Jeanne is the head of digital analytics at a large e-commerce company. Her daily routine is set to the rhythm of tagging plans, optimisation tests, reports, segmentation and other investigations, always with the same idea in mind: extract the ultimate meaning and learnings from the mass of data being handled. OK, but what comes after that? … If the end goal is to provide insights, Jeanne must do so in the most clear and comprehensive way possible. But there’s a problem: all the people with whom Jeanne deals are not analytics specialists. She’s facing a diverse array of people whose professions, work cultures, subject maturity levels and objectives are all different. The solution? Build a narrative centred on data… Data Storytelling.
Tuesday morning, 11am – time for the big monthly reporting meeting with marketing management. This month was a busy one with numerous projects. On the agenda: check on traffic evolution, SEO and SEA activities, pre-redesign website recommendations, results of A/B tests on new CTAs, and presentation of a new project to optimise checkout forms.
Jeanne is confident. She is well-prepared for this meeting and masters Data Storytelling techniques. Let’s see them in action…
She contextualises the data
In her presentation, Jeanne takes great care to never present a number by itself. She provides the scope and period of measurement, and all the contextual information needed to explain and understand trends and numbers. Jeanne reminds her audience, for example, that the 10% dip in traffic last month can be directly linked to a 3-hour-long site crash due to a server problem with the web host.
One of the first rules of Data Storytelling is to always put the numbers in perspective with the particular context (whether it’s a site redesign, a marketing campaign, technical issues or other…).
She adapts to her audience
With management present, Jeanne makes it a point to avoid using any overly technical terms or complex web analyst jargon. She hinges her speech on the information that will be most critical for the marketing director. For example, when looking at SEA, Jeanne presents overall ROI figures rather than detailing which keywords converted (or not) on various search engines.
Knowing your audience helps you adapt your story to their technical level and evaluate the complexity of information you’ll present. This way, you can avoid misunderstandings and deliver the data that is truly relevant to your audience.
She communicates no more than 1 or 2 key figures…
To capture her listeners’ attention, Jeanne goes straight to the point. She knows it’s useless to pore over entire tables of data, and she avoids “data puking”. When communicating the A/B test results, she also prefers to give a rough summary (e.g. “this version generates 2 times more traffic”) instead of delivering exact numbers, which would be more difficult to retain.
To effectively share a message, it’s important to keep things simple and rely on just a few key indicators.
She elaborates scenarios
Jeanne builds hypotheses around the 10% dip in traffic. She imagines what might happen if this downward trend continued, or went away. She pictures the future and wonders about the repercussions of a website redesign: Is it the right moment to do it? How can we overcome the loss of traffic during the re-indexing of new content on search engines? Will CTA optimisations have an immediate impact on conversions? In this way, Jeanne thinks through all possible instances, proposing concrete actions at each key step: investments, mobilisation of additional resources, tests, specific actions, etc.
By proposing several scenarios, you give your audience all the elements needed to make important decisions.
She creates emotional impact
While painting these scenarios, Jeanne doesn’t hesitate to evoke the potential consequences. As it happens, if the checkout form optimisation project is further pushed back, the basket abandon rate will continue to rise, and objectives will not be met this year.
Introduce an emotional dimension to better capture attention and inspire a reaction from your audience.
She considers the repercussions
Jeanne knows that the numbers she’s sharing can represent a threat or an opportunity for her audience. Nonetheless, she needs quick answers from the marketing director in order to advance on her projects. When prepping her meeting, she asks herself the following questions: What is he going to hear? What will he do with these results? Will this data be useful for making decisions? Or will it serve to justify a result?
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes to understand in advance if these results might create stress or tension.
She reinforces her presentation with strong visuals
Finally, in terms of form, Jeanne has taken great care with her PowerPoint presentation. In addition to telling a story that carries weight, Jeanne successfully convinces her audience with strong and relevant visuals. Her dashboard tool plays a big part. For example, to describe the online sales results during the sales period, she uses a visually striking heatmap that is much more meaningful and impactful than a bland table of numbers.
The moral of the story
Data Storytelling persuades Jeanne to think about the future, to push her analyses further and be even more proactive. It has helped her graduate from “Reporting Squirrel” mode to “Ninja” mode.
If you decide to have a go at Data Storytelling, be mindful about how you construct your narrative. The point is not to invent unfounded stories, but to connect your data with real life in order to anticipate and plan adequate actions.
In cinematic terms, stick with more of a “futuristic documentary” mindset than a “blockbuster fantasy” approach!