Shopify B2B – how to approach selling to businesses with the Shopify eCommerce Platform
New B2B features are available to all merchants on the Shopify Plus plan, further enabling the viability of B2B eCommerce on Shopify. These features are now ingrained into the core admin of the Shopify platform, meaning that you need not integrate third-party apps to start to sell to B2B customers. It is part of the Shopify Plus plan, so you do not need to pay additional fees for it, as long as you have already upgraded to Shopify Plus.
A look into the past
Before B2B was introduced, Shopify had great DTC features and -channel-integrations. This meant that online stores were perfectly able to sell to their individual consumers. Yet, B2B functionalities were really not of concern for the Canadian eCommerce platform.
Any merchant on Shopify who needed to sell to B2B buyers either needed to live with these big limitations, or to find another platform that could support this, or they had to build it themselves, employing developers in the process.
How about now?
Now, any Shopify Plus merchant can plug into the extended B2B capabilities that Shopify offers and gain access to all the new functionalities that make Shopify more viable for wholesale business, wholesale customers and B2B commerce. This has opened a whole new world and market of online sales for any business that is interested in selling to other businesses.
This innovation from Shopify has simplified things a whole lot for businesses and has graced businesses with even more legroom for growth. Stores that are currently DTC can opt for a blended store. This means that they can add the B2B features to their existing store and sell to two target groups via the same sales channel.
The other side of the coin is that the B2B feature is ideal for businesses that only sell to other businesses. Whether these said businesses need to set up an entirely new online store. Or if they just want to migrate from their existing eCommerce platform to Shopify, the B2B features will allow them to create the online store they need.
Let’s take a look at these new features
Regardless of which store option you go for there are some nifty features that Shopify B2B boasts, which we will outline for you below. Take a look:
- Company profiles – Here you are able to create multiple company profiles for buyers who may also find themselves in different locations within one company. Each profile can be amended to have specific user permission and unique payment terms.
- Price lists – You will have the option of setting different prices for different company profiles. And you’ll be able to do so without the need of tags or apps. Shopify has made this simple as can be.
- Net payment terms – The payment you need to receive from any order placed will run through the admin of Shopify. You will be able to automatically assign payment terms to each of your buyers.
- Custom store theme – Create a bespoke wholesale online shopping experience for your buyers using Liquid.
- Customer accounts – Each account will be able to be tailored to suit specific requirements. Offer discounts to specific customer accounts, payment terms, payment methods etc. Essentially, just create a very bespoke checkout experience for each customer account registered on your Shopify online store.
- Self serve portal – Allow all your customers to have their own hand at finding information about their companies order history, profile etc. as well as allow each customer who logs in to be able to choose the company and location they are buying for without breaking a sweat.
Shopify is so clever. They partnered with certain companies to make their B2B offering even more irresistible to Shopify Plus merchants needing a B2B sales channel. They managed to partner with really big ERP companies who make the lives of Shopify Plus B2B merchants a whole lot easier.
Through these intelligent partnerships, Shopify has afforded its merchants with the added benefits of being able to better integrate their ERP through advanced APIs, which means that important business data will flow directly through your admin.
Another benefit is that these integrations allow B2B customers to be managed without any manual data entry required in the Shopify admin. This is also true with product lists, price lists and inventory lists. No manual entry needed. Winning.
Approaches to B2B eCommerce with Shopify
Fitting with Shopify’s aim to be flexible and functional, there are a variety of approaches that merchants have when choosing how they would like to sell to their B2B customers using the Shopify platform. We will get into them below:
Blended B2C & B2B Online Store
A blended store really simply means an online store that caters to both target groups and accepts both B2B and DTC orders.
This is beneficial for any online retailer that does not need to differentiate between the orders that businesses place vs. the orders that individual consumers place.
Advantages of a blended approach
The blended B2C & B2B store is typically the easiest option to set up because you essentially run only one online shop. Furthermore, this approach does not require you to be on the Shopify Plus plan, so it is viable for all merchant sizes.
Disadvantages of a blended approach
It’s not the ideal setup if you want or need to offer a different shopping experience for your buyers who are businesses as opposed to the individual consumers you have using your online store. When we say ‘experience’ we mean the following things:
- General look and feel of the store
- Shopping process and website navigation
- Customer discounts
- Wholesale discounts
- Gift cards
- Most analytical reports (apart from sales reports)
- Notification emails
- Abandoned cart emails
- Inventory systems
- Out of stock systems
- Shipping settings & rates
The above-mentioned list is a whole row of things that a blended store will naturally provide in a similar way to B2C and B2B shoppers. E.g., creating a discount code or sending an automatic abandoned cart email will apply to both DTC and B2B buyers.
Alternatively, it will require a lot of time and effort to build a semi-merged experience, where both sides only see part of the entire online store and user experience.
Any kind of report, data, purchasing history etc. will also by default be merged information found in your analytics section of your Shopify platform.
You will not be able to tell apart who bought what when between a DTC and B2B buyer (except with advanced sales reports). Meaning that the experience that each of these parties has will not be uniquely tailored for their specific needs.
Which is why we say, if you are not too concerned with needing to differentiate between these two groups or are not hugely interested in offering each of these groups a different online experience, then you are fine with a blended store.
However, If the optimal sales journey for each of these two parties is vastly different, or if you want to cater to their needs individually, then you will want to consider a dedicated store instead.
Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel
Shopify introduced their first form of B2B sales a while ago, which changed the entire eCommerce business for many. The B2B market was growing in revenue, and Shopify realized they needed to get on board and start to think out of the box from their initial business model.
Suddenly, businesses who also had wholesale customers could add a wholesale store to their business online. This platform allowed businesses to have a separate storefront.
The wholesale channel can only be accessed through having a Shopify Plus store. That is the first prerequisite. As this plan starts at $2000 per month, it is usually only a plan that larger-scale businesses can afford.
It is a dedicated wholesale storefront on Shopify that is password protected. It has an array of nifty wholesale features that include wholesale pricing, allowing you to offer customer-specific pricing. You can offer your B2B customers a wholesale discount for example that your individual customers cannot receive as they do not have access to the same store. This can be applied to all wholesale orders on the B2B store.
This revolutionized the way wholesale business was done. Suddenly, businesses were able to start selling to this new group of customers. This meant that there were more sales, and it was to significantly improve the customer experience for all wholesale customers.
How the Shopify Plus wholesale channel works in process
The channel for wholesale on Shopify Plus is a self-service portal that serves wholesale businesses. It comes with a range of dedicated features:
Login for wholesale customers
It allows merchants to wholesale customers to create a company profile that they can access through their login password. They can place orders easily without needing to contact the seller, so quick ordering is possible.
They can see the order history in their account and filter order history of their company profile, which will give them better transparency. Furthermore, they will be able to see when they ordered which products and how much they were charged for these.
It also allows them to track their orders. To manage the status of an order is a time-consuming act if you do not have it automated. This is a feature that the Shopify Plus wholesale channel incorporates to make the lives of everyone easier.
Other essential wholesale features include:
- A Separate storefront
- Custom Pricing & Customer-Specific Price Lists
- Custom order limits
- Customer Dashboards
- Order Processing
Dedicated B2B Online Store
Like the name indicates, this is a website that is only for B2B buyers. If you do not have DTC customers or if you want to keep your B2B and DTC customers separate, then you will need to create a new store to have this dedicated Shopify B2B store for your buyers.
The cool thing about this is that you can tailor your service and online experience for your B2B buyers. It also helps you segment inventory and business data between orders made by DTC vs. B2B customers.
The whole list of things that we mentioned above that could not be differentiated in a blended store can be differentiated in a dedicated store. This means that you can offer specific discount codes for only your B2B buyers, send them more personalized abandoned cart emails for example, offer them better and more suitable discount codes and the list goes on…
It’s the better option if you want to offer more of a custom experience for your B2B buyers. Yet, it is usually also more expensive to run two stores instead of one blended store, simply because you need to set up and manage multiple channels on Shopify.
Additional Considerations on Shopify B2B capabilities
With all things great, there must also be some things that are, well, not so great.
Now comes the moment where we outline certain thoughts you might want to take into consideration before deciding on going B2B or even using the B2B sales channel that Shopify offers its Shopify Plus merchants.
- You cannot change the name of a customer on a B2B order already placed
- You cannot order online but pickup in store on a B2B order
- Local delivery is not available on B2B orders
- As of yet, subscriptions are incompatible with B2B, unfortunately.
- Orders currently have a maximum amount of lines accepted on B2B. This amount is 500 lines. Orders exceeding this amount can not be processed.
- B2B is a new feature on Shopify, so not all apps will be compatible with it yet.
- Multi Currency on B2B is available either through local pricing with Shopify Markets OR by manually selecting it for a specific price list, but not both.
- Buying Process – in B2B commerce there are often compliance steps, where a higher-up needs to green light orders etc.
- User Experience – e.g. B2B customers need to go through a checkout experience, like any B2C buyer, yet in many cases B2B buyers.
- Product complexity. B2B products are often very complex with many variations and options, while Shopify only allows for 3 variant dimensions on each product and only up to 100 variants in total.
Fourth Option: Headless
As is clear from the above list of considerations, the ‘considerations’ could turn out to be complications when using Shopify Plus for B2B eCommerce.
Yet, there is another way to go about B2B on Shopify. Something that you can consider to avoid complications with the Shopify wholesale way is by going Headless.
What is Headless?
Headless is the act of decoupling the front-end of your store from your back-end. Your front-end is the part that your customers see, the pretty bits that your customers engage with. Your back-end is your server. The server is the spot that saves all your business data, pricing rules for different customers, where you store your product management, where you save vital buyer information, draft orders etc.
To know more, take a look at our blog ‘Headless Commerce – What is it?’ here.
What going Headless means for your business
As a business owner, with a business online, you need to take certain things into account. You must provide your customers with a great shopping experience.
As, even with the new feature set, the standard B2B Shopify way is littered with hard and soft complications, it would be worth considering going Headless.
Headless enables you to build the bespoke shopping experience your B2B customers expect because it allows you to circumvent the limitations and integrate other systems into your online store.
You can use the Shopify features and extend them with your custom developed microservices in the areas where Shopify lacks features. This way, you can create a B2B eCommerce experience that is custom-built and suits your and your customer's specific needs beautifully.
The B2B feature from Shopify is a great step forward. It helps B2B sellers offer an online shopping experience for their business customers, just like a Shopify store does for DTC businesses today.
It’s a new sales channel that Shopify is still working on. This does not mean that it is incomplete. It simply means that it is still a work in progress and there is probably more to come.
It certainly is a nifty feature that Shopify has introduced for its Shopify Plus users, and we hope that any merchant out there who wants to tackle the B2B market does take advantage of this great development by Shopify.
We’re impressed with Shopify. We hope you are too. Should you like to know more about how to get the most out of an E-Commerce platform like Shopify and how to use its functionality to your best advantage, then get in touch!
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Natalie MillerMarketing Manager
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