Data storytelling in marketing

data storytelling

What is data storytelling?

Big Data is prevalent in this era. In order to understand the customer insights, most companies understand customers’ behavior by tracking and pulling data from websites or social media

There are three elements to form data storytelling: narrative, visuals, and data. Data storytelling is using data as a guidance source. It is a process of creating a story based on data. Not all business people or decision makers can read numbers or spreadsheets. Data storytelling allows them to understand the customer insight with visualized data and apply actions to the market. It is a bridge between data and Business people.

To process huge amounts of data and make them readable and understandable, data studios such as Tableau or Google can help to visualize data. Data will be converted into visualization that humans can comprehend - data visualization.

Data visualization

Data visualization is the graphical representation of information and data. Data visualization tools such as Tableau can provide an accessible way to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data. Data visualization provides insights that business people can make decisions based on authentic information.

Data Visualization Types and Examples

There are many types of Data Visualization such as bar charts, line charts, map charts, etc.

Common types of data visualization:

  • Charts

  • Line charts

  • Tables

  • Graphs

  • Maps

  • Infographics

  • Dashboards

Different data visualizations serve different functions. Below is an example of Data Visualization that is showing buildings in Hong Kong with confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. From the map, we can clearly understand most buildings in Kowloon have confirmed cases in the past 14 days.

data storytelling

Source: Hong Kong Government Data

Another example is demographic on social media platforms. Below images are showing the percentages of social media users visiting the site on a daily basis, and the demographics on different social media platforms in 2019.

data storytelling

The research of percentage of social media users logging in on a daily basis

data storytelling

Demographic of Facebook and Instagram - (source: Sprout Social

These informations are useful for user segmentation, as well as providing an insight for marketers. Marketers can create marketing strategies or digital marketing strategies based on this information. Marketers can allocate their resources better by focusing on their target groups.

Why is data storytelling a crucial part for marketing?

A story can grab the attention of your audience. A good story can shape how others see you. It can pursue people to take actions.

According to Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor of Marketing from Graduate School of Business in Stanford University, people remember stories 22x more memorable than facts and figures alone.

Neil Patel states, "62% of B2B marketers rated storytelling as an effective content marketing tactic in 2017".

data storytelling

Source: Atomic Reach

Marketing with data or information is more persuasive. With narrative, it explains to your audience what is happening in the data. A good marketer can leverage the power of storytelling to improve branding or conversion rates.

Intelligent decision making

Not all audiences or business people are familiar with understanding data or spreadsheets alone. With data storytelling, data will not only be presented in numbers or charts, but also a narrative that humans can comprehend.

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. A data story has the same structure. Data visualization can provide historical information in graphs. Ideas of marketing experts will be more persuasive when they present their ideas with authentic historical information to decision makers.

Data storytelling is good for prediction and decision making. Data storytelling must be presented without bias and with the proper empathy and context. Business users or decision makers absorb and then leverage insights to have an intelligent decision making.

Build a strong brand

Storytelling has the functions of shaping how others see you, and influence how people see you. Using storytelling can let your audience and customers understand your vision and where your brand will go. A good storytelling will resonate with your audience that can connect your brand with your audiences.

People in this era are craving information. The power of storytelling combined with data visualization, it let your audience understand your brand better. It also leads to increasing the confidence of your audiences.

More persuasive

Customers or consumers are more intelligent when they choose a product or brand in this era. They request more information before making a purchase. To stand out your brand, authentic information helps a lot. As described above, not all users or customers can process numerous datas, a narrative that humans can comprehend is necessary. A compelling tale with data can resonate with your audiences. It is more persuasive and pushes your audience to the next step - take action.

Evoke emotion of audiences

One of the portions of customer purchases is emotion-driven. Storytelling can have an emotional impact on audiences. Telling a story with statistics (data visualization) and a real story, it will resonate with audiences. A real story may evoke feelings and emotions of audiences, that can encourage the next action of audiences.

Data visualization and story must be real. According to Max Tsypliaev, CEO of Comindware, “Humans have always loved good stories, And professional marketers use that fact to their advantage. Do not write fake stories and never claim a story is true that everyone knows is not.”

Identify the right problem or the opportunity

A journey mapping can help simulate a customers’ experience of a service. Put your feet into your audiences’ shoes, and experience your services or products from your own company to look for the good and bad sides. From this experience, organizations can discover the problems of their services or products, or they may discover the opportunities in the meantime.

data storytelling

Source: NN Group

Example of Data Storytelling

Boeing - Forecast and decision-making

According to the historical data, Boeing predicted that air cargo grows at an average annual compound rate of 4% in the next 20 years. With replacement of aging planes, Boeing will create 2,430 freighters in the next 20 years. They plan to increase freighter by more than half.

Boeing has its strategies for the next 20 years based on the prediction from historical data. This is one of the examples that data storytelling helps on decision making.

data storytelling

Source: Boeing

Virgin Atlantic Airways - Troubleshoot problematic user journey

Virgin Atlantic Airways had a chance to redesign and expand their area in Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport. Virgin Atlantic Airways cooperated with Engine to develop a program of envisaging the future in Heathrow. They shadowed passengers on their journeys through the airport and in-depth interviews with travellers of different types and classes to learned customers’ experience pre- and post-flight.

Data and information from the research was visualized into a customer journey map. Virgin Atlantic Airways was guided by this customer journey map to improve their services. Virgin created a new check in experience that led to 75% less check-in times and the Customer Service Index (CSI) for the customer experience has increased by 30% according to Engine.

Save the Children - Encourage an action

Save the Children uses statistics (data visualization) as a basis to illustrate the countries involving conflicts that are bad places for children to live. Together with a narrative about the impact of children living there. It hits the emotion chord of audiences.

The goal of Save the Children is encouraging an action of donation. You can see that they provide a way for audiences with taking actions at the end of the advertising.

This example shows that data storytelling is more convincing than the way of providing a story alone of data alone.

data storytelling

Source: Save The Children


With data visualization and true story, it creates a data tale that resonates with your audiences. Data storytelling is more convincing and appealing than just showing graphs and figures.

Why tell a story?

  • Show audiences your goal (Why?)

  • Grab audiences’ attentions

  • Engage your audiences (Why do your audiences care?)

  • Action: Encourage purchase of your customers

Data storytelling is a trend of marketing research, digital marketing, and content marketing. Data visualization enriches the content of your products and evokes empathy of your audiences, which can reach the next level - improve brand identity or take action.

Besides, data storytelling helps to identify problems and opportunities of a service or product, which can improve the customers’ experience.


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