To support their engineering efforts and, most importantly, their merchants' growth, Shopify has done an outstanding job of creating an ecosystem of incredibly useful apps that can easily be added to your Shopify site.
Under Shopify’s App Marketplace, merchants can access thousands of applications that help them do everything from A/B testing pricing, creating conversion pop-ups, and even creating ‘climate-friendly carts’.
Merchants love it because it allows them to add no-code functionality to their site quickly and on-demand.
Developers love it because it gives them an outlet to display their applications and adds an additional revenue stream to their business.
And Shopify loves it because it reduces the number of feature requests they have to build into the core product, and it gives them great ideas on what to make next.
So wins all-around, right?
Not so fast.
You just developed your first app. Congratulations! The next logical step is to create an App Marketplace page and submit it for approval from the Shopify team.
When building your Marketplace page, you will write copy on how your app helps merchants increase sales, reduce costs or work more efficiently - all of these improvements that merchants badly need and that your App most likely provides.
Talking about features and value probably comes relatively easy. You knew the value you add, and you ran market research even before writing a single line of code. You probably talked to merchants you know about their pain points, and created an offering around it.
Talking about costs, however, may be more challenging.
Technically speaking, there are three main costs you are asking your merchants (clients) to take on. Two are pretty self-evident, but there is a hidden third one.
Back to you as a merchant, you can probably relate to the experience of missing a feature in Shopify, going to the Marketplace, finding an application that covers that feature and has sound social proof, and bringing it into your technology stack.
Additionally, you’ve looked at pricing and calculated whether the price they charge a month is worth the value it adds to your business.
However, the chances are that you have not thought about the impact this new application has on your site's size, speed, and user experience. I understand.
The first two points are a fundamental cost/risk-reward analysis that most business owners are more than used to navigating.
The third point? It sounds more like it belongs in a developer’s or even a very technical marketer’s plate.
However, there are things that any Shopify store owner can do today to improve their relationship with Apps and achieve a better speed, reliability, SEO scores, traffic, and sales.
We will also explain the relationship between all of the above and give you tips on how to maintain a faster, more SEO friendly store.
For every App you add to your store, you are adding libraries, resources, APIs, and other items that have to be loaded every time a new visitor comes into your site.
The more items that have to be loaded (and the heavier they are) the slower your website will load for your customers.
The slower the load time, the worse the customer experience. More than half your visitors will exit without even navigating your homepage if your time-to-interactive is over 10 seconds.
For search engines, namely Google, customer experience is one of the main factors they consider when prioritizing, which results to show for a specific keyword.
If they sent traffic to your website, and the experience was not good (long load times, low time on site, low number of pages seen, etc.), the chances of them sending more traffic your way are significantly reduced.
In that vein, Google recently released Core Web Vitals, a collection of signals related to speed, responsiveness, and stability, asking site owners to optimize.
They also released a new version of their Lighthouse website performance tool that allows site owners to benchmark their performance.
My friend Darjan Hren, who is one of the foremost personalities in the world of Conversion optimization for eCommerce, and runs his own CRO consultancy (hren.io), recently released a report of the performance of 1000 top eCommerce sites built on Shopify, and according to the new Lighthouse standards.
The results? No bueno.
An average performance score of just 27 is pitiful, particularly when we know that these sites are some of the top eCommerces on the web, usually with their own development, marketing, and conversion optimization resources in house.
Many of them even use Shopify Plus and have enterprise-level setups, yet their performance does not reflect that.
Other than the overall scores, there are two main numbers to focus on:
Slow load times not only affect your SEO rankings.
They also reduce your conversion rates since your shoppers want a fluid purchasing experience. Waiting almost twenty seconds before each product, cart or checkout page they go through is incredibly frustrating and gives them more time to think twice about their purchase.
Simultaneously, it increases your customer acquisition costs, since Facebook also prefers sending traffic to sites that offer better performance (since performance correlates nicely with conversion rates).
All in all, SEO, conversion rates, and CAC all flow into each other, creating a downward spiral you should avoid by any means necessary.
Go to the Apps section in the left-hand side column of your Shopify admin page and go through the list of Apps carefully.
Which ones do you not use?
Which ones can you operate without?
Which ones overlap with each other?
Your goal should be to do all you need to do, with as few Apps as possible.
There are other items you should also look at when optimizing for speed:
All in all, lighter is often better. Next time you are thinking about adding that new App to your site, think about the fact that it may not only not increase your sales, but reduce them.