We talk a lot about B2B e-commerce on Magento, especially in relation to our own B2B extensions and the self-service model, but what about the other SaaS-based e-commerce platforms we work with? Is it possible for SMBs to run B2B e-commerce on BigCommerce and Shopify? The answer is a not so simple, “yes…but…”
For complex enterprise businesses that sell B2B, and even for B2C brands that sell B2C but also have a B2B channel, Adobe Commerce is a great fit for many reasons. However, the popular SaaS platforms can also support SMB merchants with less complex B2B requirements and also provide a merchant with all of the benefits of SaaS. But there are caveats.
Let’s take a look at how some SMB merchants are using Shopify and BigCommerce for B2B transactions and what the possible risks are for using apps, plugins and extensions to accommodate more complex B2B requirements.
We know what a great platform this is for B2C; it’s proven simplicity, abundance of themes and easy-to-use admin interface make it a favorite for consumer brands and startups. But what if your brand wants to service some business buyers? Can you accommodate them on Shopify? Yes, but depending on your business, you will probably need to solve for those use cases with a Shopify app or two.
Here’s some perspective on how Shopify merchants can solve the problem:
1. If There Are Only a Few B2B Buyers
You can accommodate a few B2B use cases if you need to without much risk or problem at all. For example, if you have a few thousand customers but less than 10 B2B buyers and their most important requirement is a wholesale price, and every purchase is stable without much need for intervention, you may decide to solve for that by simply providing that customer with a promo code giving a percentage off.
2. All B2B Buyers Have the Same Wholesale Price
In cases where the B2B buyers all have the same pricing structure, we have seen some distributors that only sell to mom and pop / small retailers use Shopify and they simply make it a password-protected site. Once logged in, the buyers all have the same wholesale pricing and there’s no overhead to managing custom wholesale pricing on a customer by customer basis.
3. Price Groups / Wholesale Pricing
You will need an app to provide real, usable B2B pricing to solve use cases where multiple business buyers need different prices for the same products / SKUs. Customer Pricing by Bold (a developer with more than a dozen proven Shopify plugins) is a great option for this requirement. This app will allow you to seamlessly use the same store to offer Wholesale B2B or Custom Pricing to premium customers (VIP, Gold, Silver, Platinum, etc.). As an admin you will need to create tags for specific groups of customers and set price levels for that customer group. When the customers log in, the app changes pricing automatically.”
There are additional functional add-ons with premier pricing that are essentially allowing more granular discount schedules and more complex pricing based on quantity and product variants. Learn more here.
4. Punch Out / Return Cart
Business customers want the ability to “punch out” of a purchasing system like procurement within ERP and buy on an e-commerce website. There are some developers and plugin apps that allow this within Shopify. Punch Out Cloud is an app that allows the start in a merchants purchasing system. Users then decide to make a purchase and find your offering via a logo or description of the product or service you provide. The user then starts the punchout connection and data is transferred to your punchout enabled catalog in Shopify. The Cart can then be returned to the ERP.
Other Shopify apps enable the user to provide custom quotes, provide freight quotes, provide professional invoices which many businesses / business buyers demand.
So you can accommodate a significant number of B2B use cases by using one or several plugins. But what’s the risk? Each app represents a possible point of failure. Each app has been tested to work with Shopify but it’s not within Shopify itself so if there’s a problem you will have to work with the app developer and possibly your own developer who configured it to fix it. Apps in Shopify should be interoperable, but there are stories about them failing to integrate properly. Other risks are related to costs. Many app contracts allow the developers to change their prices because they need to be able to adjust to changes that Shopify may enforce on them. There’s risk and unpredictability by relying heavily on apps, but they do indeed afford a lot of functionality for a reasonable price.
BigCommerce has had a big year, has gone public, and has successfully positioned itself in a very differentiated way from Shopify. It’s an API-centric SaaS e-commerce platform and has very powerful features for e-commerce merchants out-of-the-box, even at its most basic levels. Like with Shopify, B2C merchants who are very basic level subscribers can accommodate basic B2B pricing use cases for a few customers without apps by using promo codes and coupons and quotes. There are apps in the B2B / Wholesale App category for BigCommerce that allow a merchant to manage B2B customers across a range of case studies including bulk ordering management (Quick Buy), Punch Out (Punch Out to Go), discounted bulk quoting (B2B Ninja) and more.
Bundle B2B is a BigCommerce app that deserves special attention because it allows BigCommerce merchants to offers a serious core of B2B features. Bundle B2B is powerful and has been considered the “de facto” B2B add-on for BigCommerce merchants that need to offer:
- Corporate Account Management
- Sales Rep “Masquerade” (log in / account management)
- Shared Shopping lists (requisition lists)
- Company Address Book
- Previously Purchased Products / Orders Repurchase
- Payment Method control, hide, show for different B2B customers
- Customer Groups & Price Lists
- Sales Rep Quoting
- Multiple user accounts (business customers with multiple users can purchase on an account)
BundeB2B and BigCommerce will be making an important announcement soon related to the integration of the two products and a new release available by the end of Q2. BundleB2B current and future versions will be able to accommodate B2B use cases for mid sized wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors, and brands that need to solve B2B use cases.
The Bottom Line
Compared to Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento), neither Shopify or BigCommerce currently offer the vast set of features that Magento does out of the box, so for businesses that need to solve for high levels of complexity Adobe Commerce may be a much better fit long term.
However, you can get started serving B2B with the SaaS platforms and as a matter of practice if your business is simple you can rely on it for a long time. BUT…B2B has a lot of complexity and its important to understand down the road you may need a more robust B2B platform like Adobe Commerce.
If you need assistance deciding which platform is best for supporting the trajectory of your B2B e-commerce business please let us know!