Using Power BI to Provide Recommendations To Website Visitors

When we hear about business intelligence tools like Power BI, the first thing that comes to mind is reporting. Typically, we associate “business intelligence” with reports and analytics that help people make decisions, and generally speaking, these “people” are internal users at an organization (sales people for example), their managers and/or leaders who are responsible for the growth and direction of their respective teams, departments, business units or the entire organization. But why can’t this same intelligence be shared with their customers so they can make decisions for themselves too?

Power BI’s ability to expose reports and dashboards externally (on a website; in an email) can be extremely insightful for the audience that has access to it. Any organization, not for profit, agency or establishment that deals with/has data can make meaningful reports for its customers so they can make their own decisions.

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say we are a “Yelp” like organization that provides recommendations to our customers on what to do when they go to a certain city. When someone visits a new place, let’s say lower Manhattan, they would want to know places for dining (different kinds of food), shopping, nail salons, night clubs, post offices, and visitor centers, among many other places. To find these recommendations, they like to come to our website, find out what’s around them in their new city, and then decide what they want to do, and where they want to go. What’s the easiest way to expose this information to our website, especially if we have all this data in our CRM?

With Power BI, you can create graphical dashboards/reports with such information really quickly, and embed them on your website. In this example below, we see four components – (1) a map that shows physical location of all sorts of establishments in lower Manhattan, (2) a couple of lists that lets the user choose a primary (eating, shopping, nightlife) and secondary (Indian, Italian, fast food; chocolates, cigars, cars; club, bar) category, (3) a third list that shows the actual names of location, and (4) the last list that shows the address of selected location.

(Note: This is fully functional embedded Power BI report – play with it!)

 

At first glance, as a visitor coming to the website, I have a few first impressions:

1. Looking at the map, I know I have several options in the lower Manhattan area. The legend also really quickly tells me what kind of options are available.
2. The four lists tell me that I have the ability to really drill down/ narrow down my choices. I like that I have the options and sub-options (dining->type of food, for example).
3. Totals: I know that I have 764 options to choose from. (As I drill down, I also notice that these totals change to reflect the available options for a given primary or secondary category)

There are a few options I have here as I start interacting here.

1. I can either zoom in and out on the map, and start clicking specific locations. The lists on the left update with information on what exactly that location is. Just bringing my mouse on a location pops up for more information about it.


(Note: Interacting with this map on an iPad or iPhone does not bring up the popup)

2. Or, I can start drilling down on the lists to the right. I will start with the Primary category, then choose secondary, and then find a location I want to go to. Doing so will also tell me the exact location on the map, and also the address of it on the last list.


3. I don’t always have to start with the Primary category. I can start wherever I want, and still find the results I am looking for. For example, I can start with the Secondary category, and look for ice cream options available in the area. In our example, there is only one, and by looking at the results, I know exactly where it is.


Essentially, what we are doing here is providing the information that we house to our visitors, and enabling them to
(1) filter through a plethora of options
(2) self-serve,
(3) make their own decisions,
(4) post a photo on Instagram of the food they ate with the hashtag #bliss

We didn’t do any fancy design work, nor did we write any sort of script to create this report. All we really did was create this report using drag and drop features, and publish it to Powerbi.com from where we got the embed code that goes on our website.

 

Note: Speaking of fancy – you be the judge of the aesthetics of the report here. I like the way I have designed this report (:D) but the Power BI “designer” definitely gives a lot of options to work on the aesthetics of the report.

Conclusion

“Business intelligence” doesn’t always have to be about and for internal users. Using Power BI, we can churn out data in a meaningful manner that can be used by our customers for their specific needs. Also, these reports can be created effortlessly, without the need of a developer or a traditional report builder. The tool is extremely flexible and user friendly, and empowers business users by giving them the ability to server their customers with utmost ease and finesse!

Slight twist(!): Once the report/dashboard is ready, it can definitely be used by internal users too for their own purposes. Remember, dashboards in Power BI can be shown in Dynamics 365 with literally just a few clicks, so, internal users could just be in Dynamics 365 and access this information without having to switch to Power BI. The same report could be accessed in the mobile app in which users can annotate, and share their thoughts with others. And to take things things to a totally ridiculous level, you can even access certain type of information from these dashboards on your Apple Watch (GASP!!)! (And you thought your Apple Watch was good for just counting steps? :))

Data Source: Data.gov