Straight Talk

From Wall Street to Main Street, a common theme resonates that retailers have discounted heavily this holiday season to lure the consumers back to spending. So on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I decided to let go the shopper inside me and do my part in uplifting the Black Friday sales. Along with my little daughters, we headed to a popular mall in suburban Detroit. We got there a little before noon to try and get our hands on some of the morning deals that might still be left.

Long story short, it felt good to see the mall over-crowded in spite of all the waiting and inconvenience. It took us half-an-hour to buy some lunch at the food court, and another 10 minutes of musical chairs to find some sitting space. The shoppers seemed happy and upbeat. I figured if it feels this good in metro Detroit, the rest of America should be reporting a decent holiday season for the retailers. As of my writing this blog, the jury is still out.

That makes me wonder how many of the retail chains have savvy business intelligence (BI) with dashboards for all of their store and regional managers showing the latest performance. Retail dashboarding tools could capture the store sales in each category, compare against last year, suggest inventory positions and list the top 10 selling items in each product segment. Timely access to such key performance indicators would go a long way for regional merchandise managers to respond promptly at each store level.

I am sure that some of the technology savvy retailers have systems in place to upload all the cash register data into a central data warehouse, probably nightly if not hourly. Possibly the C-level executives would know the key metrics of Black Friday by Saturday morning which they would utilize to update their short-term forecasts, as well as prepare the management team for the near future. However, wouldn’t it be nice to expose the benefit of timely information to the lower rungs of the organization whereby response time could be really accelerated? What better way than to build a few intuitive dashboards for each level of the hierarchy – store, territory and region – and allow for hierarchical drilldown, as well as have these dashboards display operational metrics that would help in day-to-day operations of each store.

If you are one of those few retailers that already have such an infrastructure, please let us know and we will share your story to inspire others. In general, most organizations still have a long way to go to maximize the benefits of BI dashboards.

Shadan Malik
President & CEO, iDashboards

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