Over the past two weeks, we took a look at some of the things that Shopify is really, really goodat and some of the things that it might not work as well with — and this week we’ll take a look at some scenarios that, with some creativity and compromise, you may be able to get Shopify to “bend” to your will and work for your particular business requirements if it doesn’t already.
A good, simple alternative, is to issue wholesalers unique discount codes (random ones work best) that give them a flat discount across each order they place. If you need to sell some items at different wholesale rates, you could consider using separate discount codes based on the product or collection being purchased, but keep in mind, since you can only use a single code per order, wholesale customers would need to place multiple orders if they are ordering across product lines.
Finally, it's worth noting that the Shopify Plus edition of Shopify does offer a wholesale channel, so this could be a good solution for large scale stores.
While Shopify does offer basic support to "link" variants to control what combinations of variants customers can buy, highly configurable items can be more complex to sell on Shopify.
One possible way around this, in addition to using an app or custom programming, is to consider selling configurable items offline only — or make online shoppers contact you directly to purchase.
While this may not be as smooth of an online experience as you might like, it’s also worth considering the costs and troubleshooting involved in letting customers customize items online. Having users reach out can also be a good way to not only build a personal relationship with them and offer them a truly custom built solution, but it can “weed out” people who aren’t serious about browsing.
Some shops, such as fabric or other raw material stores, that need to sell in increments, especially fractional increments, might find Shopify to be a bit challenging due to its "whole unit" approach to product quantities that doesn't allow, for example, a customer to buy "1.5" of an item.
The simplest way to sell by increments without a third party app, is to use variants to create a new variation and price for each measure or increment you offer — such as 1 foot, 1.25 feet, 1.5 feet, 1.75 feet, 2 feet — and so on. However, if you have a large number of possible increments, you could quickly hit the 100 variant limit.
A good workaround for this is to consider selling your products on a “round up” basis — in other words, only to the nearest whole or half unit. This can significantly reduce the number of variants you need. In many cases, depending on your particular product and exact pricing, the difference between, say, 1.25 feet and 1.5 could be fairly negligible and customers may actually appreciate receiving a little extra of whatever you’re selling.
This approach also lets you discount prices as the customer buys more.
All that said, if you can, you may just want to sell your items in whole units wherever possible and let customers use the quantity field to indicate the number of feet, yards, inches or other increment they are buying.
The same holds true when selling items in packs of 6, 12 or another number. Here again, an easy way to do this is to offer variants for the increments you want to sell in with corresponding prices. This approach has the advantage of being able to handle price breaks at certain counts as well and still offers the “fallback” solution of, for example, a person buying two 12-packs would still get 24 items and pay the appropriate amount (in fact, it might be a bit more if you use discounted pricing).
Shopify itself does have limited pre-order functionality, including the ability, depending on the payment gateway you use, to pre-authorize a customer’s payment method to check for sufficient funds.
However, how long the authorization takes varies depending on the processing service you’re using and it also doesn’t guarantee available funds at a later date, so it should be used carefully.
Similarly, items being sold via a crowdfunding format may also prove a bit tricky to handle in Shopify since they often are months, if not a year or more, away from even being manufactured.
Depending on your model and processor’s policies, however, you may be able to collect the money upfront and then ship items later. You’ll want to make sure your product pages and terms and conditions clearly outline this, however, and check that with your legal and accounting team, as well as the payment company, to ensure this complies with their policies.
If you want customers to be able to sign up for a notification when an out of stock item comes back into stock, this will typically require a third party app to handle more advanced features. Out of the Sandbox themes do include a form that lets customers request to be notified, but it does not collect detailed information about the request or allow you to automatically email customers once the item does come back in stock.
Instead, you’ll need to manually send out emails or use a third party app or sync service to add the users to a mailing list and then trigger the emails to be sent at the appropriate time.
With all of these scenarios, it’s important to consider the cost of creating a truly custom solution that would allow, for example, customers to specify exact measurements or units and have all pricing automatically applied. Often these solutions can be quite expensive and may not be worth investing in, especially if you are a new business just starting out.
Instead, it can be smart to test the viability of your product and business and see if users do request “off rack” increments or packages. If not, there may simply not be enough demand for it and you’ve saved yourself a lot of money in the end.