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Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with 500 employees or fewer have plans to deploy business intelligence (BI) at a rate higher than any other company size, according to the 2017 Small and Mid-Sized Enterprise Business Intelligence Market Study by Dresner Advisory Services. The study reveals SMBs are three times more likely than large enterprises to have near-term BI plans.

Say you run a small gift shop that also serves ice cream, candy, and slushy drinks across the street from a middle school. Next year, the school will be demolished and replaced by an office building for a pharmaceutical company’s product development teams. You panic because you don’t know which gifts and on-the-go delights the incoming pharma professionals will want to buy – but you’re pretty sure it won’t be slushies.

If you used BI, however, you’d be able to tap into ‘big data’ to prepare for what your new neighbors will likely want to purchase. Then, as their visits to your store progress, your BI solution would provide insight into what items are selling and, based on more big data, what items typically sell with them at other stores. In a short time, you could optimize your inventory and offerings to suit your new buyers.

Here are several ways SMBs benefit from BI.

Who Could Have Seen That Coming?

That’s a phrase we hear too often regarding recently closed businesses whose employees failed to notice subtle shifts in market demand, customer tastes, and operational expense drivers – because before cloud-based BI offerings, many companies couldn’t afford the solutions they needed to deliver game-changing insights.

Today, with solutions like SAP Analytics Cloud, extensive data analysis capabilities are both easily accessible and intuitive to use. Here are four areas many SMBs are finding value from BI solutions:

Inventory Tracking

Very few SMBs have the luxury of waiting days to know how much of their inventory sold, particularly during peak season. Lacking actionable data but wanting to ensure buyers aren’t disappointed, they make purchasing decisions based on incomplete information. If they could see aggregated and product-specific data in real time, they would know how much of each SKU to order to ensure product availability, minimize inventory costs, and maximize profits.

Meeting Customer Expectations

You may be offering the right products, but are you doing it with the agility to fend off competitors? You must always know what your customers know and see the offers they see, in real time.

BI solutions are perfect for tracking, analyzing, and reporting customer behavior. You can quickly gain critical insights, including:

  • Which of your repeat customers browsed competitor A’s website, visited your site and bought nothing, and returned to the competitor’s site.
  • Which of your projected top-selling products for the holiday season are being discounted or bundled by Amazon and other big-box retailers – this day or this hour.

Strategic Decision-making

SMBs are often running so fast to ensure customer satisfaction in today’s fast-paced, competitive environment that no one is taking the pulse of cost drivers and new opportunities. BI solutions quickly reveal trends that show where you excel and where your operations are lacking. For example, you can quickly learn how many inventory turns you did this quarter and at what margin and the trend of how that’s changed over time. Or, quickly identify which suppliers perform best under varying conditions, such as peak seasons, bad weather, internationally, etc.

Examples on the revenue side include knowing which products are purchased together most often (this year versus last year) and why; the trend in how your best customers are purchasing (larger or smaller quantities), and which offers may appeal to those changing needs. In addition, you can learn who your best customers are from a profit perspective when direct, indirect, and opportunity costs are considered.

Getting Started is Easier with SMB BI Tools

Unlike enterprise BI solutions that involve a substantial learning curve and special skills (e.g., SQL programming and data analysis), SMB solutions like SAP Analytics Cloud provide intuitive dashboards that anyone, including non-technical business users, can leverage to quickly collect, analyze, and report on data to drive meaningful actions. What our customers appreciate most are the easy-to-use features like drag-and-drop interfaces, automated alerts for unusual circumstances, and quick-hit reports of business metrics.

As our customers get more comfortable with their BI solutions, we often help them to go beyond the core insights to more advanced capabilities, such as running simulations and predicting future events.

To learn all the exciting ways you can improve your business with SMB-focused BI, contact Sapphire today.

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