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Q&A: common questions about creating the perfect shopping experience on Shopify



We get a lot of questions from Shopify merchants about how to create the ideal shopping experience for their customers. 

How to add swatches, manage product variant limits, and add personalization options like embroidery or monogramming are big topics for merchants looking to create a user experience that truly sells. 

Today we are going to answer some of the most common questions about these topics and store customization in general so that you can set up your Shopify store exactly how you like. If you’d prefer, skip to a topic of your choice:

1. Swatches

2. Product Variants

3. Personalization 

Swatch and learn! 

Q: What are swatches & why are they important?

If you are selling customizable products like shirts, sunglasses, bow-ties — just about anything can be customized nowadays! — you will need to provide a way for customers to pick the color, flavor, or fabric of their choice. In the past, a customer might have clicked on a dropdown menu where they would be given a list of choices. However, that’s not the ideal user experience for shoppers who really want to visualize what they are purchasing. This is where swatches come in: 

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 12.43.58 PMImage via: sewtrendyaccessories

Swatches have been used at brick-and-mortar retailers forever. At paint stores you look at color swatches when trying to decide which shade of off-white you are going to paint your living room; at furniture stores you might look at leather or fabric swatches when picking a material for your new sofa. Swatches help customers narrow down their decision and pick the perfect product. 

Look how standout designs allows furniture shoppers to change the wood/finish and see what it looks like before completing their purchase:

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 12.55.11 PMScreen Shot 2020-04-27 at 12.57.44 PMUsers can click on the different swatches to visualize the cabinet in each wood/finish. This gives them a picture perfect idea of what product they are getting so they can see if it will be a good fit with their existing decor. 

Q: Can I use multiple swatches on one product? 

Yes, many merchants use multiple swatches to allow customers to fully customize their product. Some products require multiple swatches for choosing the color of two separate components; others use multiple swatches for picking the color of one component and the woodgrain, fabric, or material of another. 

This is possible with the Bold Product Options app, but may require some custom development depending on the complexity of your product. Feel free to contact us to learn more. 

Let’s look at some swatches in action. 

Wood Geeks allows you to pick the woodgrain of your bow-tie, and also pick the tiny strip of fabric that goes down the middle. That’s a lot of customization for a simple bow-tie! 

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 1.04.08 PMScreen Shot 2020-04-27 at 1.04.32 PM

If you were having a bow-tie custom made at a tailor shop you would be given these options, so why shouldn’t you get to pick them online? Product Options makes it easy to recreate the brick-and-mortar store experience. 

Q: How do I add swatches to my Shopify store?

There are many third-party apps that allow you to add swatches to your Shopify store. Some of them do only that, others like Bold Product Options give you a bunch of useful customization options so that you can truly define your store’s online shopping experience. 

There are ways to work around using an app, but these often involve a certain amount of coding. If you don’t have a developer at your disposal, guides like this can help walk you through the process. We aren’t saying this is a bad approach, but if you are running a Shopify store with a lean team and budget, you may not have the time or energy to be coding or following lengthy tutorials. You may not also have access to support when troubleshooting issues that could arise. That’s where Bold Commerce and apps like Product Options can make things easy. 

I’ve got 99 variants…

Q: What are product variants? 

If you run a Shopify store, chances are you aren’t looking to sell only one product, in one size, or color. A basic plan on Shopify allows you a certain amount of variants so you can offer different options for the products you are selling. However, variants add up faster than you’d expect. Even something simple like this could have more varients than you’d imagine: 

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 2.25.29 PM

Let’s say one shirt is available in 5 sizes and 12 colours. Each unique combination of options is considered a variant. For example, Small and black counts as one variant. That means that even this simple product would have 60 variants. So why does this matter? Let’s find out with our next question. 

Q: What is Shopify’s variant limit? 

Shopify lets you add up to 100 variants for a product. Some people refer to it as the 99 variants problem. Why is this an issue? Well, as you can see even a simple shirt with some color and size options added up to 60. What if wanted 5 sizes, 12 colors, and 2 material types? Suddenly we are already at 120, over the variant limit! 

Some products also have complex arrangements of components. If you are selling a custom bike, you could be looking at hundreds, even thousands of variants for one product. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 2.29.56 PMImage via: statebicycle

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 2.30.17 PMImage via: statebicycle

Which brings us to our next question. The one everyone wants to know: 

Q: How do I get around Shopify’s variant limit?

There are a few ways. 

One simple workaround is to add each variant, or smaller set of variants, as its own product. For example, if we revisit the above example where we wanted to sell a shirt in 5 sizes, 12 colors, and two materials (120 variants), we may decide to split the materials into two different products. Now we have shirt a) cotton available in 12 colors and 4 sizes (48 variants) and shirt b) polyester available in 48 variants.

True North sells shirts in multiple sizes, but has a unique product for each color. You might also prefer to show your products to create a sense of variety. This, however, can be a bit frustrating for customers as they have might have to sift through many of the same product to find the color and material they want. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 2.14.37 PMImage via: truenorthshop

You can also custom code your site to allow more variants. This however requires either a developer or some coding experience. There are quite a few coding tutorials out there for inexperienced coders who still want to do it themselves. 

The final way is to add one of the many apps out there that let you do this. Just like for swatches, there are apps that do nothing other than to expand your variant limit. However we recommend Bold Product Options as it allows you to tackle many of the issues that store owners face when looking to customize their product pages. In fact, our product designers have gone out of their way to include a solution for most of the common page customization issues Shopify merchants face.

Let’s get personal

Q: What is product personalization?

Remember back in the day when you used to go to a carpenter or metalworker to get someone’s initials engraved on a gift, or visit a tailor to get some custom embroidery work? That’s personalization in a nutshell.

Today, many Shopify stores offer great personalization features right on their site. Everything from monogramming — putting someone’s name or initials on a product — to custom embroidery, and gift-wrapping are examples of product personalization. 

Q: What are the latest personalization trends on Shopify?

Monogramming: This involves putting someone’s name or initials on a product. It’s an easy way to add personalization to just about any gift. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 2.50.06 PM

Image via: mkwdesignco

Embroidery: This is popular with shirt design, where people want to add a custom embroidered logo, name, or image. 

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 12.48.58 PMImage via: ezcorporateclothing

Giftwrap: Gift wrap is a great way to add personalization to a gift. Allow customers to pick the lucky person’s favourite color using swatches. 

Add a card: Many stores offer the option to add a custom greeting card or message. These allow you to send a personal message along with your product.

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 10.23.26 AM

Wooden Cork allows customers to add gift wrapping, a greeting card, or both when they send a giftable bottle of liquor to someone.

Q: How do I add a monogramming option to my store?

There are a few ways to add the option of custom monogramming to your products. Again, like with everything in Shopify, there is the workaround that involves some coding. If you’re friends with a developer or have dabbled in coding yourself, this might be a good option depending on the scope of what you are trying to achieve. Here’s an advanced tutorial if you want to go that route. 

The other approach — and if you’ve already realized you need help with swatches, variant limits, and other custom features this is probably the most sensible — is to use a third-party app like Bold Product Options to easily give your customers these custom options. 

Let’s get started

To install Bold Product Options go to the Shopify app store and select Product Options. Our app is currently being offered with a free trial. This will give you some time to play around with it and see if it enables you to include the options you are seeking, before you pay a dime. Sound good? 

We love answering questions about store customization or ecommerce in general. If there’s anything you’d like to ask, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you right away. Who knows, your question might even become our next blog post. Thanks for reading! 

This article originally appeared in the Bold Commerce blog and has been published here with permission.

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