Data-Visualization? The Key Step to Data-Driven Decision Making!

Our colleague and Data Analytics Expert, Victor, had the great opportunity to participate this month to the Salesforce Commerce Cloud conference in Hong Kong to introduce the use of data-visualization in today's digital marketing world. Here, we've wrapped up the presentation and summarized its content for you readers.

Introduction

Be data-driven. You've heard that. As a digital marketer, you are meant to carefully listen to the divine voice of… data. And yes, being able to collect and leverage data is indeed key when it comes to make the most objective and efficient decision. But, let’s be blunt: raw statistics can be boring, sometimes frustrating, and more than often, very confusing. Besides, the China digital world with its very various platforms and channels, complex and long user journeys, does not really help gain visibility to make the most of data.

You Need a Hero

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Fortunately, digital marketers have been able to powerfully overcome this difficulty by leveraging data-visualization and offset most related challenges.

Data-what?

"'Dataviz' is about communicating numbers or raw information, by transforming them into visual objects: dots, bubbles, bars, curves, maps. […] It is the art of showing figures in a more creative and appealing way, where Excel tables can fail.” says Charles Miglietti, Co-founder of Toucan Toco.

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To say it differently, the main goal of data-visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. 

If the use of an analogy was needed to illustrate what all of this is about, we could simply say that data-visualization is to data, what "photoshopping" is to models: a very useful way to make the unattractive look very attractive: 

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Yet, in data-visualization, it is important to find the right balance between form and function, to avoid the pitfall of creating gorgeous data-visualizations for the sake of aesthetics which in the end fail to serve their main purpose: to communicate information. 

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By the way, has data-visualization been invented by digital marketers?

Back to where it all begins

No, the concept of data-visualization has not been invented by digital marketers willing to impress their team mates with awesome illustrations, or their clients with story-telling dashboards. Although, great pieces of graphics will sometimes impress your comrades, and will definitely help make decisions, the graphic portrayal of quantitative information has deeper roots, reaching into histories of thematic cartography, statistical graphics, and are connected with the rise of statistical thinking up through the 19th century. The birth of statistical thinking was followed by a rise in visual thinking: diagrams were used to illustrate mathematical functions, various graphic forms were invented to help calculations, etc. 

Digital marketers didn't invent anything here, but have instead simply participated in extending data-visualization's application scope to the communication of digital marketing information, using advanced tools: software solutions.

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short selection of data visualization software products (which will be further introduced in a future dedicated article)

Dataviz is everywhere

Digital marketers didn't invent data-visualization, neither do they have the monopoly of its use. Dataviz' is everywhere and everyday in your life: on your bank application, your fitness tracker, your user account in your favorite ecommerce site, in social media, etc.

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And that's a good thing, as visual beings we are much better at understanding and seeing patterns and trends when the data is visualized.

Use & Challenges

But then, how could a digital marketer more specifically and efficiently leverage data-visualization?

Clarifying information through the use of data-visualization, in the case of digital marketing, is a three-steps operation, which consist of:

  • Combining data to unify views when multiple sources are exploited

  • Transforming raw data into clear and appealing graphics

  • Adapting dashboard visuals to the different audiences you speak to

The purpose of a dataviz' solution has to go beyond the creation of nice visuals. Yes,transforming raw data into clear and beautiful graphics is cool. And, it is a key step to help gain visibility from illegible endless Excel spreadsheets. However, the transformation itself will not bring you enough clarity if you are not able to provide a unified view of these data when they are residing in different sources (Website, Wechat, Marketplaces, etc.). Besides, depending on the audience you are speaking to, you will have to select the most relevant information and adapt the way you introduce it. 

Can a software help achieve that?

Yes, Google Data Studio does. It is not the only one, but a great one.

A beta version of Data Studio was released last year by Google, in March 2016, and made it free to use without much limitation.

As a dataviz' software, Data Studio gives you everything you need to turn your analytics data into informational, easy-to-understand reports through data-visualization. Reports are easy to read, easy to share and customizable to each of your audience.

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Data Studio goes beyond just providing pretty dashboards, it allows to pull in more than just Google Analytics data, as it offers the possibility to import data from other sources via the use, among other methods, of Google Sheets. Social Media & Ecommerce data can for instance co-exist and show up in the very same reports without requiring too many manual interventions.  

And when there's an update to the data source, the updated/new information automatically shows up on any reports that reference the source. In other words: your dashboards become dynamic. 

Additionally, the reports are shareable, which will help give different accesses to different dashboards according to the audience you wish to convey information to.

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Oh, but yes, you'll need a VPN to access it from China, but it is worth all the pain. 

Conclusion

Being data-driven is essential when it comes to decision making, in particular in the field of digital marketing. Yet, to achieve that, you've got to get equipped with the right weapons. This is precisely where lies the purpose of data-visualization: it provides you with the right tool to accomplish the right mission. So, if you don't want to look like the guy below, we strongly suggest that you quickly get started with the use of dataviz' solution .

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To download the full presentation, click on the picture below:

Written in 08 Nov 2016

Fouhed Lampis

General Manager Beijing