How to Use Sophisticated Dashboards for Sophisticated Marketing

How to Use Sophisticated Dashboards for Sophisticated Marketing

4 minute read
Pierre DeBois avatar

Customers are arriving at your business or e-commerce site through increasingly sophisticated methods — and that makes it more complicated to determine whether your mobile site or offline advertising lead to your conversion goals. 

To keep in step and better organize information, businesses are turning to advanced spreadsheet automation or dashboard reporting.

Powerful Tools

Dashboards provide at-a-glance views of key performance indicators (KPIs) related to a particular objective or business process. They are powerful tools that offer instant insight about marketing and business performance.

Well-crafted dashboards pull together different views of information in a single place, providing one of the most impactful ways to visualize data. They rely on dimensions — a data category used to organize business data — and filters — mechanisms that allow you to narrow the scope of the data to a single dimension.

Sophisticated analytics haven’t changed everything: businesses must still choose the right dimensions and metrics to generate data that creates maximum business value. But now there are more dimensions available, from real time data to API-sourced inputs that can compliment strategic objectives.

And that means there is a greater need than ever to automate the results. It saves time and delivers actionable insights quicker.

To display compound metrics and to correlate simple metrics, more businesses are incorporating data visualization. The growth of mobile devices has lead to multichannel marketing, along with more detailed campaign attribution. The result is a better clarification of the meaning behind the metrics.

Drilling Down Data

With these needs established, dashboards must incorporate new options that allow users to drill down into report specifics while avoiding visual clutter. Many analytic solutions and dashboard products have arisen to avoid conflict in prioritizing the right display for metrics.

At the most basic level, web analytics solutions have incorporated more flexible chart choices for dashboards. For example, Google Analytics has updated its dashboards to allow widgets with customizable charts for simple renderings of metrics of interest. Google has also added a solutions gallery, which allows users to import and share customized dashboard templates, making metric reporting options beyond the standard widgets easier to create.

Range of Solutions

Spreadsheet-based dashboards have received the most fascinating features lately. Some analysts criticize spreadsheets because of the maintenance involved in sharing the right copy of up-to-date information. But recent plugins have narrowed the reporting gap. Plugins can pull Google Analytics data into Excel, and Google has developed an App Script format for its Google Doc spreadsheet. Users can develop simple scripts to augment their spreadsheets.

Learning Opportunities

Cloud solutions have added new options once reserved for enterprise-level analytics. These are frameworks that permit custom dashboards to be hosted and accessed online. This provides team members access to results even while working remotely. Tableau has established itself among advanced analytic practitioners, but other dashboard alternatives have appeared, such as Klipfolio, Ducksboard and Chartio.

Each system provides not only a means of combining data from various sources, but also provides options for analysts who have limited experience with databases. This will benefit business that operate with limited technical support, yet require knowledge for managing dashboard data. 

More intriguing are several JavaScript frameworks. These frameworks operate within HTML5 canvas tags and render graphics on a webpage as data is passed through it. Chart.js and Polychart.js are JavaScript libraries specifically developed to pass data into dynamic graphics.

The JavaScript frameworks require web-development skills to build custom dashboards. Open source information and support is typically available with a framework to help address any questions that may arise during a development effort. 

Resolving Questions

Finally, there are resources available to answer specific questions about dashboard development. One site, Dashboard Spy, contains tips and sources, while another, Dashboard Insight, includes expert comments on dashboard trends and presentation issues.

With these options available, businesses can select a reasonable dashboard that matches a business team’s experience to the technical data behind the needed metrics. The journey clients and customers take to learn about your business may be complex, but a sophisticated dashboard can make understanding that journey simple.

Title image by Bocman1973 (Shutterstock).

About the author

Pierre DeBois

Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business digital analytics consultancy. He reviews data from web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability.