As the night settled in, I read my toddler a bedtime story before we went to sleep. The book had lots of colorful pictures and very few words, yet we easily understood and immersed ourselves in the story. I reflected, in this simple moment, on the impact of visuals on how people learn and understand ideas. For centuries people have used pictures to tell their stories, drawing pictures as a way of communication long before the invention of written words and numbers.
As information becomes more complex, we can take a lesson from how we learned to understand new concepts and stories in the first place. The data that we collect can be best understood when those numbers and words are arranged into images to illustrate the story that they tell.
Today, we hear more and more about data visualization. It’s not a new concept, but since people shifting to data-driven decisions, effective data visualization becomes an important part in the decision making process. Data visualization works in much the same way as kids’ books: we use visual context to deliver our story, distilling simply from the massive data we have.
As we can see in the image below, with visual context, everybody can understand that Pittsburgh Steelers have won the most Super Bowls.
Compare the ease of understanding the story in the infographics above to the table format of the detailed data below.
WHY USE DATA VISUALIZATION?
Using data visualization to tell data stories has many benefits. We explore a few of them below:
Visual Presentation of Data is Streamlined and More Easily Understood
Using visualization to express meaningful data insights makes is easier for us to understand and process that information.
Use Past Data to Predict Future Trends
Tracking past data is very useful information in predicting a possible future outcome. If we show cumulative trends for the past three to four years, that visualization allows us to see the trends from the previous years and help predict how that metric will perform in the future.
The image below shows that in the previous two years for October to December, room leads are steadily pacing based on the past months. From the past data, we can predict what the numbers might be from October to December 2018. From that projection, we can then determine what we should do to increase our numbers to achieve the desired result.
Compare Current Data with Past Data
We can show the current data and comparing it with the previous year. The dataviz allow us to spot any abnormality in our data right away. For example, in the image below, we can see that in August this year, our total leads have decreased year-over-year.
With that data, we can analyze the situation; perhaps there were larger events last year, a hurricane this year, or various other reasons we identify that help explain variations in the data.
Monitor Performance Towards the Goal
Another thing that we can do with dataviz is tracking our performance towards a goal. A KPI is our key performance indicator which measures how well our organization performs toward achieving business objectives. Data visualization is a great way to monitor and represent how well a business progresses towards an annual goal. We can do this by comparing our current pace performance and compare that progress data to last year’s numbers.
As more destination marketers move to data-driven decision making, we collect a massive amount of data across various bases and platforms--Simpleview’s CRM, Distribution or Act-On, and Google Analytics, among others.
For data geeks, thousands of rows in a spreadsheet is like looking at a field full of flowers. However, not many people can or want to go through those data and find the information they need for reporting, for planning, and to see progress towards DMO goals--among other critical insights.
That’s why the dataviz, short for data visualization, is so important. It allows us to transform huge amounts of data to a more meaningful, easily digestible visual context. As the example of Super Bowl winners above demonstrates, anybody can identify which team has won the most Super Bowls within just a few seconds.
We can represent that in one image where the viewers can see and understand the data but without having to dig for it in text-only databases, which is the data equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack.
EXAMPLES OF DATA VISUALIZATION TOOLS
As I mentioned earlier, It’s very important that we can communicate our data effectively to our audience both internally and externally to executives, key stakeholders, board members, and also public audiences. A dashboard is a great tool that we can use to visualize our data.
Like the dashboard that we have in our cars, the users can have a centralized platform to review all pertinent, related data that allow us to arrive where we want to go. It also allows users to analyze the multiple data sources in a quick glance without having to dig into multiple platforms.
There are many data visualizations tools available to represent the visual context of our data; Google Data Studio, Visual.ly, Tableau, and Simpleview’s Destination Dashboard. All of them have their own pros and cons, largely dependent on the organization's needs.
Simpleview Destination Dashboard is a business intelligence tool that gives you a holistic view of your entire organization’s performance toward goals. It connects to Simpleview CRM system and also able to pull in data from Google Analytics.