What Features are Coming to Shopify in late 2020?
August 04, 2020
I love that Shopify is always coming out with new features that give more value to its customers. Lately, its built in features are removing the need for paid apps to do the same job so you can get more value out of your subscription.
Shopify's annual conference, Reunite, was hosted online this year due to COVID-19, and that's where they made a ton of announcements about what's in the works at Shopify.
Let's go through some of the key announcements they made, as well as some features that were released earlier in the year that you may have missed.
What you can expect
Sections enabled on all pages
Much anticipated, a new online store design experience is in the works. You will soon be able to use the same sections that are available to you to easily design your home page, on your other pages. No more boring About, Contact and Policy pages. Currently, you can use sections on pages if you alter the theme code, but this has some limitations. Since the data is stored in one place, if you use the same section on your home page as on another page, then the text and images will be the same on both pages. That's no good.
This announcement is very exciting as it will allow stores to use design to better visually communicate their mission and create a stronger brand presence throughout the store. This new feature is set to launch in late 2020 on select themes (including the very popular free theme Debut!).
In addition to theme sections, apps will also be more easily added to stores through sections or snippets. The highlight of this, besides it being very easy for the average person to use, is that it aims to solve the problem that Shopify stores have when uninstalling apps. Often, when uninstalling apps, the app code remains in the theme code (for reasons of security when revoking access to the app) and this can lead to websites becoming slow over time if the app developer is not contacted to manually remove the code.
In this new stage of app snippets, the app code will be automatically removed when the app in uninstalled. Nothing will be left in the theme to slow it down. This will make store development a lot more convenient and allow store owners to experiment with different apps at no risk to their website performance.
Online store speed
No one likes a slow website. Previously, I've had my annoyances with the Google page speed report, as Shopify stores tend to receive a poor performance rating, and their score is punished for things that actually make the store load faster!
Shopify will be releasing an online store performance dashboard so that store owners can better understand how their store speed is affected by theme code customizations, app installations, and design choices.
Shopify has also reformed the way that theme code is generated in the browser, and they expect a 40-200% improvement on store load times. Wow. This will definitely allow for better conversion rates.
Even with these tools, it will be important for store owners to judge based on the performance they observe, rather than solely going off of a report of which they may not understand the measurements of. And as always, the easiest way to reduce load time is to reduce the amount of content. There is no need for a super long home page because hopefully, you've gotten your shoppers to click to shop before they get to the end of the page anyways.
It appears that Shopify is moving into the banking services sphere. They have suddenly launched several programs to offer financing and management of income within the store. With Shopify Balance, store owners will have better tools to manage their finances. Within the Shopify Admin, owners will be able to manage expenses, pay bills, and have a clear overview of their financials. It will even allow owners to have a physical Shopify Card to allow spending and earnings to happen in one account and be more easily managed. They have also mentioned there will be rewards with select partners. Hmm, this is something I'm curious to know more about.
Shopify Pay Installments
Goodbye Sezzle? Goodbye Afterpay? That's right, allowing your customers to pay in installments will soon be a feature built into Shopify. However, it will only be available to customers in the US, so don't go uninstalling your apps just yet. What's so great about this, is that the store owner will get the full payment straight away, and it's up to Shopify to collect the payments from the customer. It's so easy and a great way to get customers to purchase from you if you have a higher ticket item. Just another example of how Shopify is getting into the banking business.
Soon store owners will have more control over currencies, and domain names when selling internationally. Firstly, merchants will be able to maintain a stable price for products even as currencies fluctuate, while still getting paid in their own currency. This will solve prices that appear as "16.37" and change daily and allow a clear path when marketing the price of items.
Secondly, soon you will be able to use local domains, allowing customers to be directed to a website where they will have the best language and shipping options based on their location. This may solve issues of store owners using Shopify Pay who want to sell a product that cannot be shipped to a particular country, but they still have customers in that country that wish to purchase other items. I hope that allowing two separate domains will allow you to control the products available in each of those as well as the payment options under each domain.
In Case you Missed it
Here are some more updates that happened in the past few months, that perhaps you haven't heard of or taken advantage of yet. They're equally exciting as above!
Shopify Capital is a program that is helping small businesses access financing. The program offers zero-interest (sort of... explained below) loans from $200 to $1,000,000 and does not consider credit history. They boast about a quick application process, quick funding, and repayment of loan through sales. This is available to merchants in the US, Canada, and UK. Learn more about Shopify Capital on its website here.
Initially, I thought that this program was a way for Shopify to get new merchants onto the platform and that Shopify really cared about the success of its users. How naive... After doing some more digging, I've discovered that they will be making a lot of money out of this.
The way that the loans work is that you repay the amount with a percentage of your daily sales. Technically, the loans are interest free but you will pay back more than you borrowed. For example, borrow $12,000 and pay back $13,000. You pay it back as slowly or as fast as your sales come in.
Who is eligible? Eligibility is determined based off your history on Shopify. You can only get a loan through the program if you have shown that your Shopify store has been profitable for some time. The loan amount offered to you builds up so you can borrow a larger amount each time.
Borrowing money through Shopify Capital isn't cheap, that's for sure. The advantages are that there is no credit check, repayment is automated, and the repayment schedule is dependent on you making sales.
Shopify Email launched earlier this year and you can currently use this for FREE to send your newsletters although many of its features are still in development. I have been using it for some clients, and it's quite basic at the moment. The layout options are limited but I've been able to spruce up newsletters by making collages and graphics for the clients that are using the service.
Other mailing services such as Klaviyo are still miles ahead, but Shopify Email is a good option for those who will not be using all the features of Klaviyo or only need something simple. They will be charging for the service beginning on October 1, 2020. The first 2,500 emails sent will be free, and then they can be sent at \$1 for every 1000 emails sent. Extremely cheap for businesses starting out and I appreciate that they give all the features to all customers, rather than doing a tiered subscription model.
Gift cards have temporarily been made free on all plans. Previously they were only available on the \$79+ tier plan. This change is in efforts to support merchants who have been affected by the pandemic, who cannot provide their product or services at the moment. Think salons, or stores whose production lines have been disrupted. If you are a business that needs the help of gift card purchases right now, reach out to your customers and let them know how they can continue to support you during this time.
Does your industry rely on tipping? Tipping has been built into the checkout to allow customers to continue to support employees who rely on tips. This will be especially important for food businesses that are offering local delivery or pickup.
New Express (free) Theme
A new free theme was launched in the Theme Store. This theme is meant to help brick and mortar businesses get online quickly. It's a one page theme built for small catalogues and a quick checkout. The demo stores nicely present a restaurant's menu as well as a grocery store product list.
What I want to see
Shopify offers such amazing e-commerce features. After all, e-commerce is what it's built for. But there are a few things I've run into that I can't believe aren't included.
Firstly, product dimensions. I had a client who was selling art pieces on canvas. I was able to add the weight of each piece, but this was basically useless when using Canada Post's shipping calculator because the dimensions of the package were not considered at all. This means needing to calculate approximate package delivery charges for different sizes and destinations, rather than an automatic fair price being calculated and faster shipping process to benefit both the customer and seller.
Updated August 11, 2020: There is a new app, Smart Boxing that allows for dimensional shipping. Yay for app developers! Still, it should be part of the Shopify platform...
Secondly, improve image editing tools. Product images can easily be cropped to different aspect ratios. However, once it's cropped, you've lost the original image size. One feature I love about WordPress is that you can restore the original image, so nothing is lost from cropping. Another annoyance I have is the lack of the crop tool on the store editor. When uploading a hero image for example, sometimes the fit isn't quite right, and I need to crop the image on my computer and re-upload it. Then I end up with several copies of nearly the same image in my files and it can be difficult to keep track of which is which. There's also no way to delete an image from the image library on the editor. I need to visit my files in another window.
Lastly, dynamic variants to allow cost to be calculated by weight or size. A past client of mine has a bulk food store and cannot allow her customers to input the exact amount they'd like to purchase. This could be applicable if you were ordering flooring, wallpaper, or anything that needs to be measured.
There were a few other announcements and updates that I didn't mention. You can watch the full replay of Shopify's Reunite here on YouTube.