The Power of Visual Data

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Data visualization means taking a set of data and representing it with visual modeling,in a way that makes it easier to understand and observe patterns.  In its simplest form, it can be a 2-dimensional chart or graph that represents a single dimension or a dataset. Or you can extrapolate complex representations as well. But what is the real value of modeling your data visually?


Socializing Data:
While attending a recent Digital Analytics Association symposium, there were a couple presentations on the importance of good visualization of data. They discussed how the data was better understood and more easily socialized within the organization, simply by making it more accessible. Then there are those infographics taking the Internet by storm, which provide a fun and easy way to demonstrate interesting statics and figures.

Clearly people love consuming charts and graphs more than reams of data.  But its more than simple enjoyment; by graphically modeling the data, you’ll often uncover important patterns that might have otherwise been missed.

Data VisualizationObserving Patterns:
A great example is the new flow visualization tool in Google Analytics (version 5).  It is now possible to observe how users and macro groups of users are flowing between pages. you can even apply flow visualization to a segments and compare how that one subset of users flows differently from others.

Imagine taking a segment and observing how they might flow through your site differently.  For example, try comparing the flow of visitors from Canada compared to the US.  Or more interestingly, consider segmenting around traffic you’ve tagged for different campaigns or marketing channels.  As you begin to observe the differences of flow between paid search (SEM), organic search (SEO),and social channels, you’ll really appreciate the power of this new resource.

Diagnosing Bottlenecks:
Another significant benefit of flow visualization is the ability to see non-symmetrical dropdown from one step to the next, along your flow, which may implicate a bottleneck that is negatively impacting conversions.

For example, imagine your you have 500 users enter your eCommerce catalog, 50 of them engage with the shopping cart, but only 1 of them continues on to the checkout form.  You might already know that industry standard would be for 2% of those 500 users (10 users) to complete a transaction and by contrast your number is very low.

By using flow visualization, you have relatively painlessly identified a bottleneck in your funnel that may have gone unrealized for years otherwise.  You’ll need to begin looking at usability and conversion optimization to correct the issue, but you’re well on your way to increasing return on ad spend and revenue generation by a considerable margin. If you’re able to increase your conversion rates and flow to industry standard, you may in fact increase your revenues by 10x!

Data visualization is a powerful tool for socializing and communicating data, observing patterns and diagnosing abnormalities.  Inforgraphics and executive dashboards are popular examples of how data can be better socialized through visualization and Google Analytics provides an excellent example of the power of visualization, to drive pattern recognition, diagnostics, and action.

Consider what else might be possible with data visualization of your data.  How might you be able to instigate action within an organization, uncover important patterns, or drive more sales, simply by presenting the data differently?