Shopify Unite 2021

by Tom Smith

Unite 2021 was a biggie, with lots of new announcements from Shopify on some really significant upcoming releases. We've broken these down and look at what it means for merchants using Shopify.

This year, Unite 2021 was very focused on developers - loads of new tools were announced, along with updates on infrastructure, upcoming changes to checkout, and loads more. We're breaking it down to focus on what it means for merchants.

If you're keen to read what Shopify are saying in their own words, you can read their summary instead (or as well!).

Online Stores.

Probably the biggest announcement – and the one which will be most exciting for merchants – is Online Store 2.0. This is what we've been waiting for - essentially it provides us with the elusive "sections everywhere" - bringing the flexibility of the drag-and-drop home page to all parts of Shopify.

Along with this comes a new theme editor experience, and new cleaner ways of integrating apps into themes.

The impact on merchants.

Online Store 2.0 means a rework of themes to suit the new requirements. So unfortunately it's not just going to be a case of "switching it on". It's been released to Shopify partners via development stores, but as of right now, it's not available in production. We'll be keeping an eye on timelines, as well as reviewing the best way of migrating old themes to the new platform.

What else was announced.

It's not as relevant for many merchants, but Shopify also announced some new tools around custom storefronts - most often implemented as a headless build. They've massively upscaled their API infrastructure with the aim of being within 50 milliseconds of every buyer around the globe. They've also introduced Hydrogen – a new framework for custom storefronts – and Oxygen which will be a hosting platform for these storefronts.

Metafields and Custom Content.

Metafields are how merchants can store additional custom fields against items in Shopify - things like technical specs, additional content, for example. Until now, managing this data has relied on apps, but Shopify will be bringing metafield management directly into the Shopify admin interface.

The impact on merchants.

It should mean much easier management of metafeld content. What this means for apps like Accentuate remains to be fully seen, as this depends on the exact types of content Shopify will support in metafields through the admin. However, it's a big step forward in managing data.

What else was announced.

Shopify are also upscaling their content management capabilities by introducing Custom Content - which will be a method of storing content of any format within Shopify.


Shopify checkout will be able to be customised through apps using Checkout Extensions rather than relying on edits to checkout.liquid on Shopify Plus, as happens currently. These apps will be much better integrated to the Shopify ecosystem, and work across the board - including in Shop Pay.

Shopify are also working on an updated version of Shopify Scripts, which will be quicker and more powerful, as well as a new Payments Platform to support additional third party gateways in the future.

The impact on merchants.

In the short term, not much - these features aren't released yet. However, in the medium term it'll give greater flexibility and better reliability to checkout customisations.

What else was announced.

Shopify have announced that the checkout will be upgraded to be faster, as well as much more scalable.

Changes for developers.

As well as the above, Shopify announced a number of new tools for developers, like changes to the Shopify CLI for theme development.

They also announced that partners like app developers will no longer pay the 20% commission on the first $1m they make each year, and a reduction to 15% after this amount. The hope here is that more developers will be attracted to Shopify, and that the quality and scale of development will help in pushing the platform onwards even further.


If you have any questions about this year's announcements, or how they might impact you, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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