Whether you are exploring data sets for the insights they contain or sharing your findings with others, data visualization makes the process most impactful for your brand. It makes sense, as the human brain is built to leverage visual cues far faster than text – and with greater memory recall. Therefore, data visualizations enhance the process of data analysis every step of the way, from exploration to dissemination.
And data visualizations strengthen your ability to identify correlations and makes your results stick better in the minds of those you share them with. You know the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words or that seeing is believing? Those ideas directly translate to taking raw data and giving it visual properties that are easily digestible.
If we take a quick look at human history, the explanatory power of visualizations lays it out for us. For context, the earliest known remains of homo sapiens were found in present-day Morocco and date to about 315,000 years old. Yet the earliest confirmed evidence of written language was found on Sumerian pictographic tablets uncovered in Iraq – and they date to 3500 BCE. The point is, as a species, for an extended period of our history, we used visualized comprehension. And it happened way before the written word ever entered the picture.
That being the case, we’ll explore the importance of data visualization in your consumer and market intelligence, with a focus on:
- What is data visualization?
- Data visualization for identifying emerging trends
- Unexpected insight that visualized data reveals
But first, here are a few facts and figures that support the fundamental thinking behind the marriage of data and visualizations in business:
- Neuroscientists at MIT discovered that participants in their study could identify and process images seen for only 13 milliseconds.
- When combined with visualizations, written data is 70% more memorable. Using visualized information increases problem-solving efficiency by 19%.
- The use of color in data visualizations can help with memory retention, pattern recognition, and highlight high-priority information.
We’ll explore why data visualization is so important and why it should be a part of your brand toolbox. Additionally, we’ll take a deeper look into what it means and why it’s not just making pretty pictures to please the C-suite. And visualized data also helps brands identify trends, insights and more from their data that they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Let’s take a look!
What is Data Visualization?
Data visualization ties data to imagery to tell the story of the information held within. Data points are mapped into graphical representations such as charts and graphs to convey the story. The reasons for a visualized approach to data is two-fold:
- Ease in the identification of trends, patterns, outliers and overall interconnectivity of large data sets
- Capitalizing on impactful visuals to convey meaning, discoveries and movement of data through time to an audience quickly and memorably
As we’ve alluded to, data visualization is so effective in the extraction and transfer of meaning from data pools because the human brain processes visuals at lightning speed. What we see sticks. It’s why you can quickly bring to mind the funny cat meme you saw yesterday but not the first sentence of this article.
That’s because half of our brains are used directly or indirectly for processing visual stimuli. That being the case, we naturally process data visualizations in a fraction of the time it takes to pour over written data. Therefore, visualized data puts the thrusters on speed to insight. And time is money.
Network Map visualization showing the interconnectivity of Data Intelligence conversations in the media:
The image of the network map above is a data set of media conversations surrounding the topic of data intelligence. What story does it tell? There are colors, nodes and arching lines that connect them to form clusters. Some clusters are close, while others are more isolated.
At a glance, we can discern contextual centrality from the proximity of the clusters. The arching lines indicate a relationship or overlap. The colors tell us that there are sub-themes in the data intelligence conversation. The number of nodes within a cluster allows us to get a feel for conversational volume. And we get all that with a brief look.
That’s the power of visualized data. Without knowing any of the stories behind the topic, you already have a feel for it. It only took seconds for you to process it visually. On the other hand, it took us ten sentences to explain.
There are a host of visualizations that help extract meaning from your data sets to drill down further. A few of the most effective for parsing data includes:
- Bar Charts
But data visualizations not only help you better understand a large data pool, but they are also handy for sharing with your decision-makers. Now that you understand the efficacy that visualizations are capable of, it’s not just about making appealing PowerPoint slides. By all means, make them stunning, but be sure that you are presenting graphics that pack an informational punch. It’s form and function.
So, now that we know what data visualization is and some of its use cases, let’s look further and see what insights brands can look forward to.
Data Visualization for Trend Identification
A keen understanding of emerging trends is critical in today’s business climate. And data visualizations can help you make heads or tails of them. What’s great is that they can cut across any data set to help you understand the ebbs and flows of trends, so your competitive intelligence and consumer and market intelligence are on point.
For example, visualizing our data intelligence conversations in a timeline view shows the fluctuations in volume and gives depth to our understanding.
And while this is a 10,000 ft view of data intelligence, we can also visualize the clusters within for a close look at which ones are growing and whether we should be concerned about them. We can do this across any data set and monitor for growth along our lines of concern.
Additionally, we can dissect data sets to visually monitor components of trends such as:
- Changes in attitudes affecting social media traction around goods, services, influencers, etc.
- Track media coverage to understand trends while differentiating between source types, authors, domains, source quality and more.
- Detect patterns in M&A, patent, inventor and private investment movement across any industry.
- Isolate and track demographic and psychographic qualities within global trends for granular level consumer intelligence.
The depth of insight for analysis cannot be beat. However, your data analytics tools have to be capable of drilling into your data down to a microscopic level if you want to take full advantage of the extreme trend monitoring that visualized data is capable of.
Nevertheless, when you are ready to share your insights with your team, clients or shareholders, you should boil down your findings for maximum effectiveness. Don’t let us dissuade you from sleek and colorful charts because those add to your presentation. Just remember, clarity is king.
Here’s a real-life example of a data set cooked down to its bare bones and presented to a client. The Brunswick Group analyzed trends in the media’s coverage of polio for their client using NetBase Quid – and created an infographic with the results. It’s light on pizazz but lightning quick to spill the beans on trends that matter to the client. Simple, colorful and effective.
Unexpected Insight Data Visualization Offers
Data analytics tools that excel in data visualization have changed the way market research gets done. And doing it on vast datasets in real-time is icing on the cake. Data visualizations open the window to a whole new world of insight into formerly mind-numbing datasets.
Not only do they help you track trends across different components, but visualized data also helps you see data that you may have missed and need to filter out. When a cluster pops up on your network map titled “view on WordPress” or “ifttt,” then you can adjust your Boolean indicators or filters to adjust your results. Clean data sets mean accuracy, so seeing clutter you may have missed in a social or media analysis, for example, is huge.
Of course, the competitive intelligence opportunities should make any brand giddy with excitement. Whether you’re looking to enter a product into a new space or want to see if a competitor is gaining share of voice on your territory, it’s super simple. You can tell the whole story with a single frame. And down to the smallest detail too.
If you’re a headphone manufacturer with lots of social traction on Reddit, you need to keep your decision-makers abreast of your SOV. Data visualization makes that a cakewalk, and you’re on to the next slide.
Want to know how often the CFO of Company X mentioned the word ‘hope’ in their latest earnings call? You can do that – visually, and with context. Visualize authors or domains across media and social to find your brand ambassadors and detractors by seeing their conversations and the associated sentiment.
Watch fluctuations of conversational volume and sentiment to aid your brand as it navigates a crisis. When competitive intelligence is on the menu, load up a competitor’s employee reviews from Glassdoor and contrast their strengths and weaknesses to your own. The world is your oyster.
Data visualization is a game-changer for slicing and dicing large data sets down to a granular level. Visualizing your data with next-generation artificial intelligence brings excitement into the world of data analysis. And leveraging your discoveries into impactful presentations means your team gets on the same wavelength quickly. Are you ready to turn up the heat? Reach out for a demo, and we’ll help you turn your data visualization game up to 11.