“With e-Commerce technology, you have to be open-minded. But try not to be so easily intimidated by it, because it’s definitely something that can be figured out. Understand that e-commerce customers are already into running their business a certain way by the time they come to us.” – Kelly Gonsalves, Totally Booked.
Kelly Gonsalves Founder of Totally Booked and many more companies joined me today and we had an in-depth discussion about all things eCommerce. In this episode, we talk about . . .
- What first interested Kelly in specialising in eCommerce?
- What changes has Kelly seen in the eCommerce space in the last five years?
- What are some tech solutions that you like working within the eCommerce space?
- What are some myths out there about eCommerce that need to be debunked?
How have you been since we last spoke?
Kelly: I’ve been good. Did a little travelling and it’s now Fall in New York, so there’s some cold weather coming in. Yeah, no complaints. How are you?
Heather: I’m very good. So I imagine everyone knows fall is autumn, so it’s always interesting you go into your colder months as we go into our warmer months, but here we are. It’s forecast that we are about to have a huge amount of rain yet again, so that’s not that great.
Kelly: No, not that great. That doesn’t sound fun at all. I mean, it’s raining here now, but it’s also the hurricane.
Heather: Yeah, my kitchen has only in the last two weeks been fully replaced after we had what is known as a rain bomb event in February. So it took about six months to actually repair and replace that. I really feel it for these people who have been hit by hurricanes or are hit by floods. It just seems to be happening all over the world. I don’t know whether it’s because we’re more in tune with news, et cetera, but definitely.
Kelly: I don’t know if it’s happening more or if we’re more aware of it.
Heather: Yeah, exactly. And for us, we’ve been in the house for 15 years and that’s the first time we’ve kind of had major damage from a weather event like that. Anyhow.
What has 2022 been like in the US for the accounting industry in the US? You are back attending conferences, what’s that been like?
Kelly: So interesting. So you have some people that are a little hesitant and more people, I would say more of the most are into it. Let’s give hugs and I saw you at a conference and we totally got to hug. So I guess it depends on what their experience has been the last couple of years, whether they have events to get to or family to worry about. And since that’s all a factor. But if you think about it, you all get on a plane or some kind of transportation to get to the event and at that point we’ve kind of embarked on this journey and then what pops up after is if someone got COVID and kind of just getting the word around.
So I think it just depends on how you feel about it. Personally, I had kind of never stopped going. Even in 2020 I attended the Scaling New Heights. So for me it was, I guess getting back to more normal, even though I don’t agree that we’re just going to get back to normal. I think that normal is long gone, but I’m really happy to see people and hug people. I mean, there were a couple of years that I didn’t see my friends of mine, so I love that part of it, for sure.
Kelly: I would say the accounting industry as a whole has been difficult, strenuous maybe. Being an accountant has been kind of strenuous with the extensions and deadlines and changing the roles and changing the laws and all of that working at the same time, has been fairly stressful for everybody. But yeah, I guess it, I hate to say, I think that’s part of our new normal things are still kind of in transition and the government is still figuring it out and who gets a pass and planning can’t do and whatever extension has to be extended, so to speak. But yeah, so I would say it’s been fairly stressful. 2022 has been better than the past couple years, but I think that the normal that we had, was far gone.
Kelly: What about you, Heather?
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And the stress that you are talking about as an accountant based in the US, I’m seeing that and hearing that from the UK and from Australia as well. And as you said, the government’s figuring it out and the accountants and bookkeepers are kind of left in the middle trying to deal with it. It’s also interesting what you said about how we did have a hug at a conference, which was wonderful, and I kind of made this policy that I was really COVID safe leaving leading up to a conference. But when I entered that conference room, I was hugged and happy to connect with people and sensible, but close with people. Then as soon as I kind of left, masks went back on and it was the risk I was prepared to take. As you know, I did all three. I’ve just travelled the world doing London, New Orleans and Australia and I barely got a head cold at the end of all of that travel, which I can’t understand, but it was quite sensible about it and it astonishes me.
Kelly: The emotion takes over.
Heather: Yes. Oh, I was full of adrenaline and enthusiasm and excitement and if you could bottle the feelings of positivity, I was feeling and hopefulness, I would be a bazillionaire. What’s been really interesting to me is the actual sheer volume of conferences happening in America. It just seems that on social media, people are at one and then they’re at another and then they’re at another. I’m like, when are you working?
About the variety of conferences in America, how are people handle it? When are you returning home? What’s happening?
Kelly: Well, thankfully we can kind of work from anywhere, but yes, you’re up to the right. Because even when I’m at a conference, it’s not like I’m rushing to get back to my room to jump on and do some books. So it’s been back to almost like some people are flying from one street to the next. Some are new conferences, some just kind of got jumbled together with the different dates that they had to change and stuff like that. But absolutely, it has been kind of nonstop.
Kelly: It’s not done yet.
Heather: Yeah. You’ve still got a number of big conferences leading up to the end of the year. See for me, in Australia, end of the year, we slow down, whereas it’s not the end of, it’s the year, because of your seasons. I think you speed up actually.
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely.
Heather: So I want to highlight to those listening in, this podcast shall be available for CPE on the Earmark CPE app. So a couple of weeks after it’s produced, jump over there, complete the course and earn one hour of verifiable CPE. So we’re here today with Kelly to talk about eCommerce and I just noticed we’ve got a few things that we’d like to discuss.
It’s a message from Alex Chris, EVP and general manager, Intuit Small Business and Self Employed Group. And it’s talking about Intuit’s mission with QuickBooks robust ecosystem of best in class financial management solutions and Mailchimp, the world’s leading customer relationship management, a marketing platform.
Intuit’s never been better positioned to bring small and mid-market businesses, the end-to-end solutions they need for their biggest challenges. What he goes on to talk about is how they’re going to spur global expansion efforts by leading with Mailchimp, solving small business top problems of getting the customers. And then they’re talking about how they’re going to double down on bringing the entire QuickBooks ecosystem to their core markets in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. So that’s really interesting to me. And then they’re going to solve the accounting and bookkeeping needs of small business in most other markets around the world with their rest of world QuickBook platform offerings. And they use some interesting wording here, Mailchimp, with Mailchimp as the tip of the spear. We have a clear path to drive global expansion outside the US.
What do you think about this recent update from Intuit released on the 28th of September?
Kelly: So from my understanding, and I’ve wrote a couple articles about it and just heard some people come into it, think about it. Mailchimp is globally loved pretty much. So it is a product that I think they purchase or a software that they purchase of, and part of that was forwarded to reach. And this is common knowledge that QuickBooks is number one in the US but not necessarily always the first in every other market. There are other UK and other areas of the world where other accounting softwares are preferred, which are totally understandable.
But with this Mailchimp offering, they’re reaching different audiences from my understanding. And so it kind of gives them a foothold and staying in the door, a way to get in and then now introduce the softwares that we know them for at least here. I think that combining, and if you look at overall the way that Intuit is grown, the softwares that they’ve purchased enrolled into their QuickBooks platform or just other offerings that they have with between tax and personal finance, and then all these QuickBooks and our Mailchimps for marketing, I think that it’s starting to build out a suite of softwares that you can use to run a business regardless of where you are. Really small, go into it with the intention to grow.
You’re already there, you want to get bigger, maybe you just want to maintain. But I think that they’re really starting to combine those softwares under that Intuit umbrella and give these offerings to small business owners so that they can do what they want with more. And so, excuse me, I think the combination of Mailchimp and QuickBooks is actually going to be super powerful for somebody that’s especially still on their own. So to see, right, with a smaller business, because you’re going to be able to put so much automation in place.
Kelly: I think it’s an interesting approach.
Heather: Yeah, it’s definitely very, very interesting. I think they talk about how Mailchimp gives you the customer data, whereas QuickBooks gives you the purchase data. We’re moving into the age of data where data really can help you inform all of your business decisions and you’re getting it from both ends. And I know I’ve been a long term Mailchimp user, active Mailchimp user for possibly a decade, and I’m still on the completely free version of Mailchimp. Even though I’m really active with my newsletters, I just haven’t hit the level that requires payment yet. I’m a micro business, I don’t have thousands of people I need to email. So I did find it… Mailchimp just must have a massive, massive business customer database.
Kelly: Oh yeah. I think part of it too is, and I’ve always said this, a lot of people try to run their entire business on QuickBooks, so they try and make it into a CRM or a database for maintaining clients basically, which is what a CRM does, but it’s not intended that way. It’s not really supposed to be used that way. You can run reports on at your customers and what they’re purchasing and how long they’ve been with you and you can get that information, but the reality is it would be better done in a software that’s intended for that. And so I think that by taking that purchase information and combining it with that customer data and being able to take notes or target specific customers or look at past purchases and kind of pull all of that together, that is a game changer. That could be really big for a small business.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. Completely agree with that. I think that really fits nicely in with the conversation around e-commerce. So I initially like to start these conversations. It’s probably something we’ve touched on cloud stories before, but I initially like to sort get the 101 baseline.
How would you define e-commerce for accountants and bookkeepers listening today?
Kelly: So I look at e-commerce and it’s grown so much. I used to say it was if you had an online store, so Etsy, they Amazon, something along those lines, some kind of a shopping cart or Shopify, that was eCommerce, but I think it’s really grown past that. So we have hybrid models, where there’s still brick and mortar, there’s an online shop, you have direct shift. So if it’s somebody’s doing on demand, so you’ve purchase something, they’re literally having it printed at a huge warehouse, where you’re this tiny person, but you can still have this three business, because you can do all of your stuff on demand and they’re shipping out that one t-shirt or that one mug or whatever that looks like. It lets you become an e-commerce shop. And then you also now have all these human gateways that are also kind of this hybrid e-commerce situation.
So even if you’re a brick and mortar, but you’re using let’s say Stripe or if you’re a restaurant, but you’re using let’s say GrubHub or Seamless or DoorDash or something along those lines, you’re pushed into that e-commerce space whether you like it or not. Because now you’re having to look at gross sales, versus what the fees were, taxes, et cetera. Things that you may not have had to really think about before. Platform fees, merchant fees, et cetera.
I would say buy the book. You have an online store, so a shopping part, an Etsy and eBay and Amazon, that would be an eCommerce store. But I think we can’t ignore the fact that there are those hybrid situations, which bring you into this e-commerce space, even if you had no intention of doing e-commerce accounting, which is what I’ve been seeing a lot of. So I think that a lot of times accountants, they kind of get stuck, so to speak, and they’re not sure where to go with it. And sometimes they’re not looking at it from a e-commerce standpoint. And like I said, mentioning those fees and if you’re going by what’s directed, just what’s the positives the bank, you’re going to have the wrong financials. So it’s a bigger conversation that you have to have with your clients or potential clients to understand what that workflow is. And that’s not something that everyone’s used to by any stretch.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s one of those areas, if you scratch the surface, there’s a lot underneath and you kind of need to have that knowledge on board. And you’re correct that what’s in the bank accounts, not the actual financials.
Kelly: And even when e-commerce first started, when we started using these payment gateways, a lot of them would make a full deposit for the sales and then take their fee after the fact at the same time. And now we’re seeing that they’re making a deposit after they’ve already taken my fees, which I’m sure was just bound to happen anyway, but now we can’t rely on just because I’m going to be understating and overstating both on a bunch of things.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why the reconciliation part of it is so important. So Kelly, you recently posted on LinkedIn, so I’m quoting what you posted on LinkedIn. If you know my story at all, you may know that I wasn’t always interested in accounting for e-commerce businesses. I was intimidated by sales tax and some of the tech needed for multichannel sellers. But as the request came in, I decided to learn and I’m so glad I did it now, because I love it.
Kelly: Yeah, every time I say I’m going to quote you, I’m like all right, what is she going to say? That is absolutely true. I mean, a couple years ago I had had just prospects coming in that were kind of dealing with this issue. I have a Shopify store and I don’t know how to get my information into QuickBooks. I’m like, no I can send you the so and so and this person’s help. I did not want to figure it out, to be fair, it’s totally my true thing.
But I didn’t want to have to figure out sales tax, because also, especially in the US, I could have a different sales tax rate than the guy across the street. We have some pretty complicated sales tax laws and rules. So stuff like that really intimidated me. Then also I just mentioned who deposits what and how. So if Amazon goes this way, Shopify did it that way. Etsy does it this way. How would I could talk of all those things? And it was only after I discovered some ops I could do those things for me that I could really move into that space, because it’s near impossible to do it on my own.
Heather: Excellent. Thank you for sharing that with us.
What first interested you about specialising in eCommerce? Was there anything else that attracted you to eCommerce?
Kelly: I think there was also, it has to be mentioned that the boom of e-commerce was kind of unavoidable. So we started to see businesses that had those hybrid models. Yes, they still had a store or they still had their regular service business. So now they’re selling classes online. Nobody sees that coming. So you’re selling a service and now you can do it through any kind of shop. So I think it was kind of inevitable, I had to step up and learn it, but then I myself wanted to venture into that space and I was like, oh, well what better way to do it than to learn it for myself too. So I think it was a combination of it kind of being unavoidable, but then also intrigued. So I’m very big on apps and technology and figuring things out, putting puzzle pieces together and all of that. And so part of it was starting to understand it, but then also in the space, bookkeeper and accountants were struggling with it and struggling to understand it. And so I wanted to know more about it at that point.
Heather: I agree. I think it’s a really interesting area and the businesses are interesting and I kind of am of the opinion that through the challenges of the last two years, we saw so many businesses jump onto eCommerce or pivot to eCommerce and my daughter’s local yoga studio said, bam, all of our classes are now going to be online, because she wasn’t allowed to attend them. I was like, good for you guys. And now we’ve kind out come out of lockdown and they’ve got this extra income stream happening.
Heather: Which is really exciting. I think it’s really inspirational to hear that someone like you, who’s sitting there in the accounting, bookkeeping space and you’ve gone, okay, I’m going to create a side hustle, which I’m going to learn from and be able to then specialise in this particular area.
You’ve created a side hustle too through your business, the Leading Lady Machine Works.
Kelly: Yes, that’s our Etsy shop and we do some other stuff through it. But yeah, so Kristen and I are co-owners of the shop and she specialises in restaurants, so it was especially an area for her that was new and she kind of laughed at me, because I just click all over, I’m speeding through it, I’m setting up all the things, connecting all the apps. I’m like, let’s get all the stuff, let’s put everything in QuickBooks. And she’s like, this is totally your area. And it’s true. I’m also thankfully a quick learner. So as I started to learn how important it was, like I said, for those gross sales, capturing all of the fees, because understanding expenses or understanding income in that case, nobody wants to unintentionally lie to the government about what they made. Nobody wants to look at.
And the other thing is too, looking at your e-commerce store and seeing, okay, we made X amount, but QuickBooks says we only made this amount, what’s wrong here? Trying to explain how important it was to understand those numbers and get the right numbers in I think was a really big deal too, because you also have to understand how much you’re spending to make that money. So as you’re making sales, what did this sale cost me for real? What was that fee to list it on the platform? What was the fee to actually make that sale? What did it cost me to run the credit card? What did it cost me to pay out at Sea or eBay or Amazon? Really getting a hold on those numbers is important.
It’s also a lot of reasons that sellers move to, let’s say a private platform or something like a Shopify, because they realise that something like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, those marketplaces are taking a chunk of that sale. And so as they start to learn what that looks like, oh, okay, I made a million dollars last year, but Amazon took a big portion of that. Maybe I want to start doing this on my own. Which is also, I think we’re looping back to the Mailchimp thing, having that data and being able to move to a new platform, because you know what your customers purchase, regardless of how they got there, is also really important.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. It’s okay to have a loss leader as long as you are totally clear and understand that is the loss leader and you’re pulling something else alongside that. So such as the cheap bread or the cheap milk, not this that’s necessarily on an Etsy store, but with this data that and I probably both come across businesses, who think they’re doing really well and think this product is doing really well. And then when you go through and analyse the sales accurately and put it in front of them and they’re actually, that product’s actually making them a loss and because it’s so much work for their business to deliver that product, which is okay if it’s pulling other business in. But yeah, if it’s not, that’s a problem.
Kelly: When you start to look at, it was a really good example that somebody gave me years ago, like a photography studio. They do portraits in house, they do let’s say graduation photos or prom pictures, whatever that looks like. And then they also do weddings, which you have to go on site for and it’s like, oh, the weddings are our top seller, we make so much money, et cetera. But to do those weddings, they had to hire a second photographer, they had to travel to be there, they had to pay for that photographer, the travel food, et cetera, whatever it was. And when you look at what the job cost, it was actually cancelling out almost all of the profit.
But what they thought wasn’t very successful. Those graduation pictures, the prom pictures where the kids were coming in birthday, first birthday for a baby, whatever that looked like, the people coming to them was such a save on time and effort that it was far more profitable. So then marketing those things like pivoting their marketing to get more people in the shop was the move. It could be high in sales, but it could also be high in cost. And that’s what people don’t always realise.
Heather: And the school graduation photos are repeat business.
Heather: The weddings you hope not repeat.
Kelly: Yeah, great.
Heather: And you’re also dealing with very emotional customers, who don’t understand how to deal with a professional. And the number of posts I’ve seen online of people who screamed at their mother-in-law, screamed at the photographer or the bridezilla screamed at the photographer and it’s like, oh, it sounds like an awful job, really. Right?
Heather: Poor wedding photos.
Kelly: The emotional toll and there should be a dollar amount attached to it.
Heather: Yeah. Well maybe they have a line if you scream at me, right? Your relatives scream at me.
Kelly: Yeah. You have to promise.
Heather: Yeah, this is an extra, the extra charge, we call it pitter charge, pain in the ass charge.
Kelly: Oh yeah.
Kelly: Yeah, we have that.
Heather: Oh, do you? The pain.
Kelly: It’s a hidden line item on the invoice, but it’s there, trust me.
Heather: Like the amenities fees that I incurred when I stayed in the US, which was a hidden line item. So I had my invoice set, my hotel confirmation said total charges, inclusive attacks will be say $600. Then I was charged like $750 and I was like, what happened? And they go, oh, the free coffee, the free gym, the free water, we’ve charged you for that. I was like, oh my.
Kelly: The resort fee. Yes, I love that. This is inclusive of everything except the resort fee. I’m like, I personally would rather that they just wrap that in and that I didn’t feel like I was being charged separately for these things. But I feel like that started a couple years ago and I’m not a fan.
Heather: And that it’s all labelled free. That was what got me, that I’d been told what my total charges were and then I was charged for all this free stuff, which completely unaware.
What changes have you seen in the e-commerce space in say the last five years? Are there any other changes that happened in the last five years in the e-commerce space?
Kelly: I think that moving from being dependent on those marketplaces, like in Amazon, Etsy, eBay, the movement to more of a Shopify or commerce setup, has happened a lot. So having a private, so to speak website, where you’re more in charge of your product, has been a big thing. A lot of times when people first start out, they’re dependent on the size of those marketplaces, the marketing behind them, just the sheer traffic that comes in through those places. But also a huge boom in the number of stores. I mean, they get me all the time on Instagram. I cannot even tell you how many products I have purchased happily that I would not have discovered otherwise just from the amount of marketing that goes on. So I think that we’ve seen a real huge uptick in marketing. We’ve seen a lot of businesses that don’t require, not even a warehouse, their drop ship situation or like I said, prints on demand.
A lot of that has changed the ability to open an e-commerce store, where before you maybe couldn’t or wouldn’t, because you didn’t know how to really get into that space. I’ve also seen a lot of courses on e-commerce, how to set up an e-commerce store, how to create a print on demand business. I think that in our space, in the accounting space, the technology has gotten so much better. I think five years ago, if it was even five years ago, maybe AID X was the only thing that I could think of back then to import Amazon sales into QuickBooks. I couldn’t even tell you if there was anything for Shopify or eBay or anything along those lines. And now even AID X has expanded out into other marketplaces. You have Book Keep that’s doing daily journal entries for the sales from each of your stores sender, which you can do.
You can have sales receipts. So individual sales coming in, which ask me about Mailchimp, that’s going to be a huge game changer. But I think that the technology that has brought those things into let’s say QuickBooks and Xero and FreshBooks, Sage, et cetera, has been like it’s enabled accountants to move into that space, whereas before they really shied away from it, which was me. Then on the other side, sales tax stuff like DAVO or Tax Jar is a really big thing, because now you’re not having to constantly worry about compliance or breaking the rules or having the wrong numbers. You’re able to really bring those things in and make sure that everything’s paid on time and everyone’s up to date and without all the stress that may have been around it five years ago.
Because while eCommerce is not a new industry, it was something that we were able to avoid for a while if we’re being honest, right?
Okay, cool. What were the shop sales? Let’s just plug this in with the journal entry. What were the fees? Let’s plug that in. With the journal entry, you were kind of able to at the end of the year, true up all of the numbers and call it a day. And there are still people that do it that way, but on my side I like to know what’s going on a daily, weekly, monthly basis as do my clients. And so having the ability to do that now I think is a huge difference from five years ago.
Heather: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.
What are some of the myths out there around eCommerce that need to be debunked?
Kelly: I think that one’s a big one. So I do think that with technology and you have to be open to technology because it’s a very technology-heavy space. So I have an e-commerce client that sells on Amazon and Shopify, but then they also do advertising in multiple places. They have Facebook ads and Instagram ads and Amazon ads and a whole bunch of other places that are having to keep track of those things. And while they’re growing, it’s just one more factor I think. So when, let’s say that Amazon payment comes in, it’s after the advertising fees have been removed or whatever that looks like. I think you have to embrace technology, because your clients and that’s space are embracing technology. And so a lot of times it’s having to understand where to look for things. YouTube is helpful, as is Google. So sometimes I have no clue which report I need and I have no problem googling it and figuring it out.
But you kind of have to be open minded. So I would say if you’re willing to learn it and to the technology and understanding how it all works, then you’ll do just fine. But try not to be so easily intimidated by it, because it’s definitely something that can be figured out. If you’re already in accounting, I feel like already you’ve overcome some hurdles in that space anyway, it’s just a new industry so it’s done a little differently. One thing I will say is that e-commerce customers, so my clients that are e-commerce, they’re already kind of into running their business a certain way by the time they come to us. So they’re looking at it like, well this is how I run everything. I do it all through the platform and I set up all my ads and I do everything here.
They don’t always think about QuickBooks to be honest, or bookkeeping accounting in general. Having to explain to them why it’s important and why us keeping track of it, and then let’s say handing it off to a CPA to file their taxes will make their lives easier. So having it all organised is kind of how I explain it, right? Digital organisation. But then also being able to say my sales tax was filed quarterly in the state. We do monthly. These things were already done, here are my reports for the end of the year, is a big difference for them, because a lot of times they were saying, okay, let me download this Shopify report that’s am Amazon report, this Etsy report, and that’s my accountant.
Here’s my bank statements and my credit card and that’s the account and saying, hey, we’re going to put this all in the right place. We’re going to explain what those merchant fees are, we’re going to explain what the platform fees are, what the advertising looks like, how much you’re spending to get those sales coming in. It’s another industry that you have to learn a little bit more about. But when it comes to the actual principles of accounting, nothing there has changed. So you already have the knowledge, it’s just a matter of being willing to learn the other smaller aspects of it.
Heather: And it’s interesting talking about the personality and the mindset of the entrepreneurs, who are running an e-commerce. And again, if you are going to specialise in an area, you need to be aware of that as well going into that area. Because sometimes some of the areas that you specialise in, the personalities may be not akin to someone you want to work with, but I would imagine that entrepreneurial spirit that is behind an eCommerce business is very exciting as long as they’re happy to get the accurate data in front of them and then you can have a really sort a magical relationship with them.
What are the top five tech pieces that you’re working with and what do they do?
Kelly: So for sure QuickBooks. That one’s number one. I always say that all of my stuff comes back into QuickBooks. I’ve started using Synder for, and it’s S, Y, N, D, E, R, for anyone that’s looking for it, to import sales receipts into QuickBooks. So the way that it works is that I’m getting the actual full sale, capturing that full sale information. So if I want to bring in the customer’s information, what they purchase, skew, numbers, et cetera, I can pull all of that in. Which again, then I think I have to mention makes a big difference for what Mailchimp is set to do. When you’re able to connect Mailchimp, to QuickBooks and you have that individual data set up, you’ll be able to do stuff like target specific customers, because they’ve purchased a specific item before, or create sales discounts to give to customers, because you know that you want to get rid of this item and let’s say these 100 customers have purchased it in the past.
So being able to kind of target that information is going to depend on the data that we’re getting into QuickBooks to then push to something like Mailchimp. So I think that’s going to be a really big deal. Let me think of top five. I’m like, these are my big ones. Tax Jar for sure. I’m really big on Tax Jar. I do love to make sure that anyone that is selling online is making sure to pay their sales tax. That’s a big deal, but also keep track of it and understand that while eBay may do it for you, Shopify does not. A lot of people are under the impression that whatever platform they’re using, they’re remitting sales tax on their behalf. But that is not always the case. It is usually the case with marketplaces. So Amazon at c eBay, those are doing it for you, but it’s not going to be that case if you’re doing it on your own website.
You have to understand that, which a lot of sellers do not. Sometimes they come to us and I’ll say, hey, where’s the sales tax going? And they’re like, what are you talking about? All right, we have to have a talk. You have to worry about that. That is something that you are now responsible for. Register with the state, set yourself up, et cetera. Another one that’s big for me, not necessarily related to eCommerce, but because it made my setup more eCommerce like I use Honey Book for all of my proposals and just basically brochures, anything that we’re sending out to clients or potential clients, which has a payment aspect to it, I should say. So getting all of that correct data into QuickBooks is big for us. And then I’m trying to think of what’s related to e-commerce necessarily, but I also use Lisio for my clients every day to exchange documents and stuff like that. So there’s this other check that I don’t necessarily use for e-commerce businesses.
Heather: I’ve never heard of HoneyBook.
Kelly: Oh, yeah.
Heather: Have a look at that one. I think Lisio from the sounds of it will work internationally in that it’s securely collecting client data. And so that’s something that a lot of people could look into. It’s interesting. I do wonder in terms of the Mailchimp data collection, you imagine that data set’s going to get massive and obviously it’s really powerful. If someone has bought Xero for Dummies, the second edition, they’re potentially going to buy the fifth edition or something like that and targeting back to them that way. But the data set, the volume of data in there is going to get massive. And it’ll be interesting whether, I have no idea whether that will slow mail them down and how because if you have 10 inventory items, big ticket inventory items, that’s fair enough.
About having multiple inventory items, and they’re selling quickly, how it will manage that?
Kelly: Well, I think that the other thing about QuickBooks online, and I can only speak to what I use, so QuickBooks online is my default, but I think the thing about QuickBooks online is that you don’t necessarily have to use the inventory feature inside of QuickBooks online. You can use an inventory app to kind of manage that. But what you would want to know then for the Mailchimp factor is the name of the product or the skew or both to be able to do that targeting. I know a lot of accountants are, I don’t want all of that stuff downloaded to my QuickBooks. I don’t want to want it to be all crowded with all these customer names and so on. But I think the reality of it is when we’re looking at our clients and what they need, if they’re using something like Mailchimp and they need that data and they’re able to connect those two things, that could be really powerful, that targeted marketing and that automation could be a really big deal.
Mailchimp must be connected to the inventory solution, and then QuickBooks must also be connected to the inventory solution. Is that how it’ll work?
Kelly: So you can definitely connect inventory to QuickBooks from outside, and then you can have it just come into QuickBooks as a value amount. So whatever the value of that inventory is to maintain your balance sheet, essentially. But I don’t know if Mailchimp would have to be connected if we’re looking at just the name of the product and who purchased it, and you’re able to get those two things inside of QuickBooks without having to store that inventory information. I still feel like you could use it for the targeting factor for sure.
Kelly: Just running a list or creating a report or a sale, like I said, something that’s not moving, you want to get it off the shelves. All right, who can we target? Who has purchased this? Let’s go offer them a discount.
Heather: Very powerful. Absolutely.
Heather: So Kelly, you recently mentioned on another LinkedIn post, I built up a text stack that works really well with QuickBooks online, and I’ve started to explore how I can help my clients understand their numbers even better, which is that’s wonderful, really wonderful. And I kind of think that I sit in the management accounting space who doesn’t do tax. And that’s the space hopefully, that we’ll get people moving into. Let’s help the clients understand their numbers even better.
Talk more about your quote: “I started to use Life Flow to create some custom reports and dashboards and then took it one step further using Google Sheets to make those reports into graphs.”
Kelly: So I basically, it translates to Kelly who’s being a super geek, and she tried a new software that she could play with and then tried something else and could play with that too. So I used Live Flow to pull some reports out of QuickBooks, so it’ll pull them into Google Sheets, and then I took those numbers and Google Sheets has a really cool feature, probably never notice it, but in the bottom right corner of a Google sheet, there’s a button that says Explore. And so it’ll let you take the data that’s in that sheet and turn it into other things like graphs and charts. And I mean, God knows you can change colours and you can do headers and titles and it can be really cool. And so what I was looking for was like, I was just using it as an example for an e-commerce shop, but I wanted to see what their top sellers were or what were their top returned items, which are not necessarily things that everyone thinks about, but hey, this item is selling really well, but then it’s also getting returned a lot.
Maybe we have to look at stuff like that. And it’s not necessarily the accountant’s job, so to speak, to kind of pull those things out. But it’s just one more thing that you can teach those e-commerce sellers or teach those shop owners that kind of empowers them to understand their numbers a little better, but then also it kind of lets you stand out, so to speak. Right? So I don’t know of anyone that’s brought up returns as a report that they would want to see, but if you see something that’s sold a hundred times last month and it returned 50 times, hey, I just wanted to bring this to your attention. Yeah, not sure what’s going on there. If it’s the product, maybe it’s the packaging, maybe we have to look at or maybe you have to look at, maybe you want to look at what can be done to fix this thing.
If it’s something that’s breaking while it’s shipping, if it’s something that is, maybe clients are really not happy with it, maybe there’s a formula issue, whatever that looks like. So I wanted to see if I could put side by side what platform they were selling on, what the returns look like, and then what the fees were in association to those things, which is what was in that post. But seeing just like, okay, Amazon is killing it, but then Amazon also has the most fees because they cost the most, right? And then, well, Shopify is doing really well and it costs me a lot less, maybe there’s a way to funnel people to your site or maybe there’s a mailer or something that you can put in with those Amazon sales and say, hey, here’s a 10% off coupon if you shop directly on our website.
Something along those lines. So just kind of giving them options for how they can grow and outsmart the system if you’ll cheat the system a little bit just to grow that business and see what can put more money in their pockets all for using those platforms to get started. But once you’re started and it’s costing you a lot of money, I don’t see why we can’t be the ones to offer them some alternatives if we’ve seen it with other clients or if we’ve experienced it ourselves, whatever that looks like. I think sometimes accountants want to take more of a safe approach or a hands off approach. Here’s the numbers, I’m going to step away now, but if I can send you this report and say, hey, look at this thing right here, or look at this graph that’s saying this is off the charts with returns, something that’s going to kind of make it stand out. I don’t see why we can’t make those numbers even easier for them.
Heather: Yeah. Absolutely.
Kelly: And it doesn’t take much, right? It was just a report that I pulled out of QuickBooks. I was just able to format it inside of Live Flow so that it would make more sense to them.
Heather: Yeah, and that’s so important about putting it in a manner, whether it be numbers, whether it be visual, whether it be simply surfacing something out of that, that they’re informed. As the accountant, we don’t need to solve the problem for them, but we can put the problem in front of them.
Kelly: So I think that also as the accountant, we think we need to solve the problem. We can’t bring them the thing and then not have a solution. But that’s not always the case, especially in e-commerce, because we’re like, hey, here’s all the data. I understand the data. I’m giving you this information as the shop owner, you’re going to make the choice whether to continue to sell that product, change the packaging, change the formula, whatever that looks like.
But I want to be able to give it to you so that you can do whatever you need with it. We don’t have to fix it. There’s no rule that, especially when it comes to what they’re selling or how they’re selling it, we don’t have to fix it. We can make suggestions. I mean, if I see that they’re paying double the advertising on Facebook, that they are on Shopify, and maybe it makes more sense to push this than that, I can say, hey, I saw a lot of this, but really it seems like you’re getting more traction over here. You might want to shift, but again, totally their call. It is not my place to fix it, but if I can make those suggestions, I mean, I’ve had people think like, oh my gosh, I never thought about it like that. Thank you. Why not share?
Heather: It sounds like, and we’re running out of time.
Could you point out the top five mistakes that eCommerce sellers make?
Heather: I imagine an e-commerce business comes to you and they sit in front of you and you’re like, I’m going to make them money here and here and here, and I’m going to reduce their costs and suggest they move from Amazon to Shopify.
Kelly: Isn’t that one of the big things about nicheing, depending on, okay, so I have 20 e-commerce sellers and I see that these guys use this box supplier and these guys use another one and they’re ordering next to the same thing. Maybe an intro to this supplier makes sense. Why not? I mean, there’s nothing that says, I can’t have to tell them what client it is, but I can say, hey, this supplier who I’ve come across with other sellers might be a better fit for what you’re doing. Do you want me to send you the information? Something as simple as that could cut down on their costs of shipping out those products immediately, looking at do they have the space to sort the extra boxes or do they need a postage machine instead of running to the post office every other day? Stuff like that is just the little suggestions can make a huge difference for some people.
Heather: Absolutely. That’s the knowledge that you build up over time in a particular area. And the simple, maybe you need a postage machine, which I don’t know how much that costs.
Kelly: I have lunch, I got it on Amazon. So I learned that I needed a postage printer and I was able to use Shippo to do the postage. So like we mentioned, I am an e-commerce shop and last year we had a big sale come in that we needed to do boxes. I learned how to put boxes together, because did you know that they come flat? I didn’t know that. So they come completely flat and then you fold the box into a box, you then have to put something in it so the stuff doesn’t shake around. That’s another factor on cost. Put all the things in close the box tape is another factor and then postage. So I was like, okay, well we have about a couple hundred boxes that have to go out. I’m not going to just go to the post office and say, okay, this one’s going here, this one’s going here.
They would hate me. So I realised that we needed a printer and then what were labels going to cost? What was the postage itself going to cost? There’s really not. I also learned that there is not a bulk discount on shipping. They do not care how many boxes you were sending, but when you’re doing some of that yourself and you’re just bringing them 50 boxes at a time, there is some time savings and some cost savings there. So I’m very scrappy.
I did all the research. What box size do we need? What’s the stuffer thing you going to look like? I’m also lucky that the post office is up the block. So me and my little red waggon with 20 boxes at a time, pull up the street. But it had to get done. But I learned a lot. And so I’m always happy to say, hey, this is the postage printer that I picked up. It was 50 bucks on Amazon and it’s amazing. So stuff like that, people don’t realise they can do a lot of that stuff. Even the branding on your postage machine, you can change to have your company information, stuff like that. Yeah, it’s just how would you know?
Heather: And people don’t value their time and they don’t worry about standing in a post office queue for 30 minutes, because they go, oh, it only needs five minutes. Yeah, but you had to get there. You had to park, you had to go in, then you had to come home and that was 30 minutes and they don’t value their time. And that happens three times a week. And that’s like 90 minutes. 90 minutes is super valuable time.
Kelly: A 100%.
Heather: And so that postage machine is paid off for itself really, really quickly.
Kelly: I still use it even when it’s not an order. I’m like, oh, let me just print some postage. Because it’s pretty awesome. So it’s good to have things.
Heather: Going to look into a post scene, not that I’ve got anything to post.
Kelly: It’s so awesome. But yeah, I mean, valuing your time is one of the biggest things, especially if you’re selling a product, you don’t necessarily think about what it is to put that box together or what it costs to put that product together. Especially in handmade products, people undervalue their stuff all the time. All the time. It is insane to see. And I think in the accounting space, you do have to be okay with being fairly outspoken, because you’re going to have to say stuff like, hey, you’re wasting your time or you’re wasting your money. And not everyone is open to hearing that.
Heather: I have this philosophy. If someone’s prepared to pay me money, then I will tell them my opinion on it. But until they’re prepared to pay me money, I’m probably going to hold back on the feedback that they’re doing.
Kelly: I go with the safe stuff before that. I’m like, well, we could explore some things. And then once we’re like in it, I’m like, well thanks. So I noticed some stuff I’m going to tell you about. Yeah, I think you might want to make some changes.
Heather: Yeah. Oh, that’s sensational. So Kelly, we are running out of time here. I’m so grateful to have you on the show and share with us all this amazing information, which I’m sure the community will really benefit from.
Is there anything else I should be asking you about e-commerce or anything I should be asking you today? How about that?
Kelly: I always kind of at the end of any engagement speaking podcast, et cetera, I always say that if someone’s listening to this and they have a question, if they’re stuck on something, if they want some suggestions, like absolutely book some time. I am happy to help any other accountant or bookkeeper, CPE, EA, et cetera that has questions about it. I will say internationally a lot of the same things, a lot of things are the same. Softwares are similar. How they plug in is similar. I may not be able to tell you how sales tax works in other countries, but I can help you with some of the other stuff. And so if you’re stuck, like please reach out. And if it’s something I don’t know, I probably know somebody that does know it and I’m happy to make an introduction.
Heather: I’ve just been doing a writeup of attending all the Xero cons and what’s wonderful about the community is that everyone is, so many people, like 90, 95% of the people are just so supportive of each other, because there is actually so much work out there. And if we can help someone else on their journey, even if it’s just a little bit, then there’s so much support and really appreciate you being on the show today.
How can our listeners get in contact with you?
Kelly: I always refer to my website, so totally booked. That NYC will get you to, there’s a calendar link at the bottom in my bio. You’ll see me on LinkedIn and Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you put my name in, I should come up. And whichever way you reach out to me, I’m sure that I will be able to respond. So whatever you’re comfortable with.
Heather: Thank you so much Kelly, and have a wonderful evening.
Kelly: Thank you.
Heather: I hope you enjoyed listening to that interview with Kelly Gonsalves. I’ll pop any links for you, and mention in the show notes. You’ve been listening to the Cloud Stories podcast. I encourage you to subscribe and leave a five-star review so other people can find this podcast. Stay up to date with the curated content I’m sharing by signing up to the Accounting App’s newsletter available at heathersmithau.com.