Accessible and Affordable Business Intelligence is Fueling Revenue in SMBs

Mobile Man / Thursday, December 03, 2015

Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) face a range of specific challenges that larger firms rarely encounter. From cash flow to uncertainty to regulation and more, business owners are often juggling a huge number of pressures. So, when there’s bills to pay, employees to hire, leads to follow up and prospects to approach, things like Business Intelligence and data analysis may feel like factors to “put off until we’re bigger”.

However, research shows BI can help cut costs, target inefficiencies and fuel revenues.  Given the pressures many small businesses face, BI could relieve a lot of the pressure you’re facing and help you grow your business.

How can BI bring these benefits?

Cut costs, boost the bottom line, reduce waste. It all sounds great, but how can BI do this in reality? BI is all about using the data your company collects across its various operations so you can make the best possible decisions about strategy. Whatever size your business, it’s very likely you collect data on all sorts of things - from sales to time spent in meetings to units produced and so on. Business Intelligence should make this data available via simple visualizations so anyone can access data and spot trends and patterns to help improve operations.

For the following examples, we’ll demonstrate how a small chain of outdoor activity centers could increase revenue through the implementation of BI. The firm caters to a range of sports including climbing, hiking, kayaking and trails cycling. Customers can buy lessons at different levels from your instructors, as well as sports equipment from your stores. In exchange for an email address and information about themselves, regular visitors can join your Adventure-Plus scheme for special discounts. They also get to rate your lessons and products anonymously on the website.

Empower employees to boost profits

In a small business environment, employees with a thorough understanding of BI can produce up to 69% more revenue. This sounds a lot, but picture it like this. With data displayed on simple dashboards for employees, they can begin to notice patterns in sales of equipment and lessons. Over the course of the seasons, you’ll begin spotting some interesting trends which can help employees boost cross-sales. For instance, you might get more subscribers for watersports lessons in Spring when the waters are high and also notice a spike in waterproof footwear. By ordering more footwear in advance and training employees to cross-sell, you’ll see a real boost in profits.

Find answers to questions faster

Even the smallest business collects a lot of information, and finding answers to even simple questions can be complicated. Take our example again. You might want to plan your offering of lessons over the seasons by popularity. The previous year (happily) all your courses were close to sold out. You’d love to expand all of them, but don’t have enough employees to increase across the board. So how can you program your year most effectively?

By checking the anonymous ratings left by customers, you can see which courses were most popular and can therefore estimate they’ll be most likely to fill up again if you offer more of the same. Without BI, you would have held this information, but it would have been incredibly lengthy to turn it all into insights. As a result, you depend less on gut feeling and more on fact.

Identify areas for cost cutting

When you’re running a small business, you rarely have the luxury of maintaining non-profitable activities. If it isn’t working, cut it.

Again at our adventure center. Perhaps you notice Advanced Kayaking is taking up a lot of your best instructor’s time, yet she only ever has a couple of students each month. It might be nice to keep that open as an option, but if there’s a lot more interest in beginners and intermediate lessons, you need to cut it. While this example may seem obvious, having a costs to profits graph available can really prove the point. Your employees may feel it’s a shame, but if you can demonstrate visually that you’re losing money, they’ll definitely understand.

Tailor services to customers

Business Intelligence can really help you understand your customers better and provide services they want and will keep them coming back for more. For instance, you might ask new arrivals at your centers to fill in a short form on a Tablet device when they arrive – are they on vacation, what age are they, what level are they? You might also get them to provide feedback at the end of their day into the same tablet.

With this information available, you can begin learning a lot more about your customers and tailoring your services closer to their needs. Do you get a lot of families visiting who are staying for a couple of weeks in the area? This might inspire you to build a series of lessons for kids which take them off their parents’ hands for a few hours over a few days. This leads to repeat custom and avoids a scattergun approach to your services and packages.

Simple, self-service BI

ReportPlus is an intuitive, easy to use BI tool which responds to the requirements of SMBs. You don’t need a data scientist to begin discovering trends with ReportPlus – anyone from the shop floor to head office can begin playing with company data, making predictions and finding better solutions in no time at all. Get in touch today to find out how ReportPlus can contribute to your needs.