Insight, Idea, Impact: How to tell stories with data

If you’ve ever stared at a chart with growing disappointment while praying for insight to jump out off the page like some 90s Magic Eye picture, fear not. Most of us can’t simply look at a graph and see the light in data. We need the patience to concentrate on it, work out what’s going on and try to relate it to our day to day – finding meaning in data is hard! 

As leaders of data programs then, one of the biggest things we can do to bring people on the journey is to communicate with it – gifting to others the meaning and language of data. Often, seeing it done for the first time is enough for them to go forth and conquer by doing the same, in the style of ‘see one, do one, teach one’. Developing and sharing data stories is one of the most powerful leadership tools to achieve organizational change to an insight inspired culture. 

This pinnacle of data storytelling is one of our markers for success at Dexibit when working with a visitor attraction. In the big data analytics space, the critical success factor of software is less about technology and more about what you do with it. Once a venue has its data sorted, our user training and business reviews are geared towards these moments where teams see the world through the eyes of their data, addressing ‘here’s what, so what, now what?’. Here, you’ll find our secret recipe of how to do just that.

 

 

Finding your north star 

When we start with a data story, we begin with the big picture set against a north star goal. Usually, this is a snapshot of the financial year at a point in time (using everyone’s favorite Dexibit visualizations, volumetrics) showing year to date performance and forecasting forward until the end of the financial year in terms of topline visitation and revenue or a few other headline numbers such as visitor satisfaction. 

Next, we address these north star goals in the context of your venue’s strategic plan, choosing one compelling event to delve into. Perhaps your visitor attraction has recently gone through significant capital investment, such as a new facility, is in the midst of a pricing review, or considering its product mix. Often, the story takes the shape of the growth plan (sometimes, mitigation of the opposite). 

 

Data provenance with a side on view 

Before we go any further, we then take a stock of what data we have, addressing the all important data governance, especially provenance and business rules. We believe for executives to be confident in making data informed decisions, they first need to know where the data they’re depending on comes from and what happens to it. 

In Dexibit itself this is a configuration layer, so to bring it to life in a data story, we find it useful to illustrate it against a literal side on view of the venue itself, showing the different primary data points gathered as the visitor’s journey progresses. For example, we might see visitor footfall counted through an entrance, ticketed at admission, scanned at an experience, clocked on point of sale in the cafe and journey tracked via WiFi throughout. 

 

An example of an attraction’s side on view with primary data points and key metrics (footfall, cafe merchandising and gift store merchandising)

 

Unit economics simplify insight 

Key metrics are introduced against this illustration, usually as simplified unit economics that everyone can easily and quickly digest. This is a per visit number, for example that 1,394,000 visitors with 34% conversion to commercial zones and earned revenue of $10,064,680 becomes ‘1 in 3 visitors shop’ and ‘visitors typically spend $7’. Much easier to instantly understand for everyone. Then, we rotate the venue view to bird’s eye as we add more data detail, especially when introducing a heat map layer to help explain why visitors behave the way they do.

 

Bringing storytelling into the picture

Data stories are usually supported with slides when presented to executive teams, where slide titles unfold the narrative a presenter is speaking to, and some text describes the data story’s key facts and takeaways. 

Visualizations help enrich illustrations to add depth, such as a line graph showing a metric is unstable or has a pattern, for example, that visitor spend has been increasing, peaking on weekends and school holidays. Voice of the visitor is always a great element to add – both direct quotes from visitor feedback alongside quantitative themes or emotions using sentiment analysis. 

 

Using visualizations to enrich your data stories. For example, Dexibit visualization #102 showing the impact of the weekend on visitation (left) and Dexibit #194 visualization showing average sentiment by day based on freeform visitor comments (right)

 

Use data to set the challenge, isolate the problem and inspire the solution

We pick the biggest issue we can find that relates to the organization’s strategic plan, guided by the venue’s desire for growth or efficiency. Perhaps revenue growth is the flavor of the moment – say, if $7 could become $10, that would mean another $4 million a year. Pull out that gap, those extra $3 – helping the team to dive into the potential root causes behind the lower spend using a mix of correlating data. This triggers a combination of quick wins and strategic moves to solve for it, enticing experimental action to address. 

In this case, the solution might be a mix of pop up weekend retailing in high dwell zones, training and targeting for store staff to upsell, rerouting of a high traffic exit through the gift shop or a special offer with all purchases to drive later repeat spend via ecommerce. Data helps set the challenge, isolate the problem and inspire the solution. It’s also just baselined current performance to later measure improvement against. 

Ideally, that action will be agile in nature, trial and error measured against the baseline to see what works and where to pivot. Better yet is when the data story has a final chapter – what worked, what happened and the value returned. 

 

So that’s it: our recipe for data stories. Grab a north star, turn the world on its side, reduce it down to a single visitor view, narrate and problem solve. Well, and of course have all the right ingredients to achieve all that – machine learning, natural language, location analytics and a full stack data solution at your fingertips mean less time frustrated with numbers and more time crafting their narration.

Becoming insight inspired isn’t something that happens to a team from having data, it’s something that grows from within a team in the way they communicate with it. Reducing time to insight is an important part of the equation, but connecting the dots from insight to idea to impact is where true value grows. 

 

Considering a big data analytics solution at your attraction? Talk to us and have the Dexibit team review data opportunities specific to your venue.