Using Shopify Collections To Organize Products

5 min read
created Jan 13 2016
Using Shopify Collections To Organize Products

In this week's Building a Shopify App post, I'll be covering Shopify Collections. Shopify Collections provide a way to organize and display products within a Shopify store.

Shopify collections can also be used by Shopify Apps to manage and display groups of products. At the end of this post, I'll outline how I plan to use Shopify Collections in my upcoming Best Sellers Shopify App.

In this post, i'll cover:

  • Shopify Smart Collections
  • Shopify Custom Collections
  • Shopify Collection sorting
  • How my Best Sellers App will use Shopify Collections

Shopify Smart Collections

Smart Collections, also referred to as automated collections, provide a way to automatically add products to a Shopify collection based on rules.


You can select from one or more product attributes to match on:

  • Product title
  • Product type
  • Product vendor
  • Product price
  • Product tag
  • Compare at price
  • Weight
  • Inventory stock
  • Variant's title

As well as the type of match to perform:

  • is equal to
  • is not equal to
  • is greater than
  • is less than
  • starts with
  • ends with
  • contains
  • does not contain

These rules are applied dynamically. This means as new products are added, or product attributes are modified, the Smart Collection will be automatically updated to reflect this.

Shopify Custom Collections

Custom Collections, also referred to as manual collections, provide a way to manually add products to a Shopify collection.

manual-collection-add-products Custom Collections allow you to have direct control over the products that make up a collection. As a result, products must be manually added and removed from the collection.

Shopify Collection sorting

Smart and Custom Collections both support the same sort options:


Most of the sort options are self explanatory. However, I'd like to make a few points regarding the Sort manually and Sort by best selling sort options:

Sort manually

The Sort manually sort option requires a user to manually drag / drop items to specify their order within the collection. For larger collections, this could quickly become hard to manage.

Sort by best selling

The Sort by best selling sort option allows a collection to be sorted by the overall sales of each product. Here is Shopify's description of the By best selling sort option:

The By best selling sorting option is determined by the number of times a variant appears in orders, and not by the total number of variant units that have been sold. The variant that has appeared in the most orders will be ranked first, and the variant that has appeared in the fewest orders will be ranked last. The collection sorting is re-calculated on a weekly basis.

Shopify calculates the best selling rank using sales data for all time. As a result, the best selling sort may not accurately reflect current best sellers since it heavily favors historically popular products.

How my Best Sellers App will use Shopify Collections

My upcoming Best Sellers App will use Shopify Collections as a way to showcase the best sellers within a store. Initially, I was hoping to be able to use the Smart Collections since they have rules baked in. However, upon further investigation, Smart Collections are probably not the best choice for custom Shopify Apps.

Since Smart Collections are dynamic, Smart Collections don't allow for fine grained control of which products end up in the collection. For Shopify Apps in particular, making sure a collection matches the right grouping of products is one of the number one requirements. In addition, Smart Collections do not allow the sort order of products within the collection to be specified via the Smart Collection API.

My Best Sellers App will need to control both the specific best-selling products that end up in a collection, as well as a custom ordering based on best-selling rules. As a result, the Best Sellers app will be using Custom Collections combined with some app-specific settings to determine how to manage and group best-sellers.

The details of the Best Sellers App rules are still a work in progress. However, the initial Best Sellers collection options will likely include tracking best-sellers by:

  • product type
  • product tag
  • product vendor

The Best Sellers App will then automatically manage the products within a Custom Collection to make them reflect current best sellers, and sort them by their calculated sales rank. In addition, since I will control the sorting and sales rank calculations directly, the Best Seller App collections may also support custom sort options such as:

  • By sales revenue
  • By sales quantity
  • By best-selling this month
  • By best-selling all time
  • By best-selling using a weighted formula (i.e. - weight recent sales more heavily)

The Best Sellers App may not support all of these options initially. However, thanks to the control provided by using a Custom Collection, I should be able to grow and enhance this list of options over time.

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There are are two types of Shopify Collections:

  • Smart Collections - also known as automatic collections
  • Custom Collections - also known as manual collections

Smart Collections provide a convenient way to automatically manage your product collections for a Shopify store. If the supported rules and sorting options match your needs, Smart Collections may be the way to go.

Custom Collections allow you to directly control the products that are contained in a collection. If you need more control over your collections, Custom Collections should satisfy your needs.

My upcoming Shopify Best Sellers App will be based off of the Custom Collections. This will allow me to have direct control of the organization and sorting of products within best-seller collections. If you'd like to follow my weekly progress while I build this app, sign up for my newsletter using the form above.