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While we’re all quick to check out the latest tools and apps we can use, we tend to be more reluctant when it comes to taking on a whole new approach to business. Still, once a concept begins to generate enough buzz, almost any company can tell whether or not it’s something they should consider. Business intelligence is perhaps the most recent example of this, with BI tools and methodology finally breaking out of the larger corporate market and making it to the mainstream of Main Street.

If you’ve been considering building a system to generate and support business intelligence, chances are you’ve also been wondering how you’ll know if it’s even working. Here we’ve brought together 10 indicators that will help ensure your strategy for business intelligence for small business stays on track and meets the benchmarks you need to succeed.

Unique visitors, total visits and page views — This is basically a snapshot of your website traffic. Checking out these numbers and trends shows you how many people are actually making it to your website each month and how long they’re sticking around. This offers valuable insight on any marketing promotions you’re using or developing to increase traffic.

New visitors and new customers — Generating traffic is one thing, converting that traffic into sales is quite another. Comparing new visitors to new customers will give you an understanding of your current conversion rate so that you can track improvement easily as you develop new sales, discounts and promotions to increase your customer base.

Total orders per day, week and month — This simple sales data set is an obvious choice as a way to track sales. But with a good business intelligence system you can combine this data with information on stock levels from your warehousing team. Integrating your warehouse and sales data will help you create a system that works effectively as an inventory and sales forecasting app. Track different trends and peaks when it comes to sales to make your storage and warehouse operations run smoothly and improve efficiency and your use of space.

Checkout or cart abandonment — How often do people visiting your site fill their cart and then suddenly walk away? Being able to understand this can help you tweak website layout, payment options and even potential problems with security.

Return rate — Accepting returns is a part of business, but taking things back does more than just improve your overall customer service. Using returns is also a great way to gain insight into inventory and quality control, helping you to understand why certain products may get returned more often. That information can then be used to negotiate with vendors or tweak existing product lines.

Customer service open cases — Checking in with customer service is always a good idea. Routing their database through your BI system will let you get a snapshot of how they’re performing and what they’re dealing with at any given time. When compared to other reports such as the return rate or cart abandonment, this can help you make a service reps job easier by dealing with problems from the inside out.

Pay-per-click cost per acquisition — Using pay-per-click advertising is popular, but it can be hard to understand how much you’re getting for the investment. Use the PPC cost per acquisition to evaluate different PPC platforms and channels in order to use the ones that deliver the greatest results in traffic.

Pay-per-click total conversions — The other end of the PPC issue is, of course, in the conversion rate. Compare this rate to the acquisition rate for all channels as a part of your total evaluation and marketing plans.

Social Media Stats — A business intelligence small business app or suite should include a way to check out social media and third party retail information. This includes

  • Facebook likes and “Who’s Talking About This” statistics
  • Twitter followers and overall retweets
  • Amazon ratings and performance data (order turnaround time, open cases, etc.)

Referral source comparison — In addition to PPC venues, you should also be able to access data that will help you evaluate direct email conversion rates and search engine clicks.