Unlike many other popular eCommerce platforms, Shopify is not an open-source solution. That brings in some limitations when you need to customize your store In accordance with desired user experience or your business processes.
Luckily, Shopify provides REST API and SDKs that allow you to build the app or integration on top of their core eCommerce ecosystem.
If you are reading this post, chances are you asked yourself if your business needs a custom Shopify app.
Basically, Shopify apps are created when you need to utilize Shopify REST API for your business needs.
The apps can be:
- Private (unlisted) Shopify app
- Public Shopify app
Private Shopify Apps
Private apps are normally developed to be used by a single merchant. Consider it a custom Shopify integration. The common use case is Integration of your Shopify store with 3rd-party services like:
- Shipping & Logistics (carriers and your local warehouses)
- Accounting (custom solutions, since most of the established accounting software has its own public Shopify app)
- CRM (Customer Relation Management)
- ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software)
- Discounts and promos (when you have special needs and apps available on the Shopify marketplace are not the best fit)
- Product configurations and customizations that are not possible with default Shopify setup
- Deeper Data Analytics
- any other idea that can be implemented using existing Shopify REST APIs
Public Shopify Apps
Public apps are developed for global use and are available on the Shopify Apps Marketplace. The apps can be free, paid, and subscription-based.
The most demanded and top-grossing Public Shopify Apps at the moment are those that help merchants with CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation). And there’s a simple reason behind that. CRO directly impacts the revenues and your client is always happy to share the profits you help him to get.
CRO-focused apps are: Shopify abandoned cart recovery apps, upsell apps, discount layering apps.
The hardest challenges are faced by the apps that offer features that do not increase revenues directly or in an obvious way. One of the lessons we learned developing an app for Shipping rate management (our debut public app on Shopify Marketplace) is that it is very hard to sell this kind of app using the subscription model because it doesn’t optimize conversion rates. The best thing you can do with shipping to increase your conversions is to set it completely free. And you don’t need an app for that, right?
Both service providers/platforms and eCommerce merchants can benefit from creating their own Shopify app.
Now if you are a SaaS company or a platform you can create your own Shopify app that would:
- Simplify the integration with your service
- Ease the life and operations of your clients
- Bring in new clients searching for similar apps on Shopify Marketplace
- Promote your services via the app (Banners, Push notifications)
Use cases for own Shopify app
So let’s take an affiliate network as an example. Typically, when the merchant setups the affiliate campaign with some of the popular networks, like CJ (Commission Junction), Pepperjam, Daisycon, Adcell, Rakuten, and others, he needs to integrate some pixels, conversion scripts, or extra data layers for GTM. You might create a comprehensive guide on how to add those scripts to Shopify pages, Cart, Checkout, and Order Confirmation Page. But considering it’s not always the case of copying and pasting code, combined with the fact, that Shopify owners rarely have sufficient tech knowledge, it may lead to incorrect setup with the neverending debugging process. And that eventually leads to slow onboarding, which means your network and your client miss the potential profits.
That situation can be easily resolved by creating your own Shopify app that will do the configuration for your client in the background.
Another Shopify app use case for affiliate marketing platforms is the validation of transactions. What if the affiliate order was refunded and the affiliate network does not have an integration with Shopify? We’ve seen a lot of Shopify merchants manually declining and approving the transactions on their affiliate networks. Believe me, it takes time.
Again, this can be sorted out by developing and publishing your own Shopify app.
Fulfillment center / Warehouse / Shipping company
Now let’s say, you are a fulfillment warehouse and you know that a significant chunk of your clients use Shopify. As a fulfillment company, your “tech-communication” with the merchant involves:
- Shipping rate management
- Order export from Shopify store to your warehouse
- Order tracking information import from your warehouse to client’s Shopify store
- Stock update
In my experience, I’ve dealt with warehouses using FTP to exchange all this data. But that implies some costs for their clients since they have to develop custom apps or scripts that use Shopify REST API to receive and process the order data before creating some CSV or XLS files to upload to the warehouse FTP server. Depending on the merchant’s IT team size and skills that may take time, delay the integration, or the store launch in worst scenarios. And bugs of course.
Bookkeeping… Argh. Even the best accounting software fails to deliver stable solutions for Shopify stores. Intuit Quickbooks still doesn’t have its own app, for instance. You have to use some third-party services like OneSaas, A2X, or Bold. And these services normally integrate with many other platforms. As the result, the solution is not flexible, not particular accounting software focused, and sometimes you have bugs that cannot be resolved by the aggregator-app team because of their load and the number of integrations they have.
The key functions of the integration would be:
- Correct tax rate mapping between your accounting software and Shopify
- Order/Invoice/Transaction export from Shopify to accounting software
- Order/Payment status syncronisation
- Product / Stock sync
- Customer export from Shopify to accounting app
Things to consider before developing the app
There are 5 questions to be answered to clearly understand if you need a Shopify app for your business:
- Does a big part of our clients use Shopify as an eCommerce platform?
- Do our clients have some challenges that could be worked around if we created a Shopify App?
- Are there obvious ways custom Shopify app can increase our existing clients’ LTV or bring new clients?
- Do we accept Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms showing ±100% growth year-over-year? If so, do we think we need the custom Shopify app to stay relevant and be in pace with the market?
- Will the efforts and investments in Shopify app development pay off (directly) within 6-8 months?
If your answer is “yes” to most of these questions, I highly recommend developing your Shopify app now. You can outsource this task from a reliable Shopify app developer, even if you have your in-house engineers. I imagine you have the roadmaps and sometimes it’s not that easy to squeeze in the development of the plugin, which is actually a standalone application, meaning it’s a dedicated project to allocate your human resources for.
Shopify App Development Costs
The costs of developing your own Shopify app may vary and depend on the developer you hire: the freelance developer may charge you 2000 EUR for a small app, while big US agencies may bill tenfold.
It’s always good to hire someone having experience developing Shopify apps (no matter the platform is used: Angular, React, Ruby or PHP) and who is patient enough. Shopify REST API is not always sufficiently documented. Sometimes you have to dig deep, make bets and guess. There are times, Shopify returns a general error or irrelevant error message and it may take hours just to figure out that the problem was not related to the output error. Shopify Access Scopes was another strange thing. In some cases, you have to request certain scopes that you don’t think you need in the first place (e.g. write orders when you only need to read orders).
I also highly recommend hiring someone creative. Let me explain this. Out-of-the-box thinking is critical here since there are certain limitations in existing API methods and you have to be good at problem-solving and finding creative solutions.
Example: Shopify carrier service does not send any discount or promo code information to a 3rd-party shipping rate calculator. And it keeps sending your store’s main currency no matter what currency your client has selected on your storefront. Why would that matter? Well, if you set your shipping rates based on cart total or you want to give free shipping for all orders over 100 EUR, this rule will be applied even if your customer has a 50% OFF promo code… And the currency sent in the request to a shipping rate service is always the same. Why did they include this redundant data in the payload at all?! So you cannot set up currency-based shipping rates. We’ve come to a workaround in our Shipping Rates App by capturing the checkout using a webhook. So by the time our app gets the request to provide shipping rates, we can match the checkout with the payload sent to our app. And the checkout object has all the information we might need for the most accurate shipping rate calculation.
I keep telling my team: never tell clients that something is not possible to implement. Come on, we are engineers. Everything is possible: it’s just a matter of time and money. And you should always suggest a solution and let the client decide whether the costs of development fit the budget.
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Get in touch today! And we’ll give you a detailed quote for your future Shopify app: