Accommodating your Wholesale Customers

One of the questions that comes up most often when setting up a new site for a client is how to deal with wholesale accounts.  Wholesale accounts may not be a large part of your current business, but in certain industries this market represents a HUGE potential for sales.  There are two main ways to accommodate your wholesale clients:

1. Set up a mirror site specifically for your wholesale customers.  The advantages of this method are that you can offer unique products and content specifically for your wholesale customers without retail customers seeing any of it, and without any additional customization.  This works particularly well if your product lines are different for wholesale customers.  The disadvantage her is that you have to maintain a completely separate site and deal with orders in two areas.

2. Set up wholesale accounts in your main site.  This option works great for most people, as they simply set the pricing specific to wholesale accounts.  So your wholesaler logs in and sees wholesale pricing, but your retail clients see the regular retail price.  The only real disadvantage here is that it is more difficult to offer specific shipping methods, payment methods, order minimums and content for your wholesale customers.  Luckily, we have made all of those issues much easier with some of our custom modifications.

Some shopping carts have a great set of features for wholesaling, others do not. Pinnacle Cart offers wholesale pricing out of the box, either product-specific pricing, or a flat percentage discount for each wholesale level, and you can have up to 3 different levels.  Since this isn’t quite robust enough for most of our clients, we have come up with a number of options, which I’ll detail below.

Account Creation

The first major hurdle is figuring out how to get your wholesale accounts set up, and how to handle new requests.  You want to give the customer the flexibility to enter their own information, but you don’t want to give them access without checking their information first.  So, we have built a custom registration form just for wholesalers that allows them to enter all of their info, including any custom fields you want to specify such as tax id, company, etc.  This puts an account into the system, but they don’t have access to wholesale pricing until the store owner approves them and manually adds them to a wholesale level.  When they do, the wholesaler gets an email informing them that their account is active and they can now see wholesale-specific pricing.

Wholesale-Only Products

Pinnacle doesn’t offer the ability to set product availability for each membership level, so we added a customization for this as well.  When a wholesaler logs in, they will be able to see any products flagged as ‘wholesale-only’, but regular retail customers will not see these products anywhere on the site.

Order Minimums

While Pinnacle offers order minimums for each account level, many of our clients have a minimum order requirement for their first order, and a different order minimum after that.  So we added a couple of fields to the order minimum area that accomplishes this.

Membership-Specific Shipping & Payment Methods

Wholesale accounts typically have different payment methods available to them, such as Purchase Order or Net 30. Our modification allows the admin to select which membership levels get to see which payment methods at checkout.  Similarly, some of our customers want to offer different free shipping thresholds for Wholesale, or even different shipping methods all together.  This mod gives you the ability to specify which membership levels get to select which shipping methods at checkout.

Membership-Specific Content

Wholesale accounts typically have different terms and conditions and shipping/return policies, so this tweak shows different links depending on the membership level of the customer who is logged in.

Membership-Specific Discounts/Coupons

Wholesale customers typically aren’t offered retail promotions and vice versa.  This modification lets you specify who gets what deals, and makes sure you don’t end up giving free shipping to a 300 pound order!

The bottom line is that you want to make it as easy for your wholesale customers to make a purchase as possible.  Having them jump through hoops to register, or making them enter their information multiple times will just cause them to find another source for their products.  Find out what features and functions work best for your particular industry and if they don’t exist out of the box on your shopping cart, get them customized!