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Beyond Spreadsheets: 4 Keys to Unleash your Small Business Ecommerce Data with Custom Dashboards

E-commerce companies have an unbelievable amount of data. Just think of the number of SKUs you have… 

How the heck do you effectively see what's going on in the company and make data-driven decisions from it?

The short answer… custom dashboards! Not manual spreadsheets…

Here are the highlights:

  • Get all of your data in one place for a single source of truth

  • Automate the data flow so no one is manually downloading files into spreadsheets

  • Quickly and effectively analyze your data to make strategic decisions 

  • Have clear, unmistakable, visuals so everyone is on the same page 

Let's dive deeper and show you how to build this!

1. Consolidating your Small Business E-commerce Data into One Source of Truth

If you only sell through one online source (ex. Shopify), this still applies to you, don't worry.

For others that sell through Shopify, Amazon, Bigcommerce, etc. this is incredibly important. 

Between different types of data, timing issues, net sales calculations, etc. getting a true revenue number isn't as simple as it should be when you have multiple sources of sales.

And if you only have one source, the difference between your accounting software (ex. Quickbooks) and your one source can be a nightmare to untangle.

Plus in both situations, you might want to link up to your Ad tracking, CRMs, partnership programs, etc.

Let's get it all in one place.

Here's the problem summary:

  • Linking up with other systems outside of sales (ex. Affiliate programs, CRMs like Hubspot and Salesforce, etc.)

  • Analyzing differences between the e-commerce site vs accounting software (ex Shopify vs Quickbooks)

  • Getting Shopify, Walmart. Amazon, etc. all in one place

  • You cant see the breakdown between platforms easily

How do we fix that?

There are a few options!

  • Use a data pipeline company to consolidate everything for you (ex. Glew)

  • This works when you have a whole bunch of different data sources and it’s not realistic to attempt to do internally

  • Create a master database internally 

  • Have all sources leading to one environment (ex. Big Query… fairly inexpensive option)

  • This ends up looking like a bunch of tables (ex. Orders, Items, Products, etc.) from each source of sales that you can query together 

  • This is essentially what the data pipeline company can do for you

  • Use third-party apps like Coupler to get report-level data (ex. A sales summary instead of tables you have to merge together)

  • This helps skip a couple of steps but you'll still need to combine all the different sales sites together into a single source of truth

  • This is the easiest option to do internally and the best if you only have one sales source

  • Get a data strategy and analytics company to do all this for you

  • This is where a company partners with you to get all the data you need displayed in the way you want it 

  • You tell the company (ex. us at Pineapple) what you want and the company builds it for you

  • This is essentially having an internal data team do the work, but at a fraction of the cost

The summary here is that there has to be some work done to get everything together but there are a variety of paths and investment options to get there.

Regardless of which option you go with, a custom dashboard to display the results at the end is the best possible way to view everything in one source of truth.

The dashboard will allow you to see all of your hard-earned backend work in a digestible way! More on that soon…

We can help you choose the right option with our data strategy audit.

2. Get Fully Automated Ecommerce Data into a Custom Dashboard

Now that you've got everything in one place, analyzing the results and getting a data-driven strategy from it becomes a lot easier.

Most people are stuck in the situation where getting a “one layer below the surface” revenue number involves downloading at least one CSV and messing around with it in Excel.

Having to run reports, export to Excel, create a summary, etc is no way to get the answers leadership is looking for.

There are some great systems out there, but if you use something like Post Affiliate Pro, you can only export a certain number of rows m, which makes a total number very difficult to see even if you are just going into one customer segment.

Your analysts are worth more than simply being Excel report manipulators. Reprioritize them to work on projections, campaign effectiveness, and translating business goals to data realities.

Bottom line, Excel or Google Sheets shouldn't be your solution to data analysis. 

A custom dashboard should be.

With a custom dashboard, the data is naturally automated.

Pull the data from your single source of truth (or the multiple tables, or third-party consolidated reports, etc). Whenever the backend is updated (most are real-time or daily), the dashboard is updated

If you have to do any work to see the results you want, it can be done more efficiently.

Having a dashboard allows this automation to run the full course of POS to database to dashboard so you can be data-driven the easy way.

3. Easily Analyze Your E-commerce Data and Be Data-Driven

What should you be analyzing 

“Have better analysis” is an incredibly broad statement. Let's hone in a bit.

Here are some common requests outside of the normal things like Sales, Gross Profit, Conversion rates, etc.

  • Cohort Analysis

  • Releasing a free trial program, how can you tell what cohort group is best? How often do they reorder? What's the true ROI on the free trial program

  • Customer segmentation 

  • Do you sell to different personas? Different regions? Store locations? Price tiers? 

  • There's a lot you could segment into. Get the top 5 - 10 to start and you'll notice some trends that'll point you in the right direction 

  • Flexible timeframes

  • Platforms like Shopify are great but only go back so far in time. Having unlimited flexibility is really important for analyzing the effectiveness of the platform

  • New customer analysis

  • You’re always marketing and advertising - is it paying off?

  • Let’s get some new customer-centric metrics like percent of customers that are new, new customer sales, new customer purchases (meaning which product)

The general framework to establish what you should be analyzing is as follows:

  • If you’re in leadership, what would an outside investor be looking for to determine whether or not to invest in your company?

  • Top line numbers, recurring business, and depth of target market are some common themes

  • If you’re not in leadership, what does leadership focus on the most?

  • Similar themes here, but how do they want it broken down? By customer type, by group, performance vs last month, etc.

  • Once you establish the overarching “what” is needed, your brain will most likely think of ways it’s been requested in the past or you’ll find the metrics that fall into the “this would be awesome to see” category

  • You know your business better than some blog post

  • Use this framework to go from the broad business goal to then break that down into pieces

  • You’ll almost always follow the structure similar to this (simple example..)

  • Revenue is super important

  • Revenue this month compared to last month

  • Revenue trended over the past 12 months

  • Revenue by customer group / region / cohort / etc.

Knowing the main metrics (to some extent at least) can help guide the whole process (back to step one of consolidating the data) because you can make sure that all the necessary pieces are going to be included, and automated along the way.

4. Use a Custom E-commerce Dashboard to Clearly View your Data and Get Your Team on the Same Page

How should your data be viewed?

Short answer… Clearly! 

Anyone viewing the dashboard of analysis shouldn't have any questions like “what does this mean”. Everything should be simple (note - you can be simple with a lot of information) and in a visual format.

Default POS dashboards are fine, but they're never exactly what you want to see. Make sure your dashboard shows the exact metrics you want in the exact format and visual you want.

There’s nothing worse than having all the data at your fingertips but not being able to use it at all.

What's the main metric you care about? You're probably thinking of a couple right off the top of your head.

Are they immediately available in the format you want, with the context (trend, breakdown, segmentation, etc.) that you want? Probably not.

Get a dashboard and not only will you have that answer you're looking for, but it will be unmistakably clear so everyone is on the same page. You'll also have to click around and navigate significantly less to get the answer you want…

Creating team-specific dashboard views

Sometimes it makes sense for some folks to only see what’s important to them. Try doing that in a default POS view…

The c suite cares about different levels of detail than the team leads and the specific sales reps (for example).

Creating default views for each person, including making them permission-based so they can only see what they're supposed to, is a huge time saver.

It also keeps everyone on the same page, focusing on what they should be focusing on, and allows the most effective team conversations.

This team view should follow the same rules (main metrics broken down and incredibly clear to see and understand), it just adds a lot of efficiency when analyzing throughout the team.

Custom Small Business E-commerce Dashboards are Not a “Nice to Have”

From the efficiency gained with automated data, clear visuals, and custom formatting, you’ll not only find yourself getting the exact answers you want a lot sooner, but they’ll be accurate and allow you to be more data-driven.

If you are making decisions in an E-commerce company, there is no better way, no faster way, no easier way to make a data-driven decision than having custom dashboards.

About Pineapple

Pineapple is a data analytics company ready to help you become data-driven! We help analyze and visualize your data in custom dashboards so you can see your full business performance at a glance, and provide analysis to drive your strategy. Our interactive dashboards will save you time, provide deeper insights & analysis, and help you make better business decisions.

Learn more about our custom dashboards:

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