What is Data Visualization?

In 1918, an advertisement in the San Antonio Light displayed a phrase that would quickly become a household idiom:

“An image is worth a thousand words.”

Without realizing it, this adage simplified one of the most complex response mechanisms within the human brain: visual processing.

Neuroscientists around the world have been conducting experiments to assess the visual processing speeds of the human brain. In 2014 a team of neuroscience researchers at MIT made a massive breakthrough when they revealed that the human brain can process images at alarmingly fast speeds – 13 milliseconds to be exact.

To put this into context, let’s assume that you have an image like this:

And a block of text like this:

This is a picture of a puppy. This puppy is a golden retriever. The golden retriever puppy is sitting on the green grass next to a green ball. The ball is a lighter hue of green than the grass. Laying next to the green ball are two yellow tubes. The puppy, the ball, the grass, and the tubes are in front of a metal fence.

Your brain was able to process the context of the imagery of that adorable puppy 60,000 faster than it was to process the block of text.

“The fact that you can (process) at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long — trying to understand what we’re looking at,” says Mary Potter, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and senior author of the study.

Armed with this information, it’s no wonder that the top marketing agencies and media companies are moving away from sharing their client data through spreadsheets and pivot tables and are opting to fold these insights into a graphical modality called data visualization.

What is Data Visualization

Data Visualization is the graphical representation of large sets of data making it easier to interpret and understand.

Given that big data is the world’s most valued commodity, businesses globally are adopting data visualization to empower their corporate decision makers to make real-time strategic decisions. The ability to make real-time, data-centric decisions are giving these businesses the competitive edge in the marketplace. For agencies and media companies, the ability to assess trends, patterns, and/or correlations means they can take action in real time to drive optimal results for the clients.

On the other side of these real-time marketing decisions, agencies leveraging data visualization are delivering overall better client experiences. With the language part of the brain working overtime to decipher the meaning of spreadsheets and pivot tables, data visualization – combined with marketing automation – has become a more concise and efficient modality of communication between an Agency and their clients. In a competitive marketplace, agencies who are differentiating themselves by adopting automated data visualization for their client reporting are leading the pack in customer service.

Understanding Big Data  

Before we can go deep and wide on the types of Data Visualization available for agencies, we should start by explaining the concept of Big Data as a whole.

The Three Vs of Big Data

Variety.

With the introduction of smartphone and smart devices, user data has become omnipresent and overwhelmingly abundant. What was once relegated to internet browsing history, user data has taken on a new life as the complete user experience can be traced across mobile devices. Beyond the smartphone, companies like Apple, Tesla, and Samsung are beginning to gather data from household amenities like watches, cars, and even refrigerators. Each emerging technology brings with it a new source of complex data sets making it difficult for data scientists to reconcile, clean, and interpret the data into meaningful formats.

Independent of the data source, the information gathered can be categorized into three core formats: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.

  • Structured Data: Database, Data warehouse, ERP and CRM
  • Semi-Structured: CSV, XML, JSON
  • Unstructured: Video, Image, Audio, Documents and Sensor Data.

For agencies, formatting data requires an independent piece of technology to aggregate and parse the data into patterns and formats recognizable to the human brain. Once that data is in a more recognizable state, the data requires additional manipulation to render additional meaning relative to action taken during a marketing campaign.

Volume.

If you’re like the average digital agency, you’re using no less than 20 different types of MarTech solutions to drive results for your clients. With each of these independent systems comes a new set of data to aggregate, parse, and distribute to the key stakeholders at your client’s business.  The sheer volume of information accessible to your Ad Ops team through these MarTech solutions are becoming unmanageable. Without realizing it, the gathering, organizing, and distributing of your client reporting is costing your agency roughly $7.4M per year.  If your agency supports a specific vertical, for example, healthcare, automobile, or manufacturing, you could be spending an additional $1M on top of that $7.4M just to wrangle that data into a more manageable state. Agencies on the verge of scaling or looking to manage scale are no longer in a position to shoulder these hefty price tags to manage their internal reporting.

Velocity.

It should be no surprise that with the volume and variety of data accessible to an agency, data is being aggregated at an unprecedented rate. Agencies need to react in real-time to produce optimal results for their client campaigns. If an agency is unable to keep up with the accelerated pace of automated data collection and interpretation, they are missing huge opportunities to produce top results for their clients. Of course, that’s possible thanks to technologies leveraging AI and automation to reduce the reaction time.

Why Data Visualization Works for Agencies

As the MarTech space continues to expand, Agencies and media companies using data visualization are driving more revenue to their bottom line. At a minimum, agencies should be leveraging tools like client dashboards and automated reports as a cost-effective solution to the on-time delivery of results. Agencies differentiating themselves in the marketplace are adopting solutions that provide AI and automation to position themselves with the advantage over their competitors.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. What technologies are you using to accelerate or scale the growth of your agency? Join the conversation below!

Download this free eBook to improve your data visualization.