In a year that has seen the entire population look at charts and graphs on a near daily basis, many people are starting to grapple with the communication limitations of data. Graphs can be misleading, confusing, and uninspiring.
Marketers understand this.
Data storytelling has been a part of the marketing and sales toolkit for years, and as recently as 2014, Google search volume for the term has been climbing. Even in a recent Twitter poll, when we sought feedback on a potential benchmark report topic, data storytelling was the popular choice among marketers.
So what exactly is data storytelling?
As Lydia Hooper points out, data storytelling is a comprehensive way of sharing information. It involves data visualization, which plays an important role. As the two are related, we asked marketers about their experiences with both for the report.
Increasingly sophisticated tools and platforms will continue to provide us with innumerable data points, and it will fall on marketers to make sense of it all. Data storytelling will only grow as a key function of the modern marketing professional.
This report provides a baseline for the data storytelling skills of marketers in different industries.
Find out how you compare with marketers in your industry when it comes to data storytelling. You might be ahead of the curve, or trailing behind. You can also find out how each industry leverages data storytelling.
These insights and more are exactly what you’ll find in Venngage’s Data Storytelling in Marketing: Benchmark Report 2021.
For a summary of the report, and a preview of some of our findings, click on the links below.
We wanted to understand the many roles that data plays in a marketing setting, and understand how that data is presented. From internal reports on consumer trends and behavior, to engaging charts and graphs that support a piece of content, data serves a purpose.
As the responsibility to analyze and report on data falls on marketers, we wondered how proficient are marketers today at data storytelling? Is it a skill that marketers are mastering, or struggling with? Are there differences in how marketers from different industries approach data storytelling, or the expectations placed on them?
Finally, we wanted to discover which industries are finding success through data storytelling and which are struggling.
In order to get a thorough understanding of how marketers currently use data storytelling, we asked 338 marketers across 13 industries, how data impacts their organization’s marketing goals, how they use data, and their personal opinions on data storytelling. We asked each marketer to rate their skill level and provide details on their organization, including company size and industry.
To complement this qualitative research, we also dug into Venngage’s own data. Looking at the creation and design habits of our almost 40,000 active users who identify as marketers, we were able to understand the types of data visualizations marketers were creating on a regular basis, and what their purpose was.
The information we gathered through researching this benchmark is fascinating, and we know that data storytelling will continue to be an important marketing tool for years to come.
What we learned
The use of data storytelling is prevalent in all industries, for internal and external purposes. What’s interesting is how the purpose of data storytelling changes between industries.
- Data visualization expertise is a necessary marketing skill, and only growing in importance.
- A majority of data-driven marketing content is seen as effective, but rarely branded.
- The range of software for data visualizations is limited, and many marketers rely on using multiple solutions to compensate.
- In some industries, data storytelling is used solely for internal reporting and business insights. It drives high-level decision-making, and tactics.
- In other industries, data storytelling is a key factor in the acquisition and sales funnels, and only moderately important for internal reporting.
- There are significant differences in the budgets that support data visualization and storytelling, when comparing industries. The average data visualization budget may surprise you.
Trends like these vary between industries and provide insights into how data storytelling is leveraged, the competitive edge it provides businesses with, and where opportunities for growth through data exist.
Data visualization expertise is a core marketing skill
Several questions posed to our respondents focused on their ability to visualize data and present it.
We learned that a majority of marketers create data visualizations on a regular basis.
A majority of marketers also felt confident in their ability to tell stories through data and considered themselves skilled.
However, very few had any formal background in data analytics and reporting.
How often do you create data visualizations for your marketing?
47.67% of marketers create data visualizations on a weekly basis.
36.67% of marketers create data visualizations on a monthly basis.
That means 84% of marketers create data visualizations on a regular basis for their work.
Only 1% of respondents said they never do.
Using data visuals in marketing work is common and expected of marketers today. It’s no surprise that a majority of respondents stated they were confident in their ability to use data in their marketing.
Do you feel confident using data in your marketing?
When asked about their confidence levels in using data in marketing, the majority of total marketers stated that they felt very confident, pretty confident, or confident (84%). Of that majority, 32% of total respondents felt very confident.
10% of respondents said they were somewhat confident.
Only 5% of respondents stated they were not confident at all.
Marketers are generally comfortable using data in their work. Considering the frequency with which they create data visuals, and their confidence working with data, it’s clear that it is a skill they need to do their work.
However, confidence levels vary significantly between industries.
For example, respondents in the healthcare industry are the most confident marketers in any industry. 57% stated they felt very confident using data in their work.
Similarly, 42% of marketers in both agriculture and IT/engineering stated they felt very confident. It is very likely the work in these sectors places significant emphasis on understanding and visualizing data effectively.
While there is a need across industries for data storytelling, marketers in several industries report very low levels of confidence. Although they work with data and data visuals on a regular basis, they struggle presenting information.
The industries those marketers are in, and the correlating factors like budgets and resources for data visualizations available to them, are detailed in the benchmark report.
Rate your data visualization skill level
Overall, our respondents claimed to be skilled with data visualization.
77% of respondents rated their data visualizations skills as absolute pro, very good, or good.
13.67% of respondents stated they are average.
While only 9% of respondents stated they are complete beginners.
Interestingly enough, the confidence of using data in marketing did not always align with the data visualization skill levels of respondents.
For example, marketers in healthcare were the most confident in their ability to use data, but only 26% considered themselves absolute pros in data visualization.
We see the same gap for marketers in agriculture, with only 21% of respondents considering themselves as absolute pros.
For respondents in the IT/engineering space, however, confidence and skill levels are almost identical.
39% of IT/engineering respondents consider themselves absolute pros at visualizing data (with 42% very confident in using data).
42% of IT/engineering respondents consider themselves to be very good at visualizing data (with 39% pretty confident in using data).
This tells us that understanding and working with data is straightforward, but visualizing data is still a challenge for many.
This may be due to a number of factors, like technical skills, access to visualization software, and budgeting for data visuals.
What is your background in data storytelling?
32% of respondents had learnt to utilize data storytelling for the first time in their current marketing position.
51% of respondents were able to draw on previous career experiences, before getting into their current marketing role.
Only 9% of respondents had learned about data analytics in an academic setting.
And 7% of respondents happened to be in a data-heavy role before their marketing position.
The reliance on data in marketing is clear. The majority of marketers work with data regularly.
Many marketers learn how to work with data on the job, but a majority bring existing data skills from previous roles as they transition into marketing.
Once you break the data down by industry, the confidence, proficiency and frequency in data storytelling varies between marketers. Marketers in some industries are very comfortable working with data or visualizing it, while many others find it highly challenging.
This benchmark report provides a close look at how marketers in each industry fare with data storytelling. Are you lagging behind in data storytelling proficiency for your industry, or are you ahead of the curve? Find out how well and often marketers in your industry work with data.
Download the benchmark report today and find out.
Marketers visualize data for many audiences
Marketers work with data fairly often, and create data visualizations regularly. But what kind of data are they reporting? Who are their audiences? And how are they utilizing their data to achieve organizational goals?
What sort of data do marketers communicate?
Data reporting for marketers ranges greatly and our responses took that into account. From the responses, we were able to see which forms of data were more popular than others.
A majority of respondents (73.67%) stated that they communicate sales data.
No other forms of data come quite as close.
After sales data, 43.67% of respondents report on customer success data; 42.33% of respondents report on market research data; and 41.67% of respondents report on social media metrics.
The least popular forms of data being reported on were conversions (26%) and ad spend (21%).
Who do you create data visualizations for?
Marketers create data visualizations for a range of audiences. Audiences can be internal or external. Internal audiences include executives, management, the sales team, and other marketing team members. External audiences include clients, leads, social followers and others.
Generally, marketing team members and sales teams are marketers’ biggest audiences for data visualizations. A majority of respondents create data visuals for both.
55.33% of respondents create data visuals for marketing team members.
51.33% of respondents create data visuals for sales teams.
Marketers are tasked with enlightening their team members and supporting sales teams with data-driven insights. Considering a majority of the data they communicate is also sales data, we can infer that marketers need to understand and report on consumer behavior, and factors that drive quality sales.
75% of marketers in the real estate industry create data visualizations for both the sales team and management. As an industry, they lead in both categories. Data appears to be an essential sales lever for real estate marketing.
Generally, it appears that data visualizations are used least often for general audiences, like social media followers or blog readers.
33% of marketers in the administrative space create data visuals for general audiences – the highest for any industry.
Which industries make the most data-driven decisions? Which marketers use data visualizations to engage with their customers the most? You can learn more about how different industries utilize data visualizations in the benchmark report.
Download the benchmark report today to find out.
Investments in data visualization by industry
Many factors are involved in the decision to produce data visualizations at an organization. The importance placed on data visualization by leadership; technical skills available to visualize data; the costs of software needed to visualize data; and the cost for outsourcing design work (when in-house talent is not an option) are just a few factors.
There are cases where data visualization is a major business driver. It is a way to communicate marketing impact, share insights for growth opportunities, support the sales team, learn about your customers and more.
Kasey Bayne, Director of Growth Marketing at Vrify shared his view on data visualization:
We were interested in learning about the budgets available to marketers across industries for visualizing data.
What is your (yearly) budget for data visualization?
Data visualization is more than just reporting on data, or designing engaging content. It is the act of visualizing sets of data to guide decisions. As we saw earlier, it is something that requires a measure of skill and know-how.
One way to visualize data is by leveraging existing staff, and empowering them through purchasing or subscribing to the right software. Alternatively, data visualization can be left to in-house graphic designers or outsourced for high-value reports or a series of content.
A majority of marketers reported that their budget for data visualization is $5000 or less.
35% of marketers have a budget of $1000 or less.
26% of marketers have a budget between $1000-$5000.
Only 8% of marketers have a budget of over $10,000 a year.
Meanwhile, 15% of marketers have no additional budget for data visualization whatsoever.
From the responses we collected, (and highlighted in the report), we saw that marketers use several tools to present and visualize data and their findings. The benchmark report shares data on the most popular data visualization tools among marketers today.
When we look at costs for some popular options, we get a sense of how restrictive some of these budgets are. A subscription to inDesign as a singular app can cost $251.88 a year per person, while a single Tableau subscription can cost $840 a year.
That means for the majority of marketers, their access to software to do their data-related work is restricted, due to budget constraints. Rather than on a team with the necessary resources, the responsibility falls on one marketer to do all the data-focused work.
Who creates data visualizations on your team?
To further understand the resources at a marketer’s disposal, we asked who creates data visualizations on a marketing team. This was one way to understand which industries, according to our respondents, are at an advantage when it comes to data visualization work.
Is there an in-house graphic designer available? Is there a freelancer/contract graphic designer at their disposal? Is there a marketing team member who handles it all, or does it fall on the respondents themselves?
Turns out, when we consider all industries, there isn’t a single dominant trend.
- 22% of respondents stated that they made their own data visualizations
- 23% of respondents rely on a specific marketing team member
- 25% utilize a freelance/contract graphic designer
- 29% of respondents have access to an in-house graphic designer.
An in-house graphic designer is available to over a quarter of survey respondents.
This represents a clear advantage over competing businesses whose marketers handle data visualization work themselves. Without the right resources or technical skills, they won’t be able to communicate as effectively.
When we compare responses between industries, we see which sectors value the quality of their data visualizations the most. The industry breakdowns are quite diverse and paint their own unique pictures.
For example, when we look at the manufacturing industry, 43% of respondents have an in-house designer at their disposal. 21% of respondents leverage a freelance/contract graphic designer.
That means 64% of respondents in the manufacturing space do not create their own data visualizations, or rely on a fellow marketer.
It seems like, generally, there is higher value placed on quality data visualizations. When we look at the different audiences catered to by marketers in the manufacturing space, it makes sense.
52% of respondents in the manufacturing sector require data visualizations for marketing purposes.
47% of respondents in the manufacturing sector create data visualizations for management.
43% of respondents in the manufacturing sector create data visualizations for the sales team.
So what does this tell us? Effective, insightful data visualizations are valuable assets when it comes to communicating information. For an industry, whose marketing team must constantly report insights to other departments and its potential customers, an in-house designer is essential.
But not all manufacturing brands have that luxury, and things look very different when we compare industries.
So how do different industries invest in their data visualizations and where does your industry fall? Does your sector typically have graphic designers handling data visualization work, or do marketers take on that responsibility?
Download the benchmark report today and find out.
Distribution trends for data visualizations
How do marketers format, present or share data visualizations with audiences today? Are some platforms more popular than others? What are the platforms marketers must master, in order to effectively communicate their insights?
Trends in this area help us understand how marketers are engaging their audiences today.
What platforms do you create data visualizations for?
We were somewhat surprised, based on responses from previous questions, how respondents answered this one. It provides insight into the role content plays with branding, thought leadership and authority.
33% of respondents create data visualizations as video content.
40% of respondents create data visualizations for presentations.
73% of respondents create data visualizations for social media.
These are the three most popular platforms for data visualizations.
In our question about the audiences for marketers’ data visualizations, social media was not among the top responses. It was in fact, one of the lowest.
However, when it comes to distributing data visualizations and their insights, social media appears to be a popular choice among marketers. How can we account for this difference?
One possible reason is the need for almost every business to have an online presence, demonstrate thought leadership, and present a reliable brand to their audiences. Social media is one of the ways businesses do this and unique data is highly valuable.
The focus for creating data visualizations may not be central to a content marketing strategy. However, the data visualizations and their insights allow brands to build their authority in an easy way.
In our own series on visual content marketing statistics, 40% of marketers agreed that infographics were their most impactful forms of content and 10% felt that data visualizations in particular, were their most engaging content.
Content repurposing also plays a role in the types of social media content marketers produce. It certainly does in our own social media strategy. The Venngage marketing team often takes data from blog content and studies like these, to create simple but unique data visualizations for our social media channels.
We won’t draw any concrete conclusions about why this difference in responses exists. However, we believe it has to do with branding, thought leadership, the value of unique data and ease of creating visuals for social media.
The complete report provides more clues, by exploring respondents’ marketing goals with data, their communications challenges, and how data visualizations are most often used. These insights provide a more complete picture on how data visualizations are being used by companies today.
Download the benchmark report today and find out.
What comes next?
Venngage’s Data Storytelling in Marketing: Benchmark Report 2021 is the first close look at the many ways marketers use data storytelling today.
Marketers play a key role in communicating complex information so that their stakeholders (executives, sales teams, the marketing team, clients and others) can make informed decisions.
While data storytelling has become an essential marketing skill, we can wonder how effective are modern marketers in their capacity to tell stories through data? How do marketers get started with data storytelling, and what are the skills and tools involved in that process?
As marketers, we’re very familiar with our own work, but how are other marketers in different industries approaching data storytelling? More importantly, how do we compare with them?
These questions and more inspired this benchmark report. Not only did we ask 338 marketers to share their insights, we also looked at our own database of 40,000 marketers who create data visualizations on a regular basis. The types of data they report, along with styles of charts and graphs they create, are insights included in our benchmark report.
What you can expect from the complete benchmark report:
- See how your data storytelling skills compare to marketers today
- Learn new ways to leverage data storytelling effectively
- Discover how other industries drive success with data storytelling
- Find popular tools and resources for data visualization
- Discover common challenges to data communication
- Identify opportunities for growth, with new approaches to data storytelling
- Learn how you can close data gaps
So why wait? Get your Data Storytelling in Marketing: Benchmark Report 2021 today.