Big data is a buzzword in the modern business landscape, and anyone from the smallest of enterprises to the biggest corporations will stand to benefit from having a foothold in data-driven methods and strategies.
But while insights gathered from the use of data might be tremendously useful for business, it won’t necessarily be understood intuitively and the data is even harder to correlate it in ways that can easily be turned into actionable responses.
To make sure that data communicates its message effectively, you need a way to present your data in such a way that clearly and concisely provides insight into the relationship between various data points such as:
Pages per Session
- PPC Metrics
And the list goes on and on. So before we get into the use of data viz, let’s start by getting a brief lay of the digital land.
Even if you don’t know exactly what ‘data visualization’ means, you’ll have seen many of its elements over the course of doing business. We’re talking about charts and graphs, maps, and other ways of visually representing data in ways that make it easier to understand.
By breaking away from the frustratingly opaque appearance of rows and columns of raw facts and figures, you can make the significance of your data, and the relationships of different types of data, more apparent.
Data visualization tools are an essential part of the modern business software suite. They can be as simple as the built-in data viz tools in your spreadsheet or database software of choice or can be part of a larger data visualization package by a vendor that specializes in data – vendors such as Tableau, Qlik, and Datawrapper. Using the latter can be expensive, but they’re extremely important in improving your data visualization needs in insightful ways.
It’s important to keep in mind that data visualization is not a synonym for data analytics or business intelligence. Data Viz is a way of reporting data that aids in the formation of insights rooted in its ability to aid your brain in the speed by which it processes, while allowing you to get a fuller picture of all of your data in one place but it won’t always help with the all-important step of knowing what questions to ask in the first place.
Do You Really Need Data Visualization?
Data visualization is nothing new. The first modern bar chart was invented in 1786 by William Playfair, who had been inspired by Joseph Priestley’s timeline charts from some two decades prior. And even earlier than that, in the 1300s, Nicole Oresme created a bar graph that almost resembled the modern kind, though his graph represented a different kind of data science.
So in essence, even hundreds of years ago, businessmen, economists, and scientists recognized the value of representing data in meaningful ways. Today, just about any business will need some form of data visualization, whether it’s to depict finances internally or show growth to stakeholders. Your digital marketing agency will probably have used one form of data visualization or another to have something to show to clients.
However, does your agency actually have the need for data visualization solutions that are tailored for big data applications? These software solutions are very expensive and require quite a bit of investment in time and effort to yield useful results.
The answer, as always in the marketing world: It depends
Organizations with simple problems, which sell simple solutions, can do away with expensive data visualization packages and stick to making simple charts and graphs in Microsoft Excel.
However, if you’re dealing with reporting insights, analytics, and collating huge amounts of gathered data, a data visualization tool may be the right choice for you. Since you’ll be providing your digital marketing clients with exactly this sort of data, a data visualization solution is almost assuredly the right choice for you.
Using Data Visualization to Become Stronger as an Agency
Improved data visualization can help you in the process of creating insights, in ways that would be difficult just by staring at the numbers. Let’s list some of the concrete benefits of data visualization.
1. It collates data in meaningful, easily digestible ways.
This is the most obvious benefit to data visualization, and perhaps the first one that anyone thinks of when deciding to use it. As we said previously, rows and columns of data aren’t the most intuitive ways to look at things, but arranging data in charts and graphs, heat maps, and other data visualization techniques makes it understandable immediately, showing relationships between data points and providing new ways to discover the information you’re looking for.
A report by Aberdeen Group indicates that managers using data visualization tools are 28% more likely to find timely information than their peers. That’s a statistic you can’t afford to ignore.
2. It visualizes patterns and trends.
Data visualization doesn’t just have the capacity to show the relationships across data points. It can also meaningfully and intuitively depict these relationships throughout time as well. An improved data visualization process will allow you to see connections between business performance and the time that data is captured, creating the beginning of trend analytics that you can leverage to see your business’s strengths and weaknesses. You can even compare multiple data sets and spot trends across them.
You can also use the same pattern and trend discovery capabilities of data visualization to see what your clients’ customers’ preferences are, and what you can do to improve your strategies to take advantage of these preferences.
3. It can improve the response time of your agency to trends.
As data visualization makes trends and shifts immediately apparent, your strategists can develop responses in record time. This can make for rapid responses to issues, or beating your clients’ competition for new opportunities that can only be discovered through the data.
4. It can make use of data you didn’t even know you could use.
One day, you start gathering data…and before you know it, you have billions of rows that live in “silos,” which are not taken into account in the rest of your system. Siloed data represents a distressingly large amount of all collected data, and it may be cost-ineffective and tedious to make use of it.
Advanced data visualization platforms have huge amounts of automation and even AI-assisted techniques that make it easier than ever to manipulate data, pulling it out of your silos and putting them to good use. Combine this with data analytics platforms and you may well develop new insights that wouldn’t have otherwise been brought up! You’ll need to improve your insights if you want to grow your agency, and data visualization is a huge way that agencies have been improving their ability to learn actionable steps for their clients.
5. It tells a story.
Today’s presentations and reports are all greatly benefited by a new style of presentation that more resembles storytelling and narratives, rather than the typical dreary slide-by-slide pitch. Through this storytelling style, you’ll be able to demonstrate causality between your clients’ improved performance metrics and the steps taken by your agency to act on them.
Data visualization is a key part of this storytelling, as it can easily depict improvements across clear timelines, and show positive trends that are associated with your agency’s operations and strategies. Telling a story has a huge impact on clients and employees retaining information and their ability to remember that information. This is one of the reasons mythologies relied so heavily on story to convey a message.
6. It puts everyone on the same page.
Once primarily the purview of dedicated data analysts, statisticians, scientists, and other data specialists, large amounts of data can now be understood by just about anyone in business, thanks to advanced data visualization that produces easily-understood charts, maps, and graphs, that can then be distilled into infographics for content marketing efforts.
Data visualization can help executives get a bird’s eye view of the entire business, help creatives plan out their ideation, assist strategy planners in next steps for clients, and give managers insight into the areas of improvement for the agency. Everyone, from both client and agency, benefits from data being more accessible.
With everyone on the same page, and having the same vision, all departments in your agency, and all levels of employees, along with your clients, can work together more cohesively.
There’s no doubt about the myriad benefits that data visualization could potentially have for your agency. Given that the way we do business is increasingly data-driven, improving your handling of data may no longer be a “potential opportunity,” but rather an imperative if you want to get a leg up over the competition.
Of course, no matter how good and improved your data visualization workflow may be, it’s only as good as your understanding and analysis of the data you mine and gather. Data visualization is a key component of an effective overall data-driven strategy that you’ll need to start adopting if you want to make the most out of your business!