Put yourself in the position of the data user for a moment. What do they want to gain from the data? What are their expectations? What will make them pleasantly surprised or disappointed? What do they want to see?
A user comes to you with a need, this need is fulfilled by the story you can help them tell.
Your role is to help your colleagues to present an important point, to reflect customer insights, or to make a business decision.
In this sense, data visualization is all about delivering to a user what they want to see in the way they prefer. You need information – you find a vast table teeming with figures and little insight.
If instead you find attractive visuals focusing on key data points, delivering relevant insight into the field, how do you feel? Probably quite a lot better.
Visualization and Perception
Without getting too deep into the science of perception, we process the information we receive on two levels; consciously and subconsciously. Think back to your school days and being presented with a moderately difficult piece of mental arithmetic; after looking at it, you perceive the answer to the question. This is conscious perception.
Depending on whether you enjoyed math at school, you may also have thought “wonderful, mental arithmetic!” or “I hate this so much.” This is subconscious perception. Successful data visualization operates in the gray area between these two forms of perception, and utilizes elements of both.
So what does this mean in terms of content? It means that content must speak to a user on both levels; it must tap into both of these elements of psychology and form a profound connection in each sense.
Therefore, a great deal of care and attention must be paid to the conscious element of perception. This means delivering the right data, connecting the most relevant insights, and drawing considered conclusions. Content users can then take this information and apply it to their own situation on a conscious level.
However, it also means that consideration must be given to the subconscious side of things. Think about the emotional connections people form with regard to colors – warm, benign color-sets compared to aggressive, clashing schemes for example – and also about neat and tidy data presentations. We tend to take the path of least resistance when approaching content, and so a neatly presented infographic is going to draw the eye more effectively than an exhaustive table of statistics.
Similarly, we can use contrasting data to manipulate the subconscious element of perception. Before and after data juxtapositions, growth projections and other data comparisons are all useful in achieving this.
Psychology in Real Terms
Given the choice, most of us would rather work at a neat and tidy desk rather than a cluttered workstation, just as most of us would prefer to quickly search and find what we need online rather than root through a thrift store for hours on end. It is these principles that we can apply to our marketing strategies in real terms.
In the competitive world we live in, fostering a positive association quickly and efficiently is vital. By targeting both levels of perception outlined above, we are utilizing psychology in bringing leads and customers to us and away from the competition.
When we get the psychology right, we find that magical things begin to happen. The return on investment we receive from content marketing sky rockets, the conversion rates of our lead acquisition funnels are enhanced, we retain customers better, we become more established in our industry, and our name becomes known online.
Each of these things is key to the growth and success of a business. They represent the sort of returns that business owners might pay a consultancy firm thousands of dollars for. They are achievable simply by recognizing the psychological factors at play.
But the psychology of data visualization goes beyond this. It also gives you the opportunity to connect data directly with your brand, developing its strength and its standing in the industry.
Brand creation is about creating symbols, aesthetics, and values that become synonymous with your business and with what you provide to your customers. This can cover anything from a striking logo and repeated color schemes and themes, right through to a commitment to service and a finely-honed knowledge of the field in which the company operates.
The association between all these things and your organization is what drives your brand and positions you for success. The power of data visualization, and the psychology behind it, are instrumental elements in achieving a strong brand.
When you deploy data visuals within your content you have the opportunity to use the colors associated with your brand, and to claim the work as yours by stamping your logo upon it. By ensuring that the data is strong, clearly presented, and that the insights and conclusions drawn from it are powerful, you are using psychology to build the association of your brand as an authority in this area. Work to get this visualization in front of as many eyes as possible and watch your prominence rise.
Data Visualization as Part of an Empathetic Strategy
Let’s think about those questions we asked ourselves at the start of this piece: what do users want from our content? What can improve their experience?
By focussing on data visualization, we are truly delivering what the content user wants and needs. We are tapping into the psychology of the consumer and creating an empathetic marketing strategy, tailored to what our customers and prospects are looking for.
We are operating in an increasingly pluralized field in which, if a customer is dissatisfied with what we are offering, they will just go elsewhere. In this kind of environment, empathy is crucial. We must get inside the heads of those we want to connect with, we must deliver them the content they engage with on a subconscious and on a conscious level. Data visualization makes this possible.
Image via Pixabay