July 11, 2023

Shopify metafields manager vs. native: which one is right for you?

Online customers crave an experience that enables them to connect with brands, much like they do in brick-and-mortar stores. It’s easy to blend into the eCommerce crowd when so many websites look the same. As a Shopify owner, you can differentiate your products by providing intricate details like sizing, washing instructions, environmental impact, or your company’s origin story. One effective way to accomplish this is through metafields. Metafields are customizable fields that allow you to add extra information to your products, collections, customers, orders, and other objects within your Shopify store. However, managing these metafields daily can be challenging, either with an metafields managers app or natively.

While Shopify provides native metafields, dozens of metafields manager apps are available on the Shopify app store. Setting up and maintaining metafields requires an upfront time investment. In this blog post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of metafields manager apps and Shopify native metafields to help you make an informed decision that you can stick to for the long-term.

What are metafields?

First, let’s briefly define what metafields are. Metafields are a powerful tool for Shopify store owners to add additional information to their products beyond the standard Shopify data model. With metafields, you can store custom product specifications like size charts or material information. However you need to be using a Shopify online store 2.0 theme in order to display metafields on your storefront without accessing code. (Don’t know what online store 2.0 is? Check out our blog post all about it!).

Metafields can be used to add any type of data, including text, numbers, dates, and images. They are highly customizable and can be used in many different ways to enhance the functionality of your Shopify store. Want to learn more? Take a look at our blog post going in depth about what metafields are and how to use them.

Metafields manager app and Shopify native metafields: What’s the difference?

When it comes to creating and managing metafields in Shopify, you have two options: doing it directly in the Shopify settings or using an app. In essence, both methods serve the same purpose – allowing you to view, edit and manage your metafields.

However, there is a key difference. Metafields manager apps, like all other Shopify apps, are not automatically included in Shopify. You must download an app through the Shopify App Store, and they may be free or paid. Some examples of metafields manager apps include Metafields Guru, Accentuate Custom Fields, Advanced Custom Metafields and SuperFields. All of these apps have free trials or a free plan with basic functionalities, but you may need to pay to access advanced features.

On the other hand, Shopify metafields are completely free and fully integrated into the Shopify system. You can edit metafield values directly within products, collections, customers, blogs, and other areas where metafields can be added. You can also use the bulk editor to edit metafields in bulk.

Metafields Manager App vs Shopify Native Metafields

When should you use a metafields manager?

You often need to bulk update metafields

Metafields manager apps such as Accentuate Custom Fields offer a panel where you can edit metafield values all in one place. Shopify has their bulk editor feature for products, collections and variants. However the default screen shows all data options, and if you need to only bulk update metafields often, you will have to take time to configure the editor table to hide and show the columns you need.

Additionally, Shopify right now only has options to bulk edit products, variants, and customers. If you need to bulk edit blog post or order metafields, you would need to use a metafields manager app, or import the metafield values with an Excel or CSV sheet using an app like Matrixify.

You need to use global metafields

Shopify’s native metafields UI doesn’t have an option to create global metafields that you can access throughout the whole storefront or admin. One example of this might be a global metafield containing all the fabric options your store offers. Your products could choose subsets of the fabric options to show as product variants. Without global metafields, you would have to duplicate this data across all the products, collections or other metafield areas that you want to use this data.

You have multiple stores and want to use the same type of metafields

Some metafields manager apps like Accentuate offer advanced features such as store linking, where you can copy over the field definitions of metafields to use on stores, so you don’t have to re-create them. This can be helpful for Shopify Plus merchants who have separate stores.

You have a developer or development team

If you have a development team that can code metafields directly into your store’s theme code, as well as take advantage of the more advanced features that need technical help, then a metafield manager may be useful.

Shopify native metafield starting menu

When should you use Shopify’s native metafields?

Display metafields on the storefront with no coding knowledge

It’s very easy to connect Shopify native metafields in the theme editor using dynamic sources. This doesn’t require any coding. If you want to learn how you can do this, check out our blog post that goes through a step-by-step example. On the other hand, the Shopify theme editor doesn’t recognize 3rd party metafields when adding dynamic sources, so you would have to add any app metafields manually within the code editor.

Value the stability of a whole platform, rather than a 3rd-party app

Shopify native metafields are built into the platform and aren’t going away anytime soon. Best of all, it’s FREE! Som metafields manager apps might have advanced features, but if at some point you decide to stop using the app and uninstall it, the app might delete all your metafields names and values as part of the data cleanup when uninstalling. Additionally Shopify is a stable platform that has been operating since 2006, while many app companies come and go. So you would be at the whim of 3rd-party app companies success.

You want to use new Shopify features right away

There will always be a delay between when Shopify announces a new feature and when 3rd-party apps apply the feature to their apps. It is in the apps’ best interest to add the features as fast as possible to keep the user experience as smooth as possible. But as with the point above, you are at the whim of the app team’s capacity. Maybe they are short staffed or they will add the update later in the quarter because it’s not on their development roadmap. Either way, there is no guarantee that 3rd party app’s will automatically have new features that Shopify offers.

You want to reduce the number of Shopify apps on your store

There is always a tradeoff of performance when a new Shopify app is downloaded to your store. Either the Shopify admin or the storefront gets a bit slower. It’s important to only add apps to your store if you absolutely need it. If you value day-to-day storefront and admin speed, examine if you really need a metafields manager app. If you do not need the advanced features, then consider sticking with the Shopify’s native metafields.

The final word

No matter which way you go, integrating metafields into your storefront is a great step towards providing a personalized and immersive experience. If you’re just getting started with metafields, want to primarily add metafields to your storefront rather than use them in the admin and don’t want to add yet another app, Shopify’s native metafields may be sufficient for your needs. However, if you need to create more complex metafields, perform frequent bulk changes or link metafields across stores, a metafields manager app may be a better option for you.

It’s important to assess your specific needs and evaluate the features of each option before making a decision. Consider factors such as cost, ease of use, flexibility, and the types of metafields you need to create.

Ready to get started with metafields? 

Let us help you set up metafields or take your metafields game to the next level! We at Plentiful Commerce love improving the day-to-day processes of busy Shopify owners so you can focus on building your products and sales without clunky tech in the way. Book a consultation with us to discuss how we can enhance your store with metafields.

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