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B2B on Shopify: 3 ways to level up your B2B implementation

Chris from Sparklayer talks about the fundamental steps to implement B2B on Shopify

Guest post by Chris Mattingly, SparkLayer

Can Shopify be used for B2B?

Shopify has firmly cemented itself as the platform of choice for merchants of all shapes and sizes, from those just starting out, to well-established brands looking to accelerate and improve their online presence. With a strong feature-set that out-rivals many other platforms, its general ease of use that makes it rapid to pick up for eCommerce team members, and an impressive roadmap of carefully considered updates, it’s no wonder many merchants continue to flock to it.

At its heart is a strong DTC (Direct to Consumer) merchant-base that relies on Shopify to power their growth. One area that is primed for growth is the B2B sector, with analysts forecasting the global B2B eCommerce market reaching $20 trillion by 2027. When reviewing the broader capabilities of Shopify as a platform, B2B is an area that is regularly overlooked.

So can Shopify fulfill the often complex and heavily customized needs of B2B merchants and deliver a leading B2B customer experience? The short answer is yes! Here’s how to get started.

3 steps to implement B2B on Shopify

In this post, we’re going to turn our attention to 3 core ways that Shopify can be geared to deliver a first-class B2B experience:

  • Creating a B2B login/registration process that lets you manage your B2B application flow
  • How to display custom B2B pricing to your customers in a scalable way
  • How Draft orders can be incorporated into your B2B order workflows

Each of the above can vary in complexity (and some do require out-of-the-box thinking!) but we’ll aim to give some top-level guidance on potential ways to approach each of them. Let’s begin!

1. Creating an optimal B2B login & registration process 

The typical flow for the B2B login and registration process differs from DTC in one fundamental way: it’s usually necessary to require a customer to be approved before being able to access their special pricing and ordering rules. Once logged in, they can then browse the full product catalog, begin creating B2B orders, manage their account, and more. 

With Shopify, it’s possible to create a completely customized login experience that you can direct your B2B customers to before they get access. You may even want to consider ‘locking’ your B2B store until a customer signs in, preventing members of the public from being able to see products or B2B-only information.

No matter your approach, the implementation is relatively straightforward and requires adapting a number of the core files within your Shopify storefront to include special logic to handle this. In our guide here, we run through some examples of how this can be achieved and we’ve even included a live code sample on Shopify’s default theme, Dawn. 

It’s also possible to adapt Shopify’s native functionality to offer a B2B customer registration form that allows you to moderate applications before granting them access.

One common approach to achieve this is to use Shopify’s ‘contact form’ functionality that can be configured to notify specific members of your team of new applications. Once approved, the customer record can then simply be created within Shopify and then subsequently granted access to your B2B store.

For a more streamlined method, merchants could consider incorporating one of the best-of-breed registration form apps such as Customer Fields by Helium. With advanced form features, including an account approval flow, the ability to automatically apply tags, and much more, merchants can benefit from a more automated way to manage B2B applications.

2. How to display B2B pricing to your customers

One of the current limitations with Shopify is around how pricing works and it’s not possible to create additional pricing (or price lists) within their system unless you use Shopify’s enterprise plan. The good news is there are a variety of ways you can achieve this that enable you to implement a robust way to handle your customer-specific B2B pricing.

If you have access to technical expertise within your operation, a common approach is to use Shopify’s metafield functionality that allows you to assign additional data to any product attribute, even at the variant level. If you were looking to set up different pricing structures, you would simply extend the metafields within your product catalog to store this additional information. 

A typical approach would be to devise a naming structure (e.g. price_list1, price_list2), and then import these in bulk into your product catalog either through available Shopify import tools, or directly via your system integration (e.g. via an ERP). Whilst this approach works well for relatively straightforward setups, it can become unmanageable if your pricing structure becomes more complex or your product range is extremely large.

Another approach is to use an approved Shopify app to achieve customer-specific pricing. Many apps, behind the scenes, work in the way described above by utilizing Shopify’s metafields functionality and providing a user-interface to manage this. Others make use of Shopify’s line-item discount functionality to achieve B2B pricing which, all round, makes for a much tidier approach.

When evaluating ways to achieve your desired customer-specific B2B functionality, you also need to factor in the systems you have in place. If you already have an ERP or backend system that you use as your B2B pricing ‘source of truth’, you need to find a way that doesn’t create additional overhead or require extensive development maintenance going forward. Our own solution, SparkLayer, comes with a best-practise API, allowing you to continue to use your current systems to manage your B2B pricing.

3. How to use Draft orders for managing quotes and net payment orders

Within Shopify’s order management system, there’s one feature that many merchants are unaware of that can help transform how their B2B order process works: Draft orders.

Draft orders are essentially ‘pending orders’ that allow you to make edits before marking them as completed orders. For example, editing products within the order, updating shipping information, applying additional discounts, even setting B2B payment terms.

In the context of B2B ordering, Draft orders are a valuable addition to the B2B ordering flow, giving merchants the mechanism to review and approve orders before they are subsequently fulfilled. On payments, it’s common to see these managed in a more ‘offline’ fashion for B2B and Draft orders can simply be left as ‘Pending payment’ until they are then ready to be fully processed.

To get started with incorporating Draft orders into your B2B workflow, there are two approaches. You can either manually create them via the Shopify admin using the built-in Shopify tools, or, if your Shopify store is configured already to use a B2B-optimized app, these can be automatically created at the point a customer places an order.

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So there you have it, 3 ways to level up your B2B implementation on Shopify! The guides we’ve provided here only scratch the surface of what’s possible in making your Shopify store a B2B powerhouse. One of the key takeaways is to be rest assured that Shopify is a strong platform to help you scale your B2B operation providing you have the right strategy on how to best adapt for your unique B2B business requirements!

About the author

Chris is the co-founder of B2B eCommerce platform, SparkLayer, used by over 600 Shopify merchants to help scale their B2B business.

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