Welcome to the second installment of our three-part guide to Understanding Wholesale on Shopify! In this series we’ll cover the various methods and best practices through which one can implement wholesale into their Shopify Store. Follow along as we detail the pros and cons of each solution, and help you discover which will best suit your needs!
The 3 Facets of Wholesale Management
There are 3 key facets of wholesale management on Shopify: Pricing, Content, and Inventory. An overview of the 3 facets is provided in the first part of this guide, we recommend you start there if you’re unfamiliar with these concepts.
Wholesale with Shopify Apps
Many of the problems met when trying to run a wholesale business on Shopify can be solved by employing Shopify Apps. We’ll be covering our top Shopify App pick for each facet of wholesale management, and offer insight into the pros and cons of using apps to run a wholesale business on Shopify.
Pricing Management is all but solved by using Shopify Apps. Apps that handle pricing on Shopify do so by cleverly manipulating the variant fields of your products to introduce different pricing tiers. These variants are then selectively shown, or kept hidden, from your customers based on the wholesale privileges you’ve granted them. The only drawback to this method comes from the fact that Shopify puts a limit on the number of variants a single product can have, 100 to be exact. You may run into issues with this method if you offer many pricing tiers!
If you run a retail business alongside your wholesale business, you’ll possibly need additional apps for Content Management and Inventory Management. This isn’t a deal-breaker: you’re already looking to use apps, and there is nothing inherently wrong with using multiple apps, but there are additional costs to consider and the possibility of bogging down your store with too many 3rd party scripts that these apps may utilize.
In general, Pricing Management apps on Shopify offer a relatively clean user experience for your customers. They won’t have to rely on you or your employees to assist them with completing their order as one would have to do with Shopify out-of-the-box.
Customer Pricing from Bold is our pick for Pricing Management using Shopify Apps. With Customer Pricing You’ll be able to create different customer types with default discount percentages and tax settings. Customers can be put into different types based on purchasing behavior thanks to a feature called “auto-tagging.” Auto-tagging lets you set criteria such as amount spent, item purchased, or number of orders. This feature will save you countless hours of micromanaging your customer accounts, just set your rules and let Customer Pricing sort things out.
You’re also free to manually choose products that offer wholesale pricing, and set those items individually or based on customer type. Items can also be hidden by customer type, which means you get some basic Content Management out of the deal too! The basic pricing tier ($29.99/mo.) includes unlimited customer types, upgrading to Premium ($49.99/mo.) unlocks the more robust pricing features, auto-tagging, and the option to bulk-import pricing. It’s worth mentioning that Customer Pricing offers light Content Management features as well, but there are apps better suited for the job!
Content Management in the realm of Shopify Apps is handled in various ways, from simply hiding products or variants through to full-on password protected storefronts. Some of the in-between comes into play if you’re using a Content Management app to also take care of Pricing Management. You may be thinking to yourself, “Well if I can use one app to manage both aspects, why wouldn’t I just use that?” The answer to that question is: maybe you can!
Our pick for a Content Management app is, Locksmith. This app’s main purpose is to lock down your Shopify store’s content. You can hide or lock individual sections of a page, specific collections, or as we mentioned above, your entire store. Access can be given to customers in many ways: customer tags, secret links, pass codes, purchase history and more! Customer tags work much in the same way of the “auto-tagging” feature found in Customer Pricing, meaning you set customer types and decide what they can and cannot access. Secret links are URLs that you generate, which can then be shared in your company’s newsletter, for example. Pass codes are as straightforward as you can get: set a pass code, give it to the individuals which you want access given. Purchase history lets you grant access based on number of orders or a total dollar amount spent by the customer.
Locksmith can function as your sole wholesale app, but if you offer retail pricing in addition to wholesale, you’ll be left utilizing the variant-based pricing we discussed before, and hiding the pricing based on customer-type. The alternative would be duplicating every product in your store, one for wholesale customers, the other for retail customers. This can quickly get out of hand with a store that has many products and is hence a less than ideal solution for larger Shopify stores. Inventory Management becomes a major problem when going this route, requiring you to install an additional app to keep your stock in sync.
Pricing for Locksmith scales with your Shopify’s account level, starting at $9.00/mo. for Basic users and going up to $99.00/mo. for Advanced. All pricing tiers include the same great features!
Inventory Management is the least customer-facing part of wholesale e-commerce on Shopify, but it’s also the part which can quickly lead to a customer support nightmare. The problems introduced by using Shopify Apps to manage pricing and content can lead to products which aren’t sold out being seen as such, or vice-versa, where you sell more quantity of a product and have to cancel orders.
We mentioned duplicating products as way to achieve wholesale, so if you are selling a product to retail customers and wholesale customers, that product now exists in your store twice. Each item created in Shopify has its own individual stock quantity set, but in reality it’s the exact same product, selling from the same pool of inventory. Without an app to manage inventory you’d be left having to manually reconcile those inventory levels after every order is placed, or dedicating a set amount for both sides of your e-commerce business. The former means you’re spending valuable time micromanaging your store, the latter means you could leave one set of customers seeing a product as “sold out” when you have plenty of inventory in your warehouse.
Stitch Labs is our Inventory Management app of choice for running a wholesale e-commerce business. Stitch Labs is generally used by stores that sell across multiple sales channels. Some examples of other sales channels would be Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. Stitch Labs is capable of syncing inventory across these various channels so you don’t have to spend hours reconciling your inventory every day. But, Stitch Labs is powerful and clever enough to allow for similar functions within a single Shopify store. It takes some elbow grease at the outset to ensure that Stitch Labs knows which products share an inventory, but the end result means your retail and wholesale customers can shop at will, and you don’t have to lose sleep over inventory problems.
Stitch Labs offers plenty more beyond simple Inventory Management and integrates with the most popular accounting, point-of-sale, and shipping & fulfillment platforms available. This includes QuickBooks, Amazon, Vend, and ShipStation, amongst many others. It’s an pro-level app, and it’s only real drawback is its pro-level pricing! You’re looking at $299/mo. for the Starter level, $499/mo. for Business level, and the ominous “contact us” for Enterprise level. Starter level should be all you need to get started, but it could be cost-prohibitive to smaller wholesale stores.
You may have noticed that utilizing Shopify Apps brings us closer to wholesale e-commerce nirvana, but they’re still not a perfect solution. In part 3 of Wholesale on Shopify, we’ll take a look into Shopify Plus, where wholesale can be managed at scale, with a great user experience for your customers and a great management experience for you!