Shopify Unite 2021: The 10 biggest announcements merchants need to know

| By Kelly Vaughn

Shopify Unite 2021: The 10 biggest announcements merchants need to know

Yesterday was a big day for ecommerce - Shopify Unite. If you’re not familiar with it, Unite is Shopify’s annual conference where they announce what’s ahead for the platform with new developments and exciting improvements that help Shopify partners and merchants alike design even better experiences. For another year in a row it was hosted virtually, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t just as exciting; in fact this Unite saw some of the biggest changes to Shopify’s infrastructure yet. 

Online Store 2.0

In a presentation full of big announcements, it’s hard to say which was the most important. However we’re going to start with what Shopify started with - Online Store 2.0. They have essentially rebuilt the store experience from the ground up, improving the tools available to merchants when creating their store and making it even easier to customize your store’s experience. Online Store 2.0 has a major emphasis on flexibility, customization, and performance, allowing merchants to quickly create beautiful and highly tailored experiences.

If you want a great example of how Online Store 2.0 looks in action, look no further than

Sections and blocks

Until now, merchants have been limited with where they can make use of sections on their store - their true flexibility was pretty much exclusive to homepages. Now, you can use sections on any page of your store and they are completely customizable and flexible without the need for code. You can create multiple templates that map to different products, blogs, custom pages and more. This gives merchants an amazing amount of flexibility for tailoring their store to deliver the exact experience they want for their customers. Best of all, this will be rolled out across all stores.


In the past, custom fields have been a struggle for merchants to access without a third-party app such as Accentuate Custom Fields or Metafields Manager, or by using Shopify’s API. Now, Shopify has introduced the ability to manage your metafields directly within your Shopify admin under the Settings tab. Starting with Product and Variant metafields and soon expanding to collections, customers, and orders, you can create custom metafield definitions of varying content types, including but not limited to date and time, color, JSON, text, file, and even references to other products or variants. The best part? The metafield definitions you create within the Shopify Admin show up right on the respective editor page, so you can add in the appropriate metafield content for a product directly within the Shopify Admin instead of requiring an app.


Dawn is Shopify’s first open-source theme that’s designed to be ultra lightweight and mobile-first, with performance, speed, and aesthetics at the forefront. And when they say speed, they mean it - Dawn loads 35% faster than Shopify’s current most popular theme. Shopify say that this is their new benchmark for themes, with more to come later this year.

Learn more about Dawn here.

Checkout extension

The checkout is one of if not the most important step in the purchasing process, and is the final opportunity to build trust with your customers. To make this even easier, Shopify introduced Checkout extensions, which allow app developers to build extensions that appear right within your checkout – for any store, not just for Shopify Plus. Some checkout extensions you may be seeing in the near future include pre-purchase upsells, offering a free gift with a purchase, adding testimonials to your checkout, or allowing customers to opt into or out of required signatures at delivery.

Scripts update

Shopify Plus merchants have access to Shopify Scripts, which extend functionality into the checkout to update line items, shipping options, and payment methods. Prior to the Scripts update rollout, Scripts were managed directly within the Shopify admin and written in Ruby. The Scripts update introduces the ability for your development team to write Scripts in any programming language without you ever having to touch a line of code.

Payments Platform

With ecommerce, you want to be able to sell to your customers wherever they are - that should also extend to however they want to pay. Shopify’s new Payments Platform makes it easy for your customers to use payment methods that they prefer, whether that’s QR codes or a specific payment gateway. This is especially important for if you’re selling internationally, and want to boost conversions in new markets. This new platform enables payment providers to build new integrations into Shopify, opening up niche payment functionalities in a way previously unavailable to merchants.

Shop Pay Installments

Shop Pay is officially on the By-Now-Pay-Later train with Shopify introducing a BNPL option for merchants as part of Shop Pay. Installments will allow merchants to offer BNPL options paid in 4 monthly instalments with zero interest and late fees. This is a big boost for merchants looking to boost conversions and average order value.


Wholesale just got a whole lot easier for merchants. Handshake is Shopify’s wholesale marketplace, designed to connect merchants with products from other Shopify stores that will delight their customers. It’ll also offer personalized product recommendations, all from handpicked Shopify merchants - all sellers must apply for the platform and be approved by Shopify in order to start selling. Initially US only, this will be a big development both for merchants looking to enter the B2B market and those looking for unique products to add to their inventory.

Improvements to Shopify’s ecosystem

Shopify’s ecosystem of partners has always been one of its biggest assets. A unique community of developers, agencies, and other experts offering their skills to merchants to develop apps and themes that are the foundation of the Shopify experience. To encourage even more growth and development, Shopify announced that they’ll be offering a 0% share annually on the first $1 million that a partner makes on the App or Theme store. Not only does this reset every year, but when partners do make over $1 million Shopify will take a 15% revenue share - 5% less than they did previously.

So why is this important to merchants? It’s simple - the more appealing Shopify makes it to be on their platform, the more exciting apps and tools there will be for merchants. This improvement is designed to encourage experts and developers to continue to innovate, and this will in turn lead to some pretty great tools that merchants can integrate into their store.


Shopify has always been about allowing merchants to create unique, beautiful, functional experiences that speak to their customers and allow their brands to shine. With all these exciting upcoming developments from Online Store 2.0 to Handshake and beyond, it’s clear to see that Shopify is the platform to build your store on whether you’re a start-up or a multi-million dollar company. 

Want to get even more in-depth? Look out for our dev team’s Unite 2021 breakdown blog coming soon.

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