The state of B2B e-commerce
In the past, B2B buyers have suffered clunky user experiences through simple, featureless websites or portals compared to their D2C counterparts. These came in the form of stripped-back, separate storefronts.
But over the past few years, the B2B e-commerce landscape has shifted. With more sophisticated store setups available, like third-party apps, 65% of companies have opted to sell online vs. in-person sales in 2022. And the B2B growth trajectory doesn’t stop there, 80% of B2B commerce is expected to be online by 2025.
So, it was only a matter of time until an e-commerce platform like Shopify, focused on creating better experiences for merchants and their customers alike expanded their existing B2B offering. Enter Shopify B2B.
What is Shopify B2B?
Shopify B2B is a suite of features that enable you to sell directly to businesses through your online store without requiring third-party apps or workarounds to implement B2B complexity. With Shopify B2B, it’s possible to set customer-specific price lists, payment terms, and currencies and connect multiple buyers and locations in a single company profile.
As for reporting, existing Shopify merchants can apply new B2B-specific filters to their reports and have a clear view of their wholesale business using one storefront. The new B2B filters will be available on all reports under: Sales, Orders, Profit Margin, Customers, and Finance.
What’s the difference between Shopify wholesale and B2B?
Shopify’s wholesale is an additional sales channel like POS or Amazon and currently consists of two options - the Handshake marketplace or a separate, password-protected store (an extension of your existing online store).
Handshake marketplace is a wholesale marketplace for Shopify merchants to sell with retailers – it’s separate from your existing store, and admin will sit in Handshake as opposed to Shopify admin. With Handshake, it's harder to reach a broad range of customers and update price lists and payment terms.
As for the separate, password-protected storefront, you can offer custom pricing to wholesale customers and process orders in Shopify admin, but this will look and feel different (in some cases, clumsy) than your D2C store.
With Shopify B2B, rather than an additional sales channel, your B2B offering is built into Shopify admin, so everything you have on your DTC store is also available for B2B selling (see considerations and restrictions). This offers the ability to create a blended storefront that caters to B2B and DTC customers. Ultimately, Shopify B2B is a more user-friendly, elevated experience for your B2B customers and easier to manage for your teams.
Shopify B2B vs Wholesale comparison
How to set up Shopify B2B
There are two approaches to setting up your Shopify B2B store; blended or dedicated.
Some features can’t differentiate between B2B and DTC orders, resulting in customer notifications, changes to orders, and reports that are applied indiscriminately. Here’s your options…
A blended store is a store that accepts both B2B and DTC orders. In a blended store, B2B buyers log in to their accounts to access wholesale price lists and payment terms.
Using a blended store lets you keep all your business data collected in one place and manage your store settings easily. However, if you need different settings for your customers, then consider opening a dedicated store.
The following applies to blended stores:
- By default, B2B customers can't use discount codes. But, if you activate discount codes, B2B and DTC customers can use the same discount codes.
- By default, B2B customers can't use gift cards. But, if you activate gift cards, then both B2B and DTC customers can use gift cards.
- By default, B2B customers can't be affected by Shopify Scripts that affect line item discounts. However, if you activate Shopify Scripts, B2B and DTC customers are affected.
- B2B and DTC customers have the same online store experience. Therefore, changes made to your theme and navigation using the theme editor apply to B2B and DTC customers. Changes can be made to your theme that affect your B2B customers only by editing your theme’s code to use the customer.b2b liquid variable.
- Most analytics combine results from both B2B and DTC customers. Only sales reports differentiate between B2B and DTC customers.
- Notifications and abandoned cart emails are the same for B2B and DTC customers.
- Inventory systems and selling when out-of-stock settings are the same for B2B and DTC customers.
- Shipping settings and rates are the same for B2B and DTC customers.
A dedicated store is an expansion store that is only used by B2B customers. You can create specific settings for B2B customers in a dedicated store without using code.
A dedicated store helps you segment inventory and business data between your B2B and DTC stores. In addition, you can use scripts and discount codes without concern as only B2B customers use the store.
However, opening a dedicated store for B2B requires you to create a new store, set up any integrations that you might already have with your existing stores, and manage your dedicated store settings separately. If you don't need to differentiate between your B2B and DTC customers, consider opening a blended store.
Because only B2B customers use dedicated stores, you can make changes that apply only to these customers, including the following:
- Activate discount codes
- Activate gift cards
- Activate Shopify Scripts that affect line item discounts
- Change your store's theme and navigation settings
- Obtain analytics reports that only include B2B customer information
- Customize Notifications and abandoned cart emails for B2B customers
- Use different inventory systems or sell with out-of-stock settings
- Use different shipping settings and rates
Before you start:
- Review the considerations for using B2B
- Decide whether a blended or dedicated store is right for your business
Create a company:
Create a price list:
Launch your B2B store:
Why Shopify B2B works…
Reduce time and costs
With Shopify B2B, you can save time and money for the longer term. It allows you to use the same setup as your D2C store, managing both from one place. Operationally, it’s easier to manage day-to-day. With little coding required, implementation and configuration can be simpler with Shopify B2B than with third-party solutions.
Keep everything you know and love from D2C
You’ll still have access to Shopify’s customization features, such as themes, discounts, and functions you’ve become accustomed to with your D2C store. Plus, in typical Shopify fashion, they’ve partnered with ERP providers Netsuite, Acumatica, and Brightpearl to allow easy integration.
Personalization for customers
Personalization is crucial to stand out from competitors and offer customers a tailored user experience. This is no different when it comes to selling Business-To-Business. Shopify B2B allows you to keep things personal through ‘company profiles’ by providing your B2B customers with unique contact permissions, payment terms, price lists, and tax exemptions. Each B2B customer can view their specific prices directly on PLPs and PDPs before adding products to their cart. You can also create a central company profile and manage every record from one profile, including multiple buyers and locations, from one business.
You want to set or change prices easily and create payment terms
A common need for B2B selling is customer-specific pricing for products and variants and creating percentage-off price lists - particularly for bulk orders. And Shopify’s been paying attention. In a bid to create an all-encompassing, easy-to-use B2B offering, Shopify B2B lets you set price lists for fixed prices and percentage-off, with the opportunity to modify the currency if needed.
And in true Shopify fashion, they’ve considered international B2B selling by enabling selling in multiple currencies from one store. As for payment terms, you can assign them to created orders or draft orders from the Shopify admin and track, sort, and collect them once they’re due. Companies can checkout with payment terms created without any upfront payment required and can keep track of upcoming payments by logging into their account.
What you need to consider…
Before using Shopify B2B, there are some considerations to be had:
- Shopify B2B is only available for Shopify Plus plan holders
- Orders have a maximum of 500 line items - meaning orders will fail if a customer orders more than 500 different products or variants.
- Subscriptions aren't compatible with B2B.
- If you have an existing site full of apps like search, discount, tagging, etc., it’s possible, as B2B is a new feature, these third parties might not function with B2B yet.
- Currently, companies can't be imported. Instead, customer company information must be added and updated in the Shopify admin.
- B2B customers will have to use new customer accounts.
The following features are not included by default for B2B orders. If you need these features, then contact Shopify Plus Support to activate them or speak to your Shopify Plus agency:
- Shopify Scripts that affect line item discounts
- Purchasing with gift cards
- Recovering abandoned checkouts
The following features are not currently available for B2B orders:
- Changing the customer on a B2B order
- Offering tipping options
- Buy online, pickup in-store
- Offering non-physical products, such as services or digital products
- Local delivery
- Accelerated checkouts, including payment wallets
- Shopify Scripts that affect shipping or payments
- Customizations to the checkout are made by editing the checkout.liquid file
Notable development restrictions
- Shopify Scripts; It’s impossible to apply scripts that differentiate between D2C and B2B. There is no context for ‘company’ at this time; however, check in with your agency who will likely be able to work around this.
- Discounts; discounts are available but need a flag. They can be applied on top of price lists.
- Extensible discounts through Functions (or any Functions) are not available at this time.
- APIs; API isn’t 100% ready yet. Only some are supported, including the recently launched Business Customer API, which provides queries, objects, and mutations to introspect. It also manages the new B2B primitives: Companies, Company Locations, and Compact Contacts with associated roles. Expect more to release in early 2023.
- Tech stack; Shopify B2B is still fairly new, so some apps may not be updated to support it - check with Shopify or an agency, like us, before implementing any third-party apps.
- Checkout.liquid customizations are not available at this time.
- Access from a headless site (SFAPI) isn’t possible. The recommendation is to use a separate online store for B2B.
- Accelerated checkouts are not supported at this time.
- Payment methods, like BACS and bank transfers, aren’t supported.
- Subscriptions and deferred payment options are not currently supported.
- Multipass is not currently supported.
Alternative B2B options
If these restrictions don’t work for your business, instead of using Shopify B2B you can employ third-party solutions. If your business model is predominantly B2B, you have very complex B2B requirements, or want to set up a B2B channel whilst using your existing Shopify store, third-party solutions such as SparkLayer are worth considering.
SparkLayer offers Shopify merchants a fast way to deploy their B2B channel with a “ready-made” frontend that can be installed on any Shopify storefront. It also boasts Sales Agent functionality that lets sales teams place and manage orders on behalf of B2B customers and a pricing engine that caters to complex pricing rules, such as tiered pricing, “pack sizing,” and ordering rules, e.g., minimum order totals. For merchants using backend systems such as an ERP or CRM, SparkLayer also provides an API that allows B2B-specific data to be automatically synchronized with Shopify (e.g., B2B pricing). See this put into practice on award-winning travel gear brand Db Journey's new B2B store on Shopify - built with SparkLayer by us.
For a long time, we’ve understood the true needs of merchants looking to scale their B2B operation using Shopify. Our product, SparkLayer, has been designed as a light-weight solution that allows merchants to rapidly enable and grow their B2B channel whilst still being able to benefit from the overall Shopify platform, such as a customizable storefront and an extensive app ecosystem.
Although Shopify B2B makes managing and spinning up a store easier for some Shopify merchants, these third-party solutions can provide a better B2B experience on your existing storefront. But, like with Shopify B2B, there are pros and cons to be considered:
- Create B2B tailored user experiences through the use of customizable frontend widgets
- Can provide more complex B2B functionality, such as:
- Customer-specific pack sizes
- Tiered price-breaks
- Support for product rules such as pack sizing
- Import orders via CSV
- B2B shipping rules
- Fast re-ordering, using a previous order as a template
- Some third-party solutions have pre-built connectors for Inventory Management Systems, Order Management Systems, Accounting software, and B2B payment specialists.
- Additional expense (although, for non-Plus partners, some third-party solutions may negate the need to upgrade to Shopify Plus)
- Additional complexity
- Additional operational overhead. Another system to manage and maintain
- Another link in the chain to consider when assessing faults/problems
- Third-party applications may require an additional system like an iPaaS to integrate your external data from an ERP with the solution.
Following the announcement and launch of Shopify B2B, Shopify has rolled out updates like ‘Business Customer APIs’ and draft order checkout options. And it looks like there’s more to come.
Before addressing the developer restrictions and considerations mentioned above, we expect Shopify to focus on the customer experience, such as B2B-specific discounts and easy reordering options for customers. This is already coming to fruition, with Shopify confirming that new payment terms, including payment reminders and flexible shipping addresses, will be added to the B2B offering. Plus, merchants will soon be able to customize the branding for their customer accounts.
If you want to build, expand on or enhance your B2B e-commerce offering, reach out to our team. For more on Shopify B2B, check back in on this article for the latest updates as they come out.