Sometimes, cutting through to senior executives is tough. They are time poor and charged with making best business decisions based on the best evidence available. What tools are available to help marketers tell the best story and get to the right outcomes fast?
As sources of data expand, and the volume of data available to executives explodes, the ability to tell the stories the data reveals becomes more critical. As such, data storytelling using smart visualisation techniques is an important capability that marketers need to build into their teams.
According to Katy French, writing on the ColumnFiveMedia blog, “Contrary to popular belief, data storytelling is not simply data visualization, analytics reporting, or a handful of stats sitting in a PowerPoint somewhere. Data storytelling is the blending of two worlds: hard data and human communication. It’s a compelling narrative crafted around and anchored by compelling data.”
At its best, data storytelling can be used to challenge the assumptions we make about our audience and it requires us to be more honest.
That's the view of Ben Shipley, Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer, Ovato, who says marketers can use visualisation in storytelling to create a connection between the data they have and the stakeholders who influence or act on it.
“Often data can show that our clients are not as loyal as we would like, or are not as aspirational or premium as we would like. Each assumption we make about the audience is likely to take us further from the increased sales and custom we were trying to drive in the first place. At its best, data allows us to make decisions that better activate the opportunity that waits downstream from our business.”
In fact, in an ever more complicated world, data and visualisation are more critical in storytelling than ever.
“Our biggest challenge is scale. Our media channel reached 6.8 million Australian homes. Breaking out quintiles and deciles to help clients understand the audience might be technically correct but doesn’t help with the understanding of context much at all.”
He gives the example of rendering data against geography. “This helps our clients to understand the enclaves they are already having success with and identify new ones that look or behave similarly. Much of what we end up doing is challenging and overturning viewpoints that are based on experience and assumption,” he says.
Take retailing for instance. Amongst his physical retail client customer base, Shipley says most clients have a higher perception of the relationship between physical availability and sales. “Visualising likelihood to shop a category against geography helps clients understand the lack of respect the audience has for their physical stores and helps shift marketing spend towards audiences more likely to engage.”
As you can see below, dark (valuable) areas don’t tend to cluster around stores, and historical data shows people travel 14-16km often to make purchases, highlighting the flaws of over-investing in people nearby.
“Using this insight, we helped Dan Murphy’s reach 232,564 more likely liquor buyers with the same marketing spend,” he noted.
Shipley also says customer empathy needs to be considered when blending visualization with storytelling.
“It is also important to recognise that people’s expectations are no longer set in relation to your brand or service, but by tools they have available on their mobile phone. Businesses need to offer tools that feel as useful and easy if they are trying to play a big part in how people leverage data to make decisions.”
The increasing sophistication of visualization and its application to storytelling parallels the rise of data-driven decision-making.
“Technology rises to the challenge,” he says.
As computing power and accessibility increases, the market will find ways to use it. Presentation and manipulation of data with code is a function of the tech we have access to, the data that is available, and the increased expectation that data will be used to make decisions.
Shipley believes use cases increase, where data can be shown to have enabled an improved result, the desire for business to use data for profit will grow and the ecosystem around it will flourish.