Shopify, our themes and large inventory stores
We're often asked "Can your theme support X,000 products?" and the short answer is - for all our themes - very much a resounding 'yes'. Although Shopify categorise themes according to inventory size, themes don't directly limit what Shopify can do, and as you'll see on their pricing page, all plans offer 'Unlimited products'
That is, of course, from a purely technological standpoint. Design wise, using our 'Showcase' theme in two-column layout on a store with 20,000 products and low-quality images isn't something we'd recommend, as it would make the user's experience more awkward and unrewarding to browse your stock than, say, Masonry or Symmetry. It's not that you can't, but you're likely to see much better results from your store when choosing the best theme for your imagery as much as purely on the basis of SKUs.
Further, there's a growing trend of late to upload variants of a product as separate products. There are a number of reasons why a merchant might want to do this, from simply wanting each colour option of a clothing item to be visible on the collection pages, to specifically needing the ability to write separate meta / SEO content for each variant.
This is fine of course, however it does raise a few issues to be mindful of. For one, it enlarges your inventory considerably, and that can make it harder for your shoppers to browse your store but it can also make it harder for you to manage your own stock in your store's admin. Suddenly, the completely unique keyword that returned just one product suddenly returns a dozen.
Secondly, moving your variants to each be products when they are in fact variants can have serious ramifications for aspects of your store like SEO - for example, each of your 45 pattern variants must have completely unique descriptions, or you risk these being flagged as duplicate content by Google, which it really doesn't like.
And lastly, you may experience issues with the integration of meta data in your store which can affect how your products are listed if you're subscribed to Google shopping. None of these are 'show stopping' issues, but they are factors that you need to bear in mind when breaking down your products.
The main element to consider, though, is navigation. Once you've loaded up your store with 65,000 products, how are you going to make sure your visitors can actually find the stock they might be interested in? Well, here's a few things you can try:
Create meaningful menus
Never moreso than with a large inventory has getting your navigation right been so important. In particular, you're going to have to organise the limited three-tier structure Shopify provides to ensure people can find what they're looking for. Obviously, you don't want to link to every single product on your store from your main menu, the resulting drop downs would probably be taller than many of the pages on your store.
It's really important to understand your audience and how they want to navigate your range - for fashion stores, this could be by type of clothing item (dresses / trousers / accessories, etc), age group, style or brand, to name just a few, but different stores will always appeal to different audiences with different habits. If you're not sure, you can always refer to another, already established site with similar offerings for a starting point. Just don't be afraid to iterate and improve on what they've done!
Configure a helpful homepage
Just like with a real store's shop window, your meaningful display space on your homepage is limited and should be controlled to make the best use of it. In a larger store, that's even more true. Whilst it might be tempting to try and utilise every possible slide in a full screen slideshow and add every single collection in a browseable row to your homepage, all you'll be doing is creating a very, very slow homepage which will drastically increase your bounce rate, and confusing your visitors by not offering guidance.
Content on your homepage, for the most part, needs to highlight specific things from your store that you want people to reach quickly. People do not sit and watch slideshows, in fact their's a 99% drop off in both views and interacts between any consecutive slides in a slideshow at the top of your site. Concentrate instead on using two, three or four images in a row linking to the highest level categorisation of your store - again to use fashion as an example, this might be 'Womens' / 'Mens' / 'Kids' or 'Boys' / 'Girls', however your inventory is divided. And if you are adding a row of products, make sure it has some relevance, eg by being seasonal or highlighting a sale, or add a row of 'staff picks' or other recommendations from your stock.
Collection listing pages
All of our themes include a 'Collection listing' page, which displays all of your store's collections in a single view at the address /collections/ on your store. In addition, though, we include a 'collection-listing' template which you can use with your own custom pages. By creating a page and a new navigation menu with exactly the same name, and selecting this template for the page, you can then add and order specific collections on the new menu to control how these are shown on your shop. This then creates a very natural flow in your pages - for example, a 'Womens' link from the top of your homepage which links to a page showing 'Dresses' / 'Coats' / 'Tops' with the cover image for each collection showing, and the user is then able to click through that image to view the products within.
Install a Search app
Search can be the key way for a shopper to find what they're looking for, particularly in a large inventory. However, the search in Shopify is very limited, and global. You have no control over it, it searches for any occurrence of the given keyword across your whole store, regardless of where it appears. As such, if common user searches are returning hundreds of low quality results.
Making use of a decent search app will provide you with huge amounts of functionality that let you do all sorts of things, from 'live search' drop downs under the search box as the user types, to redirected search results for specific terms, to showing you searches people make for which they are given no results, allowing you to progressively analyse and fine-tune in response to actual user activity on your site:
So to summarise, your choice of theme doesn't apply technological limitations to your store, but it can affect the ease with which your visitors can browse your content. In all cases, though, there are many hugely important choices you can make with regard to how your store's set up. If you're ever unsure on how to get started with creating a store, don't forget Shopify has a fantastic community to whom you can reach out for support and advice: