As consumers have caught on to the gimmicks and pitches so prevalent in traditional advertising, marketers have had to adapt. Now data visualization is forcing them to adapt again.
Once upon a time, marketing meant advertising. It was simple. If you had a better ad than your competitor, it magically turned into an increase in sales.
Today’s consumers aren’t quite so suggestible. Thanks to an increasingly accessible Internet, even the least-educated consumers today are more wary of advertising than the best-educated consumers of two decades ago. For marketers, this presents a double whammy: Not only must they appeal to a savvier consumer base, they must also convince their paying clients that their marketing is actually performing.
What is data visualization?
When we think of data, we picture spreadsheets, charts, and graphs. But that’s not data—data is simply a collection of information that has been compartmentalized into different groups. Data visualization occurs when we filter this information, which is often complex and fragmented, into easily digestible snapshots. It helps if these images provide clear evidence of a desired outcome for the client or customer.
What it does for customers and clients
For customers, data visualization helps guide them through the sales funnel. These visualizations can be incredible tools, clearly demonstrating the upside of a product or service. If packaged with reasonable, balanced, and no-nonsense content that interprets the data (while subtly extolling the virtues of the product or service), the power of data visualization can translate into sales. Data can be difficult to argue, and visualizations make understanding the data easy.
It’s no wonder marketers use data visualizations as much as possible in their reports to clients: the knock on marketing for many years has been the inability to quantify it in terms of ROI. While it may still be difficult to directly tie marketing to sales, identifying key performance indicators at the beginning of a campaign and then tracking those indicators can help clients determine whether the campaign is adding value to the organization.
But these are not the only areas where data visualization is changing the marketing landscape.
How marketers are using data visualization internally
Internally, marketers are relying more and more on data visualization to make adjustments to campaigns. They rely on social media and website analytics to gauge whether a certain campaign is succeeding or failing. Visual analytics give marketers insights into how an effort is trending, and they can tweak components of a campaign over and over again until it begins to deliver the desired results. This kind of mid-campaign shift would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.
A recent study released by The CMO Survey reveals that by 2018, brands will be allotting 11.7% of their marketing budgets to analytics, which is a dramatic increase over the current allotment of 6.4%. That’s an 83% increase, and it tells us a lot about where data visualization is headed.
The future of visualized data marketing
Metrics have always helped marketers, consumers, and businesses make choices. With data visualization, however, metrics no longer take hours to analyze and dissect, and this increase in speed is the game-changer for marketing.
This doesn’t mean it is easy, however. While comparative visual analysis is assisting marketers with forecasting, micro-targeting, and behavioral trends, marketers are the ones who must interpret the data and leverage the findings to benefit their clients and brands. Making sense of the data is a key component, but implementing the findings into an appealing marketing campaign is where most marketers earn their keep.
What’s this mean for marketers?
Marketers will need to start lobbying their clients and bosses heavily for more data mining tools. To do this, they’ll need to make the case that data mining will lead to better engagement with customers, more awareness for the brand, and more revenue for the company.
If they use data visualization to emphasize their points, it shouldn’t be a difficult sell.