B2B and eCommerce
eCommerce is better known as a B2C sales channel. However, it also has potential that every B2B business should seize. According to Statista, the global B2B eCommerce gross merchandise volume has doubled in five years and the B2B eCommerce is actually six times bigger than B2C eCommerce. The Asia-Pacific market holds the crown on this, totaling 80% of the current B2B eCommerce sales. We are likely to see increasing growth rates in other markets as well.
Shopify is well known among B2C eCommerce but there has been much less discussion on it's B2B opportunities. B2B online stores require different approach than B2C stores. What kind of potential does Shopify offer for B2B sales?
B2B options can be roughly divided into four categories in the Shopify ecosystem:
- Discount codes
- Wholesale application
- Shopify's wholesale channel
- A separate Shopify online store for B2B customers
1. Discount code
The simplest way to provide B2B pricing for customers is to use Shopify’s discount code feature. This solution works best if the pricing model is simple and consistent (e.g., for B2B buyers the price is always 30% off the retail price). Shopping experiences, such as navigation, product range, delivery methods and payment methods, are basically the same as for consumer customers.
The B2B discount can be provided either via an automatic discount code or a standard discount code, which the B2B customer enters when ordering at the e-commerce checkout. The solution works best for merchants who are starting B2B sales and/or want to try it. Learn more about using discount codes in the Shopify online store.
2. Wholesale application
Another option is to expand the eCommerce functions by installing a third-party B2B application on Shopify. This enables functions like price lists for each customer group. The solution works best if the pricing model is relatively simple, for example -20%, -30%, and -40% off the retail price.
The application and its price lists also allow product-specific pricing at fixed prices, but prices must then be maintained in the application and cannot be accessed through the Shopify interfaces. If there are multiple discount levels, a potentially large number of items must by maintained manually. For example, 100 products, five size options, and five colour options for each product mean that three discount levels accrue 10,000 different price points.
Shopping experiences such as navigation, product range, delivery methods and payment methods are basically the same as for consumer customers. However, depending on the implementation, B2B buyers may be able to choose to pay by invoice. The solution works best for merchants who want the same online store to serve all customer groups (B2C and B2B).
3. Shopify's wholesale channel
The third option is to install a dedicated Shopify B2B sales channel. This is only possible for Shopify Plus merchants. The sales channel enables options such as the construction of customer group-specific price lists and product-specific pricing at a fixed price, but prices must then be maintained in the sales channel, as in the previous option. Price lists can be imported via a CSV file, but not via Shopify’s APIs, so maintenance cannot be fully automated.
User names and login information can restrict customers’ access to the B2B sales channel. The shopping experience, such as navigation, product range and payment, is determined by the settings of the sales channel. However, very limited layout editing and language versions are available.
The solution works best for Shopify Plus merchants who have a simple ordering channel to receive B2B orders, and the interface language is not a problem for B2B customers. Only the following languages are currently supported: Brazilian Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Polish.
4. Separate Shopify online store for B2B customers
The fourth option is to set up a separate Shopify online store for B2B customers. The online store's features and settings can then be tailored to the needs of B2B customers, who often buy large quantities at once. Likewise, marketing messages can be better targeted.
In addition, Shopify’s pricing logic can be improved with a wholesale app that enables customer group-specific price lists, for example. However, from a maintenance perspective, the solution works best if the pricing models are relatively simple and permanent — especially if the product list is large. Usernames and logins can restrict customers’ access to the B2B store.
In the multi-store (B2C + B2B) model, keep in mind that inventory balances are likely to be maintained outside Shopify and changes to the online store will be updated through integration.
Shopify B2B opportunities — key takeaways:
- Discount codes work best for merchants who do small-scale B2B sales and/or want to try it.
- Third-party wholesale application works best for merchants who want simplicity and who look forward to having just a single store to serve all their customer groups at once.
- Shopify’s wholesale channel works best for Shopify Plus merchants who have a simple ordering channel to receive B2B orders.
- A separate Shopify online store gives B2B customers the most leeway both during and after the project, enabling, among other things, different catalogues and promotions in different stores.
Jari Suni, Solution Architect / Woolman
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