The retail industry has been transformed by e-commerce and m-commerce. Within these digital retail domains, it has become a regular business practice to collect vast amounts of customer data, including personal details, preferences and billing details. However, the challenge is not only to put together this heterogeneous data and keep track of it daily, but also to analyze it.

A business intelligence (BI) system is no longer a nice to have but a necessary tool in every company which aims to leverage their data. A visual dashboard like those in Microsoft Power BI can highlight trends, help to optimize price policies and stocks, show deficiencies in the supply chain and offer a more personalized experience to customers.

Why Use a BI Dashboard

Organizations need to cut through the oceans of data which is far more complex than neatly organized tables. Common retail data types include the semi-structured one, such as inputs from online forms, and the unstructured one, such as social media comments, beacon data, CCTV footage from physical stores, and product reviews.

All retail companies have to take decisions fast, sometimes in a matter of minutes, and while Excel sheets offer basic analytics, visual reports aggregating the data from multiple sources prove to be much more useful.

A visual Power BI dashboard offers answers at a glance. It takes just defining the most criticalquestions for your company and importing the data to be visualized. Business intelligence consultants argue that the top advantage of a dashboard is that it offers the opportunity to drill down the data. You can add tabs to depict regional market shares, sales agents’ performance, and the product portfolio spread, just to name a few.

By clicking on particular regions of the dashboard, you can go deeper and ask “why?” as many times as it is necessary to get to the bottom of the problem. Power BI can be queried by using the inline search box to get composed results such as the performance of a specific product in a particular region. The dashboard information gets updated with each new input in the question field. The results of such queries can be temporarily pinned to the dashboard for easier comparison.

Working with a data visualization tool like Power BI means taking informed decisions based on real data, not just assumptions. Also, it saves time since dashboards are updated in real time with the latest data feed from the CRM or POS transactions, if necessary. There’s no need to create the same graphs each week or quarter.

Dashboards as Strategy Tools

The key benefit of BI solutions is that they put everything in the same place. This centralization saves time and helps to streamline operations.

With BI tools, market leaders can stay on top of the game by accurately anticipating future trends. This is done by predictive modeling. Historical sales data is analyzed to identify trends, seasonality, as well as random behavior. These internal insights are then combined with industry indicators to forecast what products will be in high demand, and even estimate the volumes for such requests.

By aggregating data in real time, a Power BI dashboard helps to identify demand variations and suggest price optimizations to hit sales and revenue targets. Its interconnected data helps to estimate budgets with automated reports for each department.

A dashboard can also help to monitor the sales funnel. With customers’ rising demands, it is no longer enough to offer a great product at the right price. Retailers need to dedicate time and resources to listen to the customer’s voice through sentiment analysis reports. These reports can give clues about variations in the brand image.

BI tools have come a long way since static Office products. Now, Power BI dashboards can integrate data lakes containing video, geo-location, sales history and more. These details will create a complete picture of the business health.

Online vs. Offline

It may seem that online retail has an advantage compared to brick-and-mortar sales, and that BI dashboards have been created with e-commerce in mind. In fact, both types of retail companies can benefit significantly from BI tools that bring structure and emphasize processes and KPIs.

BI Dashboards for Online Retail

Online retailing is the perfect environment for BI dashboards. Most e-commerce platforms either offer in-built analytics or support third-party plugins to be integrated with the online store backend. The question is what data should be included and analyzed, and what is just a noise. The answer lies in asking the right strategic questions.

E-commerce websites are loaded with metadata about store visitors. By importing as the data about website traffic, demographics and behavioral patterns to the BI dashboard, it’s possible to discover multiple insights about the target customer, which serves as the foundation for advanced customer segmentation.

BI Dashboards for Brick-and-mortar Stores

Digital retail competitors threaten physical stores, which have to call on all the available tactics to keep their profit margins. For traditional retailers, a BI tool is what can aggregate data from multiple store locations, give insight into performance metrics, and help to take the right business decisions.

To remain competitive, brick-and-mortar retailers can find correlations between the location and a particular product’s performance to optimize stocks. Quick and cost-effective decisions can make a real difference to the profit margin and, ultimately, revenue.


Both online and physical retailers strive to satisfy meticulous customers while keeping their operating costs as low as possible. This includes a mix of offering the right product portfolio, managing expectations and satisfaction, creating excellent marketing campaigns, and maintaining the supply chain. These are all the areas where the Power BI, among other analytic tools, can support strategic decision-making with factual data by making it accessible and manageable through visual dashboards.

About the author 

Maria W