BI and Tech
Analysing Retail Data with Business Intelligence
According to the Office for National Statistics, retail sales in December were 5.3% higher than in 2012, suggesting the UK economy is slowly recovering. The Christmas period, normally one of the best times of the year for retailers, was very mixed with some performing well and others poorly. Industry experts have weighed in and common explanations for poor performance were bad weather, heavy discounting and a general squeeze on consumer purchasing power. There are a number of lessons to be learned from the retail story over Christmas which can be applied to other industries. A recurring feature is that retailers need access to real-time data, so that they can react to rapid changes in the market and are not left behind their competition. Retail sales are seasonal, with peaks and troughs throughout the year, but any number of external factors can trigger an unexpected spike in general sales or in a specific area, such as snow shovels and warm clothing in unseasonal cold weather.
Monitoring the Competition with Business Intelligence
As well as the ability to monitor data across their entire organisation, and have immediate access to it in a manner that is easy to interpret, retailers need the ability to gather information on their competitors. If M&S had not been closely monitoring the competition and had not reacted quickly, they might have suffered from even worse sales over the Christmas period. Retailers require a BI dashboard with the ability to send alerts to key stakeholders on a proactive basis in response to change. Rather than relying on data being distributed on a fixed schedule, key individuals need to receive the right information in a timely fashion so that they’re not lagging behind the competition. Even in an industry that doesn’t move as fast as retail, it’s no longer feasible for businesses to be reactive and rely on periodic information and static reports. Dashboard reporting software allows users to quickly and easily set up alerts and thresholds which monitor performance across key areas. Important information is then pushed to users via SMS or email, regardless of where they are or the time of day.
Benefits of a Retail BI Dashboard
The interactive nature of a business intelligence (BI) dashboard gives users the ability to explore data and immediately drill into a chart for more information. The visual nature of charts makes it much easier to interpret large amounts of data in seconds and spot abnormal behaviour without detailed analysis. If a target or sales goal has not been achieved, senior management will want to know why. Retail BI dashboard would allow you to drill down through the layers of information to find answers. On the surface, M&S’s performance at Christmas was disappointing, with like for like sales falling 2.1% in the three months up to the end of December. However, a look beneath the surface shows promise for the future. Overall group sales rose very slightly, food and online sales increased, with the biggest day for food of £64m on 23rd December. When speaking to the BBC the chief executive of M&S didn’t seem worried by the headline numbers as the company is undergoing a series of transformations that would take time. He cited a step by step approach to changing the business which was supported by shareholders and even the market, as the share price barely changed. Business intelligence has become a critical component for organisations in all industries as competition is more fierce than ever before. Companies can’t risk falling behind their competitors, so they need to have easy access to up to date internal and external information. Business intelligence software brings together all of this information into one location, making it easy for stakeholders to stay in the picture and be proactive in the face of change.