Retail Dashboards Explained: Why Every Merchant Should Have Them

Retail analytics have come a long way. Now, retailers are empowered to make strategic business decisions based on real information—not just gut instinct. 

And data-hungry retailers are everywhere. One survey by Alteryx and RetailWire found that 81% of brands gather shopper insights, and 76% consider insights to be critical to their performance. But most aren’t really doing anything with the data. Only 16% would call themselves experts when it comes to data analysis with 24% and 60%, respectively, self-described as “newbies” and “getting there.”

What’s a retail dashboard?

A retail dashboard is a data tracking and analysis tool that reports metrics that are relevant to retail business performance. Many retail dashboards present summarized metrics as well as complementary visuals to make it easier to understand what the data means. Dashboards also make it easy to see where your business is at with just a quick glance. 

In retail, the analytics dashboard might have information about sales and profitability, inventory, foot traffic, and even employee performance, among other things. Typically, you can customize your retail dashboard to present the information you think is most important. Retail dashboards are also accessible via many devices, so they enable business owners to manage their retail stores remotely—especially helpful in the case of multiple locations

You can often dig deeper into your retail dashboard, exploring specific metrics further and understanding why things are happening in your retail business. This also presents challenges you need to fix, as well as opportunities to pursue. 

Why do you need a retail dashboard?

Retailers of all sizes should consider a retail dashboard, especially because today’s technology makes many advanced features possible for even independent merchants who are just starting out. And in today’s data-driven world, if you’re not paying attention to the metrics, you’ll quickly fall behind. Here are a number of reasons why any retailer needs a dashboard: 

Stay in control of your retail business

A retail dashboard that runs on the cloud makes it easier to run your business anytime and anywhere. You can check in at a glance, without having to tediously dig through numbers and spreadsheets. If you need a vacation or have to run multiple stores, mobile access to your retail dashboard centralizes everything so you have complete control in the palm of your hand. 

A great retail dashboard (like the one from Vend) shows both real-time and historical data, so you can make informed business decisions on the fly—and with confidence. Historic analysis is also helpful for post-mortems and forecasting. 

Get to know your customers better

Consumers demand more from merchants every year. A small improvement in the customer experience can increase average revenue by $823 million for a company with $1 billion in annual revenue. And while we may not all be working with numbers as big as those, any positive impact on the customer experience is likely to positively impact your bottom line. 

Your retail dashboard is rich with information about your customers. This information can provide you the insights needed to develop effective promotions, marketing strategies, and in-store experiences. Find out who your top customers are, how much they spend, and what they’re buying. 

Manage inventory more effectively

Inventory management is important for every retail business. Effective inventory management leads to fewer out-of-stocks, which positively affects the customer experience. Ineffective inventory management leads to more issues, like lost sales due to stockouts or lost capital to dead stock

Your retail dashboard will display stock on hand and inventory levels at a glance, so it’s easy to make sure you always have enough of your top-selling products. You can see an overview of stock levels across all stores, while being able to drill down on inventory per outlet, category, or other chosen parameter. 

Make it easier to understand your retail data

Not every retail business owner has dreams of dealing with numbers all day. And the same goes for your employees. There’s a reason universities award entire degrees dedicated to data analysis—it’s a true science. 

But retail dashboards make data analysis more accessible for people who both love and hate math. User-friendly dashboards are easy to navigate and customize, and data visualizations are a lot less intimidating than a spreadsheet with endless rows and columns. And when you customize it to only show the information you need, there’s no overwhelm or analysis paralysis. 

What information does your retail dashboard contain?

Retail dashboards contain a ton of information. You can usually customize it to show as much or as little data as you need. Depending on the dashboard you use, it might show both historical and real-time data. It’s a good idea to look for this feature, because it gives you total control of your business—and you can make informed business decisions at any moment. The Vend POS retail dashboard, for example, gives both real-time daily/weekly/monthly and historical breakdowns for the past 7, 14, and 30 days. 

Specific data in your retail dashboard might include: 

  • Sales: breakdowns by location, hour/day/week/month, average order value, customer, employee, etc.
  • Inventory: stock levels, which products are top sellers, where items sell, who buys what, etc. 
  • Employee stats: hours/shifts worked, customers services, sales earned, etc.
  • Store breakdowns: data broken down by location
  • Tax info: tax inclusive and tax exclusive figures

Retail dashboard examples

There are many different retail dashboards you can use, including: 

Retail distribution management dashboard

Best for: Optimizing profitability

The retail distribution management dashboard shows what’s selling and where. It calls out which products are top sellers, and at which locations customers buy them the most. It also accounts for profitability and shows you how much money your business is earning as a result of these sales. 

Ecommerce dashboard

Best for: multichannel retail

The ecommerce dashboard is helpful for retailers who sell both online and in store—you might have a full online store, offer curbside pickup, or other online-offline shopping options for your customers. The ecommerce dashboard shows you what’s selling online, how quickly, and what you’re actually earring from those ecommerce sales. 

Product sales analysis dashboard

Best for: understating product demand

The product sales analysis dashboard dives deeper into sales data, analyzing consumer habits and satisfaction based on the products they’ve purchased. Here, you’ll see information about who’s buying what and where—at which price point—as well as their post-purchase activity. You can use this information to inform marketing strategies that will drive more sales

Product availability

Best for: staying on top of stock control

This dashboard comes in handy for optimizing stock levels and ensuring you never have too much or too little. Stockouts can cause customers to look for products elsewhere, and potentially become a lifelong customer of one of your competitors. On the other hand, too much stock can cut into your profits when you’re unable to resell them for full retail value. Your product availability dashboard will show which products need extra attention. 

Promotional optimization

Best for: increasing your ROI

Sales and promotions are essential to building buzz and driving interest in your store and products. Many marketers track their advertising to determine their return on investment (ROI). You can use this to optimize your campaigns. In fact, Precima (A Nielsen Company) estimates that promotion optimization can increase sales by 3–6% and profits by 5–10% over the promotional period. This dashboard will show you which promotions were most successful and why. You can also check in during the promotion and optimize in real-time. 

Vend Home Dashboard

Best for: retailers who want to start or grow their business

Vend’s new Home Dashboard is a comprehensive retail dashboard meant to give your complete control over and insight into your business. It shows real-time data broken down by the hour, day, week, or month, as well as historic for the past 7-, 14-, and 30-day summaries. Merchants get insight into their inventory, sales, customers, store locations, and more. It also displays either tax inclusive or exclusive figures, depending on your needs.

How to set up a retail dashboard for your biz

You might already have some sort of retail dashboard that you cobbled together—maybe it’s a spreadsheet you maintain manually, or a fancy data visualization tool you found online. But the best retail dashboards are backed by a powerful tech stack that integrates seamlessly to create a comprehensive virtual command center for your biz. 

A user-friendly retail management system like Vend can track, integrate, visualize, and translate the data for you—so you can spend more time making important business moves and less time figuring out what those moves need to be. 

Find out what Vend can do for your retail biz >

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.