Meet Online Store 2.0
Working from home looked good on Shopify because this year's Unite announcements are the most featured-packed yet. So much is changing that they're calling it "Online Store 2.0"
In this episode, we recap the highlights with a focus on what matters for merchants.
The Unofficial Shopify Podcast
Unite Recap 6/29/21
Kurt Elster: So, big day in Shopify. It is Shopify Unite today. Shopify Unite! In which we learn what the new product announcements are. We get like, “Hey, here’s the gigantic list of features coming down the pipe over the next 12 months.” Right?
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Is that a good representation of what Shopify Unite is?
Paul Reda: I just don’t understand this room I’m in right now. What is this place?
Kurt Elster: Oh, my gosh. We have left our homes and we are working in our big boy office that I’ve been paying rent on-
Paul Reda: For a year.
Kurt Elster: For the last 16 months while it goes entirely unused.
Paul Reda: Well, I’m not wearing headphones, too, which is weird now. Now I’m used to that.
Kurt Elster: Wearing the headphones?
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: You know, I have an extension cable. I’ll set you up with some headphones.
Paul Reda: It’s very far. Also, that now, we’re recording it like socially distanced, where previously we were in your tiny little office in your house.
Kurt Elster: That was a 10 x 10 room. I had to work with what I had. So, our Unite announcements.
Paul Reda: Yeah. Big day. This is an emergency podcast, by the way, right?
Kurt Elster: Bonus podcast.
Paul Reda: I say it’s an emergency podcast.
Kurt Elster: Emergency bonus?
Paul Reda: Red alert.
Kurt Elster: Please give me a moment to cue up red alert. Oh, I don’t even have red alert on here anymore.
Paul Reda: Oh my God. I told you hours ago.
Kurt Elster: You set me up! All right. Continue.
Paul Reda: Yeah. They announced changes and it sounds like after being burned for years of announcing things that then never happened, it sounds like all these things are gonna happen.
Kurt Elster: It’s pretty exciting. Well, so what you’re referring to is Sections Everywhere.
Paul Reda: Sections Everywhere. Sections Anywhere. Sections-
Kurt Elster: Sections wherever.
Paul Reda: Wherever. Yeah. I believe we’re on the third Unite that features Sections Everywhere.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. You know, at this point, I’m a little gaslit. I don’t know. I question reality. But I think the last three Unites they announced-
Paul Reda: Yeah. They did.
Kurt Elster: Sections Everywhere.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Only this time, it’s gonna stick. Third time’s the charm.
Paul Reda: Yeah, because what they did is they have rewritten a ton of the Shopify backend, and they’re calling it Online Store 2.0.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. So many features, we said Online Store 2.0.
Paul Reda: And I mocked the very 2001-ness of that, but Kurt made a good point, which I don’t think they said explicitly.
Kurt Elster: They didn’t say it. This is me speculating.
Paul Reda: No, it became… The terminology they ended up using later on in the presentation made it very clear in that the line is going to be, “Oh. Well, you’re running a 1.0 theme and a 1.0 theme doesn’t have all the hookups and all the cool stuff that we just talked about, so you’re gonna need to upgrade to a 2.0 theme that’s 2.0 compatible.” So, that’s how they’re gonna get around it.
Kurt Elster: Which makes sense. I mean, I don’t-
Paul Reda: Which makes sense. Yeah. I mean-
Kurt Elster: It’s such a complicated transition, I don’t know how else you’d do it.
Paul Reda: Yeah. The idea that they were just gonna kind of like back port those abilities onto currently existing themes was gonna be… was a huge lift, obviously, because they’ve been working on it for years and it never worked out. So, they’re doing… They’re kind of rewriting the whole thing.
Kurt Elster: So, let’s talk about what Online Store 2.0 is. To me, it sounded like it came down to three major features. Number one, of course, which we’ve been talking about, is Sections Everywhere. Tell me what Sections Everywhere means.
Paul Reda: Well, it’s interesting to me, so what it is is that you’re just gonna build section blocks like you have on your homepage right now. Those are gonna exist universally. Like right now, we kind of have homepage blocks that are like, “These are sections and blocks that go on the homepage.” That’s where they live and then there’s like product detail pages where you can have those blocks, but those are all kind of written into that template. Here, more like it, you are just writing the section or the block once and then it will be available in all of the templates, which is cool and good.
But one thing… So, this is a little deep in the weeds here. One thing I feel like I noticed, I’m not sure if I got a clear answer on this, in the presentation they created, they had a store and they made a new product template. That was gonna be used for handbags. And so, then they’re like, “Well, and then we moved these sections around and blah, blah, blah, and here’s our handbag template for the handbag products.” And that’s already available in current Shopify. The problem is the content you plugged into that handbag template was gonna show up on all the handbags.
Kurt Elster: Right.
Paul Reda: So, it couldn’t be specific to that specific product. It would just have to be about all the handbags. Like all the content is universal across every single product that’s using that template. Which is the big pain in the butt. Because if you want to have special product-specific content specifically on that product, you need to create a new template for it, or do various shenanigans that we have grown very accustomed to.
Kurt Elster: Right.
Paul Reda: And it sounds like the way they’re getting around that is actually what we did, is we would… One of the ways we would get around it is use what is called metafields, and metafields are data about your products that live in the backend of the Shopify store, but there was really no good way for you, the store owner, to access it. Like we knew how to access it and we knew how to screw around with them, but it was tough for store owners to do it. And that’s how we would get around that whole templating thing is that we’d make the template, all the handbags use the handbag template, but then the content for each individual handbag product would be stored in a metafield that’s attached to the product.
And what they’re doing now is they’re making metafields way more front facing, and then when you’re moving the section around and doing that stuff, you then call the metafield, “Use this metafield for this area on the product page,” and then the content for that and the data for that metafield is stored on the product page for each individual product.
Kurt Elster: Okay.
Paul Reda: If you catch my drift. Or was that too deep in the weeds?
Kurt Elster: It sounds like what’s going on here-
Paul Reda: It sounds like to me that Sections Anywhere is really very much like the current system that existed. They’re just making it way more front facing.
Kurt Elster: Okay. So, if we think of Shopify as a content management system, a CMS, which is what it is, the holy grail, be all, end all in a CMS, the end goal is can you entirely separate style and substance. So, content versus design. And Online Store 2.0 is a huge step toward that. Anytime you get there, it makes life dramatically easier because now you have a lot fewer instances of, “I need to change this one piece of content. Oh, I don’t know how. I have to go email a theme developer.”
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: Those hassles and headaches go away when you’re on a… what we’re gonna call a 2.0 theme.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: And then to make life even easier, the other hassle that you couldn’t get away from even if you had this metafields and really great CMS was apps. Right now, if I install an app in Shopify and it’s got a widget, so it appears somewhere in the theme, and I need to choose where that goes, it’s either paste this Liquid snippet somewhere, hope you don’t screw it up, and no one wants to… What merchant wants to go edit their theme code? Or go poke around in the app’s GUI and hope you can find a CSS selector that can attach to it.
Paul Reda: Yeah, or like the app does it itself and fingers crossed it picks a good spot that you’re happy with.
Kurt Elster: So, the new system, they call it theme app extensions, where it sounded like essentially an app can write a section for itself into your theme.
Paul Reda: Yeah. They call them app blocks, and so as part of Sections Anywhere, one of the sections, along with like testimonials, or a contact us form, or whatever, or the various sections, an app will create its own section that will be in those tools that then you can use to move around your page.
Kurt Elster: And then the first 2.0 theme is called Dawn. That’s gonna be the new default theme in every new store.
Paul Reda: Yes.
Kurt Elster: And this also is gonna then, it will inevitably end up being like the base framework a lot of theme developers will use for developing custom themes for clients or for sale.
Paul Reda: Yeah. That’s the main thing I’m excited by, because… So, what we always did is we have been using Turbo, as everyone knows. Like Turbo is sort of our base theme because it does so many things already, and then we modify it for whatever our specific client needs, and then earlier this year, a month ago, I created a theme for one of our clients that’s not published yet, and I was like, “You know what? Turbo’s getting real crazy. It’s more than we need, especially for this small store.”
Kurt Elster: Yeah. I was gonna say for a… We were building a microsite.
Paul Reda: We were building a small store that was like, “This store has 12 products. All it does is sell stuff. You’re already sold on it.” It was like a substore for one of our clients.
Kurt Elster: It would have been like killing a fly with a sledgehammer kind of scenario.
Paul Reda: Yeah. Exactly. So, what I did was I built that theme and that design on top of Debut, and so I’m excited to see what Dawn offers and I could just hit the ground running and we fingers crossed have another big theme update, big, new custom theme we’re writing on later this summer for someone, and I really want to build that on top of Dawn, depending on what Dawn holds for us. Otherwise, I have to go back to Turbo, because Turbo just has so much already under the hood.
Kurt Elster: I don’t think Dawn is in the theme store yet, but it is on GitHub, so if you wanted to play with it, you could get it.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: And speaking of the theme store, they will start accepting submissions for new themes on the 15th. July 15th. So, we should get some new officially approved, Tobi stamp of approval themes.
Paul Reda: Yeah. I want to see how… I mean, I would love to know… Not to make our whole show about one theme, but it kind of already is, but I would love to see how much Out of the Sandbox knew about all this, like were they looped in? Like will Turbo 7 be a Shopify 2.0 theme? How long until they’re fully on board?
Kurt Elster: Yeah. It’s not-
Paul Reda: Or do they have to rewrite, or are they gonna build a new theme, or who knows.
Kurt Elster: It’s hard to know because anyone who did know was under strict NDA with penalty of death, myself included, right up until 1:15 PM today. So, now we’ll find out. Hopefully, we’ll find out more and that more people were in the loop. I know a few. I have a few suspects who I think knew in advance.
Paul Reda: Yeah, yeah.
Kurt Elster: So, we’ll see how far along they are with development.
Paul Reda: And so, and I mean the rest of it, to be honest to our listeners, the rest of it was very much developer based, of just like-
Kurt Elster: A lot of developer-focused stuff.
Paul Reda: There’s a lot of like APIs, you could build this, you could build that, you could build this. Our listeners, who are mostly store owners, are not building things. They’re using the things. But the things that will be built will be easier for you to use.
Kurt Elster: They will be faster. They will be easier. And potentially cheaper and/or more enthusiastically supported because much to my amusement as an app developer, they are… Shopify is dropping the 20% commission. They don’t call it a commission. Revenue share. They’re dropping the 20% revenue share to 0%. Which, as a business move, I think is fabulous.
Bill & Ted Soundboard: Excellent!
Paul Reda: Wouldn’t call something that someone just takes from you off the top sharing.
Kurt Elster: Well, you get in their app store and get their exposure.
Paul Reda: How about the tax? The 20% revenue tax, store usage tax we have to pay?
Kurt Elster: No. Thank you, Papa Harley, for all you’ve done.
Paul Reda: But anyway, yeah, so all app developers are getting a 20% raise, and if they’re not getting a 20% raise, they were already making over a million dollars, in which case-
Kurt Elster: Congratulations.
Paul Reda: Don’t cry for them.
Kurt Elster: Let’s see what else here. And then, all right, so metafields and custom content, let’s see.
Paul Reda: I mean, metafields, it’s a big deal, really big deal to us. You might have heard us talk about metafields a lot. We do a lot of shenanigans with tags where we make our clients like write out these insane tags on products, and then we take the tag and manipulate it in a way so it’s data that shows up on the front page, on the product page.
Kurt Elster: Well, here. Let’s-
Paul Reda: Because asking them to screw with metafields is really confusing. The metafield apps, they don’t suck, it’s just that they have-
Kurt Elster: It’s a tough problem to solve.
Paul Reda: It’s a tough problem to solve and it has to be kind of stupid in order to solve the problem, and so hopefully Shopify really embracing metafields on the frontend will make them way easier for people to deal with.
Kurt Elster: Yes. Yeah, and so if you’re not familiar with metafields, if you’re like, “What is this word they keep throwing around?” All right, let’s replace meta with custom. Say custom field, that’s what it is. Imagine, so you’re looking at a product listing. You’ve got title, price, description, all right, but what if you wanted tabs on a product? And what if that tab description was gonna be different for every product? Like you had description and then ingredients as your second tab.
Paul Reda: Size guide.
Kurt Elster: Size guide, whatever. And it was unique to every product. Well, that’s a really tough thing to implement without metafields. Metafields essentially lets you extend that, where it’s like, “All right, I’ve got my description field. I also have my ingredients field. I have my sizing field. And then I can just put my content in there.” That’s why we’re excited about this, is it really lets you extend product information management in Shopify.
Paul Reda: I mean, something that everyone hearing this has dealt with is the review score of your product. You know, whether you’re running Yotpo, you’re running Stamped, or whatever, the score, the star score on that product, it’s obviously individual to every product. Some products are 4.5, some are 3.2, that’s stored on the product as a metafield. You can’t see it, but it’s in there. And that’s where those apps store that.
Kurt Elster: Now, the limitation of metafields is you can really only put a string of text into it, right?
Paul Reda: You’re not putting paragraph. Well, I mean with the added-
Kurt Elster: No, I can put a paragraph in there.
Paul Reda: You could put a paragraph in, but-
Kurt Elster: But I can’t like upload a file into it. I would have to give it a link to a file. Like let’s say I wanted a metafield to hold an image.
Paul Reda: Yeah. You have to upload it to the files section and then grab the URL from the store a file section and paste that into the metafield as the URL, and then write the metafield in the template in such a way so it’s like an image tag, and then the source of the image tag, it’s assuming it’ll be the URL of the image.
Kurt Elster: So, that’s the second half of the metafields update, is this thing they’re calling custom content. “Coming soon.” Take it with a grain of salt. Who knows what that means?
Paul Reda: See you in 2024.
Kurt Elster: Could be this year, could be 2024. We don’t know. But custom content will be built on top of the new metafields infrastructure and will serve as Shopify’s content management platform. So, it says will allow merchants to store content of any format within Shopify. Okay, great. It sounds like that limitation of metafields are really just text also goes away. Like I could… A file could be a metafield now.
Paul Reda: The rest of this stuff, they’re like, “It’s gonna be even faster.” A single merchant can do 300,000 transactions in eight minutes. It’s like, “All right. Great.”
Kurt Elster: Yeah.
Paul Reda: It just sounds nice.
Kurt Elster: It sounds nice. It’s incredibly impressive. The problem with it is, and this is the craziest thing to have a problem with, it was already so good and so reliable, at no point have I ever worried about Shopify or the Shopify checkout just like going down under load. It’s never happened to any of our clients.
Paul Reda: Well, because we’re losers. We don’t have cool clients.
Kurt Elster: Oh, but they’re listening.
Paul Reda: Oh, they’re great!
Kurt Elster: I love you guys.
Paul Reda: They’re real cool! We don’t have like Kylie Jenner.
Kurt Elster: Do I want Kylie Jenner?
Paul Reda: I wouldn’t want Kylie Jenner. Oh, God no.
Kurt Elster: I’m sure she’s fine.
Paul Reda: My dad’s an attorney, and you know, he just has like a suburban office.
Kurt Elster: He’s Kylie Jenner’s attorney?
Paul Reda: He is Kylie Jenner’s attorney. No. But he has like a regular old shmo law practice and one of his best friends from law school is one of the biggest personal injury attorneys in Chicago. Like legit, he’s a millionaire, he’s huge. And we would always give my dad shit because we were like, “How come we don’t get to live like this guy? How come we don’t get to be like his kids?”
Kurt Elster: Oh, I’m sure he loved that.
Paul Reda: Yeah, no. We really hammered him for it. And he was like, “Listen, we’re street lawyers.”
Kurt Elster: Street lawyers.
Paul Reda: He’s like, “I’m a street lawyer.” He’s like, “I’m in the streets. You don’t even understand what I gotta do.”
Kurt Elster: So, we’re street partners?
Paul Reda: We’re street. Yeah, we’re street partners.
Kurt Elster: Okay. I’ll take it. I like it.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Star Wars Darth Maul Sound Board: Jedi scum.
Kurt Elster: All right, so Shopify checkout, they said the goal is for a single merchant to be able to sell 300,000 pairs of sneakers in over eight minutes and for each individual shop to have the ability to handle as much sales volume as they served across all of Shopify at the peak of Black Friday/Cyber Monday in 2020.
That’s an outrageous goal.
Paul Reda: It’s just overkill. It’s like, “Who cares?”
Kurt Elster: No, what it is is futureproofing. Because if we’re assuming like the future is online retail, then this just dismantled the fear of the thing going down under your epic flash sale. And I don’t think any of our listeners need to worry about this. Sorry, guys.
Paul Reda: Sure.
Kurt Elster: You’re street merchants like us.
Paul Reda: See? That’s right. We’re street partners that work with street merchants.
Kurt Elster: There you go. Checkout extensions, though, that’s pretty cool.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: I like the Prop 65 example.
Paul Reda: I mean, it’s the most common checkout thing we do.
Kurt Elster: So, right now if you want to mess with the Shopify checkout, A, you have to be on Shopify Plus, which is expensive, and that then gives you access to checkout.liquid, meaning you can edit the checkout template. But even that, A, it’s dangerous. You don’t want to be doing that because there’s some risk there. And they regularly update the checkout, so you gotta reapply your customizations once a year, twice a year, or whatever.
Paul Reda: Well, and checkout.liquid is really blackboxed in that there’s just like a little code snippet that’s just like customer information. So, like you know, a giant thing on the page in the checkout is one line in the checkout of a thing you can’t manipulate.
Kurt Elster: Well, yeah. They’re trying to keep you from screwing it up.
Paul Reda: From screwing it up, but I mean, it screws us up. I mean, we always have to have Prop 65 warnings, and I can’t, and they always change the way the HTML pieces work. I can’t do it where if they change the state, the warning then appears. Like you know, if you’re in California, it sniffs out you’re in California and then will autoload the Prop 65 warning. If I’m in Illinois and change the state to California, the Prop 65 warning doesn’t just pop up, because it can’t read that the box has changed. And I can’t edit that.
Kurt Elster: Let’s go from the top here with this working example. If, let’s say you sell a product that has an ingredient in it that is on the gigantic list of things listed as potentially causing cancer or reproductive harm in California. This is a thing called Proposition 65.
Paul Reda: Which is everything. I did one last week for sand.
Kurt Elster: Yes. And it was because the sand had a naturally occurring element to it.
Paul Reda: Has silica, an element.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. But if you’re not familiar and you haven’t been to California in the last 10 years, there’s a Prop 65 warning on every single Starbucks and throughout the Disneyland property. Literally little, well-designed signs that tell you Disneyland could potentially give you cancer or cause reproductive harm.
Paul Reda: Well, it contains a chemical that has also been connected to causing cancer. It’s like very tenuous, but everyone needs to be informed.
Kurt Elster: All right, so let’s say you fall, you have a product that has one of these chemicals, what we do to address Prop 65-
Paul Reda: Which we legally have to do.
Kurt Elster: We legally have to do this, is if a product tagged Prop 65 is in the checkout and the shipping address is California, then a state-mandated warning about this appears in the checkout. To do that previously to today, you had to be on Shopify Plus, a theme developer had to customize checkout.liquid for you. Shopify has solved that with a new feature called checkout extensions that essentially lets apps rewrite the way checkout looks, and the example they used to my absolute delight was Prop 65. A Prop 65 warning.
And the other wonderful part about it, it is available to all stores. No longer limited to Shopify Plus.
Paul Reda: Yeah. It’s great. Can we get dark for a second?
Kurt Elster: Sure.
Paul Reda: What does Shopify Plus get now?
Kurt Elster: I was waiting for like, “All right, here’s the updates on Plus.” Because that does chip away at the competitive moat around Shopify Plus.
Paul Reda: And the other thing is a lot of the Plus had Shopify Scripts, Scripts did a bunch of cool stuff for you in the checkout with discounting, like we leverage those a lot.
Kurt Elster: Scripts, probably by far, Scripts and checkout.liquid are like the two things we use the most with Plus.
Paul Reda: Yeah. I mean, you could do stuff with Scripts that would pay the money you’re paying for Shopify Plus. It was totally worth it.
Kurt Elster: You still can.
Paul Reda: What I’m saying is you should just be on Scripts to begin with because you can leverage them to pay for Plus.
Kurt Elster: Yeah.
Paul Reda: But now with this checkout extensions, Scripts is not as necessary it feels like?
Kurt Elster: I don’t know. I think… No, because Scripts is so much about… Well, you know what? We don’t know what the limitations are on checkout extensions. Maybe there’s limitations on it that like Scripts could do that it can’t.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: I’m not sure. Now, they did say like… Hey, also, Shopify, here’s the quote. “Shopify Scripts are easier to build and more powerful than ever for developers creating unique checkout experiences.” Did you-
Paul Reda: That’s basic.
Kurt Elster: Did you catch what it was?
Paul Reda: I didn’t. I mean, I thought… That sounded to me like the extensions, with this… They were just like APIs. Have fun.
Kurt Elster: I gotta go back and see if… like what changed about Shopify Scripts. Because I love them. It’s a thing we use almost daily. And then the other, similar to checkout extension, they’re doing payment platforms, which is a way to integrate third-party payment gateways into Shopify checkout. Why that’s important is it also includes Shopify Pay, so previously, maybe that’s the update to Scripts, is that it can address Shopify Pay?
Paul Reda: Maybe.
Kurt Elster: I gotta look into this. All right, so that one’s up in the air. I need to research that more.
Paul Reda: But again, a developer thing that you guys really don’t need to worry about.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. That’s more me screwing around. But similar to checkout extensions, where an app can add a widget and mess with your checkout, you can… Payments are now a better integrated thing, where third party custom payments, payment gateways can exist in Shopify. They just plug in like an app, as well as in Shopify Payments. Shop Pay. Shop Pay. The quick pay one.
Paul Reda: Too many common words.
Kurt Elster: Too many words.
Paul Reda: Too many words.
Kurt Elster: This show’s got too many words now. And that… Well, there were some other things, but those were the big highlights.
Paul Reda: Well, and you know, there’s hydrogen, and oxygen, and blah, blah, blah. That’s all for building… Is that headless? Is that what headless is? I don’t even know. But that’s a thing where they’re like, “It’s coming. It’ll be cool. It’s coming.” So, call me when it’s here.
Kurt Elster: And you’ll play with it?
Paul Reda: And I’ll look at it.
Kurt Elster: Okay. Well, yeah, there’s… It was an hour-long presentation, and it was cool it ended with Tobi Lutke doing live coding, and like narrating it and talking you through it in his delightful German dulcet tones.
Paul Reda: Yeah, using-
Kurt Elster: Just let it wash over me.
Paul Reda: Using hydrogen to build a custom storefront and showing you how that will work in the future.
Kurt Elster: And that’s headless.
Paul Reda: When it happens.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. When we say customer storefront-
Paul Reda: That means you’re not on Shopify. You’re hosted somewhere else. But you’re using the Shopify APIs.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. Your transactions are powered by Shopify.
Paul Reda: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: NomadGoods.com, that’s a headless store. That’s a long-running Shopify store and was on… They were on the show. I like them. It’s neither here nor there. Did we mention that Netflix store is the first-
Paul Reda: That’s the first Shopify 2.0 store.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. If you want to see a 2.0 store in action, and I bet this one looks great, checkout Netflix.shop.
Paul Reda: Well, it’s all on the backend, so really wouldn’t be that thrilling.
Kurt Elster: It’ll be cool. It’ll be fast. Yeah. It would be… From the frontend, you really can’t distinguish between hard coding something and metafields and Sections Everywhere. But it’s still fun. You can check it out. Anything else?
Paul Reda: I think that’s it.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. Those are the big ones. I’m sure we’ll talk about it more as details come out and as we get to release dates and timelines. So, as stuff becomes available and we can experience it firsthand, we’ll just… We’ll update you on the show.
Paul Reda: Yeah. We’ll see when like… Whenever Dawn finally is available for actual store owners to install, hopefully that’s when the flood gates open, and you’ll see a wave of 2.0 storefronts. But until then, just hold onto your butts and wait.
Kurt Elster: All right, let’s get out of here.
Paul Reda: All right, bye.