WooCommerce is best known for powering online shops for retail customers. Less people know that it’s also hugely popular for wholesale stores selling to trade users.
If you want to use WooCommerce to create a wholesale store – or a wholesale area to run alongside your public website – then it’s a bit trickier to get your head around. Strangely, there are no wholesale plugins in the list of official WooCommerce Extensions. However some excellent wholesale plugins from reputable companies are available.
I’ve tried and tested them all to produce this guide to the best plugins for a WooCommerce wholesale store.
What features does a WooCommerce wholesale plugin need?
The market for WooCommerce wholesale plugins is dominated by plugins that offer different pricing for retail and trade customers. There are lots of plugins that offer this and nothing else.
Differentiated pricing is an important element of most wholesale stores. However this is only a small part of the functionality needed to convert WooCommerce into a wholesale store.
To create a complete wholesale store, you need to do more than change the pricing. You might also want to display your wholesale products in a less visual format that is suitable for the trade. You’ll probably want to password protect or hide the wholesale part of the store so that only approved distributors can access it.
With this in mind, we can divide WooCommerce wholesale plugins into these categories:
- WooCommerce pricing plugins that charge different prices to retail and wholesale customers.
- Plugins that let you protect or hide areas of a WooCommerce store.
- WooCommerce plugins that create a wholesale-friendly table-based view or grid of products instead of the standard category layouts.
- WordPress Plugins to create a separate user role for wholesale users.
- Plugins that let people register to become a wholesale distributors.
To help you create a fully featured wholesale area for your WooCommerce store, I’m going to recommend the top plugin in each of these categories.
Dynamic Pricing & Wholesale Discounts
One of the key elements of a wholesale store is that it has different pricing from retail customers. There are 2 ways to achieve this:
- Create duplicate versions of your products for each group of customers.
- Use a dynamic pricing plugin to charge different rates for the same product to retail and wholesale customers.
Option 1 is simple to set up and uses core WooCommerce features, so you don’t need any extra plugins. However if you have lots of products then it’s not ideal to have to maintain 2 versions of each product, in which case option 2 is worth considering.
There are several WooCommerce pricing plugins that let you charge different rates depending on user role. While there are wholesale-specific versions of these plugins, I recommend WooCommerce’s official Dynamic Pricing extension. This is far more flexible and sophisticated than anything else out there.
You can create a ‘wholesale’ user role and use the plugin to charge different prices depending on user level. It lets you add bulk discounts so that wholesalers pay different prices depending on quantity ordered, or total order value. You can give a discounted rate for specific product categories. This means that if you had a separate wholesale category, you could apply a global discount for this category.
The only downside of the Dynamic Pricing plugin is that it’s quite complex to set up. This is largely because of the sheer number of options. You need to read the documentation carefully and plan the logic for your wholesale pricing structure.
Used correctly, this is a powerful plugin that gives you fine-grained control over pricing in your WooCommerce wholesale store.
WooCommerce Password Protected Categories
WooCommerce Password Protected Categories offers a simple but effective way of locking down your WooCommerce wholesale area. You can use this plugin to protect your entire online shop (if it’s a wholesale-only store). You can also create a protected wholesale area while leaving your retail categories public.
It’s surprising that password protected categories aren’t part of the WooCommerce core, but you need a plugin for this.
Creating password protected categories
By installing WooCommerce Password Protected Categories, you can easily password protect any product category. You can add one or more passwords for each category and give the passwords to your wholesale users. They can then enter the password to unlock the category and view and order the products within it.
Once you have password protected a WooCommerce category, all its products and any sub-categories are automatically protected with the same password. This lets you create multi-level navigation structures within your wholesale area, so you’re not limited to a single wholesale category.
The plugin comes with options for controlling the visibility of your protected categories. For a wholesale store, you will probably want to set it to hide password protected categories from the public areas of the store such as the main shop page, menu and widgets. That way, retail customers will never see your wholesale products and you can add a ‘Trade Login’ link to your main protected category to help wholesalers find the hidden area.
Private WooCommerce categories
WooCommerce Password Protected Categories also lets you mark categories as ‘private’. This works in the same way as private pages or posts (which are built into WordPress itself). Private categories only appear to logged in users of the correct level. By default this is administrators and store managers, but you can modify your user roles to let other roles access your private categories.
For example, you could create a ‘Wholesale’ user role (see below) to give trade users access to private categories. This is a good option if you want your wholesalers to have individual logins for your website instead of password protected categories.
WooCommerce Product Table
The standard WooCommerce category layouts are quite limited for wholesale stores. They tend to provide a grid of products – perhaps 2 per row – with large images. If you have lots of products then customers have to scroll down a long way and navigate between multiple pages to view an entire category.
This is great for WooCommerce retail shops. The visual layouts and large images help to engage customers and draw attention to each product. However it’s less appropriate for WooCommerce wholesale stores because trade customers usually already know what they want to order. They make repeat orders and want to quickly select products from a grid and add to the cart from a single page or online order form.
Display wholesale products in a grid
The WooCommerce Product Table plugin is ideal for wholesale stores. It creates a compact grid of products and can be used as a one-page order form. The table can include ‘Add to Cart’ buttons so that wholesalers can order without ever seeing the single product page.
You can use product tables to display your whole inventory in a catalogue-style format. All products can be listed as a single table, or you can create separate tables for each category.
The plugin comes with in-depth documentation and video tutorials showing you how to configure the tables to suit your needs. It’s very flexible and you can control details such as which columns appear in the table, the number of products per page, the sort order and much more. You can also choose which categories display, which is useful if you have separate products for wholesale and retail customers.
User Role Editor
You might want your wholesale customers to log into the website before they place an order. To do this, you would need to create a unique user role for trade users.
This is made easy by the User Role Editor plugin. This is a free WordPress plugin that lets you modify the default user roles and create new ones.
Create a new user role called ‘Wholesale’, ‘Trade’ or similar, and select the privileges that they should have. You can have a single user role for your wholesale users, or multiple roles.
Once you have created a wholesale user role, you can add your trade customers as WordPress users with this role. How you use the new role is up to you. For example you could use the Dynamic Pricing plugin to charge different rates to this role. You could also use the WooCommerce Password Protected Categories plugin to create private categories that are only visible to wholesale users.
You also need to consider how you will add wholesale users to your website. There are a few options:
- You could let wholesale customers place orders as guests, without having to log in. If you use the WooCommerce Password Protected Categories plugin then you can keep things simple and provide a hidden wholesale area of your store without having to maintain individual logins for each user. This reduces admin time for you.
- You could create a ‘Wholesale’ user role and manually add each trade customer to your website (via Users > Add New in the admin), selecting the correct role for them.
- You could add a ‘Wholesale Application’ form to the website. People can then apply to become a wholesale customer for your store.
If you decide to let people sign up via your website then Gravity Forms is the best WordPress plugin for this.
Using Gravity Forms as a WooCommerce wholesale plugin
You can use Gravity Forms to create a professional-looking wholesale application form and choose what happens when someone submits it. It’s easy to use and you can add as many fields as you like to the form. This can include contact information, text fields, dropdown lists, check boxes, radio buttons and more. The built-in anti-spam measures let you avoid getting contact form spam from the application form.
You can use Gravity Forms’ User-Registration add-on to automatically create a user on your website (with the required role, e.g. ‘Wholesale’) when someone submits an application. This saves you the hassle of manually creating each wholesale user and they can get started with ordering from your wholesale store straight away.
If you’d prefer to approve each application first, you can set the form to email you when someone submits the form so that you can do the rest manually.
With over 1 million users, Gravity Forms is the world’s bestselling WordPress forms plugin. While it has many uses, it’s perfect for creating wholesale application forms.
Do these WooCommerce wholesale plugins work together?
Combining different WooCommerce wholesale plugins requires a bit of planning. I will give you some tips which will help you choose the right combination of plugins for your wholesale store.
Most of the plugins featured in this article perform different tasks and work perfectly together. For example, there are no conflicts between WooCommerce Product Table, Dynamic Pricing or creating specific user roles for your wholesale users.
WooCommerce Password Protected Categories needs a bit more thought because it provides a slightly different solution to the other plugins I have discussed. For example, you can’t have the same product in a public category and a protected category. Instead, you need separate products for your wholesale and retail customers. This means that you won’t need dynamic pricing based on user role, as you will be setting the wholesale rate directly for each wholesale product. (However you can still use it with Dynamic Pricing to give other discounts such as quantity-based pricing.)
With WooCommerce Password Protected Categories, there’s no need to create separate role-based logins because your wholesale categories will have their own password which aren’t linked to any specific user.
If you’re using WooCommerce Product Table then it won’t naturally work with WooCommerce Password Protected Categories. This is because by definition, the latter protects product categories whereas product tables are added to pages. If you want product tables AND a password protected wholesale area then you can either:
- Use WooCommerce Product Table on a normal page and password protect it, instead of using WooCommerce Password Protected Categories. Password protection for pages is built into the WordPress core and you don’t need any extra plugins to do this. or;
- Modify your product category template to display a WooCommerce Product Table on the category pages. Once a wholesaler has entered the correct password, they will then be taken to the product category page with the product table grid instead of the standard category layout. This requires some basic PHP knowledge but lets you use product tables with WooCommerce Password Protected Categories.
Whichever combination of WooCommerce wholesale plugins you decide on, these tips will help you to build a successful trade store for your website.