When developing effective solutions for merchants, it can often be challenging to anticipate what app to build or where to focus your time. To maximize the impact your product will have, an ideal scenario is to concentrate on areas that are experiencing growth—but how can we identify these opportunities?
As a developer building solutions for merchants, you can examine what has been successful previously to determine what types of projects to put on your roadmap, and how to prioritize specific verticals.
We recently looked into the future and asked Shopify staff what trends we predict will emerge in 2021. In this article, we're looking back, diving into the data from the Shopify App Store over the past 12 months to discover what kind of apps merchants adopted to support their business during a tumultuous year—and what opportunities those categories present in 2021.
If you're looking to solve pain points within growing verticals, these trends will inspire you to build impactful Shopify apps. Let’s take a look.
1. Internationalization and localization
In 2020, Shopify's multi-language feature unlocked the ability for merchants to sell in multiple languages from a single online store. This allowed merchants to provide the same consistent shopping experience in multiple languages, and opened up new opportunities for apps that work with Shopify's store languages.
Many of the best performing new apps of 2020 support multiple languages, and enable merchants to tap into different markets by displaying store content in a customer’s chosen language. As more and more merchants join Shopify from around the world, this trend is likely to present even more opportunities for app developers solving problems related to internationalization and localization.
Apps like Translation Lab and Translate My Store were hugely popular with merchants who were looking to increase their presence in the global market and sell in multiple languages. Both apps work seamlessly with Shopify’s multi-language feature, and offer a range of translation options.
From a tooling perspective, Shopify's GraphQL Admin API can be used to assist merchants with multilingual requirements by creating and retrieving translated content for Shopify resources. This means that you can develop apps that allow merchants to create sets of translations for store elements for a range of purposes, including buyer communications. You can learn how to support multiple languages in your apps from our developer documentation.
Additionally, supporting multiple languages within your app will help you get installs from merchants in different countries. When your app supports only a single language, you're potentially excluding yourself from wider markets, and you risk providing an inconsistent experience for your users and their customers.
"Supporting multiple languages within your app will help you get installs from merchants in different countries."
Currently, international merchants encounter many feature gaps on Shopify that app developers can build solutions for. With merchants looking to optimize each resource of their store for different geographical buyers, app developers can help, whether through translations, or displaying custom products and messaging based on location.
As Shopify expands internationally, it will be worthwhile to research what specific requirements merchants have in other regions, and examine what you can build to help the next big market become successful on Shopify. These solutions could include particular data formatting for product information, complex shipping and taxes requirements, integrations with local sales channels, and more.
You might also like: 11 Ecommerce Trends You Need to Turn Your Attention to in 2021.
2. Product sourcing apps
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the ecommerce industry saw the equivalent of 10 years' worth of growth in one short quarter, and Shopify apps that connect with product sourcing services like AliExpress saw huge adoption as many new merchants explored their entrepreneurial options.
Apps such as DSers and CJDropshipping allow merchants to populate their stores with in-demand items easily, and automate many of the inventory management processes that newer merchants can struggle with when starting off.
In a year with such a focus on digital transformation, this category of apps empowered countless merchants looking for ways to kickstart their businesses and tap into a global market. By creating robust product sourcing apps, developers can support merchants by facilitating shipping, allowing merchants to focus on building their brand.
The momentum for product sourcing apps is showing no sign of slowing down either, as these integrations provide an easy entry point for many merchants searching for their niche. As product sourcing platforms become more sophisticated and connect with additional suppliers, there will be new opportunities to provide value for Shopify merchants operating in this space.
"The momentum for product sourcing apps is showing no sign of slowing down either, as these integrations provide an easy entry point for many merchants searching for their niche."
While there are some successful product sourcing apps, many gaps still remain to improve the experience of merchants, buyers and suppliers. It's worthwhile to consider the merchant profile of this category and optimize for areas such as customer service, straightforward UI, seamless integrations, and supporting video content.
An untapped area of opportunity could be leveraging machine learning for analyzing suppliers’ databases and generating personalized product recommendations, or enabling merchants to personalize white label products.
Considering the growth of product sourcing apps last year, supplementary integrations that improve the experience for merchants are also worth exploring. Apps that create solutions in areas such as overseas tracking, advanced options for product reviews, and post-purchase support provide value to this subset of merchants and will empower your users to stand out from the crowd.
3. Social media integrations
The importance of connecting on social media sure didn't slow down in 2020—in fact, this was the subcategory that experienced some of the highest growth in the Shopify App Store last year. For so many merchants, it's crucial to be able to display how their brand is represented on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. That importance has driven high engagement with apps that showcase social feeds from these channels on merchants’ stores.
As more and more merchants seek out new possibilities to link their social media content and following with their Shopify stores, this area will continue to grow. By building new social media integrations, you can help merchants harness user-generated content to increase engagement and drive store conversions.
Instagram’s Platform API deprecation
One event in 2020 that drove a lot of installs, specifically for Instagram feed apps, was the deprecation of Instagram's Platform API. This depreciation introduced a new process based on user access tokens to display Instagram feeds, and meant that themes using native Instagram sections were no longer supported.
After this announcement, Shopify Theme Partner Maestrooo mobilized quickly to launch their Section Feed app, which supports Instagram's requirements moving forward, and easily integrates with Shopify themes. Maestrooo’s quick actions shows that being aware of changes occuring on the platforms merchants are active on will pay off, as you can move quickly to respond to changing situations.
One common factor we've seen is that the boundaries between online stores and social media platforms are becoming less defined, as merchants blend both spaces into their customer experience.
Other notable social media apps that did well last year include Instafeed and Covet.pics, both of which connect with merchants’ Instagram accounts and display interactive gallery images on their storefront. One common factor we've seen is that the boundaries between online stores and social media platforms are becoming less defined, as merchants blend both spaces into their customer experience. Building with this close relationship in mind will ensure your app provides a seamless flow between social and store.
Looking into the future
These are just some examples of the growth the Shopify app developer community experienced in 2020, and the evolution of these verticals has created even more opportunities for developers to tap into.
By understanding changes and trends from the Shopify App Store, you can develop apps that add the most value for Shopify merchants, and set yourself up for success. Keeping an eye on new Shopify APIs, updates to related platforms, and looking out for international product gaps will unlock your ability to build for the next big trend.