In this post we explore how businesses rise or fall by the quality of their business data and the insights they get from it.
Business success has been all about data for longer than most of us care to remember. Data is often associated with technology, and technologies are constantly evolving to do more with the data. Data analytics, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence, data lakes: it’s a bewildering and intimidating list that shows no signs of shrinking.
The data and the technology, however, can often be part of the problem. They’re simply the contents and the delivery mechanism. What we really need to run our ecommerce businesses successfully is the benefit of the data, the useful end product. That benefit is information. We only get the information when we have easy access to the data we want, the data is reliable and we can manipulate the data to give us useful insights. Maybe that’s why so many companies offer the catch-all email address ‘info@’. When we email a company we don’t want data, we want something useful.
In the product listing area, for example, data quality is vitally important for showing up high in searches or winning the buy box. You need to take the product data from whatever source you have and optimise the different elements of the listing for the particular channel or channels you’re selling on. But you might have thousands of listings that you can’t check and improve manually, unless you have a lot of free time.
What is useful to you is which listings are not optimised, the degree to which they’re not optimised, and which bits of data could be improved. Now that’s information. And, if you can automate the process of improvement – or get someone else to do it for you cost-effectively, so much the better.
At the other end of the business, you should be able to get performance data on your suppliers, stock levels, sales, orders, deliveries, returns and service, to see how well you’re doing once your buyers have decided to favour you with their custom. What you really want, as we saw with listings, is information so you can improve: which products are selling the best, which aren’t, who’s buying the most, what your actual margins are, when you need to re-order products, and so on. All of this would be genuinely useful if you see it across suppliers, channels, regions, so you can compare and contrast. Dashboards for your important or high level information, and stored reports that have done the analysis for the detail you need.
You need the right information so you can make good – literally ‘informed’ – decisions. To get this information you need to be able access good quality data, and you need the time and skills to further manipulate it into a form that informs you. Companies either do this themselves using marketplace or channel data and spreadsheets, or they invest in a business intelligence (‘BI’) system to automate as much of it as possible for you.
The promise of BI is the easy organising and visualising of data as information. The more comprehensive or flexible the BI tool, the less work you have to do to get the insights you want for your business. And, if the BI tool is not a specific module of your multichannel solution, then it will need to interface with your systems to access and map to the right data, do the data crunching and correctly present the findings. Many BI tools are generic to a host of industries rather than specific to ecommerce, and many have a set number of reports that will still mean some additional work for you to get the information the way your business wants it.
When companies ponder investing in a new or replacement platform to centrally manage and grow their online presence across multiple channels, they often start by considering the platform that’s going to do all the work and become the backbone of their business. It’s always worth them taking a step back and defining what success looks like, or, in other words, what pieces of information are the key indicators of success, the KPIs, the eyes on their business.
The conversation, therefore, should start with ‘how are we going to measure these indicators? What’s the mechanism for that? What’s going to sit on top of the business systems and provide us the intelligence? How it will it access that data, and how will it package it as information we need?’
To open the discussion on what you want your business information to do for your multichannel ecommerce environment, please contact us here.