Is it too late for eCommerce?

We are joined again today by Katie McMillan, Director of Sales at MPI, the merchant processing partner of First United. Today we're talking about eCommerce solutions for businesses. Is it too late for your business to get started? Katie discusses the importance of ecommerce business, particularly in a post-COVID world.

Transcript

Man: Welcome to the “What Matters Most Podcast,” presented by First United Bank and Trust. That’s my bank. Visit us today at mybank.com.

Eric: Hello, and welcome to “What Matters Most,” the podcast all about finances, community, savings and security, for you, your family, and your business. This podcast is brought to you by the helpful folks at my bank, First United Bank and Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter. And in today’s episode, what matters most is e-commerce. And is it too late for your business to have e-commerce abilities? And for this helpful discussion, I’m so thankful to be joined once again by Katie McMillan, director of sales at MPI, the merchant processing partner for First United. Welcome to the show again, Katie. How are you?

Katie: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me again.

Eric: Yeah, I appreciate it. So, Katie, is it too late for e-commerce? If a business owner is listening and maybe they don’t have a website, maybe they do have a website, but they haven’t added the ability to buy from them online, are they a lost cause? Is it too late?

Katie: You know, that’s a great question. No, it’s not too late. And, you know, I think that some people feel like now that some restrictions are lifting that, you know, “Oh, maybe I missed the boat. I should have done this and captured more business in the past,” or, “This isn’t really relevant anymore.” And I don’t think that that’s the case. There’s a lot of benefits to going the e-commerce route, right? And you have to think about what even is e-commerce? And e-commerce is basically the ability to provide products or services through an environment on the internet, and that’s typically housed on a website. One of the biggest examples of e-commerce, right, is Amazon. And I don’t know if that puts us in trouble by saying the A-word, but…

Eric: No. Everybody uses it. I’ll probably get a package on the porch while we’re recording, you know.

Katie: You know, Amazon, I think has been everybody’s go-to in their mind for an e-commerce solution. And I think sometimes small businesses just feel like that’s just gonna be too much work and too much expense, and I don’t even really need that. And it’s not too late because the trend in the payments industry has really been to give an e-commerce solution or feel to small to medium-sized businesses. And you don’t have to be a Papa John’s, you don’t have to be, you know, a huge corporation or franchise location to participate in that anymore. And really, it expands the ability of business that you can get. I think that COVID has, like I’ve said before, shoved everybody into the future. And now we have some establishments, you know, no matter what industry they’re in, that now recognize that giving cardholders the ability to purchase services or goods without having to interact with a person face-to-face is not only safe, but it’s also something that’s affordable to them.

Eric: Right. Well, I think part of the challenge for a lot of business owners, at least in my experience, when speaking with them, is that they’re really good at what they do, right? Whatever it is they sell, whatever they make, whatever the service they provide, they’re really good at that. But a lot of times, these pieces of the puzzle, the piece to offer us, you know, what you do online and sell online can be…it seems like a daunting task to even go down that path. And there are so many voices telling you the easy way is this, the easy way is that, and there are infinite number of options to offer your thing online, that it can be overwhelming. And so, having a sherpa, having somebody guide you through that, is kind of helpful in that situation. Would you agree with that?

Katie: Absolutely. You know, technology is a beautiful thing, but it’s also very intimidating. And it’s also overwhelming, like you said. And I hear some businesses that I speak to that just say, “I don’t even know where to begin, because I start to figure out if I want a website, and then I don’t know what colors I wanna use, and I’m not a marketing person. I just like to sell ceramic unicorns, and that’s what I know.”

Eric: You’ve been reading my blog.

Katie: It’s a hot industry, ceramic unicorns. And, you know, I think that people feel technology is not approachable. And it can be, but sometimes you need a chaperone. Sometimes you need an expert to help you navigate that, and give you information so that you can make the decisions to put that investment in your business. You know, cardholders, which are the customers, at the end of the day, cardholders are becoming more savvy, right? They’re using things like soft wallets, they’re using things like contactless payment, and, you know, anybody of any age is busy right now. Even after having been locked up for 12 months, we’re busy. And sometimes you don’t get a chance to make that utility payment or to buy that birthday present until dinner’s done and the kids are in bed and you’re trying to watch one episode on Netflix, and you’re like, “Oh, I have to do this thing.” So you pop out your phone, because that’s when you have time to do it. Not everybody has time to go between the hours of nine to five and participate in a card-present transaction.

So, allowing your cardholders, allowing your customers to have freedom and flexibility to purchase your products or services at a time that’s convenient for them is so important, and that’s only going to make your business stronger. I read an interesting statistic through Indeed that 96% of Americans with internet access will make online purchases. And that’s a big number.

Eric: That’s a lot of people.

Katie: You know, that’s not just, you know, a 12% number, that’s 96% of Americans with internet access have at least made one online purchase. You know, and it took, you know, I’ll use myself as an example. It took a pandemic for me to realize the luxury and convenience of getting to go grocery shopping while I’m having my coffee in the morning, and somebody just brings it to me. And I do it all online, I don’t have to go out, and I don’t have to go shop.

And it’s not that I don’t enjoy doing that, but I’m just really busy, and it just gives me this convenience that I keep giving that service my repeat business because they’ve made it convenient for me, and safe and secure for me, to do this basic function of life that I now have time to maybe get an extra 20 minutes of sleep at some point, right?

Eric: Right. Yeah. I feel like that convenience level for, especially for grocery shopping, it’s amazing, and, like, to your point you can do it all online and then it just shows up at your door, or you go and you pull in and they just kind of put it in the trunk of your car, and off you go. And it’s amazing. I wonder though how many snacks I’m gonna miss because I wasn’t, you know, the idea of when you’re shopping when you’re hungry, you buy things that you wouldn’t have normally bought. I’m gonna miss out on so many of those if this keeps up, but it has provided tons of convenience.

Katie: Talk about needing a chaperone, you know, grocery shopping when you’re hungry is the worst.

Eric: So, from a website standpoint, from an e-commerce online standpoint, you know, if you have these businesses that are setting up this solution for their clients, do you have any best practices for them, or tips that you can offer for them to navigate those waters most efficiently?

Katie: Absolutely. So, for the e-commerce piece, you have two really important factors here, right? And this is something that, these two factors apply to your business size whether you’re a one or two-man operation to over 5,000 people. There’s two critical elements that you need to give an e-commerce experience. One is you need a website presence, and the other side of it is the payments piece. And I suggest you getting your sherpa or your guru or your chaperone in both of those factors in place, right? We don’t file our taxes direct to the federal government every year, because we’re not experts in that. We don’t, you know, do our own litigation if we get called into court, because we’re not experts in that. And it’s okay to admit that you’re not an expert in website building, and in the e-commerce side of this, which is the payments piece. So, go out and find a good solution and, vet your solution. I think one of the biggest missteps that some of these smaller businesses take is that they just assume that monetarily, having website development is something that they can’t afford.

And I think that sometimes folks make that quick decision that they can’t afford it without truly vetting it, right? So, one of the best things that you can do to address the website piece is go to your local community, right? Don’t go to Google, don’t go to GoDaddy, don’t go to Square, don’t go to these big providers where you’re just a number, right? Because you’re going to get sold on the fact that this is a small investment, but you’re going to need to have some inherent knowledge on how to navigate that, and sometimes you get what you pay for. If you go to your local community, and you find a website developer that works with other community members, you’ve got accountability, because this person is also in the community with you. They might be able to financially work with you on something that’s affordable. And maybe you take baby steps. Maybe you start out with a very simple site. You know, you don’t have to have 37 different tabs and pages that open up when you go there.

Maybe you just have an About Us page that starts this off, with a shopping cart, that the website developer can help you build out. These folks are gonna give you the time that it takes for you to make some decisions, right? Kind of the principle of having an interior decorator come in and do a room in your house, right? That person’s there to find out what you like and what you want. But you don’t know what color that’s called, you don’t know what that style is called. That person is gonna do a needs assessment with you. Your website developer should be asking you what you like, what you wanna do, and then they’re gonna help you build something that you’re proud of, you’re proud to put out there. I think that the days of just having website, or online, excuse me, online representation through Facebook, I think that that’s starting to decline, and I think for good reason. I think that it’s time to have an online presence. I know me, as a consumer, unless it’s some cute little boutique that’s out in the middle of nowhere that’s in, like, a 300-year-old farmhouse, if you don’t have internet presence, I’m not likely to come to you, because it’s making it very hard for me to decide if I even wanna go there, right?

So, that’s the first side of it, and the second side of it is the payments piece. Because you want to be careful. You wanna protect your pocket in all of this. And finding a payments provider that’s gonna work with that website developer, to give you the payment experience that you want financially, cost-wise, but also for your cardholders, is so important. And choosing a payments provider that’s gonna give you access to reporting, to make good business decisions based on your consumers’ spending habits, is even more critical. So, I think that getting started and finding experts in those two areas are probably the best advice I can give to folks that either made a web presence 10, 15 years ago and haven’t updated it lately, or maybe don’t have web presence at all.

Eric: Absolutely, yeah. You touched on a few points that I think are really powerful. And in my experience, they’re very important and key for people to get the best result. One is you mentioned talking to people, asking around. I mean, you can even use some of those channels you mentioned like Facebook, or whatever social media, to just simply ask people in your, you know, in your circle, “Who have you used locally to work with on this kind of challenge?” Whatever that challenge is, but including websites and e-commerce, to kind of get that input from people in your circle to know who has worked with someone, you know, in the area, to kind of get that advice. The other thing is, I liked that you talked about kind of owning your space online instead of relying on something like Facebook as your primary place online. Because the problem with a lot of those tools like that is if you are exclusively in that environment, you don’t control it. So, if it changes or it doesn’t represent you in the best way, you have no way of going around that.

So, by having your own space online, it gives you the power, essentially, so that you can make those decisions. And then the one last thing I wanted to mention is, another thing that I feel I’ve seen a lot of, I’m curious of your opinion, is, people wanting to do a thing themselves. There’s a lot of tools out there that say, you know, to your point, low-cost, it seems like a low-cost investment, so I can just do this myself. Just point and click, it’ll be easy, and you can set up your own store online. That can often lead to a lot of frustrations because you’re learning as you go, you’re trying to become an expert in setting up a website and e-commerce all on your own, whereas having a guide can kind of alleviate a lot of that frustration.

Katie: Absolutely. You know, a good example of this is that, you know, I might want a new birdhouse for my deck. And could I make a birdhouse? I could make something that closely resembles a birdhouse. But is it gonna be something that I want people to see? Maybe not. And is it gonna take me 30 hours to build this birdhouse when I could have just paid an expert that builds birdhouses and a little bit more than what I put into the cost of the materials, and I’ve gotten something that I was proud of? You know, I think that because we can do something doesn’t always mean that we should do it. And hindsight is 20/20. You might learn a lot in the process, but, you know, how much effort are you gonna put into it to ultimately get something that you might never be happy with? And so, admitting when it’s time to have someone help you put your business, you know, the best foot forward for your business, I think is important. And I think it shows a leadership for small businesses to accept that, and what better thing to invest in than the business that you’re running?

Eric: Very well said. And I think that kind of encapsulates the point of this conversation, so I think that wraps us up right there, Katie. I think you said that perfectly. So, thank you for doing that.

Katie: Absolutely.

Eric: Well, thank you for joining me. If any of our listeners have a question, or maybe they wanna learn more, if they wanna get support in the way of their online presence, their e-commerce, the experts at First United can help. And you can reach out to them by going to mybank.com. Find a local advisor that can help you with your business needs, and they can point you in the right direction. That’s another great way to get that advice locally. Say “Who can help me with this, and where can I get the support I need in the way of e-commerce and merchant tools?” And we can help you by connecting you with the folks at MPI, and set up your connection there so that you can begin accepting payments. So, Katie, again, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate your time today, and I hope to have you back again soon.

Katie: As always, it’s a pleasure. Thanks again.

Eric: Well, that brings us to the end of our show. You can always find more episodes by visiting mybank.com/podcast, or find us on your favorite podcast app. You can also leave feedback, ask questions, or request a topic for us to discuss by sending an email to podcast@mybank.com. We’re thankful for you to be listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content. But until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.

Woman: My family is my everything. It’s why I’m so focused on saving time, and saving for the future. But I don’t do it alone. First United Bank and Trust makes it easy to bank anytime I want, especially on the go. Saving is easy too. I have a plan for my daughter’s college and my retirement. They care about my life. They’ll be with me for life.

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Eric: This recording is for informational purposes only. Any references in this recording to any person, organization, product, or service does not constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or affiliation with First United Bank and Trust. First United is not responsible for your use of the information mentioned within this podcast. Please consult legal or tax professionals for counsel as needed.

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