Shopify Categories vs. Collections: What's the Difference?

By effectively utilizing the differences between categories and collections, you can create a more intuitive shopping environment that encourages customers to explore and purchase.

Brody Hall
By Brody Hall
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Updated May 8, 2024.

Woman packing boxes at a desk

There are two main ways to organize your Shopify products: by collections or by categories. Collections allow store owners to group their products based on a theme or common attribute, while categories allow store owners to group their products based on how they wish them to appear on a store's homepage.

When exploring the organizational structure of a Shopify store, it's essential to grasp the concept of Shopify categories vs. collections. This understanding is crucial for any store owner looking to enhance their site's user experience and product discoverability.

» Here are more tips on how to effectively organize your products in Shopify

What Is a Category in Shopify?

While Shopify collections focus on product grouping based on specific criteria, Shopify categories are a navigational tool within your store. They allow you to showcase a curated selection of collections on your storefront.

How Shopify Categories Work

  • Limited number: Shopify allows you to display a maximum of 12 categories on your storefront.

  • Customization: You can choose which collections appear under each category, offering some control over the overall look and feel of your store's navigation.

  • Visual appeal: Categories can be displayed with icons or images, adding a visual element to your navigation.

For instance, from a store's homepage, a "Jeans" category may be set. Then, you can add two new subcategories for "Men's Jeans" and "Women's Jeans."

This will appear within a store's menu and submenu, respectively, making it easy for customers to find exactly the products they'd like to browse straight from the store's landing page.

This type of menu categorization is particularly important while managing multiple Shopify stores. Seriously, without the right organization, managing just one inventory is confusing enough. Two or more can become a nightmare.

What Is a Collection in Shopify?

A collection refers to a group of products that share a common attribute or are grouped together for easy navigation. Collections allow you to group your products based on various criteria, such as:

  • Theme: Create collections around a specific theme, like "Summer Essentials" or "Back to School."

  • Type: Group products by type, like "T-Shirts," "Sneakers," or "Jewelry."

  • Occasion: Cater to specific events with collections like "Mother's Day Gifts" or "Holiday Gift Guide."

  • Price: Curate collections within a specific price range to target budget-conscious shoppers.

  • Brand: Showcase products from a particular brand if you carry multiple brands in your store.

By adding collections and sub-collections, store owners can organize their products in a way that keeps their inventory streamlined and easy to navigate while helping customers find what they are looking for. Additionally, you can pre-define the criteria you want to have in your collections and then let Shopify smart collections do the work for you.

» Here's a step-by-step guide to adding a new collection within your e-commerce Shopify store

The Difference Between Shopify Categories and Collections

Structure and Organization:

  • Collections: Collections are like folders or albums that let you group products as per your choice. You can create collections based on a single criterion or multiple criteria. There's no limit to the number of collections you can create.
  • Categories: Categories are like a menu system on your storefront that showcases pre-made collections. You can only display up to 12 categories, so you need to choose which collections fall under each category strategically.

Content and SEO:

  • Collections: Each collection on your storefront has a dedicated page where you can add an SEO-focused title, description, and image to boost search rankings and drive organic traffic.
  • Categories: Categories themselves have minimal SEO impact. They don't have their own pages and don't influence search engine ranking.

When to Use Collections vs. Categories: Making the Right Choice

Use Collections When:

  • You want to group products based on specific attributes like theme, type, occasion, price, or brand.
  • You want to target specific customer segments with promotions and marketing campaigns.
  • You want to improve your store's SEO by optimizing collection titles, descriptions, and including relevant keywords.
  • You want to showcase a curated selection of products that tell a story about your brand.

» Collections not showing up? Here's how to fix it

Use Categories When:

  • You want to create a user-friendly navigation system on your storefront.
  • You want to highlight a selection of your most important or popular collections.
  • You want to visually represent the overall structure of your product catalog using category icons or images.

By understanding and applying these guidelines to tailor your approach, you can leverage the strengths of both Shopify collections and categories to effectively manage your bestsellers. This strategy will help you create a well-organized and customer-centric online store, fostering a seamless shopping experience and boosting your sales.

Note: It's important to distinguish Shopify product types from collections as well. Product types are attributes used to define and categorize your products, such as "Size" or "Color." These are not displayed on the storefront but help with inventory management and filtering.

» Want a great way to add more products to your store? Add Shopify sub-collections within collections

Maximizing Revenue With Shopify Collections and Product Tags

Effective management of Shopify inventory, including collections and product tags, is essential for maintaining a profitable online store. Proper Shopify inventory management ensures that products are in stock, organized, and easily findable, directly affecting store revenue and profit potential.

Additionally, incorporating product tags within your collections can enhance the customer shopping experience by making it easier to locate specific items, thereby improving manageability and avoiding the pitfalls of selling out-of-stock items.

Embracing these strategies is key to a successful Shopify store, highlighting the importance of mastering inventory tracking and the strategic use of product tags.

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