If you’ve seen “The Matrix”, then you may recall characters developing the ability to essentially see the virtual reality in the code streaming down their screens. Sadly, outside of fiction, humanity isn’t all that great at interpreting vast swathes of raw data. In a time of granular analytics, that’s why data visualization has become so important.
Visualizing data is all about parsing it and presenting it in a fashion that reveals the underlying trends, turning those raw metrics into meaningful stats and patterns. It’s valuable in many ways, but something you may not have considered is the extent to which it can better equip a brand to provide exceptional customer experiences.
How exactly does it have this effect? Allow me to explain. Let’s take a look at 6 ways in which data visualization can help brands improve their customer experiences:
It can make reports more impactful
SaaS brands don’t just sell their products or services and move on — they’re in the business of helping their clients achieve things, and since many of those clients have their own clients to deal with, providing robust reporting functionality is essential for any large-scale software solution (ecommerce and social media tools are obvious examples). Of course, there are always third-party reporting solutions to fill in any gaps.
If you’re running a retail business and you’re trying to make a case for further investment (or trying to negotiate a deal with a potential supplier), which is going to prove more effective: offering up a dry set of your top metrics, or presenting a clear and crisp visualization of your long-term performance? The better a brand can support its clients in creating clear reports, the better it can make its customer experiences.
It can cut through junk metrics
Make no mistake: the more data you collect, the more junk metrics you’ll end up with. The more you stare at static, the more likely you are to start seeing patterns that don’t mean anything, and it’s frustrating when reviewing data to know that much of what you’re seeing is meaningless. Visualization is extremely useful for looking past those junk metrics and finding what matters.
How does this work? Well, in essence, visualization requires you to select primary metrics (or small sets of metrics), forcing you to be selective — and if you use junk metrics, you’ll end up with a comical visualization that starkly shows how useless that view really is. Help your customers cut through the noise and they’ll appreciate it.
It can assist with telling stories
Crafting a narrative with data can be extremely useful, whether you’re pitching to a prospective supplier, trying to raise morale in your team, or attempting to steadily build an impressive brand. Put together a strong case to show that your business is moving in the right direction, and you’ll have people eating out of the palm of your hand.
Of course, data is finicky at the best of times, and it tends to be opaque and confusing at first glance. Visual storytelling is massively more powerful than its textual equivalent, and composing a creative animated infographic can drive a point home with real aplomb. Think of how charities compose social media graphics to give poverty and disease statistics the gravitas they warrant. Offer that kind of functionality to your customers, and you’ll earn plaudits.
It can help show how customer shopping channels interact
Following up on the ecommerce example, retail data doesn’t stem from isolated channels for typical storefronts. Instead, it’s fed through multiple channels — social media platforms, advertising campaigns, SEO traffic, and even offline marketing. Understanding how the numerous distinct elements are interacting is key to improving the overall strategy.
To achieve this, an ecommerce business needs a CMS capable of multi-channel commerce and intelligible visualization, such as Shopify (it happens to have a fairly comprehensive set of best practices), plus every potential traffic source or action tracked and tagged suitably. That data can then be visualized to clarify the wider context and more usefully highlight the most significant areas for improvement.
It can cater to those lacking technical skills
Imagine the first-time software user trying to make their way in a comprehensive suite with more functions and metrics than they can usefully fathom. Trying to figure out how things are going, they stumble into the reporting section and immediately hit a wall upon seeing massive tables of identical-looking data. It’s a tough learning experience.
When dealing with non-technical customers, using data visualization is a great way to ease them into more complicated functions without asking them to handle anything excessively complex. It’s also excellent for providing intuitive controls (more on that next).
It can better suit touchscreen interfaces
These days, we do so much of our online work using mobile devices that old-fashioned menu systems just don’t fit most circumstances. As noted previously, data visualization doesn’t need to be non-interactive: you can use it to devise a fresh control system using drag-and-drop and connective lines to make it clear how different elements fit together.
Imagine someone with limited technical knowledge being able to compose a strong report regardless through using an intuitive touch-based design. That’s what UX can achieve today (as seen on kiosks across the world through companies such as InTouch), and to make it a CX reality, you need only put in the effort to make it happen.
Making data accessible
In the end, this is what data visualization is about: taking complex and tricky data and making it useful and meaningful for any and all audiences. For the 6 established reasons, it can be a powerful tool for improving customer experiences, so don’t overlook it.