Guide to Data Analytics Tools: Features, Benefits and How to Choose the Right One

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Published on
December 9, 2020

Whether you’re an experienced data analyst or just learning how to interpret data to improve business performance, you know there’s no shortage of data analytics tools available to help you connect, analyze and visualize your data.

And if you’re just getting started evaluating data analytics tools, you likely have a list of questions as well. Questions like:

How do you know if (and when) you need a data analytics tool?

What’s the best data analytics tool?

How do I choose a data analytics tool?

Which data analytics features will help my business the most?

While there are no one-size-fits-all answers - data analytics tools and processes depend on each business’s unique needs - we’re here to help you navigate the maze of data analytics tools and find one (or two) that best fit your unique needs. Let’s get started.

What are data analytics tools?

The main purpose of data analytics tools is to process and manipulate data, making it easier to identify relationships, patterns, and trends in your data.

The results of data analysis can then be used to help companies better understand their customers, plan impactful marketing campaigns, effectively allocate advertising budgets, customize content for different demographics, forecast inventory, develop new products and services based on their customer’s needs and behavior and more.

Put simply, data analytics tools help businesses understand collected data from a variety of sources, and respond in ways that help them achieve their business goals.

What do data analytics tools help you do?

To help you visualize how data analytics tools can make an impact in your business, here are a few use cases:

Faster and stronger decision making

When companies don’t have a streamlined data analysis process, they can quickly become overwhelmed by the volume of data and number of data sources they have to work with, and have a hard time figuring out what to focus on.

Data analytics tools help you organize, analyze, interpret, and clearly understand all that data, with far less manual effort. That means business decisions can be made faster, and with more confidence and accuracy.

For example, if a small online store is looking to order inventory for an upcoming holiday season, the ability to analyze holiday sales from the previous year can help them decide which categories of product to focus on (based on sales, revenue and profitability), how much to order, and where and how to best market their products. Data-driven decision making can be a powerful catalyst for business growth.

More effective and profitable marketing

Even with the catchiest slogans, the most brand equity or the best influencers to push your products, poorly constructed and poorly reported marketing efforts will always fall short. A Rakuten Marketing survey found that many marketers actually expect more than 25% of their marketing budget to go to waste on the wrong audience or channels.

Data interpreted through a data analytics tool can help you understand your audience on a deeper level and craft campaigns that speak directly to your target market, driving them to convert at a higher rate. It can also help you identify the best channels to maximize your marketing dollars, ensuring you don’t waste valuable ad spend.

Unbeatable customer service

When you better understand who your target audience is, how to reach them, what they’re looking for, and how you can tailor your business experience to meet their needs (all things you can identify through data analysis), you’ll be able to not just meet but exceed customer expectations.

With 80% of consumers now purchasing from companies that provide a personalized experience, it’s easy to see how upgrading your customer service can impact your bottom line - and data analysis helps you do that.

How do you know if it’s the right time to invest in a data analytics tool?

While there are some free and low-cost options on the market, deciding to use a data analytics tool can be a big investment for many businesses.

Depending on the type of data analytics tool you choose, there may be upfront and ongoing financial costs, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month. You may need to invest in additional resources with data analytics expertise, or additional training for your current employees. And no matter which type of data analytics tool you choose, you’ll be investing some time in evaluation, decision-making and onboarding.

But if your business is at the stage where you need more advanced, more customizable or more automated reporting and analytics, a data analytics tool can be well worth the time and money investment - and can even help you save time and money in the longterm.

>>> Glew provides a range of data analytics tools for merchants of all sizes and budgets, from a user-friendly pre-built dashboard application to robust custom reporting, powered by all-inclusive data pipelines, data warehouse and data visualization. Learn more.

Here are a few indicators that your business might be ready for a data analytics tool:

  • You’re currently doing some level of reporting and analytics, but feel like you need to take it to the next level to help you uncover opportunities and solve more complex challenges
  • You’re frustrated by data stored in multiple different platforms and locations
  • Internal resources are spending too much time on manual data aggregation and reporting
  • There are gaps in your performance reporting - for example, connecting online and in-store sales or understanding your true marketing channel attribution
  • You have a sense that a lack of clarity in your data is hindering your business’s growth

What are different types of data analytics tools?

Data analytics tools come in many different shapes and sizes, from low-cost analytics tools that offer a few pre-built metrics and dashboards to powerful, customizable business intelligence platforms that allow for a wide range of data analysis and reporting.

Below are just a few types of data analytics tools you’ll find:

Pre-built dashboard tools
These tools, typically on the lower end of the price spectrum, allow you to connect data sources and access a handful of metrics and pre-built dashboards immediately. These are a great option for smaller businesses just getting into data analysis, or businesses who want to explore analytics tools with a smaller budget.

Self-serve dashboard tools

Providing a little more customization and flexibility than pre-built dashboard tools, self-serve dashboard tools allow the end user to create their own dashboards and reports from connected data sources (either by querying the data themselves or dragging/dropping/selecting metrics) - typically with some templates or pre-built dashboards included, too. This can be a great option for businesses that need a bit more customization in their reporting, but don’t have extensive data analysis expertise.

BI tools

A more advanced option, BI (or business intelligence) tools focus on the data visualization piece of the process, offering full customization of reports and dashboards. To get the best use out of a BI tool, you’ll typically need internal resources with significant data analysis expertise (and keep in mind that unless your BI tool includes access to a data pipeline and data warehouse, you’ll typically need to invest in those separately, as well).

>>> Glew is one of the only business intelligence tools on the market that includes pre-built dashboards and metrics, self-serve report creation, and powerful custom reporting, with included data pipeline and data warehouse functionality. Learn more.

4 key features to look for when evaluating data analytics tools

Every business has unique needs when it comes to finding the perfect data analytics tool. Those needs can depend on a business’s size, industry, internal resources, technologies used, goals of data analysis and more.

But to get you started, here are some of the most common features you’ll want to look for in a data analytics tool:

(Just a note - you may find data analytics tools that offer these features out of the box, as well as ones that allow you to create reports and dashboards yourself using this data. It just depends on the type of data analytics tool you’re looking for - something with instantly available, automatic reports, or something more customizable that you can build yourself).

Performance analytics

Performance analytics - the metrics and data analysis that help you understand how your business is doing, where your opportunities are and what you need to do to drive growth at the highest level - are one of the main reasons businesses invest in data analytics tools.

That means it’s critical to find a data analytics tool that provides powerful performance analytics - from sales and revenue reporting to web traffic, conversion rate, lifetime value, average order value, customer acquisition cost and more.

Product analytics

For ecommerce stores, data analysis isn’t just about knowing how many of each item you sell on a weekly basis. You need the power to analyze as much data as possible related to your products - who’s buying them, through which channels, how fast, how much profit you’re making and more.

Look for a data analytics tool with a heavy focus on products that includes data along the entire customer journey, from inventory to purchase to customer support and satisfaction.

When provided with an abundance of product data to report on, you’ll be able to better manage your inventory, decide on pricing that helps sales and your bottom line, predict and adapt to sales trends, and ultimately get more product into the hands of eager customers.

Customer analytics

What’s a business without customers? Even worse, what’s a business that doesn’t understand its customers?.

A data analytics tool that features strong customer analytics will help you identify unique groups within your customer base, figure out which platforms to focus your marketing efforts on, better understand customer purchase behavior, and even calculate important metrics like the lifetime value of a customer.

Just like with any relationship, the more you understand about the people you’re trying to reach, the better response you can expect.

Scheduled and automated reports

Data analysis is more effective when shared with the right people at the right time, and ensuring that your team has access to the data they need is a critical component of data analytics tools.

A data analytics tool that offers a scheduled reports feature will help you automatically compile and send performance snapshots and deep dive reports in different areas, either daily, weekly, monthly, or on a schedule of your choice. This makes it easier to keep team members in the loop, and automates manual and repetitive reporting tasks like weekly performance reporting, so your team can focus on more strategic things.

Integration capabilities

Data analytics tools, by definition, require data in order to have an impact - and that means they need to play nicely with the other tools you use in your business.

While it’s not always necessary to integrate all of the technology platforms your business uses, a data analytics tool that works with the most important and impactful tools you currently use will allow you to connect the data that’s most important to your business in one place, providing for better and more impactful reporting. The most important things to be sure you can connect?

  • Your ecommerce cart and any retail POS systems you use
  • Google Analytics
  • Your marketing channels (including things like Facebook, Google Ads, Instagram, Klaviyo, Mailchimp, and any other paid or owned marketing channels)
  • Your warehouse management or inventory management software
  • Any other critical business systems you use

3 questions to ask when choosing a data analytics tool

Data analytics tools can help strengthen and grow your business. But how do you find the best one to meet your needs?

Before you start your search, take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions about your business, current processes, and future goals and needs. The answers will make your search for the right data analytics tool much easier.

1. What is my business looking to achieve through data analytics?

If your business is looking for its first data analytics tool, what type of data do you need to evaluate, and what are you hoping to do with it? If you’re already using a data analytics tool, what’s prompting you to look for a different option?

Essentially, you need to know your why. If you’re searching for a tool simply because the latest industry newsletter says you need one, you’re starting your data analysis journey on the wrong foot.

But if you know that learning the specifics about your customer base or understanding the performance of your recent marketing campaigns can help you save resources and boost revenue, you’re more likely to be successful in your search for the perfect tool.

Keep in mind that not all businesses need to analyze their data through a third-party right away. If you’re just getting started, take the time to explore your data yourself firsthand. Then, you’ll be able to better appreciate what data analytics tools can do for your business, and what you need from one.

2. What do I want future data analysis processes to look like?

The first question should help you understand what you want to analyze and why you need to. But you also need to have an understanding of what you want your data analysis to look like, so you know how you’re going to get there.

If you’re a one-man (or -woman) shop with limited resources, you may want a tool that provides automated reporting and analytics out of the box. If you have a team of analysts, you may want something with more customization so that you can build the exact reports and dashboards you need. If you have a large team or frequently need to present data to a board or investors, you may want a tool that easily supports scheduled reports, email delivery and PDFs. Understanding your ideal processes can help you find the best tool for your business.

3. What are my non-negotiables?

What features and capabilities are must-haves for your business? What data integrations do you absolutely need? What level of support do you want? What’s your budget?

Making a list of non-negotiables will help you quickly weed out data analytics tool options that will never fit the bill. Once you have a shortened list of contenders, you can see which ones check the boxes off your list of non-negotiables the best.

Glew is a data analytics tool specifically designed for businesses that sell online and can help businesses improve their reporting and analytics processes and drive growth through access to insights from their data.

We’ve designed our platform to appeal to all users, from ecommerce managers and store owners to data scientists. Glew eliminates time-consuming data integration, long onboarding processes and manual reporting tasks, with instantly available dashboards for customers, products, inventory, marketing channels, performance analytics and more. Learn more.

Get started with the right data analytics tool

The world of data analytics tools can be overwhelming. Whether you’re looking for your first data analytics tool or an upgraded version of something you’ve been using, it can be difficult to decide what’s best for your business.

Remember - a tool that’s perfect for one business might not be the right match for yours. Understand your needs, identify your top feature requirements, and explore your options with an open mind. And once you do have a tool in mind, there are plenty of other tools and platforms you can use to grow your ecommerce business. We have a great guide to help you get started.

To learn more about Glew and how our data analytics software can help your business, reach out to one of our team members today and start your free trial.

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