Why Busywork is the Downfall of Small Online Retailers

Enemy #1 for Small Online Retailers? Accounting Busywork

The state of your books can determine whether your small ecommerce business thrives or dies. But accounting busywork isn’t doing you any favors. Here’s why.

Small ecommerce businesses know the drill well: Time is money. As online retailers launch and scale their businesses, owners are often playing multiple roles: Director of Marketing, Head of Supply Chain Logistics, and Chief Financial Officer, to name a few (Lead Snack Ninja? Okay, you can have that one, too).

And while many enjoy the excitement of sourcing new products and marketing their stores, dealing with the constantly shifting nuts and bolts of the ecommerce bookkeeping process is not a regular fan favorite. In fact, in a recent study, 61% of SMBs said managing paperwork and closing the books each month were top challenges of their business. 

Small sellers experiencing sales growth—but still burdened by manual accounting processes—can become overwhelmed by the subsequent data entry headaches required to stay on top of their accounting. But like it or not, the state of your books might very well determine whether your online store thrives or dies. So let’s dig in to the main culprit when it comes to ecommerce accounting busywork, and talk about what you can do to alleviate the burn.

Accounting busywork takes more time than strategic planning


The percentage of time the average entrepreneur spends tackling administrative tasks instead of strategic planning. (Source: The Alternative Board)


Pain Point: Manual Data Entry is for the Birds

Struggling with ecommerce transactional data coming out of your ears? You’re not the only one. For every sale, online retailers must track a host of line items, including:

  • Seller fees
  • Sales tax
  • Inventory quantity
  • Shipping costs
  • …and more

Manually exporting this data from a variety of ecommerce platforms and weaving it together (via spreadsheets or into your accounting system) is a tedious, frustrating, and error-prone process that never ends and is expensive to outsource. Not only does it take valuable time away from growing your business, it can also leave you with a less-than-pleased client base and a potentially inaccurate picture of your business’ financial health.

Jeff Glass and his wife Lacey own Rider Shack, a surf shop with both an online and brick-and-mortar presence. Managing more than 13,000 products over multiple channels was initially a real challenge for them, due to bottlenecks caused by—you guessed it—busywork. “We had to manually enter all online sales into [our accounting platform] and then manually sync the inventory between the online and retail store,” recalls Glass. “This was extremely time consuming and slow. And a couple of times a week, we had to cancel an order because the item was out of stock. Customers were not happy to hear that.”

Solution: Put Accounting Busywork on Autopilot

A report from the Alternative Board found the average entrepreneur spends 68.1% of his or her time tackling administrative tasks instead of using it for strategic planning. So how do you get off the accounting busywork train? Try leveraging technology to put your manual data entry on autopilot with these essential steps:

  • Embrace accounting software built for small business: If you’re still doing your books on spreadsheets, consider moving over to an accounting platform built for small ecommerce businesses, like Xero. As a brand, Xero highlights the importance of small businesses to the global economy, and caters to startups with features and resources they can actually use. Plus, it’s a cloud-based solution that’s built for speed and agility—just like its users.
  • Work smarter, not harder, with key integrations: After you’ve got your accounting platform set up, research the value of pairing it with an ecommerce accounting automation platform that puts your administrative tasks on autopilot. Doing so allows you to instantly record all of your online transactions and fees to your accounting platform by customer, sales channel, and payment method. You’ll also be able to sync your data between your sales channels in real time, so your books are always fresh and your accounts always match your bank deposits or payouts.
  • Look to accounting pros for advice: Now that your accounting professional isn’t busy wading through a shoebox full of your transaction receipts, they have more time to act as a trusted financial advisor who can strategically guide you through key technological choices and set-up. A well-rounded ecommerce accounting pro should be able to help you source and integrate the best accounting technology for your business.
Accounting busywork is a top challenge of businesses


The percentage of SMBs that said managing paperwork and closing the books each month were top challenges of their business. (Source: Wasp Barcode Technologies)

Banishing Busywork Yields Real Results

After automating much of Rider Shack’s accounting and operations busywork, Jeff Glass saw an impressive ROI. Inventory snafus have become a thing of the past, and time spent managing inventory was reduced by 15 hours per week. The team also cut their shipping process timeline by 25%. This decrease in labor and reduction in orders cancelled due to out-to-stock items has saved Rider Shack an average of $1,400 a month — time and money that they spend instead on marketing, sales promotions, and optimizing their online store. 

“We’re able to provide fast delivery and better customer service,” says Glass, whose store has won Best Surf Shop in Los Angeles three years in a row. Now that’s going to keep them plenty busy.

Kelley Wyant, Sr. Corporate Marketing Manager

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