Business Intelligence: The next big essential for POS?
In industries like retail and hospitality, success requires having your finger on the pulse of rapidly changing consumer demands, whether based on season or changing tastes. It requires the logistical agility to ensure the most in-demand products are always available through careful management of the supply chain. It requires precise monitoring of price points and margins, savvy marketing and, increasingly, the ability to operate across multiple channels at once.
With so many balls in the air for retailers to juggle, it is no wonder that Business Intelligence (BI) is attracting a lot of interest. The timing of when you reorder items, how many units you bring in and where you focus discounting and promotions can have a huge impact on tight margins, so retailers need to base their decisions on clear data and cold, hard facts. BI promises to remove the guesswork from business planning.
BI as a discipline has emerged from the evolution of data analytics. Businesses have long used historical reporting as a basis for evaluating performance, identifying trends and making next steps. But as analytics solutions have become more and more sophisticated, they have become capable of drawing in data from disparate processes to provide a ‘whole picture’ overview of operations.
Business Intelligence provides clear factual insight for informed decision making. BI can combine historical, real-time and predictive analysis into one, and despite going into deep granular detail with increasingly complex data sets, data discovery and visualization has made the data easier to understand and use than ever before.
Synergies with POS
BI software platforms that can be integrated into existing business systems to mine and process relevant data. Retailers have a significant advantage when it comes to adopting BI, since most already use POS systems that are ideal for sourcing the majority of the data they need for making smart, intelligence-led decisions.
We are starting to see more and more POS software developers integrate BI solutions because they add considerable value to POS processes. Every sale generates a wealth of data which can be put to use - the time, date and location of sales, product details, discounts or loyalty program data, and sales associate who completed the transaction. Captured transaction data can be linked to consumer information such as age, gender and other demographic details, previous purchasing history, whether they are a new or returning customer and more.
Until relatively recently, retailers could be satisfied that electronic sales processing greatly reduced the burden of manual stock checks, automatically updating stock lists at every transaction and making inventory management considerably more agile and efficient. But now so much more is possible.
Business Intelligence in retail or hospitality is the ability, at a click of a button or the swipe of a screen, to compare sales trends for individual SKUs across time and location, getting clear information about which lines sell better where and at what time of year. It is the power of knowing, based on previous sales trends, the statistical success of a planned promotion. It is the glue that links sales, CRM and marketing, along with other business functions, allowing clear decisions on what will resonate best with your customers.
And while the data-capturing capabilities of POS software provide a perfect foil for BI, retailers can also use their POS hardware to their advantage. With their touchscreen interfaces, modern POS terminals are well suited for helping to make data accessible and intelligible in real time.
Just as call center agents have long had the benefit of data dashboards to help monitor performance, headquarters and in-store staff are now able to access invaluable insights with a simple swipe as they help a customer. Whether for cross-selling, looking up a product SKU or analyzing traffic to inform staffing decisions, POS touchscreens and mobile POS devices throughout a store enable access better decision making.
In short, BI offers retailers the ability to understand their business in greater depth, with greater clarity and with greater agility than ever before. In POS systems, BI has a crucial partner - an important touchpoint for collecting large volumes of relevant data and a means of accessing insights on the front line.