Survival of the Fittest: How Retail Chains Get Better Insights for Better Decisions

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” is not just one of the most famous opening lines in English literature, it is also a fitting description of the predicament most retailers find themselves in.

The big wave of retail bankruptcies may be over, but intense pressure from the sprawling and powerful Amazon as well as VC-funded new entrants and new business models is giving retailers little respite. Add to that the demands of want-it-all customers and it becomes clear that retailers have little or no margin for error.

Retail success today is all about making educated decisions faster. That’s where business intelligence (BI) and analytics come in. BI, quite simply, is the ability to provide the right information to the right people at the right time. Although BI is not a new concept, you could argue that too few retailers are leveraging it, but that is about to change.

First, BI is becoming more widely adopted because the volume of big data is continuing to rise and both the affordability of cloud-based data warehouses and the democratization of more sophisticated tools are making it easier and faster to analyze structured and unstructured data, which opens the door to better insights. And second, with improved data visualization and mobile access, all these insights become more actionable.

Specifically, there are at least three areas where retailers can benefit from BI: improving business agility as they respond (vs. react) to threats and opportunities, driving operational efficiency and providing an exceptional customer experience.

Meanwhile the gap between slow adopters and retail giants that are turning vast amounts of data into actionable insights is only getting wider. To find out how you can catch up, download our whitepaper The Importance of BI in an Ever-Changing Retail Landscape.

5 Reasons to Let BI Help You Drive Performance

We are living in the age of data. And that’s a good thing for retailers, who need accurate information to make critical decisions every day about service, trends, inventory, and more. The bad thing is that there’s a lot of data out there. And turning a high volume of information, often from different sources, into timely actionable knowledge becomes a daunting task. That’s where Business Intelligence (BI) comes into play. BI can take a wealth of data, analyze it, and report on it at a speed and level of accuracy that more traditional calculation methods simply cannot match—sorry spreadsheets. Leveraging BI is how retail leaders of any size can make successful fact-based business decisions that help drive their performances, and here’s how.

1. More insight into your business

As a retail leader, you already understand that the quicker know how your business is performing, the better positioned you are to respond accordingly. And yet, if your decisions are relying on IT or finance generated reports, turnaround can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week. By then, fast-moving retail factors and conditions have already changed and the data is obsolete. BI systems offer increased user independence with mobile quick navigation to timely KPIs, reporting tools, and dashboards in preset standard or custom numerical or graphical displays. The real-time data accessibility, accuracy and mobility that you gain, can inform all the immediate decisions that are necessary to keep on pace with the fast-evolving retail world.

2. Uncover trends in the market

Using multiple platforms to track and correlate diverse factors such as buying behaviour, customer requirements, price points for products, and changing trends, consumes both time and resources. And the resulting reports often fail to provide actionable conclusions. BI has powerful reporting capabilities that can analyze diversified data sets within concurrent market dynamics. By simply drilling through these detailed interactive reports retailers can uncover new and actionable insights. This new data can be a gateway to undiscovered trends and untapped opportunities. It can also help recognize emerging issues before they become major problems. Retailers who are the first to anticipate and respond to trends in customer demands, needs and wants, have the competitive advantage of being perfectly positioned to offer the best customer experience.

3. At-a-glance view at every level

It is just as important to enable every level of decision maker in your retail operation to have an accurate snapshot of the business. After all, how can supervisors and managers respond to the ever-demanding daily challenges of retail operations if they don’t have access to real-time data? With BI tools, management personnel get quick interactive overviews of such metrics as conversion patterns, sales performance and average ticket, without having to wait for reports to be generated or checking multiple information sources. Additionally, management users must have the ability to view and share information on store operations, suppliers, merchandise, and data ranging from real-time inventory, to customer purchase history.

4. Aligning strategic goals

Now let’s shift our focus beyond the practical BI data, tools, and resources that can facilitate and accelerate daily retail operations. By leveraging BI, retailers have the power to overlay their analytic data results with their long-term business strategy. BI’s predictive capabilities can help retailers create a business model or fine-tune strategic goals to align with emerging trends and market variations. The comprehensive high-level insights gained from BI can be an invaluable asset in creating a lasting competitive differentiation for your retail business.

5. Keep your business in the lead

Surprisingly, over 87% of organizations worldwide have low BI and analytics maturity1. This means that most businesses are missing out on deep learning opportunities that could put them ahead of the competition. In the retail business, integrating and leveraging BI can take your operations and customer management relationship to whole new level. You might be able to foresee what your customers want, even before they know it.

1. Top Business Intelligence Trends 2019