Small Merchants Use Business Intelligence to Make Better Decisions
By Julia Wilkinson
While nurturing a number of small ecommerce startups into large companies, Dane Atkinson struggled to get the kind of business data that could give him the thorough knowledge he needed. This gave him the seed of the idea to start SumAll.
SumAll's mission statement reflects this: "to bring the full power of business intelligence to small and medium sized-companies...the kind of tools that let them leverage their data to make better decisions and more money," and to make the data "beautiful, affordable and accessible." Previously only the largest companies had access to these kinds of reports.
So what kind of data are we talking about, exactly? Using SumAll, you can view revenue, units sold, discounts, taxes and shipping, all in one secure and convenient place. You can also compare this to your website traffic, your social activity or your payment data. "No spreadsheets, no exports, no problem," promises the SumAll website.
You can also filter your sales data into new and returning customers. If, for example, your revenue from new customers is declining over time, it may be a cue to try a new user acquisition campaign. SumAll's tools strive to help you understand the trends and patterns within your business. You can "roll up, drill down and compare periods all with a simple click, and easily identify your top products...Catch the patterns, see the spikes and manage your inventory to make smarter moves that lead to increased sales."
In August, the company launched SumAll Social Metrics, an analytics tool that links a company's Facebook fan page and Twitter account to track social activity against your web traffic and revenue, revealing the return on social marketing.
EcommerceBytes spoke with Atkinson, SumAll CEO, to find out more about the information his tools provide, how they can help you grow your business, and what makes this data so "beautiful." We also spoke to a few businesses using SumAll to see how it has helped them.
EcommerceBytes: What is the story behind the founding of SumAll? What gave you (and/or any other founders) the idea or impetus to create it?
Dane Atkinson: We had been fortunate to run a variety of other ecommerce startups that had grown from quite small businesses into much larger ones. During that time we'd grappled to organize our data to really KNOW what was happening within our business. Eventually with money and resources we built decent reporting systems, but we hypothesized that if we had struggled with this, then likely others had too.
The big box merchants have known the value of big data for years; we felt it was about time that smaller businesses leveraged their insights to grow their businesses. That simple vision led us to create SumAll.
EcommerceBytes: Who do you see as your customers?
Dane Atkinson: Our initial target market is small and mid-sized online retailers, and we started by integrating with a variety of ecommerce platforms and marketplaces (eBay, PayPal, Shopify, Big Commerce, Magento and Google Analytics to date). The rapidly evolving ecommerce space is immensely exciting and offers so many opportunities. Going forward we will look to enhance our offerings by adding a variety of different data types - payments, traffic, marketing/sales support - which will broaden our market reach to both offline sellers and a wider variety of business types.
EcommerceBytes: Do you get a lot of eBay sellers as customers? Do you have any "mom and pop" type eBay sellers?
Dane Atkinson: We only recently launched on eBay but are starting to build momentum nicely. We're seeing a whole variety of seller types, as well as many "mom and pop" sellers.
EcommerceBytes: Do you have a breakdown of how many of your merchants use which selling platforms?
Dane Atkinson: We don't share specific platform numbers, but what we can share is that since launch last December, we've signed up more than 6,000 merchants tracking over $750,000,000 in ecommerce data.
EcommerceBytes: Do you plan to make your tools available to Amazon sellers, and if so when?
Dane Atkinson: Yes, that's certainly a priority for us and will happen shortly.
EcommerceBytes: How is your service different from other reporting tools for online sellers such as Outright?
Dane Atkinson: Our tool is all about business analytics and actionable insights, giving real-time insights into what is happening within your business in real-time. And it's not just the micro view of your business that we give you, but also a macro view when you look at your data against the SumAll benchmark. In our dashboard you're able to link any number of ecommerce stores and link your revenue data to traffic by hooking up your Google Analytics account.
We wanted to make SumAll the one dashboard for viewing a whole slew of data types to help you create meaning and actionable insights across your ecommerce businesses.
EcommerceBytes: What is your favorite SumAll feature?
Dane Atkinson: Can I mention two? I love that you're able to break down your sales by new and returning customers. Really gives insight into who is buying and when and helps target marketing campaigns.
Above: Sample chart showing New and Returning Customers.
Also we have a really neat feature to visualize your time-over-time comparisons. With the drag of a mouse you can compare how you did this week compared to last week, or this month compared to last month or really any period you like.
EcommerceBytes: Is SumAll mainly meant to be used on a mobile phone - or, is that how most of your customers access the data? Can it be used equally well on a desktop, laptop or tablet?
Dane Atkinson: SumAll can be used across a whole variety of platforms - desktop, tablet and mobile. We built the application in HTML 5 so that it's optimized for all environments.
EcommerceBytes: In your "About" text you say you make data "beautiful" - can you elaborate on that?
Dane Atkinson: Absolutely. One of our core founding beliefs is that we should visualize data to make it understandable and accessible to all. Too often the interfaces and design of business intelligence tools are unappealing and difficult to use. We wanted to change the market by making the design and experience of using the tool absolutely central to its development.
Creating fantastic experiences with data we think makes it addictive. And let's face it, who doesn't like to use beautiful, well-crafted things?
Above: SumAll screen showing Top 10 Products Sold for a given time period.
EcommerceBytes: SumAll is currently free to use? Your site mentions that plans with premium features are coming soon. Can you talk about what those might be and what the price range will be?
Dane Atkinson: SumAll is free right now, whilst we are in beta. Going forward, many of the features you see today will continue to be free and we will likely start charging for some premium features using a "freemium" model. We haven't finalized our pricing plans, but will offer entry packages at very affordable price points.
We love to hear from our users and always love their insights on product features, pricing or anything else they wish to share. Frequently we proactively reach out to current users to garner their insights, which has helped us immensely over time.
EcommerceBytes: One of your goals is to make business intelligence tools affordable for everyone, including smaller sellers? Was there a feeling that many tools were too expensive for sellers, and was your basic idea to keep as many of your tools as you can free, and charge only for the premium services?
Dane Atkinson: Yes, we believe in the democratization of data. Traditionally, business intelligence tools have been premium-priced and targeted at larger companies, often depending on analysts to understand and extract relevant reports. We wanted to make business intelligence available to all both in terms of price point and user experience.
Being able to use the tool without being a data expert, and pricing to make accessible for all, we believe will significantly grow volumes in the business intelligence market. Going forward our tool will likely be priced on a freemium model - so many of the features you see today will be free, and we will price for premium features such SKU filtering, multiple stores and collaboration.
EcommerceBytes: Can you tell me a little about SumAll's team and where you are based? Who are your investors?
Dane Atkinson: SumAll is headquartered in NYC. We are a VC backed company - Battery Ventures, General Catalyst, Matrix Partners and Wellington Partners.
SumAll Customer Feedback
Companies who use SumAll like its easy-to-use features - EcommerceBytes spoke to three different online merchants who use SumAll to see why they chose it as a tool and what they get out of it.
SumAll Customer #1: Diamond Candles
"Love the easy to understand graphical user interface that is super easy to use and test out to find new insights," says Justin Winter, co-founder of Diamond Candles, which sells soy candles with a ring inside worth $10 to $5000.
"There have been cases where we have been able to see patterns and measure effectiveness of new marketing campaigns, which help us determine how new projects are performing," he added. Using the data provided by SumAll has gleaned his company knowledge that informed decisions "that, when made, led to thousands of dollars in additional revenue for us." He said in general, using SumAll has been a great, seamless experience.
Winter said because his company uses Shopify, he is somewhat limited to the options available in their app store. "The option we were using was clunky, ugly, and didn't provide much value for us; we knew things could only improve with a newer solution." He also uses Custora, which specializes in cohort analysis, lifetime customer value, and customer life cycle data and analytics. "Along with SumAll, they are a match made in heaven for us," he said.
SumAll Customer #2: In God We Trust
Brooklyn-based clothing and jewelry company In God We Trust found out about SumAll by looking through the Shopify app store. "We didn't have anything before that helped us organize our data, so it seemed like a no-brainer," said Ecommerce Manager Julie Noyce.
Noyce says they connect their Shopify, PayPal, and Google Analytics accounts with SumAll, so that is where they see all their data.
"I like that SumAll is free, and I like the design and simplicity with which you can use it," she said. "It's intuitive in terms of how to discover information. I didn't have to read a bunch of instructions to understand how to use it, etc."
Noyce reported no problems with the tool - "love it so far!"
SumAll Customer #3: Urbio
Blair Stewart, VP of Business Operations for Urbio, which makes unique hanging plant holders and other items for small spaces, says "SumAll has strived to bring all our data into one location, and that really puts them above the rest." He says Urbio is very lean (he's the only full-time employee), and the ability to track Sales, Revenue, Inventory, Web Analytics, etc., from one location is invaluable.
Urbio, like Diamond Candles and In God We Trust, uses the Shopify ecommerce platform, and, like them, Stewart found SumAll through Shopify's app store.
"Currently, my favorite aspect of SumAll is the ability to simultaneously compare two different time periods with whichever data set I want. Since we are dealing with early-stage growth, it is very important to get real-time data on what our business is doing," he said.
Stewart says that although he currently uses DeepMine in conjunction with SumAll, the company plans to leave DeepMine in the near future and just go with SumAll.
"I haven't had any problems with their web-interface," said Stewart, although "the only issues I've had is with their app (seems to crash here and there)." He said SumAll has a great UI, though, and he expects them to get the bugs fixed quickly.
Learn more about this "big data" business intelligence tool on the SumAll website.
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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