What’s your firm’s offer to eCommerce businesses?
In what has been a tough year for business, some sectors have thrived, including, most notably, eCommerce – and yet few accountants seem to be taking active steps to target this sector.
The growth in online retail is something to which we can all attest. From bread flour to beer to boots, we’ve all ordered things online during 2020 that we’d probably have picked up in person in 2019.
But we don’t need to rely on anecdotal evidence. The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) helpfully compiles detailed data on internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales. The accompanying graph follows a classic hockey stick shape in 2020 – shooting straight upward, breaking a decade-long pattern of gradual growth.
Here’s the killer stat: in November 2019, internet sales represented 21.6% of total retail sales; by November 2020, they’d reached 36% of the total – more than a third.
Does your accountancy firm have a clear offer for eCommerce businesses? Is there content on your website targeting this audience? Does your social media presence trumpet your knowledge and expertise in dealing with eCommerce businesses?
For some, there’ll be a step before this: learn about eCommerce and the tax implications of doing business online.
Specific issues affecting eCommerce
The big issue right now is, of course, Brexit.
As of 1 January, the UK’s transition out of membership of the European Union is over. That means certain challenges for UK businesses trading with, or importing/exporting from, Europe.
Have a look at the Google Trends map for the term ‘EU VAT brexit’ and you’ll see another hockey stick upturn, beginning in November 2020. That’s no doubt a result of UK firms scrambling to understand what they need to do to remain compliant in the new post-Brexit world.
Another specific issue many eCommerce businesses need help with is integrating online sales platforms such as eBay, Amazon and Shopify with cloud accounting apps.
In theory, this is the Making Tax Digital dream – digital transactions, end-to-end, from the buyer’s online purchase to the money arriving in your client’s bank account.
But of course it’s never quite as easy as that and the more practical, specific advice you can offer, the better.
Packaging and promoting an eCommerce service
If you want to go after this growing and potentially lucrative market, the first thing is to work out what a dedicated eCommerce accounting service might look like.
Focus on building a bundle of related services – VAT, bookkeeping, tax returns – that will solve their problems, with total clarity about fees and deliverables. And as you’re targeting clients who live and work online, it makes sense to put cloud accounting and automation at the heart of your new service.
When it comes to promoting your offer, make sure your website has a clear destination page which lays everything out and demonstrates your commitment to serving this sector. You’ll probably also want to make sure your blog has regular posts on this specific subject, too – again, to prove your genuine interest.
Finally, use your client database to send customised messages to existing ecommerce clients and also to those who might be ripe for a move online, such as retailers, caterers or even professional services providers. (Who knew Zoom yoga classes would turn out to be a thing?)
It might be something they’ve been considering but didn’t know where to start. Accountants often boast of being proactive but an offer of help and encouragement at the right time is proof it’s not just talk.
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