Shopify Wholesale; State of the Union as of May 2021
The Pandemic was a major event that changed how businesses operate and will continue to operate in the future. Manufacturers saw many of their physical retail channels dry up as consumers began to order more online in 2020 and that trend has continued into 2021. Manufacturers are waking up to the fact that to sell their products they need a website to connect with their wholesale customers, this isn’t new, but the Pandemic has accelerated the trend here.
Even now in 2021, most companies use spreadsheets, emails and phone calls to process wholesale and B2B orders. Not only is this inefficient and very manual intensive and it creates friction in the ordering process. When you move your wholesale ordering process online you eliminate manual processes and you will see an increase in your wholesale orders.
Wholesale Functionality You Want for Your Site
There is a baseline level of functionality you need for your online wholesale system: custom price lists, unique customer logins, product recommendations and data analytics to name a few. The typical workflow is that a wholesale customer will log into your site and see a custom curated catalog with specific pricing. In addition, you can include sales rep information, data and analytics about their account and give them the ability to reorder from previous purchases. Most companies will also include new products, upsells and related products so wholesale customers can get an idea of all your potential products. So now the question is how do you set this up on Shopify?
What are the Wholesale Options on Shopify?
There are three primary ways Shopify merchants setup wholesale ordering, here are the 3 most common options:
Shopify Wholesale Apps
Shopify Plus Wholesale Channel
As a Shopify Plus development agency we will consider all 3 options for our clients. Which of the 3 options you choose for your business will depend on your current business process and how much you are willing to flex your process to work with a technical solution. The best implementations are where you adapt a bit to the technical solution AND take the opportunity to streamline your business process and remove inefficiencies at the same time.
Shopify Wholesale Apps
We recommend looking at Shopify wholesale apps to start as many of them can help set you up with a simple solution for accepting wholesale orders. There are two wholesale apps we have seen our clients use:
There are more than these two apps, so invest some time in the Shopify app store and try and find one that is right for you.
Shopify Wholesale Channel
The Shopify Plus wholesale channel lets you expand your business into wholesale by creating a separate, password-protected storefront that’s an extension of your online store. All your wholesale customers and orders are trackable under your current store’s Shopify admin.
Your wholesale store is based on your online store, so you can offer your wholesale buyers (referred to here as wholesale customers) the same products that you offer your online store customers, but at different prices. You can also add wholesale-only products that are available in your wholesale store only.
Your wholesale store has a different storefront (and requires different login credentials) from your online store. Customers cannot access your online store from your wholesale store.
Our recommendation is thoroughly vet the Shopify wholesale channel to make sure it works for your Plus store. Only a small percentage of our clients end up going with this option as the native functionality isn’t typically robust enough to meet their needs for processing wholesale orders.
If you can’t find a Shopify app that works and you’re not a Plus merchant, custom development might be your best choice for implementing wholesale ordering. Custom development for wholesale doesn’t have to be super complicated, often by using tag and metafields in addition to updates to the Shopify liquid templates we can create a wholesale process that works just fine. In addition, you only need to use one site and your wholesale customers log in and based on their tag they see the appropriate pricing specific to them. Another popular option is using both a Shopify public app + doing some custom development around the app to create the ideal system for your company.
Shopify purchased Handshake in 2019 and relaunched the service in late 2020 as a wholesale marketplace for suppliers and retailers. There are rumors of a deeper integration with wholesale and it will be interesting to find out if Shopify has more plans for Handshake here in the future.
Shopify Unite 2021 and Wholesale
I am looking forward to Shopify Unite 2021 to find out if there are announcements planned for wholesale. Shopify has a huge opportunity to attract B2B clients that are on the fence about migrating to Shopify until they see a wholesale solution that works for their business. Stay tuned in this area, I expect big things from Shopify in 2021 and 2022 in the B2B space!
Reinventing the Shopify Plus Partner Agency experience.
BTown Web, a Seattle based Shopify Plus agency, announced they have fully rebranded to Ambaum Labs, LLC, or Ambaum for short. As a Shopify Plus Partner Agency, Ambaum brings both merchant and agency experience – helping clients navigate and grow their business through the online shopping path. With a seasoned team of Shopify Plus developers, the agency supports client’s technical needs with site development, migrations, integrations and custom development.
Over a cup of coffee from Seattle’s Seven Coffee Roasters (Ambaum client), we went behind the scenes to chat about the exciting rebrand with Founder & CEO Chad Fisher and COO David Stober.
Why initially BTown Web?
“I grew up in Burien, Washington and the name BTown Web was a special name for me when we created the company 7 years ago. The Company began its life in a one-room office next to a small ‘locals’ restaurant in downtown Burien called Angelo’s. Like the restaurant and City of Burien, BTown Web was started with grit and boot-strapping with my first two development hires, Andrew Crawley and Matt Peters (both still with the Company). Early on, our small little Company cut our teeth on custom WordPress, WooCommerce and really any other little development projects we could take on. We not only survived in the early days, but managed to add team members and more clients. Fast forward to 2014 when everything changed with the broad acceleration of eCommerce and the emergence of a new SaaS technology platform company Shopify,” said Chad Fisher.
What made you decide to rebrand?
“BTown Web was a perfect name in the early stages of our company, but as we grew it became clear we needed something with a broader appeal. One of our first Shopify Plus clients came by way of an elementary school friend of mine who I had recently reconnected with, David Stober. David at the time was running a print manufacturing business that happened to be scaling to include online small-run custom print and packaging services as a Shopify Plus merchant (he later found out he was one of the first 50 merchants on Shopify Plus). Through this business relationship and friendship, one thing led to another and then in 2019 he and I began to map out a plan for David to join BTown. Then in 2019 David formally came on board as COO to help scale our growing Shopify Plus Partner Agency and one of the first things he began to drive was the need to rebrand,” explained Chad Fisher.
The meaning of Ambaum
“Ambaum is the road that our agency is located on in the heart of Burien, WA. Ambaum started off as a muddy wagon trail built in 1912 by locals with wheelbarrows, picks, shovels and hard work. Jacob Ambaum was a German immigrant from Ohio that had the inspiration for the creation of the road after which he is now named. Ambaum for us is a symbol of the hard work it takes to build something out of nothing and the power of connecting people and places,” said Chad Fisher.
Why should merchants choose Ambaum as their Shopify Plus growth agency?
“Ambaum is a team of Shopify Plus Experts, development professionals and business builders that partners with brands looking to grow their digital business and online revenue. Historically, selling online was at best a single channel and at worst, simply a box checking exercise for mos CMOs. In today’s commerce climate though, a digital strategy is no longer simply a nice to have – now digital is an absolute necessity which has been accelerated even more by Covid-19,” said David Stober.
“As fellow merchants, we have intimate knowledge of the daily challenges our clients face. The reality is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method when it comes to scaling an eCommerce business. It takes an openness to change, correct context and a holistic approach. Success takes not only building a great digital foundation and the marketing systems to acquire customers, but also a true owner’s empathy- taking into account the broader business objectives and impacts to operations and finance. At Ambaum, we believe we set ourselves apart as an Agency by viewing our merchants through the lens of the merchant and really putting ourselves in the shoes of the business owner,acting as if it were our own Company,” continued David Stober.
A look ahead and the future of Ambaum
Chad and David shared that Ambaum aims to be the premier Shopify Plus Growth Agency for high-growth digital merchants and passionate brands. “We will accomplish this by heavily investing in our team of eCommerce and development professionals to scale a world-class organization that delivers best-in-class design, development, growth marketing and custom apps to our clients and the broader Shopify ecosystem,” said Chad Fisher.
Shopify vs WooCommerce; Which eCommerce Platform is Right for you?
If you know that you want to start selling online you now need to consider which platform you want to use to build your store
Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest part of the journey. If you know that you want to start selling online you now need to consider which platform you want to use to build your store. Shopify and WooCommerce are 2 of the most popular platforms around and both have their pluses and minuses. This article will review the features of both eCommerce platforms, if you have any questions about functionality for either one, reach out and we can assist.
PRICING & FEATURES MATRIX
$29, $79, $299 and Shopify Plus
Shared Host $10/month, VPS $40/month and up
Free – With Let’s Encrypt
Credit Card Processing Fees
2.9% – 2.4% + 30 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
Multi Currency Payments
Yes – With Multiple Stores
Yes – With Custom Development
Yes – Apps or Multiple Stores
Yes – Variety of Options
Yes – With Certain Processors
Free Themes + Custom Options
Free Themes + Custom Options
Yes – Limited Compared to WP
Yes – via CSV
Yes – via CSV, XML
Yes – but only 1 code per purchase
Yes – Requires Customization
Yes – Requires Customization
Cart & Checkout Page
Cart Editable, Not the Checkout
Both Fully Editable
Yes – Experts Program
Yes – Experts Program
Yes – with Apps
Yes – with Plugins
Yes – with Apps
Yes – with Plugins
Yes – with limited Apps
Yes – plenty of Plugins
Hosted Platform vs Self Hosting
Let’s start the comparison off by discussing how hosting works with both WooCommerce and Shopify. With Shopify the answer is easy, they will host your site for you and it’s included in the monthly price you pay of $29, $79 or $299.
With WooCommerce you will need to find a hosting company for your new site. We recommend getting a virtual private server (at a minimum) because if you opt for a shared host (these are typically cheaper like $10/month or less) there is a stronger chance your site could get hacked.
What is a SSL certificate? SSL certificates allows you to transmit encrypted transactions via the HTTP protocol, it adds the “s” on the end so that your URLs all become HTTPS. Shopify includes a SSL certificate with their hosted store so there is no need for you to set one up on your own.
When setting up WooCommerce you will want to purchase a SSL certificate. These typically cost about $70/year, but just recently a new company sprang up called Let’s Encrypt that allows you to install a free SSL certificate and automate it so that it gets renewed each year (this is a huge plus!).
Credit Card Processing Fees
Both Shopify and WooCommerce offer comparable fees for payment processing. With Shopify you need to use Shopify Payments to process credit card transactions unless you want to pay an extra .5% – 2.0% to use your own external payments gateway. You can use your own payment processor and pay 0% for gateway fees with Shopify if you upgrade your account to Shopify Plus, that’s a much higher level monthly plan that we will discuss further on in this comparison.
I’m going to choose Stripe for the WooCommerce payment processor. Stripe is very easy to work with, has good rates and a strong API (which comes in handy if you want to do custom development work). You could also use PayPal, but working with their API is no picnic and accepting credit card payments via Stripe is much easier than doing the same thing with PayPal.
Overall you can see the credit card processing fees are in the same ballpark with both Shopify and WooCommerce.
Multi Currency Payments
Shopify doesn’t have an elegant solution here. The easiest way to do this is to setup multiple “clone” stores in the countries you want to sell in so that you can show the native currency price on your checkout page. It’s important to note that Shopify will only show one currency per store on your checkout page and you are unable to edit your checkout page. If you upgrade to Shopify Plus you can add clone stores to sell in multiple countries and you can also edit your checkout page.
One way to help mitigate the multi currency problem in Shopify is to set up geo IP location and pop up a notice to direct your customer to your other Shopify site. For example if you determine that a Canadian customer is on your US site you can create a popover that will let them know they should navigate to your Canadian store to see your store in the proper currency.
With WooCommerce you have almost unlimited customizations and setting up multi currency sites is possible. It will require custom programming to set everything up but there are no inherent limitations.
For Shopify merchants that want to set up their store with multiple languages there are two primary options: choose an existing app or set up multiple stores (as covered in the section above about currencies). Langify is a popular multilingual Shopify app that will do automatic language detection (based on IP address) as well allow for language switching back and forth.
WooCommerce can support sites with multiple languages and you have a few options. You could install Google Translate with a drop down option to switch languages and while this is the easiest implementation, Google Translate is notoriously inaccurate. The better route is to have your content translated by a professional and setup your site so there are drop down options for users to select different languages. You can put each of the languages on a separate sub domain if you want to keep each of the different languages clean and separate from the main site.
Shopify is PCI compliant and certified as Level 1 PCI DSS compliant. With Shopify your store is automatically PCI compliant and their certification covers your store.
With Stripe you will need to make sure you are compliant with the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). The easiest way to do that is to setup Stripe Checkout as it meets the requirements and security constraints of the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), SAQ A, by performing all transmission of sensitive cardholder data within an IFRAME served off of a stripe.com domain that is controlled by Stripe.
There are oodles of themes for your Shopify store, both free and paid. If you are just starting out with your business, choosing a free theme can help you get rolling. If you have an existing business and want to start out with Shopify you can hire an agency to create a custom design and develop a store that fits exactly what you need.
Like Shopify WordPress also has a variety of free and paid themes for you to choose from. WooCommerce will require more customization of the purchase path than Shopify and you will need a developer to help with that, we’ll cover that in more detail in a section below.
Shopify comes with a built in blogging engine that can be enabled and styled to allow you to start creating posts about your business. The rich text editor that Shopify uses isn’t as robust as what WordPress has setup and you will find many people have issues with it. The HTML markup that Shopify’s blog creates can make it difficult to work with especially if you are coming from using WordPress as your regular blog.
WordPress is well known as a robust blogging platform and is very easy to use. There are number of plugins and customizations you can make to WordPress to get setup and blogging with your WooCommerce store.
Shopify allows you to bulk upload products from a CSV file. You will need to include the following information: Handle (unique name for the product), Title, Body (which is the description of the product), vendor, type, tags (these allow for additional search functionality on the site), options, price, images, skus, variants and much more.
On Shopify you can create discount codes for a dollar amount, a percentage off or for free shipping. You can create multiple discount codes and maintain them via your Shopify dashboard. However a customer can not use more than one discount code at a time on Shopify and this can be a painful situation. Say you want to offer free shipping and 30% off as 2 different coupon codes a customer can’t use both of those during checkout at the same time.
WooCommerce has a dashboard for managing and adding coupon codes. You can create cart discounts, for example if the customer purchases more than 2 of 1 item they get a discount of 15% on the entire purchase. You can set up product discounts for fixed amounts ($20 off) and you can create percentage discounts. In addition you can create free shipping coupons (very popular) and you can limit how many times a coupon is used in total or per customer.
You will need to decide which carriers you want to use to ship your product, UPS, Fedex, common carriers, etc. Once you decide that you need to think about how you are going to manage your shipments (printing packing slips, tracking inventory, etc). Many of our clients are very happy with ShipStation and use them to manage shipments across all their channels: Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Jet, their website, etc.
With Shopify you can easily integrate ShipStation (make sure that you don’t your inventory status set to “fulfilled” in Shopify or ShipStation won’t sync) or you can manually track your shipments offline. Next you need to set your shipping rates and this is where Shopify starts to have some issues. You can set your shipping rates by state, but if you want to get more granular and set your rates by zip code you will need to install an app and upgrade your Shopify account to the $79/month for the carrier calculated shipping feature.
With WooCommerce you can fully customize your shipping settings via 3rd party plugins or you can customize your shipping rates, fees, charges etc by custom coding everything. You can get shipping rates from UPS, USPS, print shipping labels and much more with WooCommerce.
Cart & Checkout Page
Both Shopify and WooCommerce will let you customize the shopping cart page, customize buttons, colors, layout, etc. With WooCommerce you can customize the checkout page fully, but on Shopify you are restricted from updating the checkout page. This can be a problem for Shopify stores that want to display different currencies (as described in the currency section). The best option here is to set up “clone” stores in Shopify or even better is to upgrade to Shopify Plus and you can fully configure the checkout page how you need it.
If you need a developer for Shopify, the best place to look is the Shopify Experts page. If you are a large eCommerce store you will want to consider reaching out to a Shopify Plus Expert.
WooCommerce also has an expert program, you can search by agency, their service and product specializations and the project scope.
Shopify merchants can install the Intuit Quickbooks app to sync up Shopify with Quickbooks online. Once you connect the 2, you can save hours of work each work entering in sales, tax and customer data that will automatically be ported over to Quickbooks. You will need to choose a date range for the orders you want to export from Shopify to Quickbooks and then you can set how often you want to sync your orders, daily, weekly or monthly.
WooCommerce also has a Quickbooks extension to sync your accounting data on a regular basis. You can also matchup up customers by name and company in Shopify and Quickbooks so you can make sure you are sending over the right information.
If you are looking to keep track of your Shopify customers in Salesforce, you can consider using the Zapier app. You can add customers as contacts in Salesforce and track the products they’ve purchased in Shopify. Bit of caution with Zapier in that depending on how you are using Salesforce (and Shopify), the mapping may not work out smoothly. We had a customer where we had to create a custom cron job to sync up the data between Salesforce and Shopify to make sure everything was working correctly.
Zapier also has a an app for WooCommerce that functions very similarly to the Shopify one. You can create triggers and actions for different events: when a new account is created, new task built, new contact etc.
Shopify will track and show tax information based on your retail location. Shopify doesn’t automatically set up tax rates for countries outside of your home country, it’s up to you to set that rate up. If you are a Shopify Plus customer you can get access to Avalara tax rates, which are much more accurate and comprehensive than the standard Shopify tax rates.
WooCommerce has settings where you can enable tax calculation and the display of taxes on your checkout page. There are a lot of options in WooCommerce for taxes, you can change how you calculate the taxes, how you display the rates, totals, etc. You can even upload your own tax rates with Woo, there is a lot of flexibility in how you set everything up.
There are a lot of things that go into SEO: site architecture, content, images, video, social signals, backlinks and much more. The majority of your rankings will come from areas that you can control, adding unique content, getting links and creating a site that is worthy of being ranked by Google. As far as site architecture Shopify does all the things that you need to create and rank a site. WordPress has a head start with overall SEO and especially with their thriving plugin ecosystem. The Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin has tons of features, keyword and content analysis, meta tag configurations, breadcrumbs, sitemaps and much more. Shopify has some SEO apps, but none as comprehensive and established as Yoast – in time it wouldn’t surprise me if Yoast developed an app for Shopify.
Born in Burien, Chad fell in love with ecommerce, Shopify and development ever since he left PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2007. Sports fan who follows all the local teams, I also like running and spending time with my wife and 2 awesome daughters.