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Feature: Using SEED for Successful Data Visualization

November 28 2022

Our 2022 Data Visualization special issue is published today. In this featured article, Forsta's VP Global Sales Manny Rodriguez outlines a strategy for designing and implementing visualizations that 'reach audiences, tap into their mindset and encourage them to make a move'.

SEED picture
Read and download the whole special issue, with 80 pages of articles on data visualization, for free.

Manny Rodriguez is the Vice President of Global New Business for Forsta. He is an experienced Senior Sales Executive with a demonstrated history in the information technology and services industry.

Continued and advanced engagement with existing and prospective customers has never been harder. Not only have we all fallen victim to shortened attention spans, we also now handle increased information and resultant data fatigue, mixed with myriad media through which to consume it.

But we can cut through all this noise and clutter, with eye-catching and transcendent data visualizations. Market research agencies must broach the creation and distribution of these visualizations in specific ways to reach their audiences, tap into their mindset and encourage them to make a move. We call this the SEED approach: Strategize, Explore, Educate and Drive Action.

Let's delve into what each stage encompasses and how, when compiled, they can further engage existing customers, streamline operations, and catch the attention of new prospects.

Phase I: Strategize

Before a market research team begins down the path of actually creating a data visualization, they need to understand what they're looking to accomplish with it, and what their broader KPIs include. This will require a long, but necessary, list of questions that need to be answered, such as:

  1. How are clients accessing these visualized stories? Dynamic dashboards or static PowerPoint presentations?
  2. What problem are you fixing for your clients with visualized stories? Better understanding? Increased engagement across the client's business?
  3. What problem are you fixing in your own business? Have visualized stories opened any new opportunities or new revenue streams for your business?
  4. How are you using your data visualizations to improve your efficiency? Are you saving time not having to explain complex data sets to clients?
  5. How are your clients benefiting from data visualizations? Are they taking action and producing results more quickly?
  6. What insights are clearer when they are delivered visually? Can you easily provide better context visually than you would have been able to provide using alternate methods?
  7. What metrics are you using to measure your success?

Once the answers are determined, you can outline tactics and move onto the next step - the Explore stage.

Phase II: Explore

Data in its raw form can be messy at best, and at worst misleading. As such, this stage largely serves as the opportunity to get your data in working order. The first component of this is the compilation of both structured and unstructured data, and subsequently mapping out what value and insights could be gleaned. While you're likely going into any research project with a specific objective in mind, consider what variables could be hiding your next 'aha' moment. For all intents and purposes, at this stage, you are the scientist hypothesizing what new and exciting information or context you may be able to uncover. Here is a simplified example of the hypothesis you could make:
  • Price of the product: Can we get away with a higher price? If we combine this with other data, might we find that gender or generation impact consumers' willingness to buy at the current price? Do people consistently buy product X with another product?

Once the above has been solidified, it must be tested and cross-referenced with some of the unstructured data you have on file. Manually sifting can be arduous, so fortunately, there are tools to automate this process. In addition, particularly for long-term and iterative projects, utilizing dashboards can be key for reducing admin and seeing trends over time. This is an easy way to have both clients and suppliers involved in the process and on the same page throughout.

Phase III: Educate

This is perhaps the most important step in the SEED approach because, as we all know, action without insight is often foolhardy. Fortunately, with approximately 65% of the population identifying as visual learners, the visual aspect of this entire exercise allows for easier education and understanding on the part of your clients and stakeholders - something that was certainly missing 'back in the day' when data was presented in Excel files and text slides. Now, with visually engaging charts and dashboards to compare, contrast and cross-reference like the one pictured below, the opportunities are endless.

Even so, the key to a good visualization is the narrative it depicts. Therefore, the most important part of the Educate stage is crafting a story that you want your insights and visuals to tell. To do this, create an outline to establish what you will include, what order the story will be told in, and how the story will flow from insight to insight; once you have this outline, you can leverage simple, powerful and secure application programming interfaces (APIs) to programmatically access your already-existing data and tell your story with visualizations.

By tapping into this deeper connection and providing clients with intel and advice in a way they prefer, we're encouraging action in the next (and final) step.
SEED diagram

Phase IV: Drive Action

Theoretically, if the aforementioned steps were completed correctly, your client should be inspired to take action on the information presented; but sometimes, even the most inspired clients need one last push. Of course, as is the case with all customers, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't always work, so you must cater to individual needs (and refer back to Phase I, and the initial understanding of what your client is looking to get out of this exercise).

Typically, the next steps will be depicted by one of two routes:
  • Tactical Actions: This refers to addressing individual customer issues that can be tackled easily. These are quick and important wins, but the return on investment is generally relatively small.
  • Strategic Actions: These are significant, deep-rooted issues that require sizable organizational change with cross-functional groups. While these take more time and resources, the return on investment is generally much larger.

While it's easier to only focus on one or the other, the best practice is to have a healthy mix of both tactical and strategic actions in play at any given time. Regardless of the mix, the key to success is managing and tracking the necessary actions. You can provide technologies for your stakeholders to manage, track and measure the impact of actions. Solutions like these keep your clients on track to achieve ROI by acting on insights.

By taking these outlined steps, your company and market research team can both ensure that key data and insights are being utilized to their best ability and that clients are understanding of a broader picture and holistic goal. Ultimately, well-executed data visualization will lead clients to turn insights into action that produces results, making market researchers the proud heroes of customer retention and acquisition.

Manny Rodriguez
Author: Manny Rodriguez

All articles 2006-23 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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