It’s no secret that ecommerce was propelled forward by the pandemic, but where does that leave online businesses? Retailers and brands are facing increasing consumer expectations, supply chain challenges, and operational disruptions—all while trying to scale.

To address this and other burning questions, Webgility CEO and founder Parag Mamnani and Marjorie Adams, CEO of QuickBooks Reseller Partner Fourlane, discussed how the industry has changed and what QuickBooks Enterprise users can do to keep pace. If you missed the live webinar, you can watch it below or give the transcript a read to catch these expert insights on the rapidly changing ecommerce environment.

Marjorie Adams, Fourlane: I want to welcome us to this week’s QuickBooks Enterprise deep dive. We’re going to be going over the state of ecommerce, specifically being joined today by Webgility. It’s been a tumultuous couple of years, to say the least, trying to figure out this new normal in business.

It’s been a prime topic everywhere with holiday seasons coming up—high buying seasons, especially online. Today we’re going to do things a little bit differently. I’m actually going to turn over MC today to Gina from Intuit who’s going to lead our conversation today to talk about the state of ecommerce. Hey, Gina.

Gina Avila, Intuit: Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us today. It’s going to be an exciting conversation with our fearless leaders from Webgility with Parag on the line and Marjorie Adams from Fourlane. Thank you, everyone. Welcome to this session. Parag, would you like to introduce yourself to everyone and let everyone know how great Webgility is, and just a little bit about yourself?

Parag Mamnani, Webgility: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity. It’s an exciting place to be in commerce and it’s great to have the opportunity to participate here with both Marjorie and the Intuit team. My name is Parag Mamnani. I’m the founder and CEO of Webgility. We’re an ecommerce automation software, and we specifically serve customers that use QuickBooks, so I’m excited to be part of the webinar in this partnership and looking forward to the conversation.

Gina: Thank you. Welcome. Marjorie, if you could please do an intro of yourself, that’d be awesome.

Marjorie: Sure, thanks. I’m Marjorie Adams. I’m the CEO of Fourlane. We have been working with QuickBooks Enterprise customers from day one, so for 13 years, it’s been our primary focus helping customers stay inside of Enterprise, and a big part of that is by utilizing tools like Webgility. Webgility is the go-to tool for us for anybody who’s using ecommerce. I am thrilled to have both Gina and Parag today to join us and talk about all this fun.

Gina: Awesome, thank you. As Marjorie mentioned, I will be your MC today. My name is Gina Avila, and I work at Intuit. I’ve been with Intuit for about 20 years, and I am a senior manager in the QuickBooks solution provider program. With that, let’s get started. I know there are a lot of great questions that we want to get answered and learn some interesting information today. Parag, I’m going to start with you today. 

Parag Mamnani

What has been the biggest disruption during the shift to ecommerce?

Parag: The list is quite long, but if I were to start with the basics, I think most people were caught off guard. Most retailers assumed that they’d have time to transition their retail businesses, and to slowly start to build out their ecommerce presence. With the pandemic, that entire timeline’s been accelerated. I’m sure for many of you, your audience has seen this insight online, but ecommerce accelerated in a year as fast as it has over almost two decades.

The past year has been very disruptive for businesses that are not selling online, so they’ve had to start selling online. I think the second biggest disruption is that consumer behavior has changed, and as a result, you have to be selling on multiple marketplaces and multiple channels. It’s not enough to just have one channel of selling. You want to be where your customers are. Last but not least, it’s also important to call out the challenge that it’s created in the supply chain. I think everyone’s probably familiar with all the bottlenecks that we’ve had on the supply chain side.

You have a pretty dramatic shift in both consumer behavior, which is causing challenges for businesses, but at the same time you have the supply chain in the back office and being able to actually get your products in stock to serve those customers. You’re being squeezed on both sides, and it’s really important that retailers really leverage technology to try to solve for it, and obviously that is why we feel QuickBooks and Webgility are a great combination.

Marjorie: If I could just add to that too, it’s a little bit different climate. I’m the accountant in the room talking about the expenses over here, but it is different. Our clients are going from having expenses like storefront, rent—these are the expenses that they’re talking about—trying to get walk-in traffic, doing pop-ups and trade shows. They had an idea of what these expenses were.

Now with some of them who didn’t have an online presence, now they have different expenses that they’re having to figure out. What are my margins in this new world? It’s crucial to have these connected systems in order to be able to track that and understand even better. Hopefully we’re getting better. I had written down that now we’ve got website architects that we are talking to, instead of construction managers in the store.

It’s different people that we’re working with at different costs, so businesses are having to relearn their margins. They’re having to almost start again, like it’s a fresh business.

Gina: Absolutely, we’ve seen a tremendous difference in not just in the customer behavior, but also how we go to market, and how we get in front of customers, so it has totally shifted from what we’ve known in the past. Thank you both for those amazing answers and insights.

Parag: One of the fascinating things I’ll add here is that, as Marjorie said, being the accountant in the room I think one of the things that’s happened in the last couple of years is that accountants are also paying attention. Ecommerce and retail as a category has become that much more important.

I’ve been in the industry a long time, and I remember going to a number of trade shows and there was almost this hesitancy in working with retail customers. We’re realizing now it’s no longer a choice. You’ve got to have a solution. You’ve got to have ecommerce and retail as a key category to which you can serve your customers.

Gina: Yes, and this next question actually lies on top of that. 

Parag Mamnani, Founder and CEO of Webgility

How has consumer behavior changed, and what do consumers want in this new landscape?

Marjorie: Of course, sticking with my cost theme that’s what I talk about the most over here, making sure that we’re aware of our costs. Cost of customer acquisition has just become different. That’s a different world out there. The amount of returning customers is also different. Like, “How do we get our customers to return to us as a company?” is significantly different from how we’ve done it historically.

You don’t have that face-to-face loyalty where you have loyalty to the customer service rep or the sales rep who you work with at the store that you’re used to going into. You don’t have that as much. We have more customer success reps, and they can be anywhere, maybe not just local to where we are. Buyers are different too now because before, we felt limited and we could only buy what was local to us.

We would drive an hour and a half to go to the discount shops, that “down the road” type thing. But now buyers have this whole world that they can buy from, and so it’s harder now, for example, when you’re trying to get somebody to impulse buy something. if they walked in the store for the first time, what can we get them to purchase? Before you could walk in, pick out a sweater, swipe your card, and walk away. It takes a lot more to get somebody to do that, to make that purchase when you’re in a web store environment. 

I think one of the biggest things that you guys are going to hear me say a lot today, and you heard me say on a lot of these webinars, especially this year with some of the automation that QuickBooks is set up for us inside of QuickBooks Enterprise. The idea of having somebody else do your data entry for you becomes a really big part of this as well.

Consumers, it’s great that they’re doing the data entry in the ecommerce space. However, that means that they potentially could be making mistakes. You have to make sure that before we had sales reps entering in orders for customers, now customers are entering in their own orders, and we have to make it as simple as possible so that we don’t have as many returns, support calls, things along those lines too. Just a little bit different on how to get them to buy, I think.

Parag: I’d say everyone on the call here is a consumer. If you think about how your behavior has changed over the course of the pandemic, and what has caused the biggest disruption is that online is obviously taking a lion’s share of retail. We’ve seen that accelerated, so more people are shopping online. Also I think discovery has changed. Before, the primary discovery source was the mall. You’d have a retail location that you could be going after.

Now primary discovery is happening online. Whether it be through searches happening on Amazon or elsewhere. I don’t know if your audience is aware, but Amazon is now the search engine for commerce. If you’re not on Amazon, your products are not getting found. The second search engine is Google, but more than half of Google searches happen by hitting directly through the address bar. You don’t actually even see the search results on Google.

It’s all about being present where your customers are looking, and based on that behavior, there’s been a move towards social. We have all these other social channels through which products are being discovered. As a retailer, the consumer’s now looking for your products in a lot of different places, so you have to be everywhere. You can’t be everywhere without technology.

Certainly as an accountant, as a solutions provider and an advisor to your customers, to help your customers thrive and be part of this growth and not be left behind, it’s important we embrace that consumer behavior change, and really support them to help them get online and be available through all these channels.

Gina: Absolutely. If you think about just how much the landscape has changed, as far as where people go now to research, find, and buy, it is absolutely a 360 as far as what we saw in the past. Things have really changed as far as where our consumers are looking for the information, and where to get the best options available, which is online.

Marjorie: One of the things behind the change—I think about this all the time—is Amazon. I would say Jeff is my best friend. They live at our house, basically. The ease of checkout is a huge part of this as well. Making sure that people can have that, if they don’t have to think about it. They don’t have to go grab their credit card, they don’t have to do all those things. They can just log in, click “buy now.” It takes four clicks to buy something on Amazon right now. As easy as possible, as simple as possible: that’s what we’re headed for.

Parag: When you talk about the consumer convenience of being able to check out quickly, that creates immense pressure on our customers, on the retailers and the businesses that are serving them. Because the expectations on the other side are that, “Hey, I clicked and was able to do this click and get the product in two seconds. How quickly are you going to send it to me?”

The expectations are, “I need overnight delivery, I need to have it in my hand while I’m sitting on my couch.” Consumer behavior has dramatically shifted, and pace and their discovery processes obviously evolved quite a bit.

Gina: On that note, Parag, here’s the next question that I have for you.

Webgility ecommerce accounting automation

Can you explain some of the key components of omnichannel commerce business?

Parag: What’s really important is to define what omnichannel commerce is. I know it’s a buzzword and everybody talks about multichannel, omnichannel, but it’s really about being where your customers are. Your customers are expecting your products and your business to be available wherever they’re looking, whether it’s in a brick-and-mortar location or online.

Even online, you have all of these channels. Whether it’s selling on a marketplace like Amazon, Etsy, or Walmart, or it’s selling off your own website, whether you have a Shopify store, a big commerce store, whatever the platform of choice be—whatever your .com website is. Also other channels through which all of those products may be getting visibility like social media, and even now, a lot of purchases are starting from folks promoting them on YouTube.

You have all of these different channels, and the very concept of omnichannel is how can you as a retailer provide a seamless experience, no matter where the customer’s looking? It’s oftentimes in an omnichannel experience that the consumer may look for you in one place, but shop from you in another. Having that experience be uniform, so that you’re present, and can have both visibility and the commerce transaction happening is really important.

What does that all mean for the retailer? Well, first and foremost, it starts with, “How do I get all of my products and availability across all channels?” Obviously we’re Webgility, a shameless plug here, but really it’s all about getting your product listings up to your various channels. That’s what Webgility does. It unlocks the power of your catalog that’s sitting inside QuickBooks and helps you take all of that inventory, take all of those products and data, and list them across your different ecommerce channels. You want to make sure you’re present. 

Number two, once you’ve got your product catalog up and running, I think the next challenge you have is, “Well, what happens when a sale occurs? How do I ensure that all the channels are reflecting the change in inventory?” That’s another capability that we power to make sure that when an automatic sale occurs, your inventory is updated across your different channels.

Number three, once the sale comes in, now you’ve got to do fulfillment. You’ve got to figure out, “How am I going to get this into the hands of my customers?” Printing a shipping label or working with a dropshipper, whether you’re using FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) or another third-party warehousing system, and you don’t stock the items yourself, now you have a number of workflows as to how you send the order, and get it fulfilled.

Interestingly with QuickBooks Enterprise, for example, you also have to think about which inventory sites you may be allocating that item from. Having deep integration into your QuickBooks Enterprise, being able to identify the specific inventory sites, and I could keep going, but there are also challenges around sales tax, depending on where you’re selling. You have to think about the sales tax implications and make sure that not only are you collecting the right sales tax, but you’re also remitting the right sales taxes.

Last but not least in this omnichannel world, you have a cash flow challenge which is that different marketplaces do payouts at different rates, if you’re selling on your own site, of course, your credit card processor could be doing daily payouts, but you have timing as far as when your cash comes in, and the cash you have available to actually be able to supplement and bring new products.

Cash flow management is really, really critical. That’s why, again, having your accounting and your key system of record in QuickBooks be very seamlessly connected to all of your ecommerce channels is absolutely key to running a smooth omnichannel experience. Otherwise, in the end, your customers are either not going to get their items on time, or they’re going to have somewhat of a poor experience, and that leads to negative reviews.

We know that’s a snowball effect of the decline of your business. It’s important to really keep those customers happy, and their expectations are only climbing.

Marjorie: Well, I think that one thing that’s really great about your software that a lot of softwares out there don’t provide is that you have a choice. You can do fulfillment in Webgility. You can do fulfillment out of QuickBooks. There are people, we do have some customers who choose to have their orders come through into QuickBooks, as sales orders, and then they run fulfillment through the regular process, because that’s how their sales reps are used to functioning.

They still have those physical sales reps, like people calling in faxing and all that stuff. They’re used to running fulfillment through this area. The fact that you have the flexibility to choose, that it doesn’t just take over when you’re using Webgility, then that’s really amazing. It gives us the ability to use the software in the best way. I think that’s really awesome.

Parag: Yes, I’m really glad you brought that up because it’s actually core to our mission. As a company from day one when I started, we felt that small businesses are used to doing business a certain way, and our goal is to not disrupt their workflows. Our goal is to try to automate what they’re doing. Now over time, they may iterate and evolve to new and more different ways of doing business, but that’s the beauty.

This is why we also include white-glove onboarding as part of our software, because we’re promoting the customer to work with us to tell us what their workflows are. We’ll certainly tell you what the best practices are, but if there’s a certain workflow that works really well for you, we don’t want to disrupt that. We just want to be able to automate and reduce a lot of your manual workflows.

Gina: You were talking about automation a little while ago too. I want to tap into that. 

Parag Mamnani Quote

Where can automation have the biggest impact on a business?

Marjorie: Again, people who’ve been on our webinars for a long time, who’ve heard me talk for a long time, know that I talk about this all the time. Single point of entry is the biggest deal for everything. We’ve got a client that has multiple retail locations. They are all independent LLCs. They have independent points of sale. They have a web store also.

They are a clothing store, so they bring in a new season of products. Then at each of their store locations, somebody is receiving the cost, the sales price, maybe they’re having to take pictures of the items when they receive them. All of this data, they’re in each individual location having to key in. Then somebody has to do it for the web store too, because that is considered another retail location space.

If you think about that, how much time is being spent doing that activity? How many errors, because these are human errors? When people do data entry, there’s going to be problems. Then on top of the time it takes them, you also probably have to have a QC person who comes in and audits the stores. Another cost to business, another expense. Having a single point of entry, where I can put in an item, a picture, a description, a price, maybe different pricing based on my brand, based on my marketplace, whatever it is—having that alone would save this company so much money. Just an insane amount of money. 

Not just money: time, which especially after the pandemic, everybody talks about how much time they have to spend working on the business. Nobody likes to do data entry, nobody does. It saves a ton of data entry as well. That’s a huge part. That alone makes everyone inside the business happier. That’s what we’re always striving to do.

Parag: You hit the nail on the head, and it’s music to my ears, because this is the mantra we preach to every one of our clients is, why aren’t you automating? What is it that’s holding you back? Typically, in fact, what we find is that there’s jerry-rigged together a manual process where SKUs don’t match, you’re doing a lot of manual overrides, and creating, in fact, a lot of headaches for yourself, and making it harder to be automated through those manual workarounds.

The more standardization, the more best practices that can be put in place, that’s the beauty of software. It needs to be your friend. With most applications, I imagine, especially as you’re thinking about your business processes, the hesitation is usually just getting started. It’s, “How do I go from what is a more established process? I’ve trained my team on how to do all of this. Yes, there are some issues and so forth, but they’re comfortable with it.”

I think the moment you decide to take the plunge and really think about how to automate, it’s just going to open up everyone to just a whole new world of time-saving and efficiency, and it will be reflected in your customer feedback. They will feel how quickly they’re able to get their products, and you can really then devote your time to expansion.

I’ve heard, in fact from several leaders, even at Intuit, about the fact that this is why Intuit has made such investments in the commerce space is that half of retailers hesitate to go expand to a second channel because they think it’s hard. I think we can solve that. Our software does solve that. Expansion should be a part of the strategy, not an afterthought and not a fear. That’s really what we need to unlock with this partnership. 

Hopefully, everyone that’s listening in feels the excitement around commerce, and how to really get their customers going, and not feel like the technology is somehow going to be burdensome.

Gina: That’s what I love from a QuickBooks perspective. If we look at the integration that QuickBooks offers from a payments perspective and with Webgility, they help automate the end-to-end flow of a customer’s needs within the process. It’s a win-win from a customer perspective, but also from a business owner and making it easy for them to do business.

Marjorie: One of the things too is that a lot of our customers get this idea, and I know as everybody in our audience knows. We also work in products outside of QuickBooks, in ERP [enterprise resource planning] products. The thing is that when you go even outside of the QuickBooks space, you’re still going to have web stores. You’re still going to have Amazon. You’re still going to have Magento. You’re still going to have BigCommerce. You’re still going to have these outside web stores, because they do what they do well.

You’re still going to need a connector piece to talk to the accounting software. By QuickBooks and Webgility working together to expand this. We’re making QuickBooks more and more move into that mid-market space and be more ERP. Nobody really knows what that term means hardly anymore.

Parag: You hit the nail on the head in terms of capability. The biggest confusion I see in the marketplace is that everyone claims to do everything. You go to an ecommerce platform and they advertise that, “Hey, just stay here, and you’ll be able to do everything.” Well, that’s not true. What you’re going to find is the most successful businesses and those that are able to grow, find a core system of record.

For most of our customers, that system of record is QuickBooks Enterprise. When your entire business is running on QuickBooks Enterprise, you don’t want half your team chasing three other applications just to figure out what’s happening in each ecommerce channel. You want to bring it all together in one place. Part of our way of being seamless and fitting in is we’re not just the dashboard from where you run your commerce, we fit seamlessly to send the data to QuickBooks.

The rest of your staff, everyone that’s inside finance, your business owner, everyone is aware of what’s happened, and you’re not waiting on a report to figure out what your cash flow is for the day. It’s happening in real time, and it’s being pushed into your QuickBooks.

Marjorie: That’s what we talked about. You have data to make decisions before you need to be able to do.

Gina: On that note, I would love for us to talk about some key metrics.

Parag Mamnani, Founder & CEO Webgility Quote

What are the metrics or data that commerce businesses should track?

Parag: Right at the top, I think the most important thing is to think about what percentage of your revenue is coming from online. If you’re an online-only seller, it’s obviously 100%. Most of our retailers, if you’re omnichannel, your [brick-and-mortar] retail is still likely a significant portion of your business and you’re starting to see that revenue shift. 

First and foremost, you need to understand your revenue, and the sources of your revenue across different channels. Which channels are making me money? What volume am I seeing from those channels? 

Number two, you want to know who those customers are. Figuring out which channel is contributing which type of customer, and understanding who your repeat and your loyal customers are, that’s another key factor. 

I think the third critical metric is all-around inventory. What stock levels do you need to keep in order to maintain a certain velocity across the different channels that you’re selling on?

Across revenue, customers, and inventory, that truly serves as your pretty critical piece of KPIs. Now, the last, but I say the most important piece is profitability. How do you know your profitability? You need to know your expenses, and it’s important to track what your fulfillment costs are. It’s important to track what your payment fees are. It’s important to track all the fees from your marketplaces. 

As I say this, I know I’m making it sound complicated. That’s exactly the complication that Webgility solves is all of the expenses that you incur, the revenue, the customers, the inventory data. We bring all of those key metrics in, and we supercharge QuickBooks, because all of the data is now at a channel level available in QuickBooks, and through various analytics pieces that we make available with Webgility, both within our application and also available in the cloud and mobile so you have access to key insights around profitability for your business.

Put it all together as a business owner, you certainly need a whole set of business KPIs to help you drive decisions like Marjorie said, and from an accounting perspective, being able to really keep track of those expenses, being able to provide insights on cash flow, your sales tax liabilities. All of those components are really, really crucial to not only doing the books right for the customer, for your clients, but also giving them all the insights they need, so that every month is a growth month and not a down month.

Marjorie: I’m going to go ahead and open it up for a couple of questions, but I want to thank you both, Gina and Parag, for joining us today.

Parag: Of course, thank you.

Gina: It was fun, thank you.