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What Does Shopify Online Store 2.0 Mean for Merchants?

August 12, 2021

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Shopify recently announced Online Store 2.0 (OS 2.0) - what they are referring to as the biggest investment in their platform yet. This new and improved platform will make it easier for developers to build customized features and apps for merchants, and gives merchants more power to create and edit their storefronts.

“OS 2.0 is Shopify making a serious investment in the front-end editing experience of their platform. This is going to make many common admin functions easier, faster, and more flexible- from operations, to ease of scaling content and branded storytelling.”

- Mick McCarthy, Chief Design Officer at Zehner

So what exactly does OS 2.0 mean for merchants selling on Shopify?

Among many benefits, flexibility, scalability, and performance are at the top of our list. Specifically:

  • OS 2.0 empowers developers, while at the same time, makes it even easier for merchants to leverage that power and build on their own storefronts
  • Content is still king (even Shopify seems to think so), and it’s now easier and faster than ever to scale branded content across a Shopify store
  • With development and site maintenance made simpler, we’re about to have extra time to focus on the more “fun” parts of commerce, like user experience and excitement generators

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the biggest enhancements and changes included in the launch, and what they mean for your Shopify store.

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1) Sections, Everywhere

As one of the first digital agencies to create our own modular design system and Shopify framework way back in 2017, we were thrilled (and a bit flattered) to see Shopify follow suit by rolling out sections functionality on every page.

Sections are modular, customizable elements of a page, which give merchants greater flexibility when designing their online store. Previously, Shopify’s out-of-the-box “sections” were only available on a store’s homepage.

Image credit: https://www.shopify.com/partners/blog

“Being able to use sections and modules over and over again allows consistency in how brands present information from one page to the next. Before sections were available everywhere, merchants often worked around this limitation with things like page builder tools. These presented tons of issues as they weren’t native to Shopify and encouraged merchants to build pages with inconsistent designs.”

- Noah Gedrich, Chief Technology Officer at Zehner

With sections now available everywhere, site maintenance and merchandising just got easier, and merchants gained the ability to easily personalize many aspects of their digital storefront right through the Shopify admin, without even needing a developer.

“Sections everywhere means that all brands can now scale quickly and smartly using innate Shopify functionality, allowing us to start thinking about excitement generators or unique brand moments earlier in the process,” McCarthy says. “This lets us focus on building better customer experiences and engaging content personalization rather than having to spend as much time and resources on baseline eCommerce patterns.”

What is an excitement generator, you ask? (Don’t worry; I did too.)

“An excitement generator is any layered experience that is designed to delight the customer on their path to purchase and leave a lasting impression,” McCarthy continues. “For example, a subscription program ‘build a box.’ Or a personalization quiz.”

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2) Flexible Store Content

With OS 2.0, developers no longer have to hardcode the display of metafields (extra pieces of data that apps can attach to products, customers, orders, and other objects) into themes or rely on APIs to make changes to product pages.

Instead, theme developers can now add metafield definitions as setting defaults so that merchants can make changes more easily, allowing them to quickly upload things like images or PDFs to product detail pages (PDPs).

Image credit: https://www.shopify.com/partners/blog

Metafields can be used to incorporate additional storytelling modules on key pages throughout a merchant’s storefront. By making this functionality more intuitive, merchants gain flexibility and the opportunity of greater consistency when educating and inspiring their customers about features and product differentiators.

“Metafields in the admin are a huge time saver for merchants. This offers more control to the merchant to make those granular changes they’d often have to outsource, giving them the ability to customize their storefronts and scale content quicker than ever before.”

- Mick McCarthy, Chief Design Officer at Zehner

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3) Theme App Extensions & App Blocks

OS 2.0 includes huge benefits for app developers (which in turn, benefit merchants), like theme app extensions which will make app installations easier via app blocks.

The theme app extension changes how merchants interact with apps, allowing them to easily integrate apps into their theme right from the theme editor without ever having to touch any code. If the merchant chooses to later uninstall the app, ghost code will be automatically removed from their store.

Image credit: https://shopify.dev/apps/online-store

This also makes larger site changes, like installing a new theme, much easier to execute.

“As a theme developer, you identify where app content can go via an app block, and then that is where the merchant will put their content. If the merchant later installs a new theme, it’s just a configuration setting to add the app code instead of having to edit code and go back through the app install process. This will make themes more portable moving forward.”

- Noah Gedrich, Chief Technology Officer at Zehner

App blocks also require less support. Since it’s no longer necessary to open a store’s theme code to install an app, and since uninstalls are cleaner, there’s less risk of breaking changes which likely means less time wasted on troubleshooting in the future.

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4) Shopify Theme Store Reopened on July 15th, 2021

With OS 2.0’s new, more flexible environment, Shopify also announced that they’ve decided to reopen their Theme Store as of July 15th, 2021 (it’s been closed since 2018). This means an unlimited number of new themes are able to be created by theme developers and uploaded for global entrepreneurs.

Image credit: https://www.shopify.in/blog

So with all of this added flexibility, what is the perspective of agencies, like Zehner, who work with merchants to design and develop custom eCommerce experiences?

“For agencies like Zehner who thrive on complex projects and custom builds, a launch like this is exciting. OS 2.0 really differentiates the way we work with our clients at a technical level. Now, we’re able to spend less time plumbing, and more time figuring out how to add another story to the house.”

- Noah Gedrich, Chief Technology Officer at Zehner

“As Shopify continues to develop and build out OS 2.0, their initial launch sets a new foundation for forward-thinking agencies to design and build on top of, delivering deeper experiences that brands have more control over. The flexibility, scalability, and performance of OS 2.0 proves that digital innovation and better commerce are now more attainable than before.”

- Mick McCarthy, Chief Design Officer at Zehner

Get in touch with us today to learn more about our approach to building with OS 2.0. Cheers!


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