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Not Your Old BI Tool

The power of data visualization to drive marketing insights

As a marketer, I’m excited to see the number of new business intelligence (BI) capabilities around data visualization and visual discovery that are opening new marketing doors. Today, brands are able to analyze marketing data – first- and third-party, online and offline, known and anonymous – to drive new business insights that lead to greater value of their BI and analytics investments. 

Growing volumes of digital and offline customer data are being made available through big data technologies. Interactive data visualization and discovery capabilities that are easy to use and deploy can provide competitive advantages for marketers, as they learn more about their customers and fine tune their marketing strategies.  The ability to quickly visualize campaign and media performance data, sliced and diced with your customer or other marketing attributes, can be really powerful. It can help facilitate faster, more informed marketing or spend decisions, especially when it can be done with up to date and/or near real-time data. 

Interactive data visualization and data discovery capabilities have become much easier to use and implement, as the tools, techniques, and capabilities have continued to mature and grow in practice. They allow you to visualize results more quickly, while drilling deeper into the potential impact of a variety of attributes. Not only does interactive data visualization help us better communicate insights and analysis, it also allows us to detect patterns, trends and correlations in our data that might otherwise go undetected.

Examples of data visualization as a business intelligence tool

Despite these capabilities and benefits, it still amazes me how many clients still favor the traditional "grid report" (a column and row list of numbers) for running their business.  I'm not saying these types of reports are no longer needed, they are! Data visualization is not necessarily a replacement for the grid, but should be considered a supplement to the grid. For example, our users have the opportunity to export the data in grid style format whenever they want.  But I think some marketers lose out on opportunities to expand the value of BI and analytics within their organization by not being open to leveraging interactive dashboards and reports built using data visualization tools.

Data visualization can improve your business intelligence 

It's often said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Data visualization brings a data lens to that notion. Advanced data visualization and data discovery BI capabilities enable analysts to create reports and dashboards that answer common questions, enable users to slice and dice data by multiple dimensions, and see the data and relationships more easily. If done properly, this imparts greater insight into the data and your business. It also enables you to sift through the enormous amounts of marketing data and see it with fresh eyes, allowing you to determine where new growth opportunities are, where you can cut costs, and where you can improve or optimize processes.

At Merkle, we have lots of opportunities to help our customers apply and use these new capabilities by leveraging some of the latest state of the art BI and data visualization tools, such as Tableau and MicroStrategy, among others. Most of the marketing performance and analytical dashboards and reports we build for our clients involve the use of data visualization tools and techniques to improve understanding of what's happening and to answer common key questions. 

In addition, we often augment our BI and analytic solutions with analytic playground capabilities that enable both point-and-click and/or guided self-service access to visualize and discover data around new questions being asked. These tools are only part of the equation; the skills to use them are also important, and thus require training, ongoing support, and/or co-development.  Many of our solutions include this dimension as well.

To learn more about the analytic playground, please refer to David Andrade’s post from October.