Shopify 2.0: The Biggest News from Shopify Unite 2021

shopify unite 2021

At the end of June, Shopify held its annual partner and developer conference to give us a look behind the curtain at what’s in store for the eCommerce giant. And boy, did they drop some bombshells.

With the platform recording an unsurprising 100% increase across its online retailers in 2020 (cheers, virus-that-shan’t be named), it’s likely that a lot of developments in Shopify’s pipeline got a rocket underneath them last year.

As a result, that’s brought us literal Christmas in July as we unwrap the fast-tracked updates that will be rolling out from as early as this week.

We watched the Unite event so you don’t have to – here’s what you can expect from Shopify in the coming months.

Shopify 2.0

The headliner of Shopify’s event, Online Store 2.0 represents the most significant change to this functionality since Shopify’s inception. Early adopters include the likes of Netflix, so you know that it’s a pretty big deal.

The first big upgrade to look forward to here is new theme architecture. Sections, for example, that were previously only available on the homepage? They’re being rolled out across every page across your online store, unlocking a tonne of extra customisation options to make your website look and feel different to others using Shopify. On the developer side, this means less time spent making these tedious customisations, and more time spent on maximising Shopify’s capabilities. Can we get a hell yeah?

Apps are also taking a big leap forward. Think easy app extensions built right into your theme, making it easier than ever to manage the apps used in your storefront at any given time. You can also uninstall apps without worrying about any ghost code being left behind in your theme. ‘

Lastly, the standard storefront theme is getting a long-awaited upgrade. Say hello to Dawn – “built with a performance mindset” (Shopify’s words, not ours – we’d come up with something a little sexier), this mobile-first theme loads 35% faster than the old Debut which is a game-changer when it comes to addressing bounce rates. Think of Dawn as getting behind the wheel of a Merc when you’ve been making do with a Honda for five years – just shut up and give me the keys.

Apps are coming to Check Out, too

Alright, technically this is part of Online Store 2.0, but we thought this one was so big it deserved its own section of the blog.

One of our biggest gripes with Shopify to date has been a lack of control over the checkout process, which is ironic given that it’s also the most crucial step in converting someone into a customer. Customising this step has been hidden behind unnecessarily complex code and the checkout Liquid barrier.

That’s all set to change, with apps now rolling out to all merchants. This is a huge win across the board, meaning you’ll be able to customise everything from the look and feel of your checkout experience, to the actual customer journey itself.

Shopify also unveiled a new payments platform, which should reduce a lot of the friction merchants encounter when it comes to payment options. Payment providers will be able to build integrations right into Shopify, with the platform also testing out its own Buy Now, Pay Later option in the US.

Shopify’s betting on headless, in a big way

This is Shopify’s play for the long game, and it’s a good one. They unveiled what they’ve named Hydrogen (again, name choice… but we digress), a native framework for building headless eCommerce experiences. With Hydrogen also comes Oxygen, a cloud-based hosting solution.

This is a huge statement for Shopify, with many merchants up until this point needing to weigh up replatforming altogether if a headless solution’s been needed. Offering it all in one place, all-you-can-eat style, means merchants no longer have to go anywhere else. They can

Announcing Hydrogen was a bit of a mic-drop moment as we’re still waiting on more details at this point. Shopify’s apparently still tinkering with this offering, but you can sign up for updates here.


There you have it, folks. Our verdict? Shopify is cementing its place at the top of the eCommerce food chain, and making some pretty radical changes to its offering to do it.

Things are about to get a whole lot faster, a whole lot sleeker, and a whole lot easier to use.

If you’re on the fence about committing to an eCommerce platform, Shopify’s new customisation options and the flexibility of a native headless solution are going to be pretty hard to beat.

And if you’re already using Shopify? Don’t sweat – you’ve got time to start preparing for a rollover to Online Store 2.0. There will be costs involved, but the opportunity cost of dragging your feet here will outweigh any upfront redevelopment fees – and future proofing your business is pretty priceless, if you ask us.

Need some help putting the e- in eCommerce? Like the sound of everything you just read, but no idea how to make it happen for your Direct to Consumer brand? We’ve got you covered. 

Click here and let’s have a coffee/Zoom chat (these things seem here to stay) about how The Natives can help create a custom eCommerce solution for your business.