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Blog / What Is Data Visualization: Common Mistakes and Pitfalls

What Is Data Visualization: Common Mistakes and Pitfalls

In the modern business world, being data-driven in your marketing decision-making is crucial for remaining competitive. 

Becoming a data-driven organization starts by ensuring there's a centralized, standardized, and high-quality source of business data.

But having good data isn't enough on its own. 

To unlock the true value of your business data, you need to be able to analyze and interpret it effectively to enable timely and accurate business decisions. 

That's where data visualization comes into play. 

However, common mistakes and pitfalls can easily undermine the effectiveness of data visualization. In this article, we will identify some of these potential issues to help you avoid them.

Understanding data visualization

Explained simply, data visualization is the graphical representation of data in the form of charts and graphs

In a marketing context, data visualization is used to turn complex data sets into actionable insights quickly and clearly, without marketing teams having to comb through spreadsheets and reports to find relevant information.

By highlighting critical data visually, important insights and trends are made clear - enabling faster and more effective marketing decision-making. 

The benefits of data visualization for marketing teams

Data visualization can provide many advantages for marketing teams, including:

1. Faster decision-making

The ability to make fast decisions can be a significant competitive advantage. What data visualization is great at is speeding up the decision-making process by allowing marketers to take insights at a glance.


clocks - quick decision-making

Quick, data-driven decision-making is an important competitive advantage.

2. Trend identification

Data visualization can make trends and patterns in data stand out more clearly than they would in reports that use tables. This visibility makes it easier for marketing teams to identify opportunities or issues that need addressing. 

3. Increased engagement

Spreadsheets and data tables can often be dry and challenging to digest, leading to disengagement. Visualizing data can help capture user attention and lead to better engagement, which ensures that insights aren’t overlooked.

4. Data accessibility and usability

Not everyone in a marketing team will have a technical background or the ability to navigate complex data sets. Visualizing marketing data helps to democratize access to insights, enabling all team members to understand and use important business data.

5. Enhanced understanding

Visualizing data helps to simplify complex information, making it more digestible and easier to comprehend, helping marketing teams make informed data-driven decisions.

The importance of effectively preparing your data for visualization

It goes without saying that the effectiveness of any data visualization lies in the quality and accuracy of the data that sits behind it. 

Without accurate data, even the most engaging and visually appealing data dashboard isn’t going to deliver valuable insights. In the worst-case scenario, it may even lead to erroneous marketing optimizations. 

One of the most important factors to consider is ensuring that all the data from your different marketing sources is consolidated and standardized before being loaded into your data visualization platform. 

This helps ensure that you can easily make accurate comparisons of performance across different channels in your visualizations. A leading ETL or data integration platform can help you achieve this. 

It’s also crucial to ensure that your data is correct and free from errors if you want the peace of mind of knowing that your business makes accurate decisions from your visualizations.

It’s worth considering a data integration platform with built-in data governance features and data transformation capabilities to help ensure accuracy and data quality. 

Another important factor is enabling your marketing teams to make relevant and timely decisions rather than making optimizations based on what happened last week. When preparing your data for visualization, it’s worth considering a data integration solution that can provide consolidated cross-channel data that is fetched frequently. 


Common mistakes that businesses make with data visualization

When implemented effectively, what data visualization is able to do is provide marketing teams with an easy way to understand and interpret data, leading to faster and more effective decision-making. 

Alongside the importance of making sure your data is effectively prepared, we’ve also put together an overview of the 4 golden rules of data visualization to help you get the most out of the process. 

However, for the remainder of this article, we will look at the common challenges and data visualization pitfalls to watch out for when you’re putting together your data dashboards.

1. Overcomplicating visuals

When creating data visualizations, it can be tempting to include as much information as possible to make them as valuable as possible. 

However, adding too many visuals on one dashboard or too many metrics on one visual can have the opposite of the intended effect — making the data confusing and more difficult to understand and analyze. 

For example, imagine trying to compare performance across dimensions like impressions, engagements, clicks, conversions, and revenue, all within a single chart. It wouldn’t be easy to arrive at meaningful insights as your attention would be split rather than being focused on analyzing trends for key metrics.

A better approach is simplifying visualizations to include only charts and visuals tailored to the most relevant KPIs for the key business objectives. 

This approach provides clarity for decision-makers and makes it easier to spot optimization opportunities and identify any issues to be addressed.

2. Misusing chart types

When you first log into your data visualization platform, it’s normal to want to play around with the wide variety of charts and visuals you can use to represent your data. 

However, it’s important to exercise restraint and choose your visuals wisely, as selecting the wrong chart type can lead to confusion and misinterpretation of data. 

For example, using a pie chart to compare total website traffic from different marketing sources over time would be less effective than a line chart, where you could see the trends and patterns of traffic from each channel.

So, take care with your choice of visuals, and choose the right chart type for your specific data

3. Not catering to the target audience

It’s important to tailor your data visualizations to the audience’s level of expertise and requirements without overcomplicating or oversimplifying things. 

For example, a CMO might be looking for quick access to key performance trends, which are best represented by simple line charts or column charts. Creating more complex charts for this audience will only likely distract from what they need to use the dashboard for.

On the other hand, a data analyst might benefit from using more complex visuals like radar charts or tree maps to help them look at the relationship between a group of variables or examine data in a hierarchical structure. 

4. Data misrepresentation

If you’re responsible for putting together marketing visualizations that are going to be used by the wider business, it’s understandable that you’ll want to make them look as positive as possible. 

But a common mistake that’s made with visualizing data is manipulating charts and graphs, such as using a truncated axis to exaggerate minor improvements in performance

If data is misrepresented in your visualizations, it can not only create a misleading data picture of marketing performance but can also lead to distrust and disengagement with your marketing data dashboards. 

5. Confusing use of color

The effective use of color is important for making data visualizations easy to understand and analyze. 

Yet, the misuse of color is another common mistake that tends to find its way into a lot of data visualizations, slowing down the analysis process and being a barrier to quick and effective decision-making

For example, consider a pie chart showing sales distribution across various marketing channels. If each segment of the chart is colored in closely related shades of blue, understanding the comparative performance of each channel can become unnecessarily challenging. 

6. Working with inaccurate or inconsistent data

The effectiveness of your data visualizations as decision-making tools relies heavily on the quality, consistency, and accuracy of the data used to power them. 

Creating data visualizations from inaccurate, inconsistent, or incomplete data sets can lead to misguided and erroneous marketing optimization decisions. 

Even seemingly subtle issues with data can significantly impact users' ability to take meaningful insights from your visuals.

For example, imagine the difficulty of drawing meaningful comparisons from a chart where one channel shows CPA calculated from post-click conversions only, while another includes both post-view and post-click conversions.  Without providing a standardized metric for users to compare, this visual could potentially offer more confusion than clarity

It’s important that you take the steps to ensure your data is accurate, consistent, and ready for analysis before uploading it to your data visualization platform, using solutions like data integration platforms to give you complete peace of mind. 


Adverity: Powering effective data visualization

Looking for a data integration solution to power your data visualizations?

Adverity is a leading data integration platform specifically tailored for marketers. 

With a library of more than 600 data connectors, Adverity can connect to all your different marketing sources and consolidate and standardize data ready for your data visualizations. 

With built-in data governance features, Adverity can ensure the data powering your visuals is accurate and of the highest quality. With a market-leading data fetch rate of up to every 15 minutes, marketing teams can make optimization decisions from the most recent data. 

Book a demo with Adverity today and unlock the full potential of your marketing data.

Make insights-driven decisions faster and easier!

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