Sales performance during peak seasons and major events like Black Friday is critical, especially for brick-and-mortar stores. How could Elkjøp capitalize on the sales opportunities these events offer?
Elkjøp harnessed IBM Analytics software to build near-real time data models that update every five seconds, helping employees at multiple levels of the company gain immediate, actionable insight.
Empowersusers to build new, customized dashboards in minutes
Livedata analysis enables managers to take instant action to boost sales performance
2,500employees use the platform to guide daily decision-making
Business challenge story
Maintaining a leading position
Elkjøp is a highly successful electronics retailer in the Nordic region, and enjoys significant market share. Nevertheless, the company cannot afford to rest on its laurels. As pure-play online retailers continue to put pressure on costs, Elkjøp sees innovation as the key to maintaining the success of its brick-and-mortar stores, as well as growing its own online business.
Johannes Melkeraaen, BI Architect at Elkjøp, explains: “We are differentiating our business by adding more relevant services and offers for our customers, and by entering new categories and segments with relevant products and services. Our main business is consumer electronics, and we are making significant inroads into the business-to-business sector too.
“The common factor in our innovation initiatives is that they’re based on data. In retail, it’s no longer good enough to rely on gut-feeling. You need to scrutinize your costs and measure your sales accurately, to identify new opportunities, and to bring your ideas to market in the most effective way.”
To support this data-driven approach, Elkjøp was an early adopter of analytics technology. It implemented its first business intelligence (BI) solution in 1999, and has continued building on the IBM® Cognos® software foundation to extend and expand its analytics capabilities ever since.
“Cognos is embedded in our business at almost every level—we have around 10,000 employees, and 2,500 of them rely on daily, weekly, or monthly Cognos reports to help them make informed decisions,” says Melkeraaen.
“As competition in the retail sector increases, we wanted to move beyond daily to intra-day analysis, particularly during important sales events such as Black Friday. When we saw the latest version of Cognos Analytics, we knew that it would give us the near-real time dashboarding capabilities we needed.”
Going liveWith 2,500 users and thousands of reports to migrate, Elkjøp knew that it needed to prepare carefully to make sure the upgrade was a seamless process.
“The key was good communication,” explains Melkeraaen. “When we showed our users the modern look-and-feel of Cognos Analytics, there was great enthusiasm about the upgrade. We used that positive engagement to persuade them to review all their reports and decide which ones they really wanted us to migrate to the new system. As a result, we were able to clean up our environment, scrap dozens of legacy reports that were no longer useful, and gradually move users onto the new platform. It was a very smooth and successful project.”
The new version provides a significant upgrade to the user experience, with a drag-and-drop approach to building dashboards, and attractive, smoothly rendered visualizations.
“We now have the best of both worlds,” says Melkeraaen. “For the end-users, Cognos Analytics is a big leap forward—it’s just as visually attractive as products like Tableau or Microsoft Power BI, and it makes it easy to build your own reports and dashboards.
“At the same time, it maintains the traditional strengths of the Cognos platform that our BI team depends on. Its enterprise-grade capabilities around integration, data governance, and metadata management are vitally important when you’re supporting 2,500 users and 45,000 reports per week.”
For example, the BI team has been able to integrate Cognos visualizations into the interface of its ERP system, providing a live view of inventory levels at each store. It has also built an audit dashboard that analyzes the analytics platform’s own logfiles, to monitor user activity and troubleshoot any errors or performance problems quickly.
For Melkeraaen, the jewel in the crown of the Cognos Analytics toolset is Framework Manager, which allows his team to package raw data from the company’s data warehouse into well-structured data models that are easy for users to understand and include in their own reports.
“It’s like a buffet—users can take whatever information they want and just drop it into their reports,” he comments. “Cognos even suggests suitable ways to visualize the data, so you don’t have to design complex charts yourself. Building a new dashboard used to take us up to a month; now it’s a matter of hours, or even minutes.”
Insight drives performanceWith the new version of Cognos Analytics in place, the Elkjøp BI team decided to build a new sales dashboard as a showcase for the platform.
“Our intention was both to get users excited about the new visualization capabilities, and to deliver direct value to the business by providing a whole new level of insight,” says Melkeraaen.
“We created a dashboard to analyze intra-day sales, which is fed by a stream of data from our point of sale systems that is updated every five seconds. You can see sales at every store across the whole Nordic region as they tick up over the course of the day, and compare them with the previous year’s performance, and with current targets.”
This live dashboard delivers huge value to the business during major sales events such as Black Friday.
“Last Black Friday, our executives were monitoring the dashboard every minute of the day, looking at the top- and bottom-performing stores and sales teams, and taking immediate action whenever they noticed a problem,” says Melkeraaen.
“The ability to monitor every transaction in every store over the course of the day empowers them to make the right decisions at the right time, and make sure we take every opportunity to hit our sales targets. We’re confident that the dashboard helped to boost the morale of our salespeople, providing an aspect of gamification that encouraged healthy competition between chains, stores, and categories—contributing to an additional drive for a record-breaking Black Friday performance.”
He concludes: “Cognos Analytics is helping us push the boundaries of what analytics can do for our business. As we develop more near-real time reporting capabilities, we’ll unlock new ways for our decision-makers to turn data to Elkjøp’s advantage. At the same time, thanks to the platform’s enterprise features, we can be confident that whatever we do will scale robustly to meet the demand of thousands of users across the business.”
About Elkjøp Nordic
Elkjøp Nordic is the market leader in the electronics retail sector in the Nordic region. It operates more than 400 stores across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, and provides wholesale services for locally owned stores in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. It employs over 11,000 people, and achieved revenues of approximately USD 4.1 billion in 2016/17.
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