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
- Custom Development
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!