Tips & Guides — 31 Mar 2022
How to Create a Quarterly eCommerce Report
eCommerce is a fluid creature, subject to seasonal fluctuations, market trends, and the reactions of customers to your content and marketing efforts. With global eCommerce sales surpassing $4.2 trillion at the height of the pandemic in 2020, keeping an eye on performance is increasingly important as the sector expands and becomes ever more competitive.
While we’re mostly moving out of the pandemic model, online retail nonetheless remains the first choice for many consumers. However, natural and unnatural fluctuations mean it’s not enough to monitor every important metric over a full fiscal year.
Instead, you should be looking at your quarterly results. Tracking your operating results over shorter periods helps you keep an eye on cash flow and can help with investor relations too.
A solid financial performance over the year is crucial, but you don’t have to be as successful every quarter (though it would be nice). When a business examines its financial results, it’s often the case that the first and second quarter show poor performance, while third-quarter and fourth-quarter results put you well in the black.
Many factors affect financial performance over the full year, including investing in equipment or systems, such as new VoIP systems for small business. So, you not only need to look at the crucial metrics but anything that creates expenses or income.
But just how do you break all those important metrics down and combine them into something stakeholders can easily understand? It’s actually very simple and no different from creating an annual report for your board of directors. The only difference is you’re collating results for a shorter period. Read on to find out how to do this.
Of course, reports on the health of a business don’t only look at cash flow, accrued interest, balance sheets, and revenue. There are many factors in your operating activities you want to look at to get a good idea of how your eCommerce organization is performing over the year.
This can be complicated, and you need to consider things like expenditures, current liabilities, long-term debt, and lease liabilities (if any of your locations are rented), as well as the basics of sales and other short-term financial aspects of your organization.
You’ll want to include:
Reporting on eCommerce inventory is crucial and helps to identify any issues with your supply chain. After all, your inventory is what you sell, and poor management of it can not only cause a drop in revenue but damage your brand reputation.
Be sure to cover:
Sales drive revenue and profitability. Therefore, a portion of your quarterly report must focus on how well sales have been performing. You also need to take into consideration your receivable turnover (how quickly you’re being paid for any sales made on credit).
Remember to include:
Reports are not just about checking sales and stock figures but how your customers behave on your site and in response to the customer experience you deliver. This can help you plan content and marketing initiatives as well as identify any optimization issues.
You should include reports on:
This is the part of your report that’s not only important to your CFO but the company as a whole. Knowing your business is financially stable and generating profits allows you to move forward with confidence. This is also essential when it comes to things such as your annual filings for income taxes and other dues.
Be sure to include:
You may also want to look at non-GAAP financial measures such as EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) as an alternative to net income.
Another factor that needs to be considered is compensation expenses i.e. salaries, recruiting costs, and other things that can affect annual profitability.
Onto best practices. The last thing you want is to be scrabbling between lots of notes and sources to collate the data needed for an accurate end-of-quarter report. Luckily for you, following these tips will make producing your report a lot less laborious and easier to manage.
Accurately keeping track of what you sell in relation to what you have in stock is essential, not only for your report but your overall business too. A good multichannel inventory management software package can link with your POS records.
When you have easy access to integrated data and can see what’s sold and what remains, it also helps with the reordering process. This improves the overall efficiency of your inventory management and avoids over- and understocking scenarios.
To compile any sort of report, you need to harvest data, but that data may just be a list of numbers without a reliable analytics solution such as that provided by Affise. Choose a solution that allows you to customize segmentation and reporting so you can focus on the areas you want. Looking at data from different angles will give you more insightful perspectives.
It’s no longer good enough to have all your data (and reports) on office-based systems. Opting for a cloud-based solution means you can access crucial data no matter where you are, allowing you to make actionable decisions and compile reports when you’re away from the office or have multiple locations.
So, you now know what’s needed for an insightful end-of-quarter report, but if it’s your first one, just how do you go about creating it?
There’s no point in pretending this is a simple process, though automation and good systems can make it simpler. The data you want to present needs to be consolidated before being added to your report, and this is especially true for larger organizations that have multiple locations and may even work with different currencies.
Within any organization, you’ll likely have different departments, such as sales and marketing, personnel, accounts, and more. Bringing together data from each is a major challenge, and it can help if you have an ongoing process (not just for reports) of consolidating data within one central database, ideally located in the cloud.
While attempts to consolidate may be fairly simple for a smaller eCommerce business, it’s trickier when it comes to larger, more complex organizations. Improving existing systems can be a costly process – but one that’s worthwhile when it comes to long-term efficiency and reporting.
Look for systems that integrate easily so you get a 360-degree view of the financial and operational information needed for a good report and to show net income or a net loss.
Another factor to consider is who is going to see your reports. You may have to prepare different versions if there are security or compliance issues around some of the data.
Every shareholder will want to see proof of financial health and a good return on their investing activities, but you may need to omit some sensitive data from that group. This is especially important if you issue a press release.
This is a hurdle that’s easily overcome if you have a good reporting system in place. With such a system, you can generate a single initial report then have a hierarchy of stakeholders where some information is censored or removed according to this. This simplifies the reporting process when different stakeholders have different needs.
Some businesses may want to utilize old-fashioned AGMs to present their reports. In this modern age, however, most will choose to share reports via a document hosted in the cloud, a webcast, or a conference call. This sort of presentation can be enhanced by a SIP trunk system with the right equipment.
You also have to think about who’s reading your report from the perspective of them understanding the data. For some, this might be like a foreign language, and they could have numerous questions. OLAP-based reporting tools can be a great help as they let viewers see the data in different ways and filter it on multiple levels.
It may be worth adding an FAQ section to your report to address commonly asked questions regarding the data.
Your reporting solution should permit end users to look deeper into the data with ease, almost allowing them to generate “sub-reports” that give better insights.
If you’re going to use a reporting solution, it should have these capabilities:
Analysis of your first quarter’s performance can be handy too, providing a benchmark depending on the type of business you have and how you run it. This can provide a solid foundation to work from for the remainder of the year, especially when it comes to things such as trend or variance reports.
Most solutions will offer these, but you want to be able to customize according to your model and needs. You should be able to choose the depth and level of detail so you can make comparisons that suit your organization.
If your first quarter is usually particularly high or low performing, this may offer an unbalanced view for the rest of the year, so be careful how you use this. As you move forward, patterns in areas such as trends and variance may become more transparent and understandable.
The likelihood is you’ll have produced a forecast (or probably more than one) for how you think a certain quarter will perform. This will have informed some of your planning and might include things such as sales, revenue, profits, and so on. You can compare these forecasts with your actual results to see how well your planning has done.
The advantage of variance analysis is it lets you see what parts of your forecasting and planning methodology were accurate, which allows you to hopefully create even stronger and more accurate planning and forecasting as you move forward.
Especially for new businesses, planning and forecasting can be a little unpredictable success-wise. An effective reporting solution should take the complexity out of predictive analytics and make it simple to compare actual results with what you planned and make adjustments where needed.
Looking at how changes might affect future results can be achieved with a good reporting tool or other automated solution. Changes can be made to everything from your pricing levels to how you market your business. Recognizing what works and doesn’t is a major part of the re-forecasting process.
Reports are meant to not only be informational but actionable. This means any decisions made based on an end-of-quarter report should lead to clear plans that meet the approval of relevant stakeholders and decision-makers. This should be distributed to all those involved.
In real terms, ensure people know their part in any re-forecasted plan and what they have to do to achieve the results you’re aiming for. Also be aware that, as with reports, there may be a hierarchy of people when it comes to sensitive data and security issues.
You’re not just going to sit back after one end-of-quarter report and wait until the next one to see if your changes produce results. That’s why more and more companies are looking at using dashboards and scorecards to monitor results on an ongoing basis. This is something that’s affordable for smaller businesses and is easy to use too.
What you want from dashboards and scoreboards is the ability to identify and generate the KPIs you wish to focus on and then create ongoing comparisons that illustrate how your actions affect these. Visualization is one part of this but is redundant unless you’re visualizing the right KPIs and other data.
If you’re new to reports – or even eCommerce as a whole – you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by all the data you’re tracking and reporting on. This is where Affise can help, supporting you with advanced but intuitive data analytics and simple-to-understand reporting. You can customize the data you track and how this is presented in reports.
Affise recognizes that you may use different platforms to sell and market your products so it makes it easy to integrate existing tools and platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook for Business, and TikTok for Business. It also allows for visualization that suits you, from pie or bar charts to colorful line charts and tables that show all your data.
Another great advantage of Affise is its Data Fusion real-time data delivery function, which takes all the pertinent info and data in Affise directly to your Google or AWS accounts, meaning you can collate information from all sources into a single view. Once integrated, you can then export this data to the BI tool of your choice, such as Google Data Studio or Tableau.
Quarterly reports are not only snapshots of how you’ve performed in a given period but forward-looking statements that allow you to plan and take action. They should shape any intended financing activities if you’re considering expansion or growth and allow you to compare your performance over the same period last year.
Your shareholders or owners will want to see detailed reports that allow them to make major decisions like repurchase agreements. They’ll also want to know the bottom line of their annual EPS (earning per share) and the net cash held by the business. Reports are also important where you’re involved in performance marketing so you get an overview of how good your partners are.
Affise offers an eCommerce platform that’s simple and painless to migrate to. Its functionality and insightful analytics can be a huge help, not only in the day-to-day operation of your eCommerce business but in producing detailed reports that allow your chief executive and other C-suite officers to gain actionable data to improve long-term performance.
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