Our brains are wired to process visuals more efficiently and at a faster pace than text. Data visualization helps us make sense of difficult concepts and identify emerging patterns. Marketers, in particular, can benefit from transferring data from spreadsheets to visual canvases, as we’ll illustrate in this post.
Our ancestors drew simple pictograms to share ideas, tell stories and record their history. Nowadays, people still largely prefer visuals to words, as extracting meaning from images is simpler.
Reading and comprehension of written text occurs at a slower pace and requires more brain power to process incoming signals. That’s why we need more time to make sense of data when it’s presented in the form of scattered entries.
As Stephen Few, a leading data visualization consultant for the likes of NASA and Berkeley, explains:
“Data visualization shifts the balance towards greater use of visual perception, taking advantage of our powerful eyes whenever possible”.
Trusting the eye to do most of the analysis offers multiple benefits to marketers.
1. Faster knowledge discovery
Our analytics tools are good at crunching numbers and reporting certain tendencies. Yet, we still rely on our brains to process those facts and make the optimal decision. Data visualization can reduce the cognitive load and help you spot the non-obvious patterns hidden between the numbers you are looking at every single day. Let’s illustrate this further.
Our team has recently worked with a multi-franchise company. The customer’s goal was to increase brand awareness and find better ways to target more prospects in different areas. The task was simple. But there are many ways to execute it. Our data wizards tapped into Google Adwords and decided to experiment with one metric – impressions in different areas for branded keywords.
So here’s what we did:
- Visualised all the current ad impressions on a map. This gave us complete visibility across the UK and allowed us to pinpoint the exact areas generating the most ad impressions.
- We then paired this data with the locations of the client’s branches. That gave us a detailed overview of combined visibility – impressions + locations. We can now tell whether our targeting is sharp enough.
- The next question we wanted to address is how far away each ad is showing from the closest branch. So we used Google’s Distance Matrix API to estimate the distance to the nearest franchise for each targeted city.
- What we discovered was this; some ads were generating a lot of impressions in areas where the company didn’t have a branch. On one hand, this data tells us that our campaign can be improved. But we had also discovered a new business insight – two locations where our customer-generated interest but didn’t have a local branch. Valuable insight for further business expansion.
2. Ramp up your on-page SEO
Visualisation helps distill complex processes into actionable steps. Looking at the numbers alone does not always help to determine the right course of action. There are too many variables that we need to process at once.
Let’s take optimizing an internal website link structure as an example. Each page of the website has different page authority, determined by the number of inbound links, current rankings and other factors, such as the code quality. Some pages perform better in search results, others lag behind for no obvious reason.
The common problem for a lot of websites is the imbalanced link distribution among different pages. Some pages are inherently more ‘linkable’ than others e.g. the contact page. But it doesn’t make it the most valuable page on your website. You want customers to access your landing or services pages first.
So how do you go about fixing the unbalanced distribution? With data visualization. Our team used the same algorithms as Google to estimate the overall domain authority of one website based on the combination of external/internal links. Each page received a 1-10 score and the entire website link distribution was visualized like this:
Now we have a clear picture of the website’s internal link structure and can take the necessary steps to even out the link distribution. We can spot pages with the lowest number of links and work towards bringing their scores closer to the average (5) and make sure the most important pages (homepage, product, landing pages) also receive high scores.
A healthy internal link structure suggests to Google’s algorithm which pages are the most important and how they should be ranked. Your website can be crawled more effectively and your domain authority will organically increase over time.
Visualization also helps spot the orphaned pages and abnormalities in the website structure. Finally, users will thank you for your improved navigation options and user experience. Your bounce rate will decrease, sending Google another positive signal about your website.
3. Build more accurate customer profiles
CRM data rarely makes sense at first glance. Analysing and operationalizing it often requires massive efforts.
So how about visualizing those data entries instead? Rather than reconciling data rows, your team could instantly review the full picture, notice the common patterns and record relationships between different data points in a matter of seconds, rather than days.
Sales and marketing teams can visualise data to uncover new trends in buyer behaviour:
- Isolate the most prospective leads that came from specific traffic channels.
- Analyse who worked with those leads.
- Adjust marketing messages based on the heavy concentration of contacts in certain locations.
- Identify the key touch points in your customer’s journey.
- Develop personalised marketing strategies for different customer segments.
4. Data-driven content marketing
Your customers are constantly bombarded by new information, but often fail to fully comprehend its meaning. Data storytelling helps connect the dots between the hard facts and the insight behind them.
Dave Campbell’s model of information refinement illustrates the process of how our brains interpret incoming communications:
Data visualisation helps us communicate our main ideas faster and deliver the insight, rather than some raw information that readers will need to process further. This way our message becomes more compelling and persuasive.
When data visualisation is further paired with a story, the message resonates even more with the audience. A Stanford study found that 63% of participants could remember the stories told, but only 5% retained a single statistic number. Accompanying facts with a story increases the overall message memorability.
Data storytelling also adds more credibility to your narrative. Anchoring your story with ‘proof’ makes your audience more inclined to trust your message and your brand.
Finally, data-driven content is an excellent linkable asset that could serve as ‘bait’ for journalists and industry publishers. Your company has proprietary data no other brand can access, so you can create content and stories that no one else can tell in your industry.
It’s time to rethink how you treat your data. By pairing data analysis with visualization, marketers can create a new medium for conveying complicated concepts; uncovering hidden patterns and distilling value from scattered rows of spreadsheet entries.