The contemporary retail landscape is constantly altered by consumer demands and competitor forces. To stay economically viable and competitive retailers harness appropriate technologies to enhance business and marketing strategies. With the copious amounts of information that retailers receive from day-to-day operations, they exploit robust business intelligence and data warehousing systems to automate the collection and interpretation of data from multiple channels. For those not familiar with Business Intelligence (BI) software, it is technology designed to analyze data and enlighten entities to their internal and external strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Business intelligence is such an important tool for retailers to utilize that the BI market is directly proportional to the saturation of competition in the industry. A report generated by MarketingIntelligence.com titled Data Warehouse Market Forecast 2015-2020 predicts that the total BI market will gross over $20 Billion by 2020. Software providers who want to dominate this market should look at business intelligence software development for retailers.
Retailers usually utilize a complex mix of technology to facilitate operational functions. It will be important to offer a data warehousing system on the back-end of your business intelligence software. Data warehousing systems extract the miscellaneous information from various sources including applications, systems, platforms, channels, and departments. The data is then transformed into a structured, readable format, and loaded into a database where it waits to be used for executive dashboards and summary reports. Some popular and reliable Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) include Oracle, SQL Server, and DB2. A major trend is offering Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) where data is stored on the cloud. Providing this service allows your end-user to easily set up multiple nodes for data aggregation and secure the data cluster safely in the cloud for an analytics program to data mine from.
Based on the specific needs of your users it will be imperative to offer a combination of real time and scheduled, “batch mode”, reporting. Batch mode is the most preferred and recommended architecture for mining information. It involves the use of scheduling jobs to port data into stand-alone data warehouse systems. Such architecture isolates the production system from complex and sometimes resource intensive queries. Additionally, batch jobs are configured to “flatten” the database for faster report generation. However, on the flip-side, data used for reporting is as old as the most recent batch job. Real-time reports are generated off the database in real-time. Although they are highly accurate, such architectures have the basic flaw of impacting some systems. Generating reports off the system in real-time can slow down day-to-day operations. However, such architectures are sometimes used to generate low-impact, real-time reports.
When it comes to viewing this highly sensitive material it will be imperative to have a user friendly front-end dashboard on your analytics software. There are some popular proprietary products that can be used as the core platform like Actuate, MicroStrategy, COGNOS, and DataStage. They can be integrated in and customized to meet any specific needs. If you wish to develop your own analytics platform entirely it will be important to adhere to the following core features. The dashboard should be available through a web application developed in a language that has cross-platform functionality on different operating systems for multiple devices including desktops, mobile phones, and tablets, without limiting functionality. The dashboards should be available through portals, where users are able to access their personalized analytics interface. In certain cases it will be necessary to employ a restricted system admin for tiered access to exclusive content for higher level reporting.
The fundamental tool any BI software is a query builder to streamline the creation of a project for data mining. Providing a list of all parameters or “cubes” the end-user could use, and using a drag and drop function will create a simplified User Interface (UI) and enrich the User Experience (UX). This is where the user creates the actual analytics project and selects which data the user would like to be visualized. It is critical that in-depth analyses can be constructed with ease. Selecting specific data and the particular style graph should not be a meticulous project.
Customization of the charts with colors and other attributes will be important to let the end user create a visually stunning, and organized way to portray information. Giving the user a multitude of charting and graph styles at an instance will be beneficial. Furthermore, allowing these graphs and data tables to be exported in various file formats will lend a hand to overall cross-application functionality.
The paramount objective is going to make a dashboard easy enough to use that the end user does not have to be a developer to figure out how to run a query and generate detailed report. As well as having deep insights across an entire business’s records and data, a sleek and navigable UI and UX will set your software apart from the competition. The experience users have while employing your software will weigh heavily on the prestige your product gains.
If there is no business intelligence system in place retail entities are dedicating time and resources to the arduous task of organizing and analyzing data manually. Automating the process with business intelligence and reporting software gives retailers the best return on investment, thus making it a critical tool. Although the market has some big players there are still opportunities for small companies and software entrepreneurs to earn significant gains by offering BI tools that give deeper insights of analytic data that retailers can rely on and trust when making executive decisions about the face of their business. Developing a business intelligence software platform transcends the retail industry and the benefits are analogous through all industries. Thus, your BI platform can be offered to any business.
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