A best-in-class conversion optimized theme for Shopify

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A best-in-class conversion optimized theme for Shopify

Premium Shopify Theme Review: Stiletto

At Arq Design Studio, we live at the intersection of custom beautiful Shopify experiences for brands in the health, wellness and lifestyle space, but not SO custom that you need to spend THOUSANDS of dolars a month on maintenance when you’re growing your emerging brand. We love to utilize premium themes from the Shopify official theme store that have been highly vetted and tested before being released to the public. This series of theme reviews explores some of the top themes we investigate and choose to utilize for our Shopify Design and build projects like our Spruce Up, Accelerator, and Custom design and build projects alike.

For previous theme reviews, you can also read our review of the

  1. Broadcast theme we customized for dozens of clients like BareBiology,
  2. Palo Alto (coming soon) we customized for Happy Wolf in our Shopify Accelerator Service,
  3. Portland which we utilized for a Shopify Accelerator for Alcove; and the
  4. Honey themes (coming soon) we are using to rebrand Linen Reform.

What is premium theme in Shopify?

At Arq, we consider any theme that can be leveraged to achieve a bespoke or custom branded look with minimal development effort to be premium. Although Stiletto is very price competitive at $340 USD on the Theme store we think it’s a great deal when compared to free themes like Dawn, that would take thousands of dollars in custom code to achieve anything similar. At Arq, we look for granular control over branding without needing to know CSS at a deep level to be able to deliver theme deployments in as little as 2-days with an on-brand look for any company we work with, as well as comprehensive documentation for a more self-serve experience.

Does the Stiletto Shopify theme have the highest conversion rate?

No expert can tell you honestly that having this theme installed will give you “the highest conversion rate” as that problem is very nuanced and depends on a lot of factors outside the control of the theme itself. We can say confidently however that the features we will go into make it a very high converting base for your brand on Shopify without the need for a lot of extraneous apps that cost more. Keep reading to see how we would recommend utilizing some features for high volume and big catalogue stores.

We have another blog post all about optimizing speed for your Shopify theme which you can read further here.

No expert can tell you honestly that having this theme installed will give you “the highest conversion rate” as that problem is very nuanced and depends on a lot of factors outside the control of the theme itself. 

Considerations When Choosing Your Shopify Theme

The consideration of design for a Shopify theme is an essential element of the shopping experience for your customers. When deciding if the design is something you love, look at the themes like a frame or skeleton that your brand can live on-top of. That includes functionality and customization that won’t be too cumbersome to set up out of the box. We always recommend trying the theme for free and playing around with the key features with your own catalogue and design style before deciding. With this in mind, we think you’ll fall in love with Stiletto theme because, in our opinion, it’s both attractive AND easy to use as a merchant and customer.

What child theme variations of the Stiletto theme are included

Marketed as “high end and high converting” this theme is speaking our language. The Stiletto theme was released in late 2022 and has is one of the first themes to utilize a multitude of new theme sections when Shopify Themes 2.0 was released.

While we spent 2022 and 2023 crushing on the Broadcast theme for it’s industry leading versatility - we weren’t happy with how much time we were using to optimize the theme for speed performance, SEO compliance, and general good coding standards to make sure our customization efforts were replicated across all sections included.

When we developed the site for Pinsy Wear on Shopify Plus, we were instantly enamored with the section design, the thoughtfulness of the features specifically tailored for large catalogue stores, and the unbeatable performance tests.

In this article we will discuss some features we love (and have some *ahem* comments on), while we show you a case study of how we customized a Stiletto theme for a more advanced design and build project we used for a two very different Shopify design and build client of ours, Wear Pinsy (a fashion shapewear brand in the USA… See the pinsy full case study); and Nurse Sheena – a skincare and skin tools brand owner in Canada (launching soon).


The child themes of Stiletto are:

  • Vogue (fashion)
  • Chic (fashion) -> What we picked for Pinsy
  • Organic (skincare) -> What we picked for Nurse Sheena
  • Craft (In-person studio services and products)

It’s worth remembering that (like every Shopify theme on the market) you get all features available in all four theme previews. If you like some blocks on a theme but a different themes header as an example, you can mix and match them when you install that base theme in your store. I recommend installing a preview and playing around with the basic features for yourself as we go along in this demo.

Which one is best for me?

Beauty shopify store Nurse Sheena (now Bespoke Beauty) uses this stiletto theme, screenshots of multiple pages shown

Most of the demos really speak well to the fashion and lifestyle space, but we see a lot of potential for anyone in the electronics, sexual health, and wellness space as well. Any Shopify business that plans to make use of regular launch where countdown timers, lifestyle photos, and lookbooks could be useful for the story of your products will love the various sections that come with Stiletto.

Pretty much any configuration you see in other themes can be replicated here. A small detail we really appreciate is how the Stiletto team anticipated merchants making not-so-great naming conventions or decisions about the NUMBER of links in their header. On smaller breakpoints (like small laptops and tablet) or brands who make these choices, the header menu instead of doing a broken-looking wrap will actually have a scrolling effect so your header never appears broken. When we hand over a site to our customers to manage after their project we can’t expect them to always make the most strategic decisions for things like site architecture of their sitemap and main navigation nomenclature, so these small details make a huge difference in not needing to waste time and man hours making maintenance adjustments like this.

What child theme we chose to develop on

It’s important to know that when you install the theme on your Shopify store, none of the demo theme content comes along with is except for the sections shown on the home page demo with filler content.

At Arq, we don’t utilize the themes as-is in terms of the content structure shown in the demos as we do content strategy bespoke for every client.

For Pinsy, we wanted to leverage some key components from the Chic theme specifically for the lookbook features and basis of the product detail pages.

For Nurse Sheena, a mix of features between the Organic the Vogue base theme had some key features that sold our client on a brand that has a large catalogue and relies on product drop promotions to drive sales. With the prominent countdown timer and big editorial images, we modified that theme to suit the beauty space really well.

Specifically we love how the Stiletto theme has really considered how the flow of each section can be mixed and matched without being jarring and that the typopgrahic structures underneath have been really well architected for minimal impact when developing more customized typography and branding via the CSS.

Fashion shopify store WhatLoWants uses this stiletto theme, screenshots of multiple pages shown

How mobile friendly is this Shopify Theme?

Mobile performance is a top concern for us at Arq, as we see across all categories of our clients in wellness, fashion, services, and lifestyle that mobile traffic is overtaking desktop visitors by A LOT. Our average brand is seeing 80% of mobile traffic to their stores on the daily. So picking a theme that is considered as mobile FIRST has been a priority to measure before recommending a theme to a client before the design project even begins.

Keep in mind that Google Lighthouse scores will vary by your location and if you have browser extensions installed that could affect the measurement score. The following screengrab was taken on in Incognito browser on Chrome.

Let’s break this down:

Speed score of 68–74 on Google Lighthouse and 73-92% on GTMetrix should reassure you that the performance is really quick. We would personally love to see the score of first contentful pain be around the 0.7s mark, but 1.5s is still great considering the large lifestyle image used and how many styles the site is loading and all the Shopify CDN resources we have no control over without going headless. The range I even see here changes based on the day of the week tested and the device.

Some improvements I would love to see personally is more critical path CSS infrastructure that is influenced by the theme settings to chop down on the load time, and potentially if I was deploying this for a client as well we wouldn’t use the slideshow for the hero as this requires a lot of resources to load upfront on your highest traffic page as well.

Also, there's a lot of images on the home page. It makes sense for a demo store to have this many sections be showcased to give you an understanding of the theme capabilities. However in use for yor own store we recommend maxing out at 7-10 sections, and compressing your images. There's a lot of other factors to consider with site speed, but thankfully we wrote an article about improving your Shopify Site Speed here as well.

Is the Shopify Stiletto theme optimized for SEO?

Mostly the SEO optimization is there at a very basic level for the theme architecture. There’s a few key changes we would suggest to the Stiletto theme team, and have made ourselves for our clientel using it for a more customized approach. With a 92% score, there's no themes we've seen that achieve this or higher. And the only pieces being knocked for are the not very descriptive links on the home page buttons - which with little effort could be fixed thankfully without custom code.

Heading tag control per section for SEO page structure

Having the option to override the heading tags on the sections, specifically the Hero Banners and Rich Text sections to make sure each page has an H1 tag (like the hero on the home page banner) as they’re default to H2’s. This would be most important as well for brands who really rely on customized templates to create long form content outside of the traditional blog structure to rank for strategic SEO pages that utilize a more custom layout.

Blog Article is very basic and not considered

I am a bit disappointed in the feature set of the blog. Considering the Stiletto theme supports large catalogue stores, I would love to see them incorporate better merchandising into the blog article pages to have products show up. For example, the Broadcast theme has a really smart widget that will pull any product linked in the article into an instant add-to-cart product widget in the sidebar. I can see an agency like our easily manipulating a section for a featured collection or product with metafields, but that extra touch that is more hands off and customization less would be super handy and benefit merchants who rely on organic traffic to drive sales.

The shopify theme stiletto could have a more robust blog design to at least merchan dise products in the articles

What are the best Theme Features in Stiletto?

What features drew us in:

  • For fashion and lifestyle brands like Pinsy (or even supplement and natural products) where a before and after transformation is a huge selling point, but having some dinky side by side images just doesn’t really do it justice, we loved the before/after slider feature block. We used this to showcase the transformation that actually having a snatched waist would give customers on Pinsy.
  • For brands in the beauty and wellness space, having really granular filtering and responsive search is key to help customers aid their product discovery.
  • The product page stock counter was instrumental in driving real FOMO for viral brands like Pinsy where selling out of stock is a real risk consumers will want to avoid when shopping certain drops and limited edition products.
  • Multiple feature stack options on the PDP to highlight the story and key unique selling propositions as well as addressing buyer decision making objections really helped make marked improvements to overall conversion rate for Pinsym while making it easy for the brand owner and marketing teams to make content updates when powered up with custom metafields.

What are the themes key design features?

  1. Countdown timer for promotions, sales, and key launches coming up for your brand. Not just 1 style either, make it bold, or a more subtle call out. This section could replace other apps or expensive tools for landing page countdown timers like deadline funnel.
  2. Ability to filter metafields directly in the collection page when setup correctly by a Shopify Expert like Arq. We even added custom metafield filters on Pinsy to shop by bra and underwear cuts We love that there is instant AJAXified page reload which makes the experience really slick for customers who want instant results.
  3. Highly visual Stock counter for products, especially if you are a small brand and have high sell-out potential which drives more FOMO and sales
  4. A bomb Lookbook page with TONS of merchandisable visual sections that really let your photography for look-and-feel to really shine
  5. Events calendar which is amazingly versatile for brands who do a lot of in real life experiences or event virtual events to build their omnipresence and community activities.
  6. Super quick and responsive search in a compact sidebar experience with typeahead support that returns products, blogs, and pages. Pair this with the Search and Discovery app and put this feature on steroids like we did with Pinsy as well.

What kinds of stores would benefit from Stiletto

While the demos shown in the Shopify theme store really cater mostly to the fashion, craft maker, and skincare space, we see the potential for huge versatility in the Stiletto theme when it comes to adding a few touches to fit more niches specifically. We considered using it for our own Arq theme for the studio to highlight our case studies and showcase our projects before we developed our own theme in-house specifically for service providers.

What we customized to improve the Stiletto Shopify theme

  • Before and after block into a feature section with text to showcase the product features with accompanying storytelling text to explain to customers what the section is showcasing and satisfying more SEO performance at the same time.
  • Added a block type to pull in a page as a block level for image with text to show fashion-specific items like a size chart
  • HEAVILY customized the variant picker experience to show cross-variant stock availability when switching colors, sizes and other variant types without relying on a page reload.
  • Added a logo farm marquee bar with feature text to show off press and trust building without adding a really heavy visual section to the page
  • Provided an option for color variants to be seen without the rollover to drive awareness of product variability and discovery
  • Added icon with text column section options to visually showcase the product's unique selling propositions without adding scroll fatigue
  • Additional metafield-powered features to the product cards to help with sorting through large catalogues with the primary buyer decision attribute
  • Added ReBuy customized widgets for advanced cross-selling features a smarter cart experience and immediate product discovery below the add-to-cart features, like a dynamic bundle for sets like the Pinsy Panties

What the benefits of the Stiletto Shopify Theme are over another premium Shopify theme

The Fluorescent team has put a lot of compelling features and conversion considered tooling in the Stiletto theme. We are honoured to also be a Flourescent theme partner as we have additional resources to make sure this theme is perfectly set up for our clients with a seamless management experience with Shopify. While Stiletto is designed to be visually stunning from first visit, we love the clean and quiet luxury look to build off of as a great skeleton to incorporate our client's branding into it without feeling too similar to other brands.

What it compares to

Not going to lie, the Stiletto Theme has quickly overtaken our love for the Broadcast theme this year and makes it our current top theme choice for 2024. Some close comparisons I would mention are the:

  • Gain theme
  • Palo Alto
  • Broadcast

What is the most underutilized feature

The lookbook pre-built page is an incredible hybe builder to do opt-in experiences for product drops and collection first-access pages.

What we wish they would add

  1. Custom Block section: Ability to move the text off the image and pick the side of the image (top or bottom) - which UPDATE looks like this was thankfully added in 2023. The custom content block section type that is super versatile in the Broadcast theme would keep us from utilizing Stiletto for other brand types where internal pages need a more mix-and-match approach without adding page bulk.
  2. Use color schemes for the color picker settings at the block level which would make color management much easier across pages instead of or in addition individual color pickers per feature.
  3. Adding a copy/paste coupon code into the promotion banner that replaces the countdown feature, so that discount driven sales that require a coupon code are more easily accessible without having to stuff it in a more inconspicuous spot like the announcement bar.
  4. Have the ability to show the color swatches on the product cards instead of forcing it to be hidden until hover on desktop.
  5. A multi-column option that allows you to tweak the column size PER block very much like the footer works to create an easier reading experience when generating longer form content or even rich product descriptions where perfectly even sized and spaced
  6. Field for manual coupon code application in the mini cart experience for promo-heavy brands
  7. Better merchandising built in for blog article posts
  8. Key USP flags in the small product card for the collection grid and carousel sections that are already incorporated into the PDP

Is Stiletto worth the cost?

For such a conversion-focused jam-packed feature theme, I think $340 USD is an absolute steal of a deal. In past years brands have had to spend >$10,000 USD to custom develop some items that just come out of the box with Stiletto. As a creator brand, I would even consider dropping expensive software like Deadline Funnel or external countdown clocks like Elfsight to have this baked in (starting at $99/mo). The very designer-worthy text as graphic banners for promotion-based material can replace the cost of graphic design with some well-considered typographic choices as well.

What if I need help updating Stiletto to the new version?

Depending on how many customizations you have made to your store in the .liquid or .css files that come baked in, upgrading could be as easy as pressing a button or complex where you may lose some changes you have made. If it’s the latter, I recommend reaching out to a professional design and development agency like Arq to get a quote on a theme upgrade package which would need to be customized based on your app stack, business needs and depth of customizations that need to be supported with any new features.

TL;DR: You need a cool nerd who can both understand your business needs AND read code and see if merging the versions won’t be catastrophic and if there are any red flags as to why you wouldn’t want to do so. (If you need someone like that it’s about time you booked an intro Clarity Call with Arq).

There is also a great tutorial on utilizing GitHub to facilitate theme upgrades when you have a customized version of a theme. If you are familiar with code, source control, and resolving conflicts in the code this would be a viable option. The link to that resource can be found here

Why is my Shopify store using Stiletto is really slow?

It’s likely due to a few key reasons, like MASSIVE images that you haven’t compressed, or apps that are weighing you down. Shopify theme speed is a complex topic, and we have an article here that has a few brilliant tricks from beginner to more advanced to help with your theme speed - read that here.

What if I need help making more unique touches to my Shopify theme?

For those seeking an affordable theme with a feminine touch, our service offers a customized setup that aligns with your needs. Alternatively, if you possess the Stiletto theme and aim to leverage its full potential by modifying it on a large scale and optimizing each feature to suit your unique product requirements, we have a service tailored specifically for that purpose.

For emerging brands <250k annual revenue, we recommend our Shopify Spruce up service that can get you set up with a theme like Stiletto for under $4,000 USD in as little as 2 days start to finish. Just come with your comprehensive brand guidelines, photos and copy. We do consults with our brand roadmap for just $500 to give you a roadmap of what re-theming looking like for your brand before you take the plunge.

For businesses with annual revenues exceeding $500k and ambitious growth goals like Pinsy, we suggest a collaborative approach as your consulting team. We can conduct a comprehensive Conversion Rate Optimization audit (CRO report) to assess the potential benefits of strategic upgrades to your Shopify theme. Alternatively, if you are considering a complete redesign and are contemplating the use of Stiletto, we would be delighted to engage in a Design and Build Blueprint session with your team. This session will uncover significant growth opportunities and align them with the various components of your Shopify e-commerce business.

We always recommend reaching out to us (you can use the chat here anytime!) or booking an introductory Clarity Call for free at the link here to chat before deciding next steps.

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