As a retail business owner with access to the internet, you have probably heard of Business Intelligence, and maybe discounted it as a catchphrase used by marketing experts to sell their product. It is often being described as a “magical crystal ball” to help businesses investigate their own future and bet on upcoming trends before anyone else does. While no fortuneteller, Business Intelligence can help your business – especially in the retail sector – to improve across all areas and to be ready for opportunities as soon as they arise.
First, let’s see what Business Intelligence (or BI) is about. Simply put, Business Intelligence refers to the process of converting raw and often unstructured data into meaningful information. This is achieved through Business Intelligence software, that not only helps you gather and store data, but turn it into valuable information that can be easily accessed by whoever needs it at the time. This creates a solid basis for impending business decisions.
Your retail business is likely already collecting a lot of data on its customers, but without a system to make this data accessible and informative, it remains just that: raw data. Think of it as a mine with raw diamonds, where Business Intelligence is the tool needed to refine the worthless gems into something incredibly valuable.
We have collected 5 clear signs you need Business Intelligence in your retail business:
1. You have tons of data but are missing relevant information
Gathering data is vital for the success of today’s retail businesses, but there is a distinct difference between data and information. Your company can drown in a sea of data, which is more or less useless without the ability to derive accurate and desirable information from it.
The difference between the two is that information is data that has been converted into useful context. This enables your analytics and employees to harvest insights based on their needs. For example, you might have collected a ton of data about your customers’ buying behaviors, as well as their personal statistics, but if all that data is only stored away somewhere, it is of no use to anyone.
The magic of Business Intelligence is to analyze and convert data into insights. In our example, that would mean automatically converting customer behavior and statistics into patterns, trends and potential issues, to better prepare your retail business for the future and gain all the value you can from your collected data.
2. Data and information in your business is not easy to access
Maybe your retail business already has important reports like sales statistics or data regarding regional markets, but it is difficult to find. If your employees, especially the ones involved in decision-making processes, are not aware that certain information exists, don’t know where to look for it, or must jump through several hoops in order to obtain it (for example if the information flow is blocked by a certain department), you might as well not have the information available at all.
A modern and to-the-point Business Intelligence solution can help you make vital information available for everyone who needs access, and to make it easily accessible for everyone. This will save both time and frustration of your workers, who can be more productive by using the information to make a change, instead of spending their time looking for it.
3. Your data is scattered over several sources and requires manual processing
Especially when different departments gather different sets of data, your organization might end up with multiple applications and data sources. Finding the data, compiling it and turning it into valuable information, as mentioned in the previous steps, often results in tedious manual work. Since the information flow is coming from different sources, it is often up to each individual to interpret the data, which often leads to inefficiency and poor decision making.
A tailored Business Intelligence solution helps everyone in your business obtain the precise information they are looking for, eliminate inaccuracies, and overall speeds up the process of looking up data and making informed decisions for everyone involved.
4. Decision-making in your company is slow, or limited to a few individuals
Fortune magazine investigated in 2015 how slow decision making can ruin a business. Most of the time, the inability or difficulty of making a fast and informed decision does not lie with the decision maker, but with the information available to them.
With relevant information being easily accessible and filtered through a Business Intelligence system, decision making will not only be faster, but will set up your company for future success, thanks to being based on actual and relevant data. Furthermore, when information can be accessed by many people in your business, it eliminates the bottleneck situation of one person being the decision-maker; while they might still be responsible for the decision, others can have a say in it and point out relevant information that might have been missed.
5. You are still working with Excel sheets and pie charts, instead of software solutions and KPIs
Don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with a well-organized Excel sheet or colorful pie charts to illustrate data. However, once your retail business grows past a certain point, both will no longer convert enough reliable information anymore, and might in turn prove to be a hindrance in further business growth.
Reports are a great starting point for business analysis, but you will want to upgrade to KPIs to give you the ability to focus on several core metrics for different areas of your business. This will both enable you to track and reach your goals for your retail business, as well as help with future business decisions.