Analyzing Business Intelligence Trends Through Data Visualization


Cyndi Hoddinott

Growth & Partnerships

July 28, 2022

July 28, 2022

July 28, 2022

Before joining this company, many members of the Pagos team approached the payments industry from a merchant’s perspective. As merchants, we would measure and report on payments performance and dig out potential optimization or cost mitigation opportunities. At times, we had easy-to-use tools or resources available to us, but a lot of times we didn’t. This meant we could only find trends and hidden gold in our payments data by pouring through PDF reports and working in excel spreadsheets, which is not a lot of fun.

Seeing the business intelligence microservices we’re building at Pagos today, it is easy to envision how much simpler our day-to-day operations as merchants could have been with this level of data and analysis at our fingertips. In a previous blog post—Chargebacks: Where and Why?—we discussed examples and best practices for how merchants might explore chargeback data in Peacock. Today, let’s focus on approval rates and sales trends.

Approval Rate Performance

Any payments leader probably dreams about approval rates at least a couple times a week—or maybe they’re nightmares if you don’t have the business intelligence necessary to monitor and manage them. Approval rates are a key contributor to understanding the performance of your business; through quality approval rate analysis, you can Identify downtime or other technical issues, fraud or security attacks, and how you can drive more sales and reduce costs. Further, conducting an approval rate analysis by different attributes such as payment method, card type, processor, currency, and merchant category code (MCC)—both alone and combined—can provide you with a deeper understanding of your payment performance and produce actionable insights for your organization. 

That being said, pulling this level of segmented approval rate data used to require more time and resources than many merchants could spare. But not anymore! Peacock by Pagos, our data aggregation and visualization platform, offers a variety of charts, graphs and dashboards to evaluate your data in whole or by attribute(s). Let’s dive into two of these attributes: processor and card type.


Many factors go into understanding your partners’ performance (e.g. cost and operational responsiveness), but in our experience, approval rates were the most critical. Approval rate performance can give you a better understanding of your partner’s ability to facilitate successful transactions (in addition to helping you identify downtime or other technical issues as mentioned above in my intro above).

If you saw the above Approval Rate Trends by Processor chart for your business, you'd know immediately that Processor B experienced an issue starting July 5th—or perhaps you did something that impacted how you sent data to Processor B—that caused both sales and approval rates to dip. With Peacock, you could then filter for that specific date and drill down into different attributes to determine the root cause of the issue without having to use Excel or SQL. If you also used Canary by Pagos, you could have identified this issue much faster than historically possible—potentially significantly impacting your financials in a positive way.

This enables you as a payments leader or team member to inform leadership of the issue and its findings, to assign necessary resources, and define next steps to stop the bleeding quickly. In other words, with Peacock and Canary, you can efficiently identify payment challenges and immediately implement optimization opportunities. The successes gained from such efficiencies demonstrates the value and cost effectiveness of Pagos for your business.

Card Type

When you dig into your card approval rates, it’s important to distinguish between credit, debit, and prepaid card performance. Let’s look at some example data for a subscription business; in the Card Type Approval Rate graph above, we can specifically review approval rate trends over a seven day period for this company. As a side note, day over day (DoD) data is ideal for this sort of review, but looking at this trend month over month (MoM), quarter over quarter (QoQ) and year over year (YoY) can also be informative. 

Generally, prepaid performance for a subscription business will lag behind credit and debit if the business is not conducting a real time BIN check to determine if the prepaid card is reloadable or non-reloadable. This is due to the fact that a non-reloadable prepaid card is likely to be declined for a recurring transaction due to insufficient funds. Parrot by Pagos offers a BIN service that can provide a solution for this need; contact us for more information about Parrot. 

Now let’s consider the uniqueness of debit cards. With debit being a cash-based product, debit is usually most successful on the day of and immediately after a payday. As you can see in the above graph, because Fridays and the 1st of the month are popular paydays in the United States, the debit approval rate goes up to 98% on these days and stays steady for the next couple of days. Shortly after, the approval rate starts to dip as some cardholders deplete their funds, resulting in greater declines of debit cards with the insufficient funds reason code. If this subscription business used Peacock, they could then confirm this decline reason code trend and explore their overall declines even further using our Decline Analysis dashboard.

For credit cards (and the other cards), reviewing approval rate data for spikes and trend changes is key to uncovering any underlying issues in the payment process. Peacock by Pagos allows users to not only identify such spikes and dips in card transaction data, but to dig into any underlying data issues using a variety of attribute filters and custom dashboards. With these features, payment teams can peel the onion to the core to find root causes. More to come on our custom dashboards in a future post. 

Sales and Refunds Trends

In our experience as a merchant, sales and refunds offered another critical look into payment performance. While a payments leader or team may not necessarily be responsible for their business’s whole financial performance, payments processing will have an impact—positive and negative—on financials. Many payment organizations will test theories relative to payment process optimization in the hopes of achieving revenue growth; such theories may result in operational or technical changes to process and implementation, either with 3rd party service providers or internally designed and built technology. The ability to follow sales turnover (successful sale transactions minus any refunds and chargebacks) specifically could point to how these theories play out, allowing the experimenting business to make quick decisions to continue with these tests, modify them, or possibly pull them back altogether. And as we all know, the ability to make quick decisions is paramount in payments, especially considering virtually every dollar your business earns flows through the payment process. 

Refunds, like chargebacks, can point to a number of concerning factors if you start noticing trends and spikes. For example, confusion during the shopping path or at checkout, product delivery problems, technical or operations issues, and customer service challenges can all result in higher than normal refunds. When a business can identify these spikes and trends early, they can then take the time to dig deeper into the data, identify the true root cause, and initiate change within the business to remedy the underlying issues. 

Another thing that higher than normal refunds can indicate is a change in chargeback process whereby refunds are being issued in order to offset chargebacks. In this case, ensuring open and transparent communication with that team will be important so as not to run a fire drill unnecessarily.

Key Takeaways

The business intelligence described here—and that discussed in our Chargebacks: Where and Why? blog post—provides a comprehensive evaluation of a day, week, month, quarter, or year’s performance. Here at Pagos, we understand how imperative it is for you to be able to evaluate chargebacks, refunds, and approval rates (declines) collectively, as they represented churn to your business. Of course, the data can also tell many stories and there are other metrics and variations worth exploring, this can be a great place to start. Hopefully this information can give you the push you need to feel confident soaring out of the nest and into a productive payments and business performance analysis.

All of the above graphs are examples of the data visualizations available to you with Peacock by Pagos. This business intelligence can help you and your team to have a greater understanding of your sales trends and approval rates. Further, Canary by Pagos can detect unexpected changes in metrics and alert you to any anomalies you may want to investigate.

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