CASE STUDY

Kate’s Clothing automates account reconciliation – securing customer data in the process

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A2X eliminates unnecessary data overlap, saving long-time e-commerce seller time and stress.

It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, e-commerce wasn’t a thing, but that’s where Kate Whitegroatt’s story starts.

Around 17 years ago, back when #girlboss was non-existent, Kate had just finished her degree in chemical engineering – she came top of her class – and started her first job.

Outside of work, Kate loved to design and sew, and it wasn’t long before she was turning out custom-made orders for other people too.

To begin with, Kate’s Clothing was supposed to be a hobby, something her otherwise retired neighbour helped her with when things got a little too busy at work. But one thing led to another – and today the online business, which specialises in gothic and alternative clothing, homeware and gifts, sells all over the world through Shopify.

Kate went from working out of her spare room to investing everything she had in a manufacturer in China – and “plucking up the courage” to quit her job in automotive engineering to take Kate’s Clothing full-time.

“At this point, online shopping was only just starting to take off, and most of my competitors were operating with a 6-to-8-week lead time,” Kate explains.

“I chose to hold everything in stock, deliver as fast as I could and offer the kind of customer service I’d hope to receive. This stood out, particularly in the alternative market, so word-of-mouth spread fast.”

Kate’s business has had its ups and downs over the years. The alternative market has become a lot tougher as more and more people go after their slice of the e-commerce pie. Then there are her two kids who, she admits, “don’t fit into the entrepreneurial life anywhere near as well as I naively thought they would.”

But it was a data breach a couple of years ago that forced Kate to take a good, hard look at her back-office set-up.

Security issue a catalyst for back-office change

If there’s anything to make you more “cautious about the complexity of handling data”, it’s a data breach, Kate says.

In a few short months, Kate watched as the business she’d put her blood, sweat and tears into slowly crumbled, dropping from seven staff to a one-woman band. It wasn’t long before she’d picked herself up and was on the road to redemption – but not without making a few changes first.

“After that experience, I decided to keep things streamlined.”

Kate moved her business to Shopify in a bid to better protect her customers’ data. She also integrated her accounting system, but that inadvertently brought over every single bit of information including customer names.

“It filled my Xero with thousands of superfluous bits of information – and made it harder to navigate.”

This made it more challenging to meet data protection obligations – it was another place where she was storing customer details. Furthermore, it wouldn’t allow different customers to have the same name, causing errors that increased exponentially over time – as the same name was repeated.

In her quest to streamline and simplify, Kate’s online research led her to A2X for Shopify A2X for Shopify – which stood out as simple and very cost-effective.

Penny-perfect reconciliation reduces admin time

Running a small business generally leaves you with an abundance of stress and a shortage of time – so any tool you integrate with your business needs to recalibrate that balance, Kate says.

And that’s exactly why A2X stood out from the crowd: “Its method of simplifying everything into an invoice – and the competitive pricing.”

Kate initially set up A2X on her own but got her accountant to fix any tax setting mistakes she’d made. Other than those, she found the app “incredibly easy to set up”. Within hours, the software had resolved all of the issues between her Shopify back-end and her accounting system.

“It has made it so much easier to reconcile my accounts, producing an invoice that matches perfectly to the payment received. It’s greatly reduced my admin time – and removed a particularly annoying set of tasks,” Kate laughs.

Know what’s profitable in your business – then cut the rest

After 17 years in business, Kate has almost seen it all, but she’s quick to point out that in the online shopping world, things move quickly – and e-commerce sellers need to be ready for anything.

Digital tools like A2X not only reduce the time and stress tied to manual processes but also help “my core business stay agile and adaptable”.

“I always know which parts of my business are profitable – and can cut the parts that aren’t.”

Now, Kate’s Clothing employs one other full-time and two part-time staff members. She outsources parts of her business like her social media but keeps order fulfilment in-house. And before e-commerce sellers turn to outsourcing or hiring new staff, Kate says they should consider using a digital tool like A2X.

“You might be better off looking at ways to reduce admin (like using A2X for example) and become more efficient, or cut parts of your business that don’t make enough margin.”

Kate currently uses Xero for her accounting, Shopify as her e-commerce platform and A2X to integrate the two – as well as a few other customer experience apps.

“I try and keep things as simple as possible because, in my experience, complexity often seems to lead to trouble,” she laughs.

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