Marketing Dashboards: The Spot-On Questions and Services

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In this article, we discuss how to build reports quickly, visualize data, and make a dashboard that clearly reflects marketing activities.

Table of contents:

Marketing reports: dealing with business tasks efficiently

It’s important to estimate the efficiency of marketing. As marketing is always a cost item, it’s necessary to understand if it’s worth spending on it. To prove that it is, you can use different kinds of reports depending on the special aspects of your business. To understand what kind of reports you need, answer the following questions: 

  1. Who is the decision maker and what decisions will be made on the basis of this report?
  2. What questions would you like to answer with this report?
  3. What metrics, dimensions, and segments are needed for creating a meaningful report?
  4. Is this report periodical or a one time thing?
  5. Do you need to update the report manually, and will you use filters on it?

What services do you use to build reports: Google Sheets, Excel, Google Analytics, or something else?

Marketing specialists need to regularly provide reports on the performance of their sales plans and the efficiency of their advertising campaigns, and these reports must be informative and clear. The situation becomes more complicated as data is often stored in different systems: Excel, Google Sheets, Google Analytics, CRM, and call tracking systems. Most likely, you’ll spend a lot of time combining all of this data. To save your team’s resources and avoid mistakes when collecting and aligning data, use OWOX BI Pipeline.

Set up automatic data collection

Let’s say we have data we need for reporting. We’ll choose metrics and parameters that will provide us with valuable insights.

Choosing metrics and parameters to display in your reports

To refresh your memory, have a look at this infographic of essential performance metrics.

OWOX BI infographics

For more of a refresher, here are some interesting links for you: 

Once you’ve agreed on the list of metrics and the frequency with which you’ll track them, it’s time to choose a way to clearly present your data.

The best ways to visualize data

Why is data visualization necessary? We can answer with a simple analogy: imagine how much easier it would be to read instructions for medication if there was at least one illustration or if the most important information was visualized. 

In the case of marketing analytics, standard Excel tables with data are our medication instructions. And it’s possible to visualize them with the help of the services described below.

We’re used to seeing data presented visually in certain ways, beginning with well-known and simple line charts, pie charts, and histograms and ending with stream graphs and sunburst charts. There are more than 60 common types of charts and graphs, and this number continues to grow. 

These are some of the most actively used visualizations:

  • Line chart – the most popular chart to represent the overall picture, show trends, and display data for a certain period 
  • Bar chart – used for comparing categories; unlike histograms, bar charts compare discrete variables 
  • Histogram – sister of the bar chart that shows data for a continuous interval or period 
  • Pie chart – the most common way to demonstrate ratios or percentages 
  • Bubble chart – shows the correlation between circles and compares their volume
  • Geo chart – displays the development of geographical areas, making it convenient for international companies
  • Stream graph – displays changes in categories over time and is easy to use with large volumes of data for a certain time interval 
  • Sunburst chart – a multilevel chart for demonstrating communications and hierarchy in a system.

To learn more about the correct use of diagrams and charts, read other articles on our blog and review the diagrams and charts in the Data Visualization Catalogue.

Among all the popular ways of presenting data, infographics are worth mentioning. Infographics provide information in a balanced and consistent way. They’re easy to read because they’re structured, colorful, and stylish. Besides, infographics are perfectly suited for promoting on social networks. Boring instructions or complex dependencies are much easier to perceive in infographics. An infographic helps to tell a story and helps people understand relationships as complicated as those in Game of Thrones :)

Game of Thrones infographic showing relationships between houses and characters

Not so long ago, infographics evolved into an interactive form. Continuing with Game of Thrones, this interactive infographic shows all the betrayals of characters in detail.

Game of Thrones infographic showing betrayals

Interactive storytelling, for example, is used by the Tableau Desktop service for creating presentations and reports.

Creating effective visuals is quite a difficult task, and if you’re a beginner, we recommend starting with basic rules and tricks that you can apply without the help of developers.

Dashboards: the best way of presenting data

A dashboard presents all relevant data on one screen and also visualizes the results of calculations in the form of vivid graphs, charts, and tables. This way of presenting data helps viewers perceive information more easily and considerably simplifies decision-making. 

The advantages of dashboards – which unite complex reports – are indisputable. A dashboard is a safe way to clearly present key parameters and various metrics that can’t be presented in a single report. 

Advantages of dashboards:

  • Not necessary to combine data manually
  • All KPIs are visible on one screen
  • Changes in data can be monitored in real time

Dashboards allow people to more easily understand large data sets and estimate the current situation at a glance. In other words, dashboards reveal secrets in your data. 

One more advantage of dashboards is the simplicity of control over reporting. When working with any data visualization service, you need to perform three steps:

  1. Connect data sources.
  2. Choose the period for analysis.
  3. Build a report on the basis of this data.

Criteria for a good dashboard

Characteristics of a good dashboard include:

  • Well-planned data visualization – You can quickly and easily see where ROI sinks or what ad platform isn’t working.
  • The right context – At first sight, it’s clear what charts are about and what data is presented in the form of diagrams.
  • The opportunity to select dates – You can easily change the reporting period for advertising campaigns.
  • Interactive widgets – Data can be filtered according to selected parameters (country, city, device, campaign, etc.).
  • The ability to compare data – You can compare selected data with the same data for the previous period to estimate the efficiency of advertising campaigns.
  • The ability to monitor changes – You can monitor changes with a chosen frequency – for example, measure traffic once a day, once a week, or in real time.

A good dashboard provides useful information for decision-making and insights, and a bad one doesn’t give a definite answer to your questions. 

To make a good dashboard, understand the purpose of the dashboard, how it can help you, and what challenges it will help you solve in the future.

Mistakes when creating dashboards

  • Too many details and elements distract users and turn the dashboard into a carnival.​
  • Metrics, axes, and charts are named oddly. 
  • Data isn’t visualized using appropriate charts/graphs. For example, a pie chart is chosen to demonstrate decay over time. 
  • The purpose of the dashboard isn’t clear from the report title, leading to confusion.

If you want to learn more about data visualization, we recommend the blog by Stephen Few, an American expert in data visualization and the author of Information Dashboard Design and The Data Loom.

But enough with theory! Let’s look closer at the services that help you test everything you’ve learned about data visualization.

Dashboard creation services

Google Analytics

The most popular web analytics service from Google uses widgets for dashboard customization. In general, there are three options for creating a Google Analytics dashboard:

  • Create a dashboard without widgets, starting with a blank slate
  • Create a dashboard with a set of default widgets (an initial set of reports)
  • Import a dashboard from the Google Analytics Solutions gallery

The standard Google Analytics dashboard can be altered to achieve a dashboard that displays all the information you need.

For example, here’s a dashboard about website visitors (from Dashboard Junkie). You can see the country and the city in which your clients are in, their browsers, their screen resolutions, etc.

dashboard Junkie sample

The Google Analytics Solutions gallery gives you access to all of the most popular dashboards. Besides just browsing for the right dashboard, you can search by categories with recommended dashboards, reports, and segments.

GA Solutions gallery

Advantages of Google Analytics

  • It’s free
  • It has a solutions and templates gallery
  • You can adjust and compare segments in reports

Disadvantages of Google Analytics

  • Works only with information from Google Analytics
  • Automatically loads data only from Google Ads
  • Sampling of large volumes of data
  • Session information processing can be delayed up to 48 hours

Google Data Studio

This popular service from Google creates reports and dashboards and perfectly visualizes data from different sources. At the moment, it supports 18 Google connectors and 138 partner connectors. Moreover, there are 12 connectors with open-source code available.

Example of a Google Data Studio dashboard:

Google Data Studio dashboard Ad campaign sample

You can find an example of a Facebook Ads Insights dashboard made with the help of OWOX BI and Google Data Studio in the Google gallery:

Sample Google Data Studio dashboard

Data Studio advantages

  • Regularly updated
  • Free
  • Integrated with all Google products
  • Convenient for visualizing reports from Google BigQuery
  • Possible to use data from different sources in one dashboard

Disadvantages

  • No additional data aligning; data has to be prepared before loading
  • ​Impossible to define in advance how exactly a dashboard will look on a mobile device

Note: To receive quality data and reports while working with Google Data Studio, we recommend collecting raw data in Google BigQuery and building dashboards from it.

Collect data with the help of OWOX BI Pipeline — Try it 14 days free of charge:

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OWOX BI Smart Data

The next product on our list is OWOX BI Smart Data. It allows you to quickly receive and visualize answers to management and marketing questions without involving analysts. 

For our readers, we’ve prepared a template of the Marketing Attribution Dashboard in Google Data Studio. This dashboard collects the most popular metrics and parameters for reporting and analysis of the current processes.

OWOX BI dashboard sample

On this dashboard, there’s a separate page that demonstrates how various sources influence the user’s decision to make a purchase.

OWOX BI Smart Data provides three ways to obtain reports.

  1. Report builder. To get reports using the report builder, you need to choose the data source, the reporting period, and the necessary metrics and parameters from the list. After that, the report builder will show what reports are available.
report builder Smart Data
  1. Enter a query manually. Using this method, begin to type a keyword – for example, “conversion” – and OWOX BI Smart Data will prompt you with available reports. ​
query input Smart Data
  1. Choose a report among the templates on the OWOX BI Smart Data home page. ​
OWOX BI attribution reports

If you want to visualize a report from Smart Data in Google Data Studio, just export it and open in Data Studio.

Data Studio export

OWOX BI generates a link with report data and sends it to Data Studio. After that, the data will be available in Data Studio Explorer, where it can be visualized and used for building a Data Studio report:

Data Studio explorer

Advantages of OWOX BI Smart Data

  • Works with different data sources​
  • No special technical training needed
  • Provides data segments from different sources
  • Automatically checks the quality of data

Disadvantages

  • Limited opportunities for visualization​
  • Works with a finite set of queries and combinations

Microsoft Power BI

This is one of the oldest data visualization services. In addition to the desktop version, there’s also a mobile version that’s convenient for data validation on the go. Power BI allows you to create and share dashboards, and its interface is clear.

Power BI dashboard sample - Travel Analysis

It’s worth mentioning that there’s a free version of Power BI, so you can get acquainted with it and form your own opinion of its functionality.

Power BI dashboard sample Vehicle Sales

Advantages of Power BI

  • Can combine data from various sources​
  • Can preview dashboards and customize the display for tablets and phones
  • Integration with Microsoft products

Disadvantages

  • Not enough tools for cleaning and processing data
  • Importing and processing large volumes of data takes a lot of time

Tableau

Tableau can also work with multiple data sources.

Note: As we’ve mentioned, it’s best to collect raw data in one place – for example, in Google BigQuery with the help of OWOX BI Pipeline, which is convenient to use.

Tableau allows you to create interactive dashboards and is easy to use, which is why this service enjoys such popularity.

Tableau dashboard

The Tableau community, with its forum of active users and a library with training resources, is one more confirmation that Tableau is one of the most popular business intelligence services.

Tableau dashboard sample

More advantages of Tableau

  • Easy integration with Big Data platforms
  • ​Supports mobile platforms
  • Gets regular updates and comes with many additional materials (courses, videos, instructions)

Disadvantages

  • Low level of data protection​
  • Data has to be prepared before loading
  • Exporting data takes a lot of time

Key takeaways

Keep in mind that the choice of a suitable service for visualization depends on the volume of data with which a company operates. For small businesses, the capabilities of Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, and OWOX BI Smart Data will be enough. For a more difficult dashboard, it’s worth thinking about systems with greater functionality, such as Google Data Studio, Tableau, and Power BI.

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