Not necessarily is the short answer! In this post, we’ll look at the Shopify app offering and what to consider before installing an app. We’ll then move on to all the amazing things you can do without an app, complete with blubolt examples. Read on to learn more.
The wonderful world of Shopify apps.
Shopify Plus is a fantastic ecommerce platform for ambitious brands looking to grow quickly. The platform’s extensive free and premium app infrastructure is one of its great strengths. The Shopify app ecosystem enables brands to both enhance and tailor the power of Shopify Plus to their individual needs in a quick and cost effective way. You can explore the Shopify App store here.
A word of caution: don’t get trigger h[app]y.
Before you start installing anything, you first need to thoroughly check whether an app is actually the best remedy. "While there are undoubtedly great Shopify apps available, it may not be the best solution to your current challenge", says Richard Ayles, Head of Development at blubolt. "After all, a seemingly quick fix has the potential to create bigger, long term problems!"
So ask yourself (and your development support team) some key questions:
Will the prospective app be detrimental to your site, for example bloating the code?
Will it cope with your specific needs?
How much do you know about the developer behind the app? You need to ensure they’re reputable and offer strong data protection plus quick, effective support.
Has the app been built by an ecommerce specialist? If not, they might not understand the unique ecommerce environment and have applied adequate stress testing before launching the app.
If the app fails at any point, what impact would this have on conversions? For instance, if an app is interacting with the front end and then breaks, would this affect shoppers’ ability to add to cart or enter the checkout?
Fabulous functionality without a Shopify app.
So now that we’ve covered what to consider before using a standard Shopify app, let’s move on! Here are some blubolt examples of times when we’ve added new functionality to client’s Shopify Plus sites without using a Shopify app.
1. Swatch navigation.
Our friends at Rideminded, the experts in wheeled goods, wanted to display variant colours on the product landing pages (PLP) as individual products. Additionally, Linnworks had each variant set as a product in the warehouse so we had to find a way to display them that way.
To achieve this, we utilised metafield pairs to firstly determine the parent product and then the variants of each product to display the swatches accordingly.
By utilising the metafields, we avoided using an out of the box solution like Variants Options Swatch King or similar. As a result, we not only met the initial client brief but avoided higher monthly costs, delayed load of the swatches, and unnecessary code bloat.
Read more on the Rideminded project here.
2. Special cart requirements.
Do you have specific products that can’t be shipped internationally? No problem!
We recently launched a fantastic new Shopify Plus website for Muc-Off, the makers of the most innovative bike and motorbike cleaning, lubricating, and protecting products on the market .
Some products within their extensive range (for example their aerosols) can’t be shipped internationally. As a simple fix, we added clear messaging to alert customers that their items would not be available to order to their select destination.
Read more on the Muc-Off project here.
3. Messaging and toast notifications.
Reliable, easy messaging and toast notifications are regularly requested from clients. For examples of this, see any of the product details pages on our builds for Robert Welch, Alexa Chung, and Porcelain Superstore. On each of these websites, there are slight variations in the way messages are displayed to the shopper after a product is added to the basket. There are also further variations depending on the device being used. These notifications were built in a react app-layer and are programmed to be visible for a predefined length of time, allowing the customer to continue with their purchase.
An out of the box app like Slide Cart could’ve been used but this doesn’t come with the same amount of functionality.
4. Custom product options.
As a brand, jeweller Abbott Lyon is all about meaningful pieces, quality that's made to last, and in-house design personalised for their customers. Consequently, they require a high degree of product personalisation on their website. For example, personalising a handbag with monogramming or metal lettering like this.
Previously the brand used a combination of a custom app and a well-known product options app to achieve this. However, this arrangement was complex and confusing for the team to manage. To solve this dilemma, blubolt built a new product personalisation template that interacted with the site’s metafields. This solution produced the same level product personalisation but was easier to manage and had lower costs.
5. Product bundles.
Teapigs, the online purveyors of top teas, have a diverse product range and wanted to bundle products together. An out of the box solution, such as Bundle Builder, may have allowed the addition of a bundle of products. However, this solution wouldn’t have provided a unique interface or the control the brand was seeking.
As a result, blubolt created a bespoke pick-n-mix bundle builder. Using specific rules to build up a box full of teas, customers can now create their own personalised tea selection box with their favourite Teapigs teas.
It was constructed in Redux/React to allow a super speedy interface, with additional personalisation. The same flow also allows adding pre-constructed bundles with just a simple click. We added extra cart and mini cart rules, along with extra Shopify scripts, to keep the bundle looking as one item; however, under the hood they are individually added to better manage inventory.
Read more on the teapigs project here.
6. Upsell blocks.
Again, you can utilise metafields to upsell pop-ups rather than an app. For example, on the product detail pages for Muc-off here. Another example was for Nova Blooms, an eco-friendly seller of flowers and plants where blubolt used metafields were used as a post purchase pop-up to set which products to upsell as seen here.
Shopify Plus: so are you ‘appy?
Shopify apps certainly have their place, offering great value and reliable service to many retailers. And, if you’ve read any of our client case studies, you’ll know that we frequently work them! However, it’s worth properly assessing your requirements and whether a standard app is needed at all. If it’s possible to utilise functionality within the platform, with help from your development team, you’ll enjoy a solution tailored to your needs. And the result? A smoother, faster running website.
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