4 steps accounting firms should take to elevate e-commerce client relationships
Within the landscape of e-commerce businesses, accounting firms play a key role in ensuring the financial aspects of the business are running smoothly.
Whether you've been in the industry for a few years or for decades, you're likely aware that services beyond compliance work are needed to form strong relationships with your e-commerce clients.
Here are 4 steps you can take to elevate your e-commerce client relationships by adding more value and, overall, establishing yourself as a trustworthy part of your client’s business success.
1. Understand the e-commerce business model
To truly understand the e-commerce business model, it’s important to identify the main challenges e-commerce businesses face. Some of these key challenges may be:
Financial, e.g., the management of cash flows and payment processing
Logistical and operational, e.g., tracking returns and refunds as they relate to inventory management
Of course, the space of e-commerce is ever-changing, and like most areas of business, it is subject to a variety of emerging technologies and trends. In order to better understand and cater to clients, it’s important to stay up to date with the industry..
If you already have a solid understanding of the e-commerce business model and are looking to grow your knowledge more specifically in the latest tools and evolution of the space, I recommend these resources
Having a specific knowledge and understanding of e-commerce business models as opposed to a general knowledge will help you to stand out and deepen the level of trust your client has with you.Share on TwitterShare on Facebook
2. Build an app ecosystem
At the center of your app ecosystem is a cloud-based accounting software such as QuickBooks Online. From there, there are apps like Karbon that can help you manage your own practice efficiently. Karbon is built to aid in the areas of practice, client, and project management, helping you meet deadlines, simplifying team communication, and workflow all in one place.
Around these core apps, you need to build out an ecosystem of smaller apps that help you manage your e-commerce clients’ businesses. You may find your firm having to deal with international tax regulations or multiple payment types, such as BNPL, Paypal, or Stripe. The business may even have multiple warehouses where products are being sold at high volumes.
With these added complexities, a carefully considered app ecosystem can help you stay on top of your clients' accounting with ease.
The first step to take is to familiarize yourself with popular e-commerce platforms. Platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce are just a two of the more popular platforms that many of your clients may use for their own business. It’s necessary to understand how they work so you can better support your clients.
Another element to the app ecosystem is accounting integration. Amaka is an accounting integration software that connects e-commerce platforms to accounting software. It can sync sales and payment data into the appropriate accounts and even match bank transactions, making reconciliations happen in no time and eliminating human error.
You can also use software for reporting and budget forecasting along with inventory management systems (IMS) to help you stay on top of stock levels and transfer.
Adding this technology can improve overall efficiency through automating many tasks as well as improving the level of accuracy. It's also important to become familiar with multiple options as each client may have different needs. Having this understanding gives you a chance to show off your tech expertise and build trust with clients by being able to offer them tailored solutions.
3. Offer accurate and timely data
Streamlining accounting processes for your e-commerce business clients will allow you to focus on the data.
Having more accurate and timely data allows your accounting firm to put together better reports and forecasts, and focus on finding unique insights that can help the clients’ business run more profitably. Some of these reporting tools might include Finpose or Google Data Studio.
Enabling information to be reported in an easy-to-interpret (and visual) way will allow you to clearly track performance, and make it easier to make recommendations in certain scenarios, such as preparing for seasonal sales or capitalising on certain opportunities.
As you leverage data to provide better insights to clients, it’s important to communicate your findings in an effective manner.
Consider making data visual and providing reports that easily highlight key metrics and trends. This can help clients comprehend this data and aid in making more informed decisions.
Having these systems in place will distinguish you as a trustworthy partner for your clients’ business, which leads to the final step.
4. Foster trust with clients
A crucial step in elevating your e-commerce client relationships is fostering trust with new and existing clients.
Take a look at what your client journey is like from the time they encounter your firm to eventually becoming an ongoing client. Ask yourself:
Why would a client continue to use your service?
What do you offer that helps you stand out from the competition?
Sometimes this can simply involve creating a regular follow-up process—such as a 10 minute phone call—to check in, see how they're going, and see if there are any issues you can assist with.
Automating the vast majority of manual tasks will allow your firm to have additional bandwidth to focus on advisory.
Advisory services allow your firm to demonstrate its expertise and generate additional revenue. Advisory is a specialized, highly valued service compared to routine data entry or compliance work. For e-commerce clients, this can include offering more thorough advice on specific business scenarios or assessing a range of opportunities for growth. It can be incredibly diverse and varied.
Time to implement
Now that you have the practical steps to take to elevate your e-commerce client relationships, it’s time to put them into practice.
When taking the opportunity to implement each of these steps, e-commerce accounting firms can form stronger client ties, stay up-to-date on the evolving industry of e-commerce, and scale their business without sacrificing quality.
Successfully doing so should result in establishing your firm as a trusted advisor that helps clients to succeed and grow.
CFO & Co-Founder, Amaka
Martin Chee is the CFO and Co-Founder at Amaka, an accounting integrations system that allows firms to automate their data entry processes. Martin started his career in a boutique accounting firm, where he is now a Partner while also helping run Amaka. He focuses on a range of areas, such as business and startup advisory, management accounting and systems implementation