“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”

Dr. Howard Gardner, professor at Harvard University

As market researchers, we live and breathe data, numbers, percentages, trend lines, and statistics. Measuring the customer experience is our bread and butter while evaluating advertising effectiveness is our coffee on the side. We lead with logic and certainty and try not to let our emotions cloud our judgment. We spend hours compiling data through agile market research and work tirelessly crafting reports to showcase our findings to business leaders and decision-makers. 

Given our passion for all that is numerical, we can sometimes overlook one crucial detail: storytelling. 

Data storytelling is a method for presenting data findings in a digestible way for non-researches. Instead of a mundane black and white report, data storytelling allows the numbers to be shown in full color, making them more impactful and memorable for business leaders. Just think back to all the fond memories you have with your parents reading fairytale books and getting lost in the wanderlust of it all. 

Storytelling is more than just folklore; this data sharing method gives numbers a human perspective that is powerful and highly effective in this ever-changing digital world.

How to Tell Your Business Story Through Data

Data storytelling merges data science and storytelling into a highly digestible format that business leaders can’t help but gobble right up. Though market researchers are not always trained in the art of storytelling, it’s never too late to learn how to bring the numbers to life. 

Modern data storytelling techniques are comprised of two main parts: 

  • Visualizations: Graphs and charts provide a helpful visual snapshot of data though by themselves are not sufficient to communicate a story
  • Narratives: Narrative is the key to compelling data storytelling, and it all starts with learning how to humanize the numbers

The Art of Data Storytelling

So how do you get started with data storytelling? 

The first step is to find the right narrative. Researchers need to determine: 

  • The context of the story 
  • What main problem will be explored 
  • Who is involved in the story (think characters with real names) 
  • How the problem will be solved 
  • The story resolution with a call to action 

This framework allows for the infusion of relevant visualizations that support rather than hinder the story’s main message. Focus on visuals with clean and crisp typography that give answers to questions in seconds with little effort. No one likes to look at a chart in confusion. Additionally, ensure that your visuals are relevant to the content being discussed. Graphic representations of the data that flow naturally with the narrative allow our end viewer to draw the right conclusions, saving everyone time and hassle.  

Data storytelling gives market researchers the ability to share data with a human perspective, which is invaluable in this increasingly digital world. This powerful tool is beneficial to both the researcher and the recipient as it helps make data memorable for intelligent decision making and measuring customer experience. In fact, a recent study by a Stanford professor Chip Heath found 63% of individuals could remember stories, while just 5% could remember a single statistic. 

What story will you tell next?