March 7, 2021

Why we all need business dashboards?

Dr Peter Mowforth

Try riding a bicycle or playing golf with your eyes shut and you’ll quickly come a cropper. Accurate and quick feedback is the key to being able to control anything from a means of transport to the performance of a website.So why is it that so many business owners or even ecommerce managers run their ecommerce businesses without any simple way to get a unified and real-time picture of their whole business. This ‘view’ is usually referred to as a dashboard. The term originates from the board of wood in a carriage that protects the driver from mud or other debris "dashed up" by the horses' hooves. Whether for protection (the old meaning) or for display (the modern meaning) operating without one is a bad idea.The modern-day dashboard should be simple, accurate and should join-up with every part of the business. When you can see everything clearly and easily laid out then all the key actions that you need to do to grow the business become transparent and obvious.

Lack of consistency with interfaces

The problem is that remarkably few business owners and ecommerce managers have access to such simple and obvious insight into the running of their business. Managers spend time manually flipping between between different systems and interfaces with some data laid out as tables or spreadsheets while other systems use graphical items such as pie charts, bar charts, histograms and graphs. Example interfaces include Google Analytics, the Magento backend, ERP systems, NewRelic as well as third party ticketing systems and accounts. The list seems never ending.

Poor management efficiency

Somewhere in the system there will be a business owner or a board that is looking for a simple business summary. Many ecommerce managers can spend several hours a week, collating results into, for example, a summary spreadsheet. This old fashioned reporting process is often manual and undertaken on a weekly or monthly basis.

Data that doesn’t tie up

Working with data that doesn’t tie up can be a major cause of frustration within an ecommerce business. Analytics can tell you that you had a certain number of sales. Unfortunately, those responsible for fulfilment may see a different number. Discrepancies can result from returns, holdups due to finance clearance or simply that sales came in from a channel (e.g. eBay or Amazon) that’s not yet fully integrated. With high-transaction businesses this can lead to significant errors in stock control. This in turn can impact user-ratings on marketplaces if items sell out and cannot be delivered as advertised.

Channel attribution

I’ve listened to a lot of discussions lately about sales channel attribution. Consider a situation where a business pays for an advert on Bing. This causes a visitor to click through to your site and decides that what they see is what they want to buy. They remember the name of the website. Later that day and on a different machine they open Google and type the name of the company website they saw earlier. They click the first link they see which is a Google Adword for the company. The visitor clicks through and makes the purchase. The key question here is whether the sale was attributable to Bing or to Google or a mixture? Without a clear set of agreed rules, these decisions mean that it will not be possible to make accurate decisions about ROI for different marketing channels.

Google Analytics alone is not good enough

A typical business will have a series of Key Performance Indicators that it needs to keep on top of in order to hit growth targets. Google Analytics is a great tool but it can only ever provide a partial insight into what’s going on with the business.

Latency

One final point concerns how quickly management data is updated. For example, Google Analytics is typically 24-48 hours behind. Other parts of the system may provide data with only a few minutes latency. With lots of different systems all operating with different updates and refresh-rates, managers will have to work with errors that continually change as different parts of their ‘ecommerce machine’ update with different refresh rates.Over the past two years, INDEZ has been running a Research and Development project called INDEZ Scale that is aimed at the progressive automation of ecommerce operations. Part of this has been the delivery of an INDEZ dashboard system that attempts to solve the problems outlined earlier.Each dashboard is custom configured for each business and contains automated connections to large numbers of third party systems. Every ‘channel’ of data is regularly accessed and results delivered in a single web page. The unified live data is in ‘real-time’ and can be viewed securely on all sizes of screen from a mobile phone to a large office display. Such systems mean that performance reporting meetings become a thing of the past. If you want to know how many sales you have had in the past hour, what your ROI is for an affiliate channel, server stats, sales uplift compared to the same period last year, running total of sales for the month compared to target, etc, etc … then everything is available on one simple business dashboard.

The above system has been developed as part of INDEZ Project Scale with the generous help of Scottish Enterprise.Over the next few months, we will be rolling out INDEZ Dashboard availability to all our customers who want it. One early beta tester, John Masson, MD of Direct Office Supply gave us feedback by saying:"The INDEZ business dashboard is brilliant. It's the ultimate go-to web page for any ecommerce business owner."If you would like to find out more about INDEZ dashboard and how it can help provide you with improved insight into your ecommerce business, please drop us a request to info@indez.com.

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