A quick primer on Shopify integrations

A quick primer on Shopify integrations

4 min read

Found in translation: What you need to know about custom Shopify integrations

Shopify does a great job at straightforward Ecommerce. However, there are times when you will need to integrate with another system, be it an accounting package or an inventory management tool. Integrating an external system with Shopify is a facet of the platform that makes it incredibly powerful. But in some cases, you might need a custom Shopify integration to make that work. We break down what this means, when it’s necessary, and how it’s done.

Shopify integration

What exactly is integration?

All systems (like Shopify and any other app you use, be it Facebook or a stock counter) have an application programming interface (API). This is a software intermediary that allows two systems to communicate with each other. API is the code that enables the data transmission between the two systems.

Shopify has a decent API, which means it can integrate with several other systems. One of the best examples of integration is the payment gateway, because all Shopify stores need one. Most stores make use of numerous integrations, like email marketing systems or social media that are built into the theme or available as an app. Other common systems that are often integrated into Shopify include loyalty programs, reviews and product recommendations.

Many of these systems have a native integrator, with an API which can ‘communicate’ with Shopify’s software. When the system doesn’t have this capability, there are third party vendors that allow this connection to happen. For example, Xero accounting software uses Bold as it’s third-party integrator for Shopify. At ShopCreatify we often use third-party vendors Zapier or our partner, eBridge Connections, to integrate the systems our clients need into their Shopify stores.

When is custom Shopify integration necessary?

In some cases, it might be necessary for a custom Shopify integration. Essentially, this means a developer will have to create software to translate the language of the system that needs to be integrated into language that Shopify understands so that the two systems can communicate with each other. However, as with any customization job, this takes longer and costs more than using existing software.

So, how do you know when a custom Shopify integration is indeed necessary? These are the questions you’ll need to ask.

  1. Does the system you want to integrate into Shopify have a native integrator?
  2. If yes, is it good?
  3. If it doesn’t have a native integrator, or the native integrator is bad, then you need to ask if there’s a third-party integrator?
  4. If yes, is it good?
  5. If there isn’t a third-party integrator, or the third-party integrator is bad, then a custom Shopify integration is the way to go.

To establish whether the native or third-party integrator is any good, we recommend looking at its reviews. Another way to assess its suitability, is to reach out to the vendor of the solution. This gives you an opportunity to gauge their support and response times firsthand.

How is a custom integration done?

This is the complicated part, which is why the developers do it. In a nutshell, once you’ve decided to do a custom integration, your developer will contact the vendor of the system you’re going to integrate with to obtain the system’s API.

They will determine what data will need to be passed back and forth, in what volumes and at what frequency. If a hosting environment is needed for the custom software, the time and costs of setting that up will have to be factored in. The developer will map out how the system will communicate with Shopify before writing code for the integration application.

What does the integration application do?

The integration application, or software, stands between Shopify and the system that’s being integrated with it. Sometimes integration applications are built with a user interface which allows users to toggle or switch things on and off. Other times it’s built as a code-only application, which runs without any input from the user.

Many of these integration applications are set to have a specific routine. For example, it might be set to update every 10 minutes, hourly or daily. This is how an integration with an accounting package might be set up, to make sure that the store's financial records are always in sync. Alternatively, such a routine might run for ERP (enterprise resource planning) software to keep customer information synced.

In other cases, the application software runs when it is triggered. For example, when a customer places an order, it can trigger the application. This is what would happen when Shopify has been integrated with something like an inventory management tool, so that the stock inventory is always in sync.

Custom Shopify integrations with ShopCreatify

ShopCreatify’s partnership with Realm Digital has significantly increased our ability to do complex integrations. If you suspect you need a custom Shopify integration developed, please get in touch with us so that we can scope the project for you and take it from there. Afterall, we are the expert ‘translators’ when it comes to Shopify’s language.

Gabi Falanga
Gabi Falanga

Hi, I’m Gabi, a communication specialist who loves writing about interesting topics. Follow me for more information.