One of the most common frustrations for those using or considering using Shopify and Shopify Plus is the limit to 100 variants (and the limit to 3 options) on a single product. Although I’ve been told recently that, if you’re working with the right partner, the limit can be lifted – I decided to write an article detailing the different approaches for getting around the variant limit.

Replace one of the dimensions with separate product links

The most commonly used workaround is to separate one of the dimensions into products, instead of variants – then displaying a set of links to these products in place of the variants options. This can be seen on a number of Shopify Plus stores, including Linda Farrow and Trotters, although be it not for that reason. An example can be seen below.

The colour options in the above image can be outputted based on metafields or tagging of the associated products, which are then outputted via logic in the theme. The links, in this instance, include the active product and then the alternative. The user would be taken to a separate product page if they clicked the colour link, as opposed to just appending the variant parameter and remaining on the same page. The example I’m referring to in this example can be seen here.

This solution (of having the options setup as different products) is also better for things like Google Shopping and some of the third parties (e.g. NOSTO or complex shipping rules) in theory as well – as variants are harder to manage out of the box. It’s worth considering the SEO implications of this route (if you’re only doing this to support this), as you may want to create a parent / child canonical tag or optimise the different products separately (e.g. title and long description) – although this depends on the option and how different the products are etc.

Use product options (non-stock-managed)

Another way to get around the variants limit in Shopify and Shopify Plus is to supplement certain configuration options with custom options, which are options that can be used against products that are stored against the item in the order. These options aren’t stock manageable and they don’t allow for the level of detail that variants do (in terms of things like shipping logic or handling via search for example), however you can use an unlimited number and they can appear in a similar way on the front-end.

There are various apps that allow for custom options, such as:

These apps allow for options to be displayed against products in various different ways – such as dropdowns, free text fields, radio buttons etc. An obvious every-day use case for custom options is something like engraving or gift wrapping, which would be setup as a text field (engraving) or a tickbox (gift wrapping) and passed into the order as a line item. These options can also increase or reduce the price, as with variants.

A good example use case of where custom options could be used to supplement variants is with eyewear, as can be seen below in the ## example.

This example features a number of different input types, with different pricing increases associated with different orders. The example below highlights this and also shows how the custom options are used for uploading prescriptions.

Combine multiple products to display more variant options

The third option is probably the hackiest and it is based on leveraging the variants from multiple products and creating a master that pulls the different options into the theme. A summary of this route (as detailed collaboratively by Jason and others in the Shopify forums here), can be seen below:

  • Create a product as a shell / master / parent
  • Use a metafield to group together the different products you want to use (via their handles)
  • Assign one or more variant options against each of those products
  • Edit the theme to pull in the options from those items into the master
  • The right child product would then be added to cart

I haven’t tested this and it doesn’t seem like an approach, but you can read more about this route here.

Overall, I’d suggest that you’re probably best using a combination of the first two options (depending on your situation and your need to do things like manage stock against the options), as it’s less messy from a management perspective. If you’re working with a Shopify Plus partner, it sounds like the variant limit can also be lifted – so that may be the best place to start. If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to add them in the comments below.