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Why small businesses need an omnichannel sales strategy now more than ever

When COVID-19 hit, Freddie Hewitt found himself facing a sudden predicament. His independent coffee shop and restaurant, Stag Coffee, was experiencing a sharp decline in foot traffic and sales.

Hewitt had to find a way to pivot to save his business, and fast. He moved Stag Coffee’s operations online and began offering grocery deliveries to local customers in Kent, England, where his family-run shop is based.

Stag Coffee’s dilemma was not unique. Countless small businesses around the world have had to reckon with losing business and struggling to maintain sales — pain points heightened by the global pandemic this year. On top of that, many small businesses also realized they needed to move to digital — to drive sales, take payments, acquire customers — but didn’t have an e-commerce gameplan in place to do so successfully. .

Taking a brick & mortar business online introduces a host of new challenges: managing sales on multiple platforms, keeping track of inventory, and attempting to optimize business processes without consolidated analytics. Often, the hassle prevents small business owners from broadening sales to more channels.

To solve these problems, Intuit has launched QuickBooks Commerce, which allows small business owners to oversee omnichannel commerce from one centralized, easy-to-use interface, with data-driven insights to boot.

Omnichannel sales

Image Credits: Getty Images

Small business owners have a wide variety of options when it comes to selling online. Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Squarespace are just a few of the many e-commerce platforms available — and maximizing sales means doing business on more than just one. 

“Attracting and managing customers across multiple sales touchpoints is vital to small business survival — especially now,” said Opher Kahane, Vice President, QuickBooks Commerce at Intuit.

With support for major digital marketplaces and e-commerce web storefronts, QuickBooks Commerce allows small businesses to keep track of their sales from one straightforward hub. From a single page, business owners can toggle between each sales channel they use, keeping track of orders and fulfillment with ease, while getting an at-a-glance snapshot of their overall sales picture.

“Meeting customers where they are is the new expectation, but small businesses are not set up or resourced to manage this complexity effectively. QuickBooks Commerce helps small businesses grow by helping them sell across more channels while reducing the time they spend on operations,” Kahane said.

The time gained means that small business owners can turn their attention away from logistical headaches, and focus on growing their business instead.

Inventory management

One of the logistical headaches that QuickBooks Commerce helps address is managing inventory.

“It’s unbelievable that in 2020, a large percent of small businesses still reconcile and manage their inventory with pen and paper or spreadsheets,” Kahane said. “It is Herculean in terms of effort, super painful, error prone, time-consuming, and can have pretty disastrous results.”

Stag Coffee was one of the many small businesses relying on a spreadsheet to manage their e-commerce. Owner Hewitt’s website did not provide real-time inventory, nor did it connect with his point of sale. Despite an initial boom in business after pivoting online, Hewitt quickly discovered that tracking every sale and every order manually was a “nightmare.”

To further understand e-commerce challenges faced by small business owners, Kahane spoke with acquaintances who were selling products on Amazon, Facebook, and their own websites. A problem he heard frequently was offering an item for sale that was no longer in stock, commonly referred to as a stockout. Stockouts result in a negative customer experience and risk degrading the seller’s standing in the marketplace, which can have an overall detrimental impact to the business. 

QuickBooks Commerce features an inventory management system that removes the unnecessary grunt work and mistakes. Users can manage their inventory across every sales channel they utilize, both online and brick-and-mortar. The platform’s real-time syncing lets small businesses know exactly how many products are available at any given time. Not only does this eliminate tedious inventory management work, but it also prevents embarrassing out of stock gaffes or delays in delivery that frustrate customers and damage their brand.

Business insights

The key to success when doing business on multiple platforms is the ability to assess and compare the sales made on each channel, optimizing growth strategies. 

“Being able to stitch information from different sales channels together helps customers understand where they’re selling most effectively, which products are doing better or worse,” Kahane explained. “It requires a lot of deep technology to bring all those separate sets of data and merge them together into a set of insights that are then actionable for a business owner.”

Small business owners often lack the resources to invest in sophisticated tech teams and expensive data intelligence tools. With that in mind, QuickBooks Commerce had insight capabilities engineered directly into the platform.

Built into QuickBooks Commerce is an analytics dashboard that shows users their profits, costs, units sold, and other key performance indicators. Without any manual data entry required, small business owners are able evaluate their performance against their plans and make better, faster adjustments for success.

One place to do it all

Bearded man shipping online orders. Sitting by the desk and using laptop. Adding notes on packages.

The best part of all the benefits described above? Every feature can be controlled from a single interface. Drawing inspiration from the embedded systems that are revolutionizing financial products, QuickBooks Commerce puts small business owners in the driver’s seat, giving them the ease and autonomy of managing their multi-channel business from a single hub. And, QuickBooks Commerce integrates with QuickBooks directly, which means data from QuickBooks Commerce automatically syncs with QuickBooks, automating many aspects of reconciliation and accounting for small businesses.

In a suite of Intuit products designed to help small businesses, QuickBooks Commerce melds omnichannel sales management and insights into one highly-integrated platform. 

Small business owners can finally stop sweating the small stuff and start focusing on the bigger picture: growing their customer base across several touchpoints and building long-term success.