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Expanding a Trade Website into Retail

It is not unusual for someone who has run a successful wholesale B2B business to want to expand into retail.

axis vMerchant is a popular choice for axis diplomat users with a wholesale or trade-orientated business because the close integration means that areas like complex customer-specific pricing models are handled automatically whereas, for other solutions, they can be a major challenge (or simply not possible). In many ways, B2C is much simpler.

For those thinking of expanding into retail, we have put together the following checklist of things to consider.

One Website or Two?

It is perfectly possible to have one website that handles both trade and retail sales. An anonymous visitor to the site sees retail prices but when they log in using a trade account's credentials, the pricing switches to their own net trade pricing.

But is this the way you want to operate?

The one disadvantage of this method of operation is that it is apparent to your trade customers that you are selling direct. Whether this is a political hot potato or something that your trade customers will just accept as part of modern day life is the decision that you need to make.

Adding Retail Functionality to a Trade Site

If your trade website is a template-based one then the process of adding retail functionality is quite straightforward.

Once you have considered all of the topics listed below, you simply make sure that your site is configured, in axis diplomat, as both trade and retail (via the Presentation tab in Maintain Sites).

If your website is a bespoke one then the website may need some alteration to allow retail customers to buy and checkout. Please contact axisfirst Web Services to discuss your requirements further.

Creating a separate Retail site

A separate retail website is, in many respects, easier to manage but you will need to consider all of the things that need to be considered when launching any website, including

  • domain name
  • branding
  • design

Branding may be as simple as a logo for your new website but you may want to take this further and have separate document formats and email addresses within axis diplomat (for example, invoice and delivery note formats). In this case, you will also need the Multiple Trading Identities module for your axis diplomat system.

Pros and Cons

  For Against
Use Existing Site
  • Simpler
  • Cheaper to build and run
  • Quicker to launch
  • May Alienate Trade Customers
Launch New Site
  • Use unique branding
  • Sell other products not available to trade customers
  • Your trade customers need not know it is you
  • More preparation required to launch
  • More expensive to build and run
  • No existing search engine presence

Payment Methods

If you sell to retail customers, you will need to accept payments using debit/credit cards and/or PayPal.

If you currently accept card payments from your trade customers then you already have the required merchant account with an acquiring bank and probably have a SagePay account alongside. If not, you can apply for a SagePay account here.

You may want to supplement this by opening a PayPal account as well. If you do, you will also require the axis diplomat PayPal module.

If you do not currently accept card payments then you will need to open a merchant account with an acquiring bank. This can be a lengthy process at the best of times, so you may want to consider launching your retail site with PayPal only as a stop-gap.

Delivery Charges

axis vMerchant allows you to define a completely separate delivery charge structure for your retail customers to the one that you currently use for your trade customers.

When it comes to calculating what your delivery charges should be for a retail site, our advice is always to keep it simple - the delivery charge policy should be simple enough that you can explain it in one sentence to a customer, for example "UK Mainland delivery is £5.95 for orders up to £50 and free thereafter."

Do not expect to replicate your courier's delivery charge structure as it will be too complex for people to understand what they are going to be charged before adding things to their shopping basket.


Does the retail price on your axis diplomat stock ledger already reflect the price that you want to sell to consumers at?

If not, you can create a pseudo-customer account specifically for your retail web pricing. More information on this can be found in the axis vMerchant Administrators User Guide.

Other Considerations

Will you sell all of the same products to retail customers?

If you want to use a single website for both B2B and B2C yet want to sell a reduced product set to retail customers, you can.

When maintaining your eBusiness Catalogue, you are able to mark selected groups as only being available to logged in trade customers. Until a trade customer logs in, these categories will simply not appear.

How will you reach new retail customers?

Simply having product available to sell, and a website to sell it from, is of no benefit unless new customers can find your website.

If you have an existing site that allows non-logged in visitors to see products without buying them then there will, at least, be some existing traction with search engines.

If you are launching a new website, or your trade website hid all product information behind a login, then you will have no existing search engine presence.

Either way, you may want to consider investing in some paid-for advertising in the short term, whether this is Google AdWords or other pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will depend on your marketplace and how best to reach your end-users. Social media advertising may be more appropriate and, if you offer a service with a local bias, for example if you offer free local delivery in your own vans, then you can also consider advertising routes such as the websites of local newspapers and online-only local news sites.

You may also want to consider adding Microdata to your site.

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