shopify unite for app developers and partners

Shopify Unite 2019: Everything App Developers Need To Know

Like every year, this year’s Shopify Unite had a lot to take away from for app developers and partners. The event didn’t just include giving them a peek into the future of eCommerce, but also the changing product roadmap of Shopify, highlighting the bright opportunities ahead.

Now a lot of these announcements were not expected by the community, but made complete sense considering how Shopify wants to put its merchants first. While there are a few of the announcements that are effective starting today, there are those that we’ll have to wait until next year to see. Here’s everything we learned at Shopify Unite and from the track sessions for app developers.

Growing your business on the Shopify App Store

(Mladen Rangelov, Senior Product Manager at Shopify, and Jonathan Zhao, Product Lead at Shopify)

Now apps are a key to a merchant’s growth – be it marketing, sales or even fulfilment, and it’s the Shopify App Store where they find these apps. Shopify brought on some changes last September to make it easier for the millions of visitors to find the best app for their store amidst the 2000+ listed. The improved search functionality and app recommendations, led to apps experiences a 13% increase in relevant installation rate.

But now there’s more.

Opportunity #1 – Replying to reviews

Shopify merchants rely heavily on reviews and support to be able to pick the right apps for their store. With the ability to reply to these reviews, merchants can now also get a sense of how you engage with your customers and what they can expect from your support. Of course, how you succeed here is by keeping your replies relevant, ensuring a positive experiencing and being timely at addressing merchant concerns – especially the negative reviews.

With the feature launched in January 2019, apps saw merchants either deleting their 1-star or 2-star reviews, or updating them by least 3-stars on an average.

shopify unite - replying to merchants

Thoughts: The text from developer replies is also indexed by Google and can potentially help your app listing to rank better organically in Google search.

Opportunity #2 – App store localisation and compatibility

Shopify noticed that 47% of their app store visitors came from countries where English wasn’t the primary language. Taking that into account, they wanted apps to be able to appeal to such a global audience.

To give app developers this opportunity to get more installs, Shopify has launched the app store in 9 other languages, apart from English – Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

Apart from the App Store language translation, the merchants will also now see ‘staff picks’ and ‘collections’ that are created to suit their location and need the best, and will be able to experience a localised search functionality.

But that’s not the biggest news here!

Now app developers can create their app listing in all 10 languages allowing them to address merchants in their native language.

But of course, Shopify also recommends localising your in-app experience as well to be able to tap into this opportunity completely. Additionally, you may want to consider offering some kind of support in these languages or at least extended guidance (for example via videos or help desks).


Another feature introduced to the app store is ‘app compatibility’. Now this is one smart feature rolled out by Shopify that app developers can use to optimize and maximise their app store listing to install rate. While the merchants will still be able to search for all apps, they will be able to see which ones are not compatible with their store. This will reduce the sign up churn most app developers see simply because they’re not able to serve a specific need of a merchant, leading to a negative experience and negative reviews.

shopify unite - app compatibility

App developers can now specify their target audience under the ‘install requirements’ of their app listing.

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Thoughts: While Shopify hasn’t explicitly mentioned the benefits of localisation for ranking, it will definitely make it easier for apps to be discovered for search queries that are not made in the default language.

Opportunity #3 – Search Ads (coming soon)

Shopify understands that organic is one way to grow, but it isn’t the fastest way to get discovered by a merchant who may be in an immediate need of a specific app. Since 75% of all search traffic goes to the top 3 search results, this feature will give merchants the ability to advertise and reach their target market at the right time.

Search ads will help you target merchants based on the keywords they use to look for solutions, letting you tap into their search behavior to get more installs. This will definitely help apps get discovered and grow much faster than before!

shopify unite - search ads

Just like search ads in the initial days of Apple Search Ads in the App Store, Shopify Search Ads will offer broad and exact match targeting of keywords for specific bids. Additionally, you can apply negative keywords. Similar to Google  AdWords AdRank (Max CPC and Quality Score), search ads will be ranked based on a combination of bid and relevance. However, Shopify won’t reveal how the relevance score is calculated.

The ability to set up ads will be simply added to your partner’s dashboard under ‘apps’. This will make it easier for you to start, monitor and optimize the ads for better performance, and also keep track of your ad spends.

Interested in learning more? Watch the complete track here.

Thoughts: There are a few limitations that were spoken about. Search ads for now can be set only for CPC (not CPI). There is no tracking available to understand if an install eventually converts to a paid plan. They don’t allow targeting based on Shopify plans or countries.

I’ll be writing more on Shopify search ads in the coming weeks. But would love to know your thoughts on what’s been announced and what’s yet to come, so drop me an email on

Besides search ads, Shopify also shared insights on how their app recommendations and search functionalities work. After the recent app store update, the install rates increased by 17%.

Improved functionalities for app developers

Shopify Unite also brought to the forefront many announcements that open doors for new developers to join the partner ecosystem with new ideas and also impact the business of existing app developers.

#1 – Access to the checkout page for app developers

One of the major announcements made at Unite was the availability of the checkout page for app developers – previously app developers could not do anything about a merchant’s checkout page. As a first step, Shopify will enable app developers to build solutions for recurring payments on the checkout page and they have already partnered with the ReCharge to work on the technical solutions for  subscription payments.

Shopify also announced making checkout pages available for further use cases, especially upselling.

#2 – Easy storefront management

Shopify has introduced changes to how merchants and app developers can manage the storefront. The most noteworthy of the changes being introducing sections to all page types and master pages. This will make it even simpler to make tiny adjustments that will be immediately reflected on all the product pages. Additionally, the introduction of drafts and content portability will take store management to another level.

While most of these changes are not live immediately, they’re highly likely to impact the business of prominent page builder apps like Shogun and PageFly. However, these apps already offer more to merchants than the features Shopify announced – for instance: AB testing. Also the Shopify Partner have developed a high level of customer support and an enterprise offering that Shopify potentially cannot match. In the end, all these changes were introduced to happen “later this year” which might as well be “early next year”.

#3 – There’s more!

Additionally, the announcement of native video and 3D merchandising, as well as the revamp of Shopify POS, will bring new opportunities for app developers. Take for instance, the opportunity to create 3D video editing apps or POS apps around offline functionalities like staffing.

Robust app development and APIs

With robust app development products and APIs, developers will have access to a lot more opportunities than before on the Shopify platform.

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#1 – Shopify App CLI

The Shopify App CLI will automatically generate the code you need to build a Shopify app within a command-line interface tool. Simply put, it is the latest tool for developers to build Shopify apps faster!

Now with just a few commands, developers can get their apps up in seconds and easily generate sample data like products, orders or customers on test stores – all without having to switch between multiple tools. The CLI is designed to work on the Mac, Windows and Linux. For more information on the CLI, don’t forget to read Shopify’s technical documentation.

#2 – Shopify App Bridge

A code library that enables apps and channels to embed directly into the Shopify Admin on both web and mobile, as well as via the POS, Shopify App Bridge was released last year. It provides access app developers the access to modern development tools for efficient building and debugging.

But at Unite 2019, Shopify launched a new feature to the App Bridge – Feature Detection. It allows apps to take advantage of hardware capabilities such as barcode scanning and the camera. You can read all about it here.

#3 – API versioning and developer previews

Shopify introduced API versioning in April 2019 to ensure that any updates with new capabilities to the platform would become predictable and easy to adopt for apps. In support of the same, Shopify announced the developer preview environment at Shopify Unite 2019.

Developer preview is a general process of helping developer to develop features (etc.) without the actual code for this being on production.

A lot of the products announced are launching with APIs in developer preview, before being rolled out to merchants. The following are what we look forward to seeing app developers play with:

  • Order editing
  • Video + 3D merchandising
  • New online store design experience
  • Multi-lingual selling
  • Shipping profiles

Apart from the developer preview, Shopify launched the first version of the Admin API (GraphQL and REST) in April 2019. They also introduced changes to the partner dashboard, the developer changelog and developer documentation to make it easier for app developers to stay on top of upcoming API versions. The very next version of the Admin API being scheduled to be available in July – yes, just weeks after we’re all done catching up with the Shopify Unite announcements!


While there’s a lot to cover when it comes to the announcements made at Shopify Unite, the above are key to developers and partners planning their business roadmaps. But just like every news and update, the event was followed by multiple networking meetups, where the community discussed the changes, what more they expect to hear from Shopify and their concerns.

What’s the one Shopify announcement that excites you the most as an app developer or partner? I’d love to hear how you plan on using these powerful introductions to the Shopify platform!

Shopify app developers – what we’re still waiting for

No platform ecosystem can fully satisfy its partner product and development teams. So independent from what was announced, we’re sure of at least one thing – there will always be something missing and something that we as a community will look forward to.

Here is a list of features that we are still waiting for to improve app growth, marketing, and sales:

  • Shopify’s own system for tracking referral installations from affiliates (or partners) – after all, it was built for their own store affiliates!
  • A search console for organic keywords including location (country) and Shopify plan – currently we still have to parse URLs and sync up Google Analytics data to understand traffic and conversion rates of our app stores search terms.
  • Allow matching UTM parameters from listing traffic with actual installations to measure the ROI of installations.
  • Add more pixel code to the app listing, most prominently Facebook’s pixel code.
  • A billing API for Annual Billing (currently it is a one-time charge hack that app developers have to do).

What’s the one thing that now lingers on your mind after all the announcements at Shopify Unite and what’s the one update that you, as an app developer or partner, look forward to using?

I’d love to hear all about it and explore ways we could work together. So don’t forget to drop me a line on