Navigating Retail’s Latest Shift with (Business) Intelligence

Business Intelligence June 2018-web

June 2018—

Business intelligence and analytics allow furniture retailers to gather information from diverse data sources and make connections that produce surprising insights.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus talked of a world in constant change when he made an observation that, some 2,000 years later, is applicable today: The only constant in life, he said, is change.

If that whole philosophy gig didn’t work out, Heraclitus would have made a pretty good furniture retailer. Nobody understands and appreciates the insights of Heraclitus better than today’s furniture retailers, who have been navigating through one of the greatest fundamental shifts in consumer behavior in recent history. Change often brings about uncertainty, but retailers can take comfort in Heraclitus’ words of wisdom. For many furniture retailers this isn’t the first time their businesses have had to change course and it certainly won’t be the last.

What differentiates this period of change is the amount of data available to help guide retailers towards delivering their new customer journey. Consumers may be changing their shopping behaviors, but in doing so they are also leaving retailers breadcrumbs of knowledge to dissect their new patterns and shopping preferences.

Today many processes, both online and in store, involve some form of technology. In fact, groundbreaking retailer Amazon revealed on its last investors’ call that spending on technology has increased by 41 percent to $6.76 billion. Clearly technology is important to the new retail experience. Smaller retailers might ignore Amazon’s investment and think wrongly that they can’t compete with the retail giant’s technology. They do so at their own peril. The fact is retailers of all sizes can use technology to operate their businesses and discover what their consumers are seeking on their paths to purchase.

Business intelligence (BI) has become a critical component to devising retail strategy, yet many furniture retailers are still making business decisions without any support of qualitative data. Retailers may have once been able to get by this way, but the likeliness of success for retailers making unsupported decisions is diminishing. The companies making headlines for their innovative experiences are typically the ones investing in their data.

As a technology company, we knew that Storis’ analytical solutions needed to evolve to support retailers’ needs. In fact, our furniture retailers were not shy about expressing the necessity of strong analytical tools. That is why Storis spent the last year developing the foundation of our new business intelligence platform. Our retailers had specific requests for what this BI platform needed to be capable of and help them achieve. The best way to describe modern-day business intelligence is with four fundamental characteristics: unified, accessible, actionable and collaborative.

It’s understood that today’s customer begins shopping online, yet most home furnishings purchases still occur in store. If your business is only evaluating the interactions that occur in person, you are likely missing out on key insights left on your website. Websites collect valuable behavioral data at all hours of the day. This includes how your customer starts to narrow down their search results and navigate through merchandise collections.

A unified business intelligence platform allows retailers to connect the dots between what occurs online and plays out in store. Do customers routinely browse certain products together that could be better reflected on your showroom floor? Conversely, can items typically bought together in-store, be merchandised together on a product page? Do customers typically add key alternatives to their cart, that your salespeople could use to guide a more personalized sales process? The connections that can be drawn by evaluating store and web data together present boundless opportunities. Outside of your transactional system, BI platforms should be able to merge data from Google analytics, store traffic counters, and demographics to expand the insights retailers have on shoppers.

The next evolution of modern-day business intelligence was to make it more accessible to users. This involves moving away from that dreaded Structured Query Language (SQL) queries written by an IT staff. Business owners can often relate to the frustrations of needing to have their reports custom coded. BI should aim to be accessible to all company employees through an intuitive, real-time interface. Think of how many people within your organization are experts in their respective areas. Now ask yourself this question: What if all those employees could analyze their sectors and optimize decisions by easily tapping into data?

Our developers have built the complex backend framework for our platform, so retailers can use an intuitive frontend interface. Intuitive means drag and drop, easy to edit, customizable without coding, and perhaps most excitingly, available on mobile devices. People are connected and with mobility they can easily view key performance indicators (KPIs) from any device, at any time. Think of how many markets your team members attend a year. What if your buyers could have mobile reports right on their phones, with real-time trends about what’s selling? This allows them to keep a pulse on their merchandise categories and make the best buys while on the road. That translates to fewer dogs sitting on the showroom floor.

With greater accessibility, security is needed to control which users can access specific information. Data viewable by the user can be dictated based on their role and defined settings, so that empowering more people doesn’t jeopardize sensitive information. Moreover, individuals can have their dashboards highlight their personal statistics.

Further expanding BI capabilities is data visualization, noted as a critical BI trend by Retailers want to synthesize their organization’s data and choose how to showcase it to identify trends. Interactive dashboards are fundamentally changing the power of BI. What was once cells upon cells of spreadsheet data has been transformed to engaging charts, graphs, gauges and tables. This makes data more actionable and with interactive dashboards, visuals are not stagnant. A user can click into the visual to drill down into different levels of information. This allows the user to follow a trend and dive deeper into what is driving that performance.

Finally, information should never be trapped in a silo. With more people using BI tools, the final characteristic of a strong BI program is fostering collaboration. Perhaps your sales manager can create a sales KPI dashboard that helps highlight important metrics they want their whole team to be privy to. Sales people can gauge their monthly sales to a goal and track how they are performing against the company’s average ticket. They can see what products are popular online in certain customer demographics and tailor their recommendations in store.

The evolution of business intelligence enables retailers to use the valuable information customers are providing to effectively reinvigorate their shopping experience. As highlighted above, BI that is unified, accessible, actionable and collaborative empowers retailers to see across channels, support more individuals in managing their segments of an operation, and uncover the keys to the new customer journey. As Heraclitus noted some 2,000 years ago, your life, your business will constantly be changing. That change in your business, doesn’t need to be feared. Indeed, just the opposite. The furniture retailers who invest in the resources to analyze those changing consumer behaviors will have the knowledge—and advantage over their competitors—to succeed.

RetailerNOW is changing.

Insights Magazine will be replacing RetailerNOW as the official publication of the Home Furnishings Association. With this change, you will be able to find the same great content on the HFA website. All current members/subscribers will automatically receive the new print editions. You can continue to view content on this website until January 2020.

About the Author

Caitlin Jascewsky
Caitlin Jascewsky has been the communications and digital specialist for STORIS Leading Retail Software Solutions for more than three years. She can be reached at