Do you struggle to manage and make sense of your organisational data? If you answered yes, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
57% of marketers worldwide feel overwhelmed by incoming data. Faced with complex algorithms and endless rows of raw numbers and percentages, it can feel like you speak a completely different language to your data.
A lucky few work with data analysts, who act as translators to help decipher the clues. But many of us, particularly marketers, are left to analyse and draw insight from the data alone. A task that takes a substantial amount of time and often requires manual data preparation.
Don’t let your data get lost in translation; there is a better way. Welcome to the world of analytics dashboards.
What is an Analytics Dashboard? Definition
An analytics dashboard is a highly visual display of data used to monitor conditions or rapidly facilitate understanding. They allow executives to gain an at-a-glance understanding of vast amounts of data by leveraging the human brain’s cognitive preference for visual information.
Dashboards traditionally feature static layouts of tiled widgets that hold individual data representations in basic structures like graphs or charts. Modern analytics dashboards have progressed to include interactive functionality that allows real-time data monitoring.
Interactive functionality in analytics dashboards:
- Create flexible views of data by adding, removing or repositioning elements
- Support multi-page, tabbed layouts for different data sets
- Modify data views using filters, slicers, high-lighting, drill-down, or drop-down menus
Some common examples of popular dashboards that are publicly available include:
When deciding what to include in an analytics dashboard, an organisation will identify a number of key performance indicators (KPI) that exist within their data. A KPI is defined as a measurable value that indicates how effective a particular action has been, whether a department has met its targets or whether the business is meeting expectations overall. By prioritising the data that is most important to your business to be included in your dashboard, you will be able to see the bigger picture far more clearly.
There are three core concepts that we will need to explore to understand an analytics dashboard:
- Data Integration - the process of combining disparate data from multiple sources into a single, unified view.
Modern analytics dashboards integrate data from multiple business applications in order to track omnichannel KPIs that are most important to a business and enable a complete understanding of company performance.
- Data Visualisation - graphical representations of information and data.
The primary goal of data visualisation is to enhance the ability of professionals to identify patterns and trends within vast amounts of data. Visualisations are generally easier to understand than complex numerical algorithms. However, there is a certain degree of visualisation literacy required of professionals to interpret certain graphical representations. For example, bar charts and line charts require a low level of visualisation literacy, whereas radars, scatter plots, or treemaps may require a more sophisticated understanding of data and visualisation.
- Business Intelligence - leveraging software to transform data into actionable insights for business growth.
BI software is the engine that carries out data integration and data visualisation, integrating, processing, analysing and visualising data. The insights generated from this process inform business strategies and decisions. Modern BI software incorporates artificial intelligence to make smart suggestions and automate the trend identification process - bridging the gap between average users and trained data analysts.
Types of analytics dashboards
Broadly speaking, when we refer to analytics we mean “the science of analysing raw data to draw conclusions about that information”. And while all analytics dashboards are designed to carry out this process, they do not all exist to fulfil the same purpose, handle the same types of data or return the same insights.
Let’s take a look at common types of analytics dashboards and what they are used for:
Operational - The everyday dashboard
Operational dashboards are best understood in terms of urgency; they often monitor data sets that are time-sensitive and record progress moment-to-moment. Operational dashboards alert managers to critical issues that must be addressed and allow them to take fast action.
In marketing, website performance is a highly-used example of an operational dashboard that can be used by management and executives. A website performance dashboard may include daily or real-time website traffic, bounce rates, a top-performing landing page, new vs returning customers, customer conversion rates, daily revenue generated, top-performing channels, etc. Monitoring these metrics closely and frequently ensures that direct action can be taken if any of the key areas are seen to be underperforming.
- Monitor day-to-day processes and performance
- Used for data that updates frequently (real-time, daily, weekly, etc.)
- Track progress toward a specific target
- Quickly identify critical performance issues
Strategic - The forward-thinking dashboard
Strategic dashboards allow professionals to forecast long-term strategies based on high-level overviews of performance. At-a-glance visualisations increase the users’ ability to identify key opportunities for growth and alert them to issues that need to be addressed.
A chief marketing officer (CMO) may choose to use a strategic dashboard when forecasting the monthly marketing strategy and deciding how to allocate money to each marketing channel. Metrics that could feature in this strategic dashboard include total monthly users, total leads-generated, total marketing qualified leads (MQLs), cost per acquisition, conversion rate by marketing channel, e.g. organic SEO, social media, email marketing, paid advertising, total spend per marketing channel, and so on. A dashboard of this kind can be set to cover a longer period of time, for example, monthly, and may also include a metric to compare results to the previous period.
- Regular recurring updates, less-frequent than operational dashboards
- Monitor departmental KPIs and keep executives on track
- Understand the overall performance of the business and use data to set future goals
Analytical - The deep-dive dashboard
Analytical dashboards are the kind most commonly found in business intelligence tools. They are used by analysts to explore large data sets to identify trends, predict outcomes and help organisations make smarter decisions.
Analysts using dashboards of this kind can use historical data from an organisation to shape future decisions, for example, to help guide the increase in ad spending during periods that have historically seen increases in revenue due to seasonality. A dashboard of this kind may include: ad spend per channel, conversion rate per channel, revenue generated per channel, total ad spend vs ad sales. These metrics may be visualised on a month-to-month line graph across a year, for example, and could also be used to visualise the year prior for deeper insight into growth.
- Large, historical data sets that update less frequently, e.g. quarterly or yearly
- Data drill-down and ad-hoc querying features
- Ability to modify data views with filters, sliders, etc
Why do you need an analytics dashboard?
The problems that face modern businesses are fairly universal, no matter what industry they operate in and they centre around the proliferation of data.
As technology and digital transformation has swept our society, channel and device adoption have accelerated massively, and as a result, data generation has exploded. Many businesses do not have the infrastructure or the skills to keep pace, and as such, they have found themselves in a tough situation, wherein:
- Organisational data has become too vast and complex, and many staff members lack an adequate level of data literacy to derive insights from their data
- Manually creating and analysing reports is time-consuming and inefficient, and often, human error leads to inaccuracies
- Data silos occur which causes friction and a lack of cross-departmental cohesion. Executives have an inability to monitor shared goals and performance across teams
Analytics dashboards can solve these organisational issues by prioritising a number of KPIs and cutting out the overwhelming, invaluable data.
Analytics dashboards are one of the most impactful resources that your organisation can invest in if it lacks the skills, time or manpower to create, analyse and share data manually. In this blog post, we’ve given you an introduction to analytics dashboards and discussed how a marketing team might employ various types of dashboards to gain insight into their performance and create future strategies. However, it’s not just marketing teams that can and should make use of analytics dashboards. From sales and customer service to HR, accounting and more, every department can benefit from seeing their data in a clear, streamlined manner that makes sense to them.
Empower your teams to focus on the data that is most important to your business, use impactful visualisations to gain insight in an instant, and open the power of your data up to even the most untechnical members of your organisation.
Faster, more accurate decisions are just a few clicks away with modern, intuitive analytics dashboards that can put you in control of your data - your staff and your customers will thank you.
Learn how to become a leading omnichannel brand with this free guide: The Ultimate Guide to Omnichannel Marketing 💌 Feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
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