In digital marketing we spend hours gathering data, pulling reports and providing insights. We are routinely faced with providing reports to clients with lots and lots of data, but we must continue to provide a meaningful story, or the data is overlooked. Looking at numbers does little to provide context, identify causation and rarely leads to anything actionable. However, when data is used as the backdrop for the story, that is when the magic happens.

At Domopalooza, Brent Dykes provided a fantastic presentation highlighting the importance of telling stories with data.

Data Storytelling Arc in Action: Brent broke down the 5 elements of data storytelling, focusing on the setup to the next steps:

Data storytelling

  1. Set-up & Hook: What is status quo? What unexpectedly changed? Identifying the change in data be it revenue dropping, traffic increasing or CVR
  2. Rising Insight #1: What influenced or contributed to the change?
  3. Rising Insight #2: What other supporting evidence is needed or helpful?
  4. Aha Moment: What is the impact if nothing changes?
  5. Solutions & Next Steps: What are the options? What is the best course of action?

So applying these steps to storytelling with data here is a scenario I recently ran into with a client where I used his 5 steps to ensure we were telling the story:

Set-up & Hook: It’s March 2017, spring is in the air, and we are selling dresses. So, we are heading into the high season. However, as we move through March, brand traffic is down 15% compared to last year. Not good as this is impacting revenue.

Rising Insight #1: Not only is brand traffic down, but brand interest is down as shown by declining brand impressions relative to last year.

Rising Insight #2: But wait, Easter fell three weeks earlier last year, so this seasonal shift is not related to an actual decline in brand interest, but a trend in consumer behavior.

Aha Moment: Knowing this shift is related to the shifting holiday, the immediate impact is high, but we anticipate traffic to pick up as we get closer to Easter.

Solutions & Next Steps: Knowing the reason behind the shift in traffic, we are able to compare the current week’s traffic to traffic three week’s before Easter last year to make a more comparable analysis. In addition, monitoring the week to week increases will ensure traffic is pacing in a similar manner to last year as Easter approaches.

In addition to the storytelling component, showing data in the right way has more impact. For instance, pie charts are often used to show a percentage breakdown of comparable items. However, pie charts are not always the best way to visualize and compare data points. Brent illustrated how much easier it is to make comparisons in a bar chart, rather than a pie chart – I would concur. Choosing the best chart to illustrate the data can go a long way in gaining understanding.

Thanks Brent for a great session! When dealing with as much data as we do in digital marketing, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of bringing context, and the story, into the data to provide actionable insights!