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7 Shopify Development Trends You Need To Consider In 2023

7-shopify-development-trends-you-need-to-consider-in-2023

The underlying technology that powers ecommerce stores is evolving at a dizzying pace, and brands need to respond in real time just to stay relevant against a backdrop of rising costs. It’s therefore more important than ever for developers to keep up-to-date on new trends and skills to be able to offer the best experience to merchants, so that they can, in turn, offer the best possible customer experience. 

We spoke to leading Shopify Partners and Developers to identify seven key development trends and emerging best practices you need to know to effectively build for Shopify in 2023. Consider them for your projects, and you’ll set up your clients—and yourself—for success. 

Build apps for Shopify merchants

Whether you want to build apps for the Shopify App Store, offer custom app development services, or are looking for ways to grow your user base, the Shopify Partner Program will set you up for success. Join for free and access educational resources, developer preview environments, and recurring revenue share opportunities.

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1. Improve the mobile checkout experience

Black Friday 2022 broke records, but for senior ecommerce consultant Kurt Elster the real story was that on Thanksgiving evening a record number of people shopped after dinner from their phones

“We’ve known for 10 years that ‘mobile is the future,’” Elster points out, “and now we’ve hit the tipping point: Ecommerce orders are happening three out of four times on mobile.”

Elster argues that ease of checkout is the last bottleneck to overcome for mobile conversion rates to exceed desktop conversion rates and highlights two new feature sets Shopify announced in 2022 that will change the checkout experience for the better. 

  • For Plus merchants, Shopify’s Checkout UI Extensions now make checkout customizations as easy as installing an app.
  • For non-Plus merchants, Shopify Functions will provide backend scripting power similar to Plus plans’ Script Editor. Functions will allow devs to make more efficient and powerful apps that streamline discount and checkout logic. 

“Both options will let Shopify Partner Developers package their solutions for sale in the Shopify App Store,” Elster explains. “It’s a new blue ocean of monthly recurring revenue waiting to be made.”

Gil Greenberg, founder of Checkout Blocks, a Shopify Plus app that customizes checkout, agrees. To him, one of the biggest benefits of the new checkout UI extensions is that it incorporates the merchant’s checkout styles seamlessly without any additional effort by the app developer. 

“Shopify provides a set of UI components that an app can leverage within checkout which can seem limiting at first but ultimately leads to faster development and a more consistent customer experience,” Greenberg says.

In 2023, more merchants will be looking for apps that support the new checkout and it poses another opportunity for developers to create value for their clients. 

You might also like: 9 Key Commerce Trends You Need to Watch in 2023.

2. Cut down development time by enhancing pre-built themes

Due to increased inflation and the threat of a recession, merchants are looking for more cost-saving measures in the new year. This means Shopify developers need to use their resources wisely. 

Anne Thomas, co-founder of Shopify app Design Packs, believes that, with the rollout of Online Store 2.0, we are seeing more agencies leveraging add-on components to augment free or paid themes—such as Shopify’s own Dawn theme—rather than developing everything from scratch. 

“As a result, code updates can be handled by external theme developers instead of an internal team, and the technical debt associated with unmaintained custom builds can be reduced,” Thomas says. 

Together with Shopify’s GitHub integration and Shopify CLI for themes, this approach simplifies code updates, Thomas explains, and allows easy integration of custom sections created by in-house developers alongside using libraries of pre-built sections.

You might also like: Introducing Online Store 2.0: What it Means for Developers.

3. Engage international audiences with lower costs 

As rising interest rates cause retailers across industries to focus on improving unit economics, David Wagoner, co-founder and CMO of full-service ecommerce agency P3 Media, expects Shopify Markets and Shopify Markets Pro to become critical tools for brands testing cross-border expansion. 

“These tools solve most business process pain points around internationalization with low or no additional overhead,” Wagoner explains. “Up to this point, multinational brands have primarily opted to develop discrete online stores to serve each region in which they operate, or to go headless.”

Wagoner points out that, while the discrete approach gives brands granular control over each instance, the cost of doing business under such a paradigm can be prohibitively high: Each store built this way requires its own product catalog, pricing, inventory, design, merchandising, payment options and tax compliance. 

The headless solution of coupling a frontend as a service solution to a single backend, meanwhile, solves content customization issues, but can be expensive to implement and leaves the merchant responsible for pricing, payment, tax, and payout issues.

Markets Pro then offers the reverse: payments, taxation, and payouts are all handled automatically. 

Wagoner concludes: “With a significantly shorter time to value, no additional upfront cost to Shopify Plus users, the ability to stand up MVP shops in over 130 markets overnight, and the promise that Hydrogen will make Markets headless, these tools are positioned to be extremely viable alternatives for merchants who want to begin internationalizing with a low initial investment.”

4. Make the most of metafields

For Ben Wellby, managing director of Shopify specialists Thought and Mortar, one feature stands out among the many recent Shopify development updates: Metafields.

Metafields is a flexible way to extend Shopify’s native functionality by enabling the storage of additional information about a resource—like a size guide on a product page, a relevant warranty upsell within the basket, or some deeper customer information at signup. 

Metafields have benefits for customers, developers, and store owners alike; they improve everyone’s experience of the Shopify ecosystem.

This “extra” information can be accessed on the front-end of the store, either by developers looking to expose this information through Liquid logic, or as a customer who may be in need of additional, supportive information.

“Metafields used to be the stuff of developers, hidden from the store owner, but have now wholeheartedly been embraced by the Shopify community,” Wellby says. “Metafields have benefits for customers, developers, and store owners alike; they improve everyone’s experience of the Shopify ecosystem.”

Specifically, the team at Thought and Mortar has identified the following trends:

  • Developers relinquishing control to clients: Clients are now able to create their own metafields and link them into their own themes without the need for additional development resources. 
  • Customers looking for more content on PDP pages: More product-specific information empowers customers to make key decisions at key moments, thereby increasing engagement with content such as size guides, warranty info, and product weights with or without packaging. As a result, customers need less customer service. 
  • Store owners storing more data-points against customer records: Metafields can be used for both connecting APIs with third-party CRMs, as well as giving customer service teams immediate access to customer information at any touchpoint across the Shopify admin (e.g. VAT numbers, preferred contact methods, customer IDs).
  • The focus on metafields themselves: Metafields continue to evolve and already enable developers to create stores that are native to Shopify, resulting in safer and more sturdy ecommerce experiences.
  • You might also like: How to work with Metafields when building Shopify themes.

    5. Take headless commerce to the next level

    As the understanding of headless commerce matures, Ian Jamieson, head of technology at Shopify Plus agency Swanky, believes we will see the increased adoption of Hydrogen (Shopify’s React-based framework for building custom storefronts) and Oxygen (Shopify’s hosting platform for Hydrogen storefronts).

    Jamieson expects more complete new headless builds, the integration of standalone Hydrogen UI components within existing headless projects, and more advanced and innovative use cases beyond enhanced performance and improved developer experience. 

    Specifically, he sees these opportunities presented by composable architectures:

    • A shift to unified content platforms such as Sanity.io, which enables the creation of truly dynamic and regionalized content experiences while reducing the workload on content creation teams. 
    • Deep integration ofblazing-fast personalization and machine learning recommendation engines, such as those provided by Crossing Minds and Dynamic Yield, to provide a more engaging buying experience and increase retention
    • Use of better A/B testing and feature-flagging capabilities, via platforms such LaunchDarkly and Growthbook, which derive and share valuable insights into buying behavior.

    Drew Garratt, principal headless developer at Shopify Plus agency We Make Websites, thinks Shopify’s recent acquisition of open-source React framework Remix will push headless commerce even further. 

    “Remix has been praised for the efficiency and flexibility of its routing system and use of server components,” Garratt explains. “Hydrogen on Remix will now unleash the potential of developers to create even more flexible, complex, and varied experiences—at no additional cost.”

    6. Adopt an objectives-first mentality 

    Galen King, founder and strategic director of Shopify Plus agency Lucid, points out that if you’ve worked with a client for some time, you will have a constantly growing list of feature requests and requirements for changes to their store. It’s less likely to have a clear picture of their goals and objectives.

    “Unless you have significant experience, discipline, and expertise to lead clients with firmness and confidence, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of the client prescribing the solutions,” King cautions. “You will find yourself simply building what they ask—and usually without a sufficient budget, timeline, or scope of work to thoroughly explore the problems they are facing.”

    The issue with building features and functionality, however, is that it’s easy to lose the view of where your client is, where they want to be, and how you might help them get there. 

    “If, on the other hand, you can reframe the list of features and functionality requests to focus on the overarching goals and objectives, you will find that it becomes much easier to determine what is important and what is going to have a genuine chance of moving the brand forward,” King suggests. 

    This helps you lead your clients better as you will ask better questions, unpack the why and the purpose behind requests, and, ultimately, develop better solutions to the underlying problems.

    By reframing the requests, you’ll also find that many client requests aren’t actually necessary and you and/or your team will spend less time building things that have little impact and more time designing simpler solutions to increasingly complex problems that will have real value to your clients.

    As a result, you will be able to iterate more quickly, keep your clients for longer, and increase profitability for your team and for your clients. You will find that you quickly become less of a tool in their toolbox and more of a highly-valued expert resource that is instrumental in their growth.

    You might also like: Five Steps to Successful Client Management.

    7. Participate in the commerce community

    Whatever you build on Shopify in 2023, remember that you’re not on your own. The Shopify Partner and Developer ecosystem offers various ways for developers to connect. 

    Steven Clift, CEO of GoodCarts, a cross-promotion platform specifically built for mission-driven ecommerce stores, says it’s all about finding peers who are also focused on building better commerce. 

    Whatever you build on Shopify in 2023, remember that you’re not on your own.

    Clift in particular recommends online groups for sustainable business and impact entrepreneurs but also suggests joining online spaces where app developers hang out, such as the Shopify Partners Slack Community and the Shopify Devs Discord.

    “I’ve been impressed by the events and ecology around EcommerceTech.io and the Ecommerce Masterplan podcast as well,” Clift adds. “And in our niche of powering more purpose-driven and sustainable ecommerce, the Mindful Commerce online community is a must-join.”

    In the end, Clift says, the road to ecommerce success is a march side by side with others. “Don’t let that be a lonely road. Join up.”

    You might also like: Building a Shopify App That Makes a Positive Difference in the World (And Makes a Profit).

    Development trends that put experience at the heart of your tech stack

    The technology landscape is in perpetual motion. For those using technology on the Shopify platform, the development trends of 2023 will be all about providing better experiences: a better developer experience, a better merchant experience, and a better customer experience. 

    The development trends of 2023 will be all about providing better experiences.

    This article has shown how you can review your tech stack keeping these experiences in mind. Think carefully about how your development skills can help reduce expenses for your clients, maximize cost-effective options, and improve the checkout experience (especially on mobile devices). More than anything, implement a flexible, efficient workflow focused on your clients’ goals and objectives. 

    Over the next 12 months, the tools and technologies that ecommerce developers have at their disposal will continue to push commerce forward. To stand out from the crowd, you not only need to be aware of them, you also need to decide on the tech that is most suitable to the specific projects you’re working on. Here’s to another exciting year on the Shopify platform!

    Build apps for Shopify merchants

    Whether you want to build apps for the Shopify App Store, offer custom app development services, or are looking for ways to grow your user base, the Shopify Partner Program will set you up for success. Join for free and access educational resources, developer preview environments, and recurring revenue share opportunities.

    Sign up

    This article originally appeared on the Shopify Web Design and Development blog and is made available here to educate and cast a wider net of discovery.
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