Is BI making the complex complex?

Most retailers employ some sort of Business Intelligence (BI) to help them understand what the data they collect means in real terms and where they can improve as a company.

Over time, BI has evolved into an umbrella term for many applications that essentially all perform similar functions, namely analysing raw data and offering reports to managers.

But as the volume of data that retailers collect has increased, so too has the amount of BI tools, often leading to unnecessary complications and added difficulty in implementing meaningful changes in a business.

You only have to think about Point of Sale (POS) data, stock levels, staff data, footfall and loyalty schemes to imagine how much data is being collected – and that’s only in one location. What’s more, the Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling retailers to capture even more information automatically.

Photo by Olu Eletu

In many of the conversations that we have with retailers, the common theme is that an analytics tool must be easy to use, easy to understand and above all give users the ability to make quick decisions.

This is vital in such a fast-paced industry. In fact, many claim that being slow to make changes actually represents a risk to their business.

US politics makes an interesting comparison. In 2004, George W. Bush’s campaign team bought advertising on the Golf Channel, as their data suggested golfers were more likely to vote Republican.

Compare this to last year’s election campaigns where a much more sophisticated strategy was used to analyse voters’ behaviour and predict voting habits by taking data from anything from Facebook and Twitter to loyalty cards and magazine subscriptions.

The problem that retailers have is that the sheer volume of data and numerous reporting tools can become a time inhibitor. The very software that is supposed to make your business more efficient can in fact steal your time, and many become slaves to reporting rather than acting on the facts they discover.

It’s a vicious circle. The amount of information often leads users to run the same unproductive reports over and over again, wasting valuable time without uncovering any breakthrough insights.

Most retailers want an ‘off the shelf’ solution that can slice through the complexity that is associated with many BI tools. If they are unable to make positive changes quickly – ideally in real time – its unlikely the reporting tool will ever allow for the quick decision-making that is required in today’s rapidly evolving market place.

The good news is that by utilising the latest software, data can be displayed in a visually engaging way that helps retailers spot trends and opportunities. These reports can be accessed anywhere and shared with the team, helping users quickly act on solid insight to improve their business in a way that traditional spreadsheets and clunky reports can simply not keep up with.

If you have the data but are struggling to create an action plan that builds on it in a positive way, chances are that you would benefit from visual analytics.

Valuable insights could very well be within the data you already collect from your POS, from footfall trackers and staff data. It’s easy to see how much more you could be selling if you are able to rapidly put a plan in place rather than clicking through endless spreadsheets.

So if you find yourself staring at reports and trying to decipher how you can improve in order to keep up with the pack, consider visual analytics instead and find out how you can be the leader in the field.

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