How data can help you tell stories and grow your business

Lee Allen
Writer | Data³
2nd April 2019

A guide to transforming your business data into awesome new business tools

Data — what’s the big deal?

Making and saving money using data is increasingly lucrative in the business world, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Every day, we create 2.5 billion GB of it, with new devices and the internet of things generating hordes of new data every second. To put this into perspective, it’s estimated that 90% of all data in the world has been created in just the last two years. 

This should tell us two things: one — the world is rapidly changing, with our actions and behaviours logged, categorised and analysed at astonishing levels. And two, there are huge commercial opportunities out there for us to exploit. 

For businesses everywhere, a goldmine of data is available that can help your business to flourish. 

Data itself can be a number of things: customer records, financial transactions, employee stats, website behaviour. Tapping into this goldmine is the challenge of the 21st century, with more advanced analytics developing every year.

A changing world

In the past, data analysis was regarded by the masses as dull and complex, confined to stuffy analysts that spoke more like robots than humans. But increasingly, data analysis is becoming mainstream business practice and the backbone of big brands’ sales and marketing strategies. Thanks to the quantity and quality of data available, and also to the increasingly sophisticated means of analysing it, data is spearheading changes in business the world over.

Pretty charts are worthless

When it’s done right, data analysis will generate valuable insight for your business, showing you your past errors, your future opportunities, and how best to exploit them. But analysis that simply looks good doesn’t necessarily tell you something new or meaningful. 

To do it well, your analysis and visualisations need to be based on your business user requirements, careful planning, engaging storyboarding and smart visual design.

When telling your story with data, your visualisations should:

  • Have a title and label variables
  • Avoid clutter
  • Use colour — in moderation
  • Educate, inform, surprise, delight, or even disturb
  • Convince the user to take action or make a decision
  • Let the user interact or collaborate somehow

The tools you use are also important. To get the most from your data, you’ll want tools that can search and collate past data, pick out trends, make comparisons, even predict future outcomes. 

When you have this, you can make smarter business decisions. Take customer data for example. With the right tools, you could potentially:

  • Identify who your most valuable customers are so you could target more customers like them in future
  • Identify, in advance, when a customer might leave you, so you can intercept and apply preventative measures to retain them
  • Calculate your cost per acquisition across your sales channels so you can adapt your sales and marketing activity
  • Segment your customers, understand their value and design specific products and services to match their needs
  • Predict how customers will behave in future so you can make decisions now to maximise your business opportunities

Examples that we love

Every day we see data shown in weird and wonderful ways: some inspiring, some outright bizarre. Here are a couple of fun ones that we love, and why:

Game of Thrones in words:

(Source: Adam E McCann, Game of Thrones in Words, Tableau Public)

This visual shows the most unique words used by characters in the Game of Thrones series. Other than being huge fans of the show, here’s what we like about this visual:

  • The chart is multi-faceted and presents findings on multiple variables depending on how you analyse it.
  • The bubbles show how frequently a word is used, making it easy to see a word’s popularity compared with others, quickly. (Showing comparisons).
  • The triangular radar shows how unique a word is to each character. This helps the analyser pick out qualitative themes.
  • Tooltips pull out interesting findings like the most common words used by all the characters (biggest trends).

See the interactive chart here

A tale of rainforest:

(Source: Tristan Guillevin, A Tale of Rainforest, Tableau Public)

This fascinating collection of three dashboards is exploding with information, and it’s presented in an interactive and engaging way. 

On the first section is a breakdown of countries, biodiversity realms and rainforest cover. Each country is interactive, highlighting the number of species a country has on the visual to the right. There are even breakdowns of the main species, broken down by country. 

The story continues with the second dashboard showing a comprehensive history of rainforest and species decline. There are options to see deforestation in different ways, through bar charts, line charts and geographic maps. You can toggle this by measurements of hectares lost or by % change. The species lost chart is shown as a stacked bar, which highlights how unique a species is to that country, as well as its rarity. You can also toggle by individual species. 

The final part to this dashboard brings everything together into a game; challenging the analyser to interact with all the charts in a fun, educational way.

See the interactive chart here


Watch out for more in this series on data...

About the Author:

Lee is a writer and strategic thinker, helping Data³ with all things marketing. Lee is a firm believer of using data analytics in the world of marketing, specialising in customer segmentation and bespoke copywriting. 


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