Using AI to Determine Price and Boost Revenue in Grocery


Grocers need to surf the waves of ever-changing customer expectations and do whatever it takes to not to join the ranks of the fallen retail empires. Everyone is citing customer experience as priority No.1 for retailers. However, another major lever for retailers to pull to stay alive and even thrive is the price of an item.

Big names highly recognize the importance of price, along with frictionless customer experience, a wide range of offered products and well-planned marketing activities.

Retail giants invest in price optimization heavily, which allows for creating the right price perception and persuade customers.

Advanced retailers recognize that traditional pricing approaches are broken. They are determined to embrace AI for pricing. But how exactly can technology make it easier for smaller operators to stand up and fight, and win?

AI to help retailers compete

Retail giants have been harnessing advanced analytical software like AI to set the right prices for years. Such technology used to be extremely expensive and available to the select few.

Today, more companies, including smaller operators, are getting the chance to grow as such software is becoming simultaneously more sophisticated and accessible to a wider number of players.

According to a series of market tests held by retail price optimization company Competera, elasticity-based machine learning algorithms can help retailers set competitive prices and raise revenue by 5 percent and beyond.

Vladimir Kuchkanov, pricing solutions architect at the company, comments on how artificial intelligence can be advantageous for smaller supermarkets competing with the likes of Walmart.

“The retail king has better chances from the beginning. Thanks to the huge amount of products it buys from suppliers, the company can negotiate better purchase prices,” he says. ‘To compete with it, smaller food chains need to identify a pool of products which have to be priced lower than at Walmart – even if they are selling at a loss. This would keep attracting customers. ”

However, it is just the start. “On the other hand, businesses need to indicate a group of items that can be priced higher without risking to scare off shoppers. This way retailers can compensate for low or negative profit margins they inevitably have in their fight with Walmart. But this begs two major questions: How to identify such items and how to price them. Managers can not do that as there are too many parameters to take into account. That’s why retailers bring AI into play,” adds Vladimir.

Another challenge the technology helps retailers to tackle is the management of private label products, which are essential for creating a unique and recognizable brand and winning the hearts of customers.

Retailers can choose one of two options when it comes to adopting AI in pricing. They can either invest heavily in developing an internal system or find a technological partner offering a turn-key solution evolving along with the needs of the retailer. 

Technology’s efficiency in recommending optimal prices

AI-powered algorithms enhance people with enormous computational power, making them very rapid and precise in their decisions. Such algorithms process massive and unyielding – for humans – amounts of data regarding hundreds of pricing and non-pricing parameters to suggest the optimal prices for the whole product portfolio.

The data AI needs to analyze include competitive prices, customer behavior, the retailer’s past performance, and current business goals, as well as weather and cross-price elasticity. Algorithms browse through the infinite number of pricing scenarios which equals the number of atoms in the universe to come up with the most beneficial one in real-time.

When it comes to calculating optimal prices for private label items, the technology identifies latent clusters of similar products and assigns such items to the most affinitive clusters.

What are the benefits for people? AI-enhanced managers switch to data-driven pricing, get ahold of unmanageable promotional campaigns, set the right prices for private label products that differentiate them from competitors, and finally have time to turn to high-level decision-making and improve customer experience.

As Microsoft’s chief technology officer, enterprise, Norm Judah explains: “AI is about augmenting human ingenuity. Whether you’re a seller, marketer, a lawyer or something else, AI will change the way you make decisions. It can help you navigate vast amounts of data and give you advice and recommendations about how to proceed. What you do with that advice is up to you. ”

The technology available to the big retailers is slowly becoming more accessible to companies. So, why not try out its proven potential to raise revenue and grow? If you are interested in transforming your business with AI technologies and business intelligence solutions contact allonline365 to get some advice on the best software systems that are affordable and the right fit for your business. Contact us on or  +27 (21) 205 3650.

Resource Credit | Progressive Grocer

Tech terms every modern retailer must know

tech in the retail industry

Technology and consumer behavior in the retail industry are moving faster than ever, leaving many retailers dazed and confused. Should I get informed about the cloud? What is the difference between AR and VR? But most importantly, what technology do I need in my stores?

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The simulation of human intelligence processes such as the ability to recognize images, text, or speech and the ability to take decisions by computer systems.

How does this affect my business? Although we shouldn’t worry about being replaced by intelligent robot-employees just yet, AI has become an important investment for retailers. Take chatbots, programs that can conduct conversations: they are one of the stronger drivers behind the spread of the 24/7 customer service. They are popular with customers, too: according to an IBM study, 65% of millennials would rather interact with bots when in need of service than talk to a live agent. AI-powered visual search (you take a picture of a product, and the software shows you similar items), and voice-based search and even shopping are also getting increasingly popular. By 2020, 50% of all searches will be carried out by voice, comSore predicts.

Smart retailers have already started reevaluating their product data and online resources to ensure they do not miss this opportunity.

Augmented reality (AR)

A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image over real-life environments. The result is a composite view that mixes the real world with digital imagery and data.

Does this matter? In the past few years, retailers across different industries have been playing with AR apps. Most experiments had the goal of either enhancing the customer experience or decreasing the risk of product returns. In the latter case, the concept of the use AR apps to let customers virtually test a product – for example, seeing if a makeup item matches their skin hue, if a dress looks flattering, or whether a new sofa fits in the living room. These are, however, early days; it is still unclear whether AP apps have an effect on diminishing product returns.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Organizations’ business data is usually dispersed, being collected and stored across different systems. Business Intelligence software collects all this data from different sources, integrates it, and analyzes it. It also transforms raw data into actionable, insightful information that can be used for better decision making.

Should I look into BI? The amount of data that companies produce has been growing at a dizzying rate. BI software can help retailers effectively mine this data for insights, so they can use it to make profitable, informed decisions. Cloud-based software, in specific, is getting increasingly popular, as it enables retailers to use great computing powers and complex datasets to crunch their data – all without having to make major investments.

Click and Collect

Also known as “BOPIS” (buy online, pick up in-store), this shopping model lets customers order or buy products from a website, and pick them up from a physical store location.

Is this for me? There are three very powerful reasons to implement click and collect in your stores.

  1. Click and collect is popular with customers, as it lets them select and pick up at their own pace. This is especially important to modern customers, whose busy lives mean they don’t always have the time to wait for a delivery at home.
  2. It helps drive traffic into the store.
  3. Click and collect has been shown to increase basket size. According to OnePoll research, 65% of customers using click and collect make unplanned extra purchases while they are picking up their orders in-store.

Cloud Computing

Essentially, “cloud” is another name for the internet. Cloud-based services – storage and access of data and programs, network, analytics and more – are accessed and delivered over the internet, on-demand.

How will it help my retail business? Cloud computing is currently the fastest-growing segment of IT. IHL Group reports that cloud-based software is bringing retailers lifecycle cost savings of 25-50%. How? To start, cloud-based solutions tend to require lower upfront investments than traditional on-premises software. The cloud also enables businesses to access a host of innovative services (for example, AI and machine learning) which would be way too complex and costly to implement on-prem. Consumer tastes and behaviors change faster than ever. Cloud-based software can give retailers the agility they need to keep up with changing demands.

Cloud-based POS (or online POS)

Point of sale software that can be directly accessed from the web, and is usually run on a web browser.

Is this for me? Cloud-based POS has been steadily growing in popularity. According to Hospitality Technology’s latest “POS Software Trends Report”, 61% of businesses want their next POS system to be cloud-based. Some of the reasons behind this trend are cost-effectiveness and scalability: online POS is usually available as a service, for a monthly rental fee, and does not require large upfront investments. on top of that, online POS systems can be quickly deployed (no local hardware and software installation is required), and as they run on web browsers, they are compatible with most hardware. They are especially suitable for retailers with good network connectivity, and ideal for businesses prone to seasonality.

EMV Standard

A global standard for secure payments. EMV cards are embedded with a smart chip that ensures that the card is valid. The EMV standard applies to credit cards, debit cards, and to the payment terminals and ATMs that accept them.

Is this important? EMV helps protect retailers and consumers from fraud, removing the responsibility from merchants in case of losses deriving from the use of counterfeit. lost or stolen cards. Today, retailers in several countries are required by law to have EMV-compliant payment terminals. Retailers that don’t comply are considered liable for any fraudulent credit card charge that takes place on their premises.

Check the legislation in the countries where you operate, and make sure your software is always compliant with legal requirements.

Endless Aisles

A concept that allows customers to browse and order products that are not available in-store, and have them shipped to any store location, or to their home address.

Should I look into this? Today’s consumers expect the same large product variety and speed of search in-store and online. The endless aisles concept enables retailers to offer a much broader product assortment without the costs associated with sending stock to each store, and without the constraints of limited floor space. At the same time, the possibility to access a much larger inventory means that retailers don’t have to lose sales opportunities just because an item is out of stock in a specific store location.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

An ERP system is a business management software that is implemented to improve the flow of data and to automate and facilitate business processes in the whole organization.

Do I need an ERP? At the most basic level, an ERP system consolidates and reconciles revenue, inventory, and customer data in one place, consequently improving productivity and analytics. There are, however, many more reasons why every retail company needs an ERP. If you want to ensure business growth, this is a software platform you need to look into.

Hybrid Cloud

A Cloud computing environment that combines on-premises and cloud-based services and applications.

Could the hybrid cloud benefit my business? Hybrid models are becoming increasingly popular. That’s unsurprising, as a hybrid strategy enables businesses to tailor their investments and technological architecture. choosing the mix of in-house and cloud-based applications that best fits their needs. In practice, a hybrid model enables you to maintain your previous tech investments, and a the same time try out new technology, staying flexible while keeping risks at a minimum.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is a network formed by all the physical devices (items, vehicles, buildings, etc.) that can connect to the internet, and to each other, and exchange data thanks to their embedded sensors and software.

Why should I care? From wearable technology, such as smartwatches, to smart home appliances such as fridges and light bulbs, to connected t-shirts that monitor the heart rate, IoT-connected items are a profitable new market. But it’s in-store that IoT has made the biggest impact in retail, helping speed up queues, optimize replenishment, and generally transform the business. Think, for example, of smart shelves, which use weight sensors and RFID tags to alert store managers when products are running low or when an item has been misplaced, optimizing inventory and reducing the risk of out-of-stocks. Amazon Go’s cashless store uses IoT technology to make shopping seamless; sensors track what customers are buying, then tally up the items and detract the costs from the app. Other retailers have been using sensors in-store to check what products customers are looking at, where shoppers walk, what items they inspect or try on – but then do not buy. If you are looking into innovative ways to optimize the shopping experience and cut inefficiencies, you might want to look at the opportunities of smart technology.

Machine Learning

An application of artificial intelligence that allows the software to learn from its experience without having to be programmed explicitly.

Does it matter to me? Machine Learning is changing retail. From optimizing product prices (think about Amazon’s or Uber’s dynamic pricing model) to forecasting sales, its applications in retail are endless. Perhaps the most popular, and profitable, use is through personalized product recommendations, with software suggesting consumer items that they might be interested in based on their, and other shoppers, previous purchases.  Amazon reported that 35% of its revenue comes from recommendations made by machine learning algorithms. Other retailers have experienced similarly remarkable returns. And it’s not only e-commerce businesses that can benefit: software solutions like LS Recommend can be deployed across your physical stores, too, to help in-store employees deliver spot-on suggestions.

Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS)

A mobile, wireless device, usually a tablet or smartphone, that performs the functions of a traditional cash register or POS system.

Do I need it? With mobile POS, retailers can bring the Point of Sale to the consumer. This means faster service, shorter queues at the cash register and the ability to serve customers, show products not available in-store, and even close sales anywhere on the shop floor. Mobile POS has revolutionized the retail industry: according to Capterra’s “Research on mobile POS software systems used in the retail industry”, 62% of retail workers say mPOS has made their jobs easier – and over 25% of retail workers say that mPOS has increased the number of products that customers buy. If you are still keeping your sales staff stuck to the register, you should start looking into the benefits mobile POS can bring.

Point of Sale (POS) System

The combination of software and hardware that is used to manage sales, close transactions and simplify day-to-day retail operations. A good POS system replaces the traditional cash register, while also bringing much-needed extra functionality that goes beyond pure sales transactions.

Do I really need it? The right POS will improve your customer service, increase your speed and accuracy of service, and make your inventory, reporting and ordering more efficient. A modern POS system is not optional for retailers. Are you looking for a new POS system but not sure what features you should look for? LS Central gives a great overview of the key functionality needed.

Unified Commerce

An approach that provides customers with a seamless experience on all sales channels. This is achieved by retailers replacing all the separate, badly integrated software solutions and databases used across their business with just one, enterprise-wide platform.

Do I need it in my business? Unified Commerce software centralizes all data on products, offers, orders. consumer habits and preferences in one place. This enables retailers to easily oversee their information and to manage it in a uniform, consistent way across all of their sales channels. With Unified Commerce software, retailers can reduce complexity and errors, which leads to simpler, more effective decision-making. At the same time, they can use their knowledge of consumers to build more engaging and personalized customer interactions. An outstanding 81% of retailers say they plan to deploy Unified Commerce software within three tears, BRP Consulting reports. Unified Commerce is, arguably, the future of retail.

Virtual Reality (VR)

A 3D, computer-generated environment that can be interacted with, usually using special equipment such as a visor with a screen, or gloves fitted with sensors.

Do I need it? A few years ago, long-distance shopping through VR goggles seemed to be around the corner. Although the time of shoppable virtual stores hasn’t come yet, virtual reality is a very flexible technology, and forward-thinking retailers have found different ways to employ VR tools in the back office. Some of the uses we have seen include store design planning, shelf assortment, and product layout setup, staff training, and even 3D mapping of store analytics, as VR cab help better visualize the customer journey in every single location. Despite the multiple uses, VR is not yet a mainstream technology in retail.


Resource Credit | LS Retail 

Power BI: How to get started with data visualization

Microsoft Power BI: A cheat sheet for business professionals

The big data revolution continues in earnest and enterprises continue to generate more and more data about every business interaction they can track. Couple this with the volume of data now being generated by devices and sensors connected via the Internet of Things and you begin to appreciate the universal need for better data visualization.

All of this generated data must be transformed into actionable information that decision-makers can use. Data visualizations in the form of dashboards and reports must be developed and shared throughout the enterprise, crossing departmental and sometimes even international lines.

Microsoft’s Power BI suite of data visualization tools is designed to accomplish the transformation of data into useful information. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about Power BI.

Executive summary

  • what it is: Power BI is a set of visualization tools that allow users to transform collected data into actionable information for decision-makers.
  • Why it matters: In a modern enterprise, the ability to transform data into something useful is paramount for achieving overall success.
  • Who it affects: Power BI is a vital tool for any enterprise employee trying to communicate information to management, stakeholders, or other decision-makers.

What it is

Power BI is Microsoft’s suite of data visualization tools. The suite allows users to transform data found within, and even outside of the enterprise. Power BI can tap into numerous data sources, including SQL Server, Excel, SalesForce, and Google Analytics.

Why it matters

The ability to transform the huge amount of data generated by business enterprises into some form of actionable information that decision-makers can use on a regular basis is critical to the success of the enterprise. Power BI provides tools for transforming raw data into information that be presented in dashboards, documents, and reports.

Who it affects

Anyone in an enterprise who needs to communicate information to their department, managers, vendors, or to the enterprise, in general, can use Power BI’s data visualization tools to make it happen. Power BI has a number of templates to get even the most technology-challenged user started, and Microsoft provides many free educational training videos that can help turn novice users into experts.

How to get it

Power BI is available in several ways. The most obvious is as a free web service users can access with a standard web browser. The free service is limited to cloud data sources and simple dashboard sharing, and it’s restricted to individual use. The free service is limited to 1GB of capacity per day.

The Power BI Pro service is subscription-based. The Pro version allows users to access all supported data sources and is designed for business use. This version is limited to 10GB of capacity per day.

A desktop version of Power BI is also available for download. And enterprises with large mobile workforces can use the mobile version of Power BI, which is available on Windows 10, Apple iOS, and Android platforms.

For Office 365 subscribers, Power BI is available at no additional cost as part of the productivity suite. Users with the appropriate Office 365 subscriptions and administrative credentials can also download a desktop or mobile version of Power BI to use at their workstations or on their mobile devices. Power BI and its data sources are administered at the enterprise level, so you may need to ask your IT department for access.

How to configure an Excel file for use in Power BI

One of the simplest ways to take advantage of Power BI’s data visualization abilities is to link it with an Excel workbook – it’s the way most business users will employ the Power BI tool. But there are some key tips to keep in mind before you attempt to link your Excel workbook. This quick tutorial will show you how to prepare your workbook for Power BI.

Flatten your data

For Excel power users, this may come as a bit of a shock, but workbooks destined to be linked to Power BI for its data visualization tools must be restricted to flat data. That means no matrix views and especially no pivot tables.

Take a look at the example Excel workbook shown in Figure A. It is a list of stocks and some common data points typically associated with stocks: shares, prices, gain/loss, etc. Notice that there are no summed columns or rows, just column headings.

In general, an Excel workbook like this one would have conditional formatting, summed columns, and so on. If you have a workbook you want to link to Power BI with those kinds of analysis already embedded, you will have to deconstruct it until you get down to a pristine list of flat data.

The next step is to convert your flat data into the standard Excel table format. The easiest way to do this is by highlighting the data in your workbook and pressing Ctrl+T. Or if you prefer, you can click the Format As Table icon in the Ribbon of the Home Tab. Make sure the box that indicates your data has column headers is checked. This procedure will allow you to convert your flat data into a standard Excel table as shown in Figure B.

This last step is optional but it is recommended as a way to reduce confusion in the future. You should name your table something descriptive that you will recognize and understand later. Highlight the cells of the table, click the table name box and give it a new descriptive name.

Now your Excel workbook is ready to be linked to Power BI. If you do not prepare your workbook this way Power BI will just ignore it, so this process can’t be avoided.

How to create your first Power BI dashboard

With a few clicks Power BI can transform your raw data into a visual dashboard that informs the reader and reveals information that otherwise might not have been shrouded by the white noise of enterprise data overload.

Get data

The first thing you need to do when creating a dashboard is to access the data. For this example, we will get our data from an Excel workbook. Load up Power BI inside Office 365 and then click the Get Data button located at the bottom of the left navigation pane, as shown below.

One of the choices will be Files. Click that button and proceed to the location where your Excel file is stored. Find your file, point to it, and click the Connect button, shown in Figure B.

It will take a few minutes to process, depending on the size of the workbook. Once it’s finished, you will be presented with a blank Power BI workspace. On the left navigation pane, click the name of the dataset you just imported. The blank workspace will then change into an active dashboard creation tool. It should look something like Figure C.

Create your dashboard

Similar to a paint program, Power BI has icons that represent the various data visualization tools you can use for your dashboard. It also displays a Fields section, where you can choose what data you want to work with at any given point.

The example is a portfolio of stocks, so one useful visualization might be to show the market value of each stock in relation to the whole portfolio – and the most common way to do that is with a pie chart. Click the checkbox for the stock name and the market value and then click the pie chart icon. Power BI will automatically create a pie chart, similar to the one shown in Figure D.

Another important visualization for our stock portfolio would be to see where we have a gain versus where we have a loss. A bar chart would work for this. Click the checkbox for stock name and gain/loss and then click the bar chart icon to create a visualization of gains and losses (Figure E).

Click the save icon in the toolbar to reserve this dashboard report for later viewing. By tying the dataset to an Excel workbook, our dashboard will change when the data changes in the workbook.

How to harness OneDrive to keep your Power BI dashboard fresh

One of the primary benefits of working in a cloud-based environment is the ability to access data with any device and any application at any time. Connecting to data stored in the cloud means that data can always be up to date when you access it, so as long as there is an internet connection, you will always be up to date.

In Power BI you can create dashboards and reports that will always contain the latest data by connecting to a file stored on OneDrive. When you or your team update a file on OneDrive, the changes are disseminated to everyone with access to that cloud storage. Changes on OneDrive can also be communicated to apps like Power BI, saving time and increasing overall productivity. Connecting to data on OneDrive with Power Bi is similar to connecting to any other file, but there are some additional procedures to keep in mind.


To connect an Excel file located on OneDrive, follow the steps we showed you above. Only this time, choose a different location. In Figure A, I can choose from Local Files, OneDrive (Personal), OneDrive for Business, and a SharePoint Team Site.

For the purpose of keeping the data connected to Power BI up to date, the two OneDrives and the SharePoint location would all work. In this example, we connected an Excel workbook on the OneDrive for Business server. Be sure to choose the Import connection.

Using the sample data of a simple report of salespeople and their respective sales of products and geographical areas (Figure B), I created the simple Power BI report shown in Figure C.

Because the data connection was made to a file on OneDrive, any changes made to that Excel workbook will automatically flow to the Power BI report. Note: The default refresh rate for Power BI is one hour. To see more immediate results, you will likely have to refresh the data manually by clicking the Refresh button on the Ribbon of your report. 

Dynamic data

Just by connecting to data stored on OneDrive or SharePoint, users can keep their Power BI reports and dashboards continuously updated automatically. This not only saves time, but it also eliminates the need to remember to update reports that need to be disseminated to a team, department, or even an entire company. You can’t get much more productive or efficient than that.

How to share your Power BI dashboards and reports

The advantage of sharing Power BI dashboards versus mass distribution is that you can target and tailor each report for a specific individual, group, team, department, or entire enterprise if necessary. Once you have created your Power BI dashboard, sharing is not difficult but there are some steps involved and a few caveats to consider.

Learning to share

The key thing to remember about Power BI sharing is that it is domain-based. In other words, the Power BI dashboard is created under the domain, it can be shared only with other email addresses in that domain. It is important that the enterprise IT department and Office 365 administrators understand this limitation and plan accordingly.

To share a dashboard, first open Power BI. In this example,  I am using Office 365 version. Next, navigate to the dashboard you want to share. Right-click the dashboard name in the navigation or click the Share button on the tab bar in the upper-right corner. Either method will take you to a screen where you can list email addresses of the people you want to share this dashboard within your enterprise. It should look something like Figure A.

As you can see, you can send a message with each invitation, which will be a good place to explain what you are sharing and why. Also, note the two checkboxes located near the bottom of the screen. The first lets you grant permission to recipients to re-share your dashboard with others. The second will send an email to each invitee with a link to your shared dashboard.

Any invitation recipient not already registered with a Power BI account will have to register before they can accept and view the dashboard. Once your Power BI dashboard is shared, you will have access to a Shared Dashboard Admin screen, where you can see which users have accepted your invitation and which have not. This admin screen will allow you to revoke a user’s shared status when needed.

On target

Because you can create separate dashboards using the same dataset, you can tailor each report to specific users and share only the information each user needs to see. This can greatly decrease the amount of data clutter users must wade through on a regular basis.

How to download and install Power BI Desktop

The application can be accessed as a web service for free, but it is most often acquired as part of the Office 365 productivity suite. While the online version does a fine job, there are occasions when users want to work on their data visualizations offline on their desktop. This requires them to download the Power BI Desktop tool.

Installation procedure

There are two ways to start the download process: Go to the Power BI Desktop webpage and click the download button or click the download button located under the down-arrow tab in the online Office 365 version of Power BI. Either way, you will download a .msi file to your PC. Run this file once the download is complete.

After accepting the license agreement, you will be able to choose where you want to install the application. The installation process will take about a minute.

Start the app

Note that the first time you start the application it will go through an initialization process. When that is finished, you will be asked to sign in to your Office 365 account. To share reports and dashboards you must be logged visualizations

After logging in, you will be presented a Power BI workspace similar to the online version (Figure B). From here you can import data and create reports and dashboards, then share them with your colleagues.

data visualizations

How to change default visualization formats in Power BI

Using the default settings for each graphical type is fine as a starting point for reports. But for the final report, you are going to want to add personal touches, highlight specific data points, and maybe even add some eye-catching flair to the project. You have access to numerous settings, configurations, and adjustments inside the Power BI palette.

Format and configuration

The default format settings for most users are not going to properly communicate what you want to communicate. Click the report you want to format, which will change the visualization palette dynamically to match your focus. To change the formatting of a report or a particular data point, click the paint roller icon in the visualization palette as shown in Figure A.

data visualizations

Depending on what you have clicked on the report, the Format section will present you with various configuration options. To change the color from the default shown in our example, just click the paint roller and then the Data Colors item. You can change all the colors together or, if you click the Show All slider, you can change each data point individually. If you want to highlight the Facebook data point, for example, because it is your greatest gain, you can change the color to something more striking, as shown in Figure B.

data visualizations

If you can’t find the color you want, just click the Custom Color item and choose your own color from the available spectrum.

It’s your choice

Scroll down the Format list further to make changes to titles and data labels, add a legend, or even add a background if you wish. The choices you make at this point will determine how well your report disseminates what is important to whom.

How to add custom visuals to your Power BI reports and dashboards

Disseminating information derived from business intelligence data doesn’t have to be a dry and uninspired exercise. In some cases, effective communication is going to take some unconventional outside-the-box thinking.

Power BI developers looking for more interesting and compelling ways to communicate their message may find what they seek in the Custom Visuals section of the Microsoft Office Store. Finding, downloading, and inserting custom Power BI visuals is not difficult.

Microsoft AppSource

The first step is to point your web browser to the Microsoft Apps page and then click the Power BI Visuals item in the left navigation menu. As you’ll see, the list of vetted and approved Power BI custom visuals is extensive and varied. See Figure A.

data visualizations

Thoughtfully scan through the list of custom visuals to find the one, or perhaps two, you feel will be most helpful for the dataset in question. Keep in mind, these custom visualizations were created by the Power BI community and new entries will populate the list from time to time.

For this example, we will download the colorful World Cloud custom visualization. Click on the link to the app description and then click the Add button to start the download. Be sure to save it in a folder you can reach with the Power BI application. To use the custom visual, click the ellipses in the Power BI Data Visualization Tools palette, as shown in Figure B, and then click Import A Custom Visual in the list.

data visualizations

Navigate to the location of your custom visual and open the file. You should get a dialog box confirming that your visualization was successfully imported. A new icon should appear in your Data Visualization Tools palette, as shown in Figure C.

data visualizations

Click the new icon and then enter the fields you want to include in your new visualization. Each Power BI custom visual will require a specific set of data points to prove effective. Figure D uses the World Cloud visual to show the relationship of each stock’s gain to the rest of the stocks in the portfolio. As you can see, Facebook is dominant in this example.

data visualizations

Expand your toolset

Once you download a custom visual you can insert it into other projects. Depending on the data involved and the message you are trying to convey, there may be a Power BI custom visual that can make the difference between highly effective communication and not-so-effective communication. The community-driven custom visuals found in the Microsoft AppSource are great tools you can’t afford to ignore. 

Resource Credit | TechRepublic

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