Data Visualization

Event recap; see ATL Insider Insights post on Object9.com.

Who? Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association + Object 9’s Steffan & Gregg
What? Data Visualization – Why, How, and Tools
When? May 14, 2015; Lunch
Where? Atlanta Tech Village

Panel:
Courtney Perigo – Senior Director of Analytics, Moxie
Otto Loewy – Lead Data Insights Analyst, VML
Tomson Karivelil – Associate Director of Research and Development, New Fields

Moderator:
Tomer Tishgarten – Solutions Architect, Arke Systems


panel picture

Credit: Sydney Sullivan

Introduction

Line out the door, scraps for lunch, and I’m pretty sure I snagged one of the last chairs available. Packed house to say the least, and, when Tomer queried the audience, it was great to see the number of subject matter experts in attendance for this Analytics SIG event! After a quick lunch (and I mean quick, since I missed out on the sandwiches!), we went right into the speaker intros. Otto, being an ex-MLS player, resonated with me so of course I went right to work recruiting him as the ringer for my soccer team! Courtney casually commented on his background as an ex-Intramurals player, so not to worry, Courtney, you’re my next target.

The discussion was framed around one of the hottest topics in the analytics community today: Data visualization, being the presentation of data analytics in a pictorial or graphical form (queue storytelling buzzword). The implementations in digital marketing are seemingly endless, and leveraging this service properly creates actionable and insightful stories. The speakers provided a look at how agencies and clients use tools to tell their stories and the process and tools it takes to get this done.

Panel Discussion

Tools

Tableau
If not the single most powerful for data visualization, it’s right up there at the top. Courtney describes Tableau as one of the more effective analysis tools, while Otto explained the various price point and usability options. If you click the link above, you’ll see the vast amounts of product, solution, and training offerings at your disposal. Don’t start salivating just yet, as it can get rather expensive at the enterprise level, so be wary.

Qlik
Similar to Tableau, Qlik is a free self-service data visualization tool. Here’s a download link for the free Sense Desktop version, for personal and internal business use. We did not go deep on this tool, so click the link and check it out for yourself!

Sprinklr
Recommended by all of the panelists as an analytics/reporting tool. Creates beautiful, client-ready reports in seconds, which Otto says he uses in conjunction with raw data from social channels. Likewise here at Object 9, we’ll use our Sprout Social tool with screenshots and analytics directly from the channels we’re reporting on.

R
See Conclusion, below.

Google Analytics
The general consensus: It’s getting better. It’s free, has tons of training/certification programs, and even this little-known tool: The Solutions Library, offering crowd-sourced dashboards, reports and segmentation! I highly recommend checking that out.

On the topic of dashboards, Tomer said: “I keep hearing the word ‘dashboard.’ Is it mainly for presenting to executives?”

Otto explained that different dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs) are used for different audiences. You’ll want dashboards specific to the teams you’re presenting to, including social media managers, upper management/executives, clients, as well as the general marketing team. Whatever the main goal is, work backwards and present opportunities to reach it.

Courtney agreed that your dashboards must be able to tell the story of your data, offer actionable insights and ultimately enable business decisions.

Tomson raised a great point: dashboards and reporting must include both real-time, as well as after-the-fact figures. Depending on the audience, level of interest, and engagements they actively partake in, for example, real-time may be the most important analytics to look at for a specific team, for example.

Otto piggybacked Tomson by offering insights into his latest project at VML: interactive dashboards that highlight specific regions, for example, in different colors. This is the future of reporting: big data simplified into meaningful, storytelling, interactive visuals.

Tomson emphasized the importance of platform-specific dashboards, as well, in that some audiences may only be interested in mobile as opposed to web, and vice versa.

Courtney had the last word on this topic by agreeing with the other panelist, adding, “People want real-time data, as fast as possible.”

The conversation turned to the ROI of data visualization. Tomson said that the New Fields consultation service is really their bread and butter. If you hold the client’s data, and report on it to them, they become hooked. Not only is it a hook, but a differentiator, and the client will become so engrained in this fashion of operations that it becomes exponentially difficult to cut ties to your services. Brilliant!

“We provide analytics to enable key business decisions,” said Courtney of Moxie. Making these tough decisions has become the hook to sell Moxie’s data visualization service.

Otto, a bit off topic, explained the need for A/B testing. For example, how might a client know that a red call-to-action button will outperform the same call-to-action button in blue? His team is able to provide key insights and analytics behind these types of decisions, utilizing various visualization methods. This adds tangible value, thus increasing the return.

Courtney gave us a quick Tableau demo of a life-logging project he’s running on his mood, among other things, in the Moxie “Performance Center.” Pretty interesting stuff that shows his mood as he performed various activities at SXSW in March. He wrapped up the demo by explaining that the Pareto Analysis is more for use in quality control projects and, that with the Tableau tool, he’s able to create these brilliant charts in “like an hour.” Somehow, I feel like it might take the average person just a couple of minutes longer 🙂

Tomson followed up with a quick GIS demo, referencing the awesome Marine Traffic website. Existing open source projects like these are great, as custom development projects can run lengthy and be quite expensive. What Tomson will then do with such a property is add framework, and all of a sudden it’s proprietary! He went back to his previous statement that New Fields will take care of the client data (SaaS), which triggers a relationship where the client depends on Tomson’s services.

Conclusion

To wrap up, Tomer asked the panel for any new tools they recommend or may have demoed in the last couple of months. Tomson mentions R (by RStudio), an open source and enterprise-ready online software, as well as the predictive analytics software, SPSS, from IBM. With these tools, he’s able to import and export in certain formats and then layer activities to cut out unnecessary processes and time. Courtney and Otto both suggested the RStudio tool, citing the free version for entry level access, and that Tableau, SPSS and Qlik all integrate. Courtney explained that for start-ups, this is a great enabling tool to get off the ground, so definitely check it out.

I followed up with Tomer following the event to get some specifics on R. He provided me with the following links: The Beginner’s Guide to R, Painless Data Visualization, and, Why You Should Start By Learning Data Visualization and Manipulation which states that data visualization is critical for finding insights. Highly recommend reading these two articles if you’re interested in learning more; you can thank Tomer later.

During the audience Q&A, Gregg asked about open source infographic tools. Tomson recommended GIMP and Creative Cloud. I’ve just started working in Photoshop myself, so you’ll see infographics in these blogs soon enough!

If you’d like to talk data to me, bring it. You can also follow Object 9 on Twitter (@Object9)LinkedIn and Facebook. Be sure to check out AIMA’s upcoming events. I‘ll be there!

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