If you have to date been an entrepreneur with a bricks-and-mortar store, the recent upheaval due to COVID-19 may be seriously detrimental to your bottom line. But by shifting your business online you will mitigate the damage and open up your business to new potential growth during the crisis and beyond.
You may have been reticent about making the switch to an e-commerce store if you have a successful business offline, but the current situation means businesses need to adapt fast to survive. Do not let your business sit stagnantly; follow these steps and transition to a remote working business that will keep income flowing and help scale your brand. Once you have established your online presence, you will be able to continue running it successfully once restrictions are lifted, even after your physical store has reopened.
1. Choose a Platform
The first step in creating a remote working business is to choose your platform. You have an advantage – you have knowledge of your existing customer base, which will help you to make an informed decision. Are you better with an independent shopfront, or do you want to take advantage of the large amount of foot-traffic through marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon FBA?
2. Look at Logistics
You may sell a wide variety of items in your physical store and it may not be practical for all of them to be sold online. Factors to think about include perishability (will it survive a postal journey?), weight and size (will it cost an exorbitant amount to post it to a customer?) and speed of dispatch. You should also examine dropshipping to see if it would provide a preferable result to dispatching goods in-house.
3. Display your Goods
A customer will expect a different level of experience buying online, and it is up to you to give it to them. Once you have a list of items you wish to sell through your e-commerce store, you will need to create high-quality listings for them. Photography is crucial, as it is the only way your customer will see the product until they have committed to buying it. Images can make or break your sale, so spend some time and/or money to get it right.
You will also need to investigate the appropriate SEO keywords for your products. You can hire SEO experts easily through freelancing websites such as Upwork.com or you can try your own hand by reading a guide.
4. Set up your Financials
E-commerce is a tricky area for accounting purposes with many rules and service fees to factor in. We have a handy guide on how to set up your financials for success, but if you are hoping to sell internationally straight out of the gate, we suggest contacting an e-commerce specialist accountant in each jurisdiction. You may be using standard accounting software for your physical stores, but we recommend making the switch to Xero for e-commerce. Its automation features and reports keep admin time to a minimum whilst providing you with to the minute data.
The keys to success
Success as your transition to remote working for e-commerce is the same as any other business – planning. Set your working hours, set up an office or failing that, an undisturbed corner of the house. Set rules on break times and when you fold the laptop down for the night. Having this framework achieves two especially important things. Firstly, it provides boundaries for other members of the household (during COVID you may have children as well as other adults running around). It also prevents you from either burning out or procrastinating. Both are as dangerous as each other for your business’ health and both can be real risks as you make the switch to remote working.
Tools and resources we recommend to transition to remote working
Setting up your remote working office is best accomplished by using technological solutions that you can access anywhere. Here are some of the tools and resources we recommend you investigate for a smooth transition to remote working:
- Upwork – Upwork is a marketplace for freelancers. Using their rating system, you can find help for short-term or long-term projects with the security of their stringent standards.
- Slack – Slack is one of the go-to communications solutions for remote workers and online businesses. Unlike Zoom, Skype and Teams, it is text-based and gives users the options to mute notifications as needed.
Under GDPR, all customer data must be held in an approved method. We recommend either of the following platforms, both of which make it easy to share the information with your team or your accountant.
E-commerce Xero integrations:
These integrations are all designed to remove repetitive tasks and ensure your accounting is accurate without needing day-to-day input:
- A2X and its rival Link My Books – Both of these apps automate your transactions from Amazon, with A2X also covering Shopify, eBay and more. Accounting for fees correctly can be tricky, so we highly recommend e-commerce entrepreneurs check out our comparison.
- GoCardless – If you are setting up subscription purchases, this is an increasingly popular option that will automatically be accounted for in Xero.
- Stripe or its rival Square – Stripe can be easily added into your standalone e-commerce store and will feed transactions directly into Xero. Square is a great option for those who are currently trading both on and offline as it can be embedded in your online store and used as a payment method for face-to-face too.
If you like the idea of things happening on autopilot, you can take things one step further by using the following apps to connect two non-integrating apps. The sky’s the limit once you get to grips with them.
- Zapier – Zapier has a free account that we highly recommend you use to see where you can save time. Although the free plan has limits, it is a great way to open your eyes to the potential of automation.
- IFTTT – IFTTT (If this, then that) again has a free plan to let you get to grips with what it can do. If you can’t do it on Zapier, chances are you can on IFTTT so between the two you can work wonders.
Whether it’s to store ideas for new products, plan your new platform launch, or have a record of your processes, project management tools have become the norm for remote working e-commerce businesses. The following are free options that can help you keep track of all the moving pieces, including making a to-do list from this article:
You may be transitioning to a remote working business because of COVID, but it is a valuable step in expanding your business regardless of the cause. E-commerce sales are significantly growing year on year in the UK and that is before you consider selling your products overseas.
If you would like to discuss how to transition to Xero, account for overseas selling or any other e-commerce accounting matter, please get in touch.
The best time to start is now.