Shopify recently announced that they’re rolling out B2B functionality on Shopify Plus, primarily as a unified e-commerce offering for retailers and merchants that are currently selling B2B (or at least that is the way it is positioned). Let’s dissect each part of the announcement and consider what this means for merchants who are planning to extend their existing Shopify commitments Vs. looking at more established players like Adobe Commerce (a PaaS offering) or BigCommerce (competitive SaaS with B2B integrated for a couple years now.)
The Major Components of Shopify’s B2B Offering
“Give your B2B customers a unique buying experience with new company profiles. With these profiles, you can provide each B2B customer with distinct contact permissions, payment terms, price lists, and tax exemptions. For your more complex buyers, you can assign multiple contacts and locations to a single profile with different permission levels. With one central company profile, there is no need to manage separate records for every buyer and location you work with.”
The addition of company profiles shows that Shopify is serious about serving B2B. It indicates deep understanding of where B2B buyer complexity lies and where the opportunity for merchants is. Since B2B merchants are selling to organizations with hierarchies of people (all potential buyer customers), being able to serve company structures is critical.
However, as an SI with years of experience configuring complex B2B e-commerce sites, we can confirm that every B2B buyer likes a different “deal” with a merchant and for many there are custom requirements.
Will the new Shopify B2B satisfy simple use cases? Probably; but beware of the complexity and the number of use cases that may come with expanding your B2B e-commerce site to serve complex organizations with many buyers. It may take time and some customization, but we have deep experience solving B2B buyer use cases with the flexibility of Adobe Commerce.
“Custom wholesale pricing is now easier than ever. Set fixed price and percentage-off price lists for all of your products and variants, and easily modify the currency. B2B merchants are also able to sell in multiple currencies within one store, increasing your global reach. You can assign price lists to specific companies and locations — without the need for tags or third-party apps. And, you can assign multiple price lists to a company, with the lowest price always winning out if there are multiple prices available for a given product.”
For a manufacturer selling 10 widgets that only needs to worry about a limited number of pricing scenarios, Shopify’s B2B pricing functionality may do the trick; but a lot of larger B2B merchants have thousands of SKUs — each with variants and configurations. Some have PIMS and / or ERPs that they rely on for B2B pricing control. The integrations can be complex. Can Shopify handle the configuration and development work necessary to serve a lot of pricing scenarios for those types of companies? We don’t know yet.
“You can now automate the manual process of assigning payment terms to orders or draft orders in the admin. Once you’ve assigned payment terms to the company location, you can track, sort, and collect on orders as they become due. Your customers will be able to checkout with the payment terms you’ve made available to them without any upfront payment required, and can always keep track of their upcoming payments when they log into their account.”
Once again, Shopify is thinking about the B2B buyer the right way but there may be a level of complexity in credit terms that Shopify can’t handle out of the box. Complex business buyers want their own deals and typically pay on credit and merchants want to sell to these buyers without overextending credit terms so often times we see a requirement to integrate with an ERP so that a business buyer can see how much credit is available prior to or while purchasing.
“With customer accounts, your buyers will see wholesale products and prices only after they’ve been authenticated. Once inside, they’ll have access to all of their pertinent account information to limit the amount of time your team needs to spend on customer support. B2B customers can manage their account, select the company location they’re buying for, edit buyer information, and view and filter order history.”
This is a simple expectation or “table stakes” and probably only would illicit an “oh that’s great” for novice B2B merchants. But, as Shopify admits (at least in their language) that is who they are targeting with this release.
“From a single platform, you can now leverage the power of Shopify to run your B2B business with the same level of customization that you have for your DTC store, including access to:
- Store themes and Liquid customizations
- Ecosystem of apps
- API access
- Functions (formerly known as Scripts
Once again, any experienced Shopify merchant would expect this.
B2B Analytics Reports Filters
With B2B on Shopify, merchants will be able to apply new B2B-specific filters to their reports and have a clear view of their wholesale business when using one storefront. The new B2B filters will be available on all reports under the following sections: Sales, Orders, Profit Margin, Customers, and Finance.
B2B filtered reports come with the same functionality as traditional reports: you can create, save and export custom reports in the edit columns section. This is yet another way that you can run two sides of your business from a single platform and a single admin.
We have to give it to Shopify here, if you’re going to convince experienced B2C sellers to start selling B2B, enhancing your reporting expertise to reflect the common filters and variables that merchants will be expected to report on is a key piece of functionality.
The Bottom Line
Shopify’s B2B announcement is impressive and may well serve the immediate needs of many B2C e-commerce merchants that are looking to sell wholesale, or that have a lot of basic B2B use cases that they want to solve immediately. We will have to evaluate the offering over time and across some deployments to evaluate its competitiveness versus the more established players.