20-min

Business Intelligence in eCommerce: What is it & Why it Matters

Business Intelligence (BI) tools play a crucial role in eCommerce. Data shows that organizations using BI tools reduce 40% of the time they spend preparing data, resulting in better productivity and speeding up decision-making cycles. Make sense of and manage your data easily with the right software.

Business Intelligence in eCommerce: What is it & Why it Matters

eCommerce stores generate vast amounts of data, like repeat purchase rates (RPR), page views per session, and conversion rates.

And without the right software, making sense and managing your data can be overwhelming.

You’d have to deal with several obstacles, such as:

  • Ensuring data quality and cleanliness
  • Organizing data
  • Data interpretation
  • Data analysis
  • Etc.

That’s why Business Intelligence (BI) tools play such a crucial role in eCommerce.

With a reliable BI software, eCommerce store owners can make their data management so much easier and efficient.

In fact, data shows that organizations using BI tools reduce 40% of the time they spend preparing data, resulting in better productivity and speeding up decision-making cycles.

eCommerce store owners can grow their businesses more effectively as they learn to leverage BI for their data.

What is business intelligence in eCommerce?

Business Intelligence in eCommerce transforms your data into useful information that guides strategic decision-making. 

BI allows you to uncover insights from structured and unstructured data via visualizations, dashboards, and reports. 

Generally, BI leverages vast amounts of eCommerce data, providing valuable insights to improve sales, inventory management, customer experience, marketing, and other aspects of your business. 

Politician and Former CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina, captured the essence of BI when she said… 

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight. It’s actually now all about putting information to work. It is about transforming data from passive to active, from static to dynamic—transforming data into insight.”

Difference between business intelligence and business analytics

Business Intelligence and Business Analytics (BA) are often used interchangeably but differ. 

Check out how BI differs from business Analytics based on the following factors. 

Definition

Business Intelligence collects and analyzes data to help businesses make more strategic decisions.

Individuals from all levels of your company can use BI, from individual employees to managers and executives. 

On the other hand, Business Analytics is a subset of BI that uses statistical analysis techniques to get insights into how customers use services or products. 

Working with Business Data Analytics often requires advanced mathematics or statistics degrees. 

Descriptive vs predictive

BI focuses on descriptive analysis, while Business Analytics hones in on predictive analysis. 

You can use BI to analyze historical data and predict future trends, such as creating product recommendations and sales forecasting. 

Business analytics leverages predictive modeling to predict how various variables impact each other. 

For instance, to check how price affects your online retail store’s sales volume, you can predict the impact of raising prices on your bottom line.  

Managers vs analysts

In BI, managers deal with data to make decisions, while in BA, analysts handle data to answer questions. 

BI managers can use dashboards to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across finance, sales, and production operations. 

They can interpret the meaning behind those KPIs to make data-driven decisions promptly. 

Generally, analysts conduct research and analysis and produce reports for management and other company stakeholders. 

They can use automated software such as scraping tools to gather data from your website or database. Analysts assess the data and translate it into charts and graphs. 

Applying vs reporting

BI is the process of generating data reports, while BA is applying data-driven insights to take action or make decisions. 

BI focuses on reporting data insights, while BA deals with applying data and insights to drive decision-making. 

Existing vs new analytics strategies

BI involves collecting aggregated data from sources such as databases and analyzing it to gain insights into your business’s performance. 

BI tools give you data-driven insights into various business aspects, including marketing and finance. 

BA uses an analytical strategy to solve problems in a business context. 

Besides looking at aggregated data, Business Analytics leverages real-time information to extract insights into your business operations while helping you act on the uncovered insights. 

Future vs current possibilities

Business Intelligence focuses more on historical and present data. 

For instance, BI can use past data to determine the results of changes you made in your business, helping you make better decisions.  

Business Analytics looks at real-time data and analyzes it to spot trends and patterns to predict future outcomes. 

Insights uncovered through BA help prepare your business for future situations and opportunities. 

Technical skill requirements

Most BI systems allow easy data access, storage, and analysis and require little to no technical knowledge. 

Anyone in your company can access data through BI software without creating detailed reports or writing code. 

In contrast, BA requires technical knowledge and skills. 

Analysts need a good understanding of statistics and programming languages such as R and Python to analyze large amounts of data from various sources.  

Tools

BI uses various tools to gather, analyze, and report data. 

BI tools include databases such as SQL, data warehouses like Hadoop, and BI software and visualization tools like Polymer. 

On the other hand, BA uses predictive models to predict future trends. 

The models leverage statistical methods such as time series and regression analysis to forecast future outcomes based on historical data. 

5 Benefits of Business Intelligence in eCommerce

Essentially, BI in eCommerce helps you optimize your time and resources to strategic business areas and make data-driven decisions. 

As Chief Marketing Officer of Vapor IO Matt Trifiro says…

  “Time and money are your scarcest resources. You want to make sure you’re allocating them in highest-impact areas. Data reveals impact, and with data, you can bring more science to your decisions.”

Business Intelligence offers these advantages to eCommerce businesses. 

1. Boost operational performance

Business Intelligence tools give you a comprehensive view of your operations, helping you monitor performance across company functions and departments.

You can get real-time updates and track custom Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure you proactively spot bottlenecks, optimize processes, and continue improving your operations.  

2. Gain valuable insights for decision making

BI allows you to turn your raw data into actionable insights. 

For instance, BI software like Polymer offers modern data visualization tools to simplify and supercharge building comprehensive reports and dashboards. 

A powerful BI tool like this allows your company’s decision-makers to analyze data and uncover actionable insights instantly, helping them:

  • Make data-driven decisions promptly
  • Optimize your resource allocation process
  • Spot market trends at a glance
  • Use the uncovered insights to enhance operational efficiency

3. Understand and engage customers better

According to survey data, 47% of companies use BI to enhance client interactions. 

Business Intelligence helps your business uncover your target audience’s or ideal customers’ preferences, buying patterns, and behaviors. 

BI tools allow you to view your customers holistically by integrating data from your sales, marketing, and customer support operations. 

You can leverage the data to tailor your marketing strategies, products, and services to meet shifting customer needs and expectations. 

It can improve customer satisfaction, facilitating consumer loyalty and higher revenue. 

4. Enhance productivity and efficiency

Modern BI tools can automate your data collection, consolidation, management, and reporting processes, 

The right Business Intelligence solution can save you time and effort while helping you work more efficiently and with higher productivity. 

BI also gives you comprehensive insights into internal and external factors impacting your business’s performance. 

It can facilitate strategic planning since it helps you assess risks, set realistic objectives, and develop effective strategies to improve operational efficiency.  

Data shows that 80% of companies adopting BI reported improved operational efficiency. 

5. Gain market insights and a competitive advantage

BI helps you examine risks, spot untapped opportunities, and develop strategies to track market dynamics, competitor activities, and industry trends. 

You can leverage the insights to make proactive and strategic decisions to capitalize on changing market and customer demands. 

How to integrate your Business Intelligence tool into your eCommerce business

Adopting BI software for your eCommerce business requires preparation and taking specific steps to ensure effective integration and implementation. 

Start with the following tips:

Identify your BI integration goals

The first step in integrating your BI software is determining what you want the tool to do for your eCommerce business.

Understand how information flows through your company and how you will use it. 

Each software can handle information flows differently, so identify how yours works before you choose a BI tool.   

Know your data sources

BI tools can pull data from various sources simultaneously. 

However, not all BI tools offer integrations with your company's data sources or business systems. 

That is why it’s crucial to understand the data you want to pull and where it comes from before investing in a BI tool. 

Check if the BI tool offers easy or built-in integrations for your business platforms and systems. 

For instance, BI software Polymer offers multiple built-in integrations for Google Analytics, Shopify, and other eCommerce platforms. 

Understand the company culture

Integrating BI tools into your eCommerce business systems requires ensuring your employees (end-users) understand how information flows across your company. 

The best way to do this is to explain what you need from each department and specify how they should gather information to integrate and deploy your chosen BI tool. 

Specify data ownership

To avoid data gaps and inaccuracies, identify specific departments or individuals responsible for collecting and adding new data for your BI tool. 

Doing so ensures everything is up-to-date, and your BI tool can give you accurate reports and results. 

Know your data storage locations

Make sure you know where your BI tool stores your collected data. 

For instance, Cloud Business Intelligence tools store your data on the cloud instead of a local drive. 

It makes finding and accessing specific information easy when updating your data or building your reports and dashboards. 

Consider training requirements for the tool 

Generally, everyone in your company needs to know how your BI tool stores data and the reports they can create with the software. 

Your employees must be trained to use your Business Intelligence software—from onboarding to report generation to deploy the tool effectively and avoid implementation delays. 

Set up on paper first

Before launching your BI tool to collect data, consider drawing up a draft and listing possible sources of information and their requirements. 

Doing so gives you a visual representation of how your company gathers data, avoiding data collection, storage, analysis, and reporting issues down the line.

Determine the changes that come with upgrades

Like most software, Business Intelligence tools are regularly updated. 

It’s crucial to know the changes made in the latest versions of your BI tool to avoid potential issues during and after implementation. 

For instance, some BI tools can require backing up historical data and saving it in a new format if saved in a format the software no longer supports. 

Know what specific changes come with upgrading your BI software and prepare accordingly.  

Use cases for Business Intelligence in eCommerce

Business Intelligence has many applications in eCommerce, including the areas. 

Sales performance analysis 

BI helps you analyze your business’s product performance, revenue, conversions, and customer acquisition rates. 

It helps you assess your sales performance and spot strengths, gaps, and trends to optimize your sales strategies. 

You can also leverage your sales data insights to determine your high-performing services or products and effectively allocate resources to increase sales.  

Customer targeting and segmentation

Business Intelligence helps your business segment customers based on specific criteria, such as preferences, purchasing behavior, and demographics. 

Understanding customer segments via BI allows you to tailor your messaging, offers, and sales strategies to specific target audience groups. 

It increases your sales efforts’ effectiveness and relevance. 

For instance, you can set up GA4 eCommerce tracking to monitor and analyze user or customer behavior on your website.  

Sales team performance analysis

You can leverage BI to track individual sales representative’s targets, activities, and results. 

You can uncover insights into your top-performing sales reps and who to incentivize for high-performing behaviors, including those who need training and support. 

Performing sales data analysis through BI helps you optimize your sales team’s performance, enhancing productivity and boosting sales. 

Sales analytics and forecasting

Applying BI to sales forecasting and analytics allows you to use historical sales data to predict future sales outcomes. 

For example, BI tools can analyze trends and patterns to help you determine seasonal fluctuations, make accurate sales forecasts, and anticipate market demand. 

You can leverage the insights to optimize production planning, inventory management, and resource allocation. 

This way, you ensure sufficient stock availability to meet customer demand and prevent excess inventory or stockouts. 

Competitor analysis

Another use of BI is in competitor analysis. 

You can implement BI to gain insights into your competitor’s pricing strategies, market positioning, sales performance, and product offerings. 

Collecting and analyzing competitor data via BI tools helps you spot opportunities to differentiate your brand and refine your value proposition. 

It also equips you with insights to develop effective eCommerce sales strategies and give your business a competitive advantage. 

Sales pipeline management

Efficiently tracking and managing your sales pipeline is possible with Business Intelligence. 

BI tools can visualize your sales process, track and measure KPIs, and spot workflow bottlenecks. 

BI tools can also help you determine areas of improvement in your sales process, allowing you to be proactive in driving deals forward. 

As a result, you can accelerate your sales cycle and improve conversion rates.  

Integrating and deploying any tool can require a bit of trial and error, so it’s crucial to set a game plan to help make the process as smooth as possible. 

According to Consultant and former Director of Emerging Market Growth at Facebook and VP of Marketing at Remind, Meenal Balar…

“Execution is so critical. Sometimes you just need to try something, see what works and move forward.”

Types of Business Intelligence tools for eCommerce

The main types of eCommerce Business Intelligence tools include the following.

Dashboard and reporting software

BI reporting software generates reports from eCommerce data. 

The software lets you personalize reports based on your preferred specifications to present data how you want.

Modern BI reporting software can also generate interactive reports for users to explore your data further and set up custom views. 

Most BI reporting software includes built-in dashboard features to give you an overall picture of your KPIs.  

Online Analytics Processing

Online Analytics Processing OLAP is a BI technology that lets users organize and specify analyzing large data sets from multiple dimensions. 

OLAP can do complex calculations, analyze trends, and perform sophisticated data modeling or what-if scenarios.

OLAP technology usually powers financial reporting, financial forecasting, and business performance management solutions. 

Data warehousing and mining

Data mining and warehousing BI tools can organize and analyze your eCommerce business data. 

The software can collect and organize data from various sources and store them in a database. 

Then, it analyzes your data to identify patterns, helping you make sense of easy-to-miss insights. 

Self service BI

Self-service BI refers to a suite of technologies and tools that let non-technical users analyze, visualize, and access data without support from the data analyst or IT department. 

Self-service BI allows you to create visualizations and dashboards and do ad-hoc queries at your own pace. 

4 Best Business Intelligence Tools for eCommerce 

Check out the best Business Intelligence tools you can add to your eCommerce business’s toolkit. 

1. Polymer

Some of the main reasons why eCommerce business owners and marketers are switching to Polymer is because it doesn’t need a complex setup and a steep learning curve. 

The BI software offers easy-to-use yet powerful features for creating stunning visualizations, dashboards, and presentations in a flash.   

Polymer lets you connect your data source, build visualizations and dashboards, and share your project within minutes.  

Upload your CSV or XLS file or pull data from your business systems easily with the software’s built-in integrations with Shopify, Google Analytics 4, Stripe, and other platforms. 

 The software’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology analyzes your data and recommends rich insights. 

You can click on these insights suggestions, and Polymer automatically generates a chart, graph, map, or other visualizations that best represent your data. 

You can customize the AI-generated visualizations or create one from scratch with the intuitive Board Designer. 

Get suggestions to customize your visualizations from Polymer’s AI. 

You can customize pre-built dashboard templates, such as Facebook Ads for eCommerce templates.  

Choose from the customizable templates and build an eCommerce dashboard quickly. 

With Polymer, you can build interactive dashboards and data visualizations with a few clicks, allowing you to gain insights from your eCommerce business data promptly. 

No wonder Polymer is one of the best eCommerce apps

2. Cognos Analytics

IBM’s Cognos Analytics is a web-based and integrated BI suite with modeling, analysis, reporting, dashboard, and event management features to help you understand your business data. 

The software gives you an accurate and overall picture of your business performance and predicts trends by leveraging historical data and statistical algorithms.   

(Source: Softwareadvice.com)

Cognos Analytics’ key features include the following:

  • Machine learning self-service. The software’s self-service features help you identify patterns and extract data insights, accelerating your decision-making process.
  • Predictive analysis. Cognos Analytics’ What-if analysis and AI functionalities let you run simulations based on your historical eCommerce data. You can use the analysis insights to anticipate trends and spot potential risks before making decisions for your marketing campaigns.  
  • Natural language interactions. The BI software offers a Natural Language Processing (NLP) feature to explore unstructured and complex customer data, spot trends and patterns, and unlock actionable insights.

3. SimilarWeb

SimilarWeb is a BI platform focused on web analytics. 

The tool gives you an in-depth view of competitor website traffic, user behavior, audience demographics, and more. 

You can also use SimilarWeb to benchmark your competitors’ performance, market positioning, and online marketing strategies. 

(Source: Similarweb.com)

You’ll get insights into the competitive landscape, spot potential opportunities or risks, and develop new marketing strategies. 

SimilarWeb’s other main features include:

  • Top website pages analysis. SimilarWeb can analyze high-traffic content on competitor websites. It helps you discover the content formats, topics, and strategies that resonate best with audiences—which you can leverage to enhance your messaging and content strategy. 
  • Industry benchmarking. The platform’s Industry Analysis feature can help you track industry trends and spot gaps in your marketing strategy. It equips you with valuable insights to stay ahead of your competitors. 
  • Competitor advertising analysis. SimilarWeb’s Ad Creative tool helps you gain insights into your competitors’ best-performing ads. The tool analyzes advertising platforms, audience segments, and ad copy. You can use the data to develop and improve your marketing efforts. 

4. Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a customer analytics platform that monitors and analyzes user behavior throughout multiple touchpoints. 

For example, the tool maps out user flows to help you see where users get stuck. 

You can also uncover actions your website users take before, between, and after key events, such as subscribing to your email list. 

(Source: G2.com)

It’s a handy BI tool when your marketing efforts include having several interactions with prospects before they convert. 

Mixpanel’s key functionalities and features allow you to:

  • Filter actions such as form submissions, video plays, and button clicks to outline common multi-touch paths your website users take before converting. 
  •  Monitor user actions without manually coding or defining each event. 
  • Use the tool’s Signal feature to identify the touchpoints (web page or product feature) with the greatest influence on user conversions. It can help you prioritize your conversion optimization efforts. 

eCommerce Business Intelligence FAQs

Below are the common things people want to know about eCommerce BI. 

What BI reports can you generate from your eCommerce website?

It depends on the data and metrics you want to track. 

Generally, BI tools can generate eCommerce analytics reports on marketing campaign success, sales trends, conversion rates, product performance, and inventory status. 

How do you become a Business Intelligence analyst?

The basic requirements to become a BI analyst include having a wide range of statistical, analytical, and business skills. 

You must also be well-versed in data visualization and analytics, including a good understanding of KPIs and business models. 

What are the four key concepts of Business Intelligence?

The four main concepts of BI are data collection, analysis, visualization, and decision-making. 

Data collection is gathering information from various sources, including cleaning and standardizing the collected data. 

Analysis in BI is about using techniques and tools to extract actionable insights and trends from your collected data. 

Visualization turns your complex data into easy-to-understand visual representations. 

The entire process is designed to help derive insights to guide your decision-making process. 

How do you know when to use BI for your business?

In general, your company needs Business Intelligence when:

  • You get massive amounts of data but don’t get usable information. 
  • Creating business reports becomes too complex and time-consuming, creating bottlenecks in your eCommerce business processes. 
  • Your data has outgrown your spreadsheets.
  • You need to analyze and derive insights from multiple data sources.
  • You need a complete view of your KPIs to get real-time data insights.

Polymer: A premier BI tool for eCommerce

Business Intelligence can revolutionize your eCommerce business—from improving your workflows to increasing sales. 

Polymer can be just the BI tool to lead your eCommerce business to newer heights. 

The robust, AI-driven software simplifies your data reporting, dashboarding, and presentation so you can extract insights and make strategic business decisions promptly.

Polymer is an affordable solution, which means you get all the powerful BI features and functionalities without breaking the bank.

It’s less money and grunt work while ensuring you get the most out of your eCommerce business’ data.  

Start your Polymer account now to explore more of the features and functionalities of this powerful BI software.

Posted on
December 2, 2023
under Blog
December 2, 2023
Written by
Rand Owens
Founding team member at Motive (Formerly KeepTruckin) and passionate about all things Marketing, RevOps, and Go-To-Market. VP of Marketing @ Polymer Search.

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