Shopify B2B: Is Shopify Plus a Good Choice for a B2B eCommerce Website?
If you’re looking for a B2B eCommerce platform, you‘re likely facing one of these situations. Either your retail customers are demanding an online ordering portal or you want to proactively tap the trillion-dollar market. In any case, you must have come across Shopify Plus as a likely candidate for a B2B eCommerce platform. And you’re here to figure out if Shopify B2B is a viable option for establishing a B2B online store. Well, you’re in good luck! In this post, we’ll reveal the facts about Shopify Plus that we unearthed during our research so you can make an informed decision.
Let’s dive deeper into what Shopify B2B offers and explore if it meets the demands of B2B eCommerce.
The Need for a Shopify B2B Solution
In the pre-Shopify era, creating an online store meant shelling out thousands of bucks to get your store up and running. Shopify’s reasonable pricing plans and easy-to-use platform democratized eCommerce and made it feasible for everyone to avail of the benefits.
Basic plans of Shopify are priced in the range of $29 to $299, which are good enough for small, mom-and-pop shops that are selling direct to consumers.
Because of its hassle-free solution and reasonable pricing, Shopify has very much become the king of B2C selling. But what about B2B? Does it make the cut for B2B selling as well?
Usually, when manufacturers and wholesalers set sail into the unchartered waters of B2B eCommerce, Shopify B2B is what they instinctively consider. They want a trustworthy and hassle-free solution like Shopify Basic and wish it were as easy to create an online store for their B2B customers as it was for consumers.
Shopify noticed that and introduced their enterprise-grade platform called Shopify Plus, which is often marketed as a B2B eCommerce platform.
What is Shopify Plus?
Despite what their messaging says, Shopify Plus isn’t really a B2B eCommerce platform, per se. It’s essentially a solution that meets the needs of growing DTC/B2C businesses.
Take an example of a small mom-and-pop shop. Shopify’s basic plans are good enough to help this small business set up its shop online. But when the business grows and scales up, its needs become more demanding, fulfilling which are out of the scope of Shopify’s basic plans.
At that stage in the business lifecycle, companies need more support for the exploding traffic on their site, the growing number of orders, and new products that are constantly being added to the online store.
Shopify Plus was thus, created to support those growing needs of small DTC businesses as they scale up.
But then, why is Shopify Plus often deemed and marketed as a B2B eCommerce platform? The answer is simpler than you’d expect: because of one of its features that allows a growing DTC business to create a separate wholesale store and diversify its distribution channels.
That feature is explicitly called Wholesale Channel. We’ll talk about it in a bit and discuss its features in detail.
Why Shopify Plus Introduced the Wholesale Channel?
For now, let’s focus on why Shopify included the Wholesale Channel in Shopify Plus and what’s the purpose?
Wholesale Channel was built in response to how the business success playbook was changing. While DTC was originally meant to disrupt how brands traditionally got traction, businesses soon realized that the only way to grow and scale was to diversify their distribution channels. To take their business to the next level, companies started expanding their distribution by selling wholesale while also selling direct to consumers at the same time.
That’s precisely why Shopify introduced the Wholesale Channel in Shopify Plus. That is, to let DTC businesses expand into B2B and create a separate wholesale portal for their B2B customers.
Besides the Wholesale Channel, here are some other features that Shopify Plus offers:
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage
- Advanced security features
- Customized checkouts
- Flexible payment methods
- Developer-friendly APIs
- and… Wholesale channel
With that said, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the Wholesale Channel and see what features it offers.
Shopify B2B Features in Wholesale Channel
Following are the most prominent features in Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel.
Password Protected Store
The wholesale channel allows you to create a separate, password-protected storefront. This means only the customers that you have invited and recruited in your wholesale program can access your store. You can select a customer account from the admin area and send an invitation to them. Your B2B customer will receive an email with his login credentials and can use those to access the store.
When you sell wholesale, you use a different pricing strategy. Your goal is to come up with competitive prices that entice your customers, cover your costs and maintain a good profit margin for yourself and the customer.
Wholesale Channel in Shopify Plus allows you to create a custom price list for every customer. So, you can choose what products to offer at what prices, and tag a customer to that list. Whenever a customer logs into his account, he or she can see the prices you have set. This way, you can create different price lists for different customers.
Custom price lists can be set with two different types of pricing strategies: percentage-off and fixed-prices based on the volume of order.
Flexible Order Management
The Wholesale Channel offers more flexibility in order processing as compared to the primary DTC store. When a customer places an order online, it appears as a draft order in your Shopify Admin, allowing you to process it in several different ways. Here are a few options for order processing:
- Send invoices to the payment provider listed in the customer’s account
- Send invoices to request payment from bank transfers
- Mark the order as paid for payments made via cheque
- Accept payments via installments, cheque, wire transfers, and credit cards.
The Wholesale Channel gives every customer a self-service portal that they can use to reorder or track their purchases using their account credentials.
To establish a clear distinction between your DTC site and Wholesale Channel, Shopify allows you to choose a custom domain for your wholesale store. You can either choose a subdomain or a new domain altogether.
Pros and Cons of Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel
Now that we’ve touched upon its features, let’s talk about its pros and cons.
Pros of Shopify B2B Wholesale Channel
- Using Shopify Plus for your B2B sales is a good option if you already have a DTC store established on Shopify.
- It’s fully managed and hosted, which means it takes the burden of site maintenance off your back and allows you to focus your resources on the things that matter.
- The advanced security features allow growing businesses to easily protect the sensitive information of their customers.
- The Wholesale Channel and its features discussed above are quite sufficient for most DTC businesses that have begun to expand into wholesale.
Cons of Shopify B2B Wholesale Channel
- The most prominent problem with Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel is the limitations in front-end customizations. The Wholesale Channel has its own non-editable theme, which might look very different from your main store. And you can’t customize it other than change your logo and company name.
- The Wholesale Channel is also gated behind a login screen. This means search engines don’t index it and so, you can’t use digital marketing techniques to promote your wholesale offering.
- The biggest limitation of the Wholesale Channel is the inability to use any apps or integrate it with other third-party tools via API. This seriously limits the functionality offered by Shopify Plus for wholesalers.
The Future of Shopify B2B
While Shopify Plus currently has limitations in its functionality and features, the company has recently announced its plans of introducing new features for B2B eCommerce.
While it hasn’t revealed any specific details about what features will be offered, it’s likely that Shopify will soon conquer the B2B eCommerce market as well.
Is Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel the Right Fit for you?
We’ve finally reached the million-dollar question: should you opt for Shopify Plus for your B2B eCommerce store?
Though I’d very much like to play safe and say that it depends, I’m going with the bold answer:
‘I don’t think so.’
As of what Shopify currently offers for B2B eCommerce, the Wholesale Channel doesn’t really meet the demanding and complex needs of B2B companies. Hence, the general rule of thumb for B2B companies would be to look at other solutions that are specifically made for B2B eCommerce and offer more flexibility.
There is one exception though.
If you’re a DTC business already using Shopify and have only started expanding into B2B recently, the Wholesale Channel might be a good fit for you. You can get started quickly and explore the opportunities in B2B eCommerce. However, as your wholesale operations grow and scale, you might need a more flexible solution in the future. and who knows, Shopify might become the king of B2B eCommerce by then!
Have a B2B eCommerce project? Let’s discuss your requirements with our B2B eCommerce development experts.