Shopify is now the 3rd largest e-commerce platform in the world with a market share of 18% and nearly 500k websites using Shopify, as well as 5,300 premium stores running on Shopify Plus.
It has become a leading tool used by online entrepreneurs to launch their businesses, sell stuff online or support their offline, brick and mortar stores with an online channel.
Consequently, it has never been easier to launch an e-commerce store, however, with e-commerce platforms’ boundaries, you will face a set of challenges once your store grows to the mid or large scale.
What are the most common limitations of the Shopify platform, and how do they get in the way of growing Shopify stores?
Shopify platform limitations
Limited frontend & checkout customization
With 72 themes in total, a drag and drop editor and easy customization, setting up and developing the store based on your specific needs and preferences is not a big deal.
However, for medium and large stores with higher demand when it comes to design and user experience, applying a predefined theme will likely not be enough anymore.
With the limitations of liquid (which requires some degree of specialized knowledge) and Shopify automatically adding particular elements to the theme, frontend design can become quite a pain with development hours not resulting in actual monetary effects.
Checkout at Gymshark.co Shopify store (Source: gymshark.co).
What’s more, Shopify’s checkout customization is nearly impossible, which can significantly impact your checkout conversion rates.
Mobile application and offline access
With the increasing need for mobile access to online e-commerce experiences, allowing customers to simply view your store on mobile is not enough.
Nowadays, customers want fully-fledged mobile and offline experience, supported with a mobile application.
Shopify, apart from simplified PWA marketplace apps, will not allow you to create a mobile application for your store.
Page speed optimization
Limited Shopify theme customization can also impact page speed optimization, which is one of the most important factors for ranking the store in Google searches.
Significant code alterations and image rendering are both essential steps on the road to successful loading time reductions. With Shopify theme limitations and liquid, code minification becomes a challenge or even impossible to apply in the real world.
Page speed at MVMT Watches Shopify store’s product page (Source: mvmtwatches.com).
Consequently, using Shopify as the standalone platform can limit both desktop and mobile page speeds.
5 main benefits of using storefront
An online storefront is a frontend solution that can be connected to your Shopify store’s backend, letting you display the content in a smoother, faster, and more responsive form.
Improved page speed
Page speed is at the heart of every e-commerce business. Not only will it make your website faster for Google bots and help you grow Google rankings, more importantly, it will help you improve user experience by providing smoother, user-friendly, and quickly-working design.
With storefront, you get unlimited capabilities when it comes to code minification, image size optimization or creating smooth user experience animations. This can help you reduce the loading time by even 30%.
Example Storefront integration structure (Source: vuestorefront.io).
Growth in SEO positioning
With storefront, your store gets additional potential when it comes to search engine positioning. With improved page speed, some of these stores see the number of keywords ranked in the top 3 Google search results grow by even 94%.
Implementing Google Structured Data snippets becomes easier, which will help you make sure Google understands the type of data you’re presenting to users visiting your store.
Custom checkout experience
With Shopify checkout being significantly limited to the built-in admin modification (according to Shopify support, this is related to security reasons), a storefront integration will allow you to build a completely custom checkout experience.
Custom checkout created using storefront technology at Zadig&Voltaire online store (Source: zadig-et-voltaire.com).
The average abandonment rate is close to 70%, which makes the checkout experience one of the most important determinants of a customer’s purchasing decision. With storefront and custom checkout implementation, you should be able to reduce the abandonment rate to about 50%.
Offline & mobile access
With storefront/PWA implementation, you will support mobile and offline experience among your customers. The storefront will automatically cache the information about your website for offline usage. It will also let you download a mobile app to your iPhone/Android desktop.
An example of PWA application created for Kubota (Source: divante.co).
With a custom mobile app costs averaging $170k, this amount of saving can have a tremendous impact on your company’s budget.
Finally, mobile application will allow you to send targeted push notifications, helping you grow your store’s conversion rates.
Storefront technology is constantly developing with new features and extensions on the pipeline. The sooner you introduce storefront, the better, as it will allow your development team to have more flexibility when making design and technological choices.
It might not make too much sense to introduce storefront when you’re only starting with your store. However, as soon as your business enters the mid-size segment and you can see it growing, you should start thinking about making your store scalable while, at the same time, keeping the quality of your store on an above average level.
Storefront implementation becoming a standard for global e-commerce stores
Today’s technology requires being quick and reactive to market changes. With the global e-commerce market growing 20% every year, according to Nielsen, and e-commerce businesses increasingly investing in modernizing the technology, keeping the quality of user experiences high requires constant investments into both the frontend and backend infrastructure.
Storefront is the solution designed to help e-commerce businesses succeed in the long run. It’s already used by some of the top e-commerce brands, such as Alibaba or Flipkart.
With its open-source architecture, it is flexible enough and gets updated regularly to match the increasing consumers’ needs.
So, once you grow your store to the medium-size level, think about implementing it at your store to make sure you keep your business growing at a sustainable rate, staying up to date with new technology, and ensuring the best user experience for your customers. If you do, they’ll likely show their appreciation by converting into actual customers.