabilities into their platform, it’s now easier for brands to maintain a single source of truth within Shopify that has vastly more extensibility and useful metadata. Third-party apps could be installed before to add some of this functionality, but it wasn’t as straightforward to access that information directly through Shopify’s APIs, making it less useful to other channels you might want to sell through. This doesn’t spell the end of PIMs though - it just means that scaling retailers can focus on growth for a while longer before needing to add a dedicated solution to their toolbox.

With these enhancements, we expect to see a lot more extensibility of Shopify’s product catalogs, making it much easier to use Shopify as the single source of truth for your product information across every channel you sell in.

Shopify’s improved developer experience

Shopify announced many upcoming changes to their service including rewriting the APIs, reducing Shopify’s cut down to $0 on the first $1mm in revenue, and overhauling the way developers build apps through better documentation, a developer console to build and test in a live store environment, and integration with Google’s Pub/Sub service.

What we think this means for retailers is that there’s going to be an explosion of high-quality apps in the Shopify App Store. It should be noted: Assemble is an engineering firm that’s largely focused on building headless solutions that get customers away from Shopify’s app store. We think this makes sense to do when your business reaches a ceiling in its growth with Shopify where you need full control over your site and the experience on it. Everything Shopify did with this new developer experience is absolutely going to raise that ceiling. Rather than be disappointed about the businesses that will remain successfully growing and scaling within Shopify’s ecosystem, we’re thrilled that these changes are going to enable even more companies to hit that ceiling and be ready to make the leap to their own bespoke online experience. In fact, you may even find some apps from Assemble in the Shopify App Store in the months ahead!

Shopify’s improved checkout experience 

This is huge.

Most people who’ve interacted with Shopify recognize the Shopify checkout page. This is reassuring since it means you’re checking out on a trustworthy platform, but from a brand-building perspective has really limited brands’ ability to differentiate themselves. It’s also meant that even for headless sites leveraging Shopify as their e-commerce engine, the checkout experience has felt pretty bog-standard.

With the changes to Checkout, brands will now be able to merchandise post-checkout. This enables upselling of complementary products for customers who have already demonstrated a willingness to spend money with your brand, a more uniquely branded checkout experience and ultimately helps brands that are able to invest in their online experience to really stand apart from the rest.

We’re really excited about this functionality from a headless perspective too, since it will allow us to pull more of the investment our clients have made in building a high-performing and optimized online experience back into the previously standard Shopify checkout experience.

What’s next? 

Our developers are eagerly digging through the new and improved documentation, looking for ways we can further extend the Shopify experience with all the exciting changes announced at Unite. We’re excited about what it unlocks and can’t wait to build with you.