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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 June 25, 2024.

Woman packing boxes at a desk

Shopify offers two main ways to organize your Shopify products: by collections or by categories. By strategically leveraging both collections and categories, you can create a well-structured, intuitive online shopping experience that boosts product visibility and conversion rates. This organizational approach empowers customers to effortlessly navigate your store and discover the products that best meet their needs.

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What Is a Category in Shopify?

Shopify categories are a navigational tool within your store. They allow store owners to group their products based on a theme or common attribute and showcase a curated selection of collections on their 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.

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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 when managing multiple Shopify stores. Without the right organization, managing just one inventory is confusing enough. Two or more can become a nightmare.

Use Categories in Shopify 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.

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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 (based on how store owners wish them to appear on their store's homepage.). Collections allow for grouping 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.

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

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.

» Discover how to add a new collection in your Shopify store

When to Use Collections in Shopify?

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

» Looking to add more products to your store? Add Shopify sub-collections within collections

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.

» Automatically sort and organize products in collections with ease

Leveraging Shopify Collections and Categories to Optimize Your Online Store

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.

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.

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