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Data Empathy:
The Marketing Dashboard Imperative We Need

By Ross C Jenkins created on September 27, 2022

According to Gartner, Customer centricity is the ability of an organization to recognize their customers' situations, perceptions, and expectations. It puts customers at the center of all decisions — from delivering products and services to the experiences created to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. Those same principles can be applied to delivering data products.

When we talk of building dashboards and automating reports, it’s rare to hear about the human-centric approach to delivering data solutions. After all, building dashboards, reports, data products or apps aren’t emotionally charged tasks. Visualization isn’t worthy of empirical study or heuristics so, why should marketers seek to apply it; let alone understand why consumers need it?

But here are the startling facts: Conservatively, 80% of all Business Intelligence projects fail to deliver expectations and just because a solution was delivered on time or on budget, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be adopted or drive measurable value.

As marketers, we understand two types of data: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative measures give us insights into customer behaviors, e.g., logins and views. That’s the “What”. However, understanding the qualitative side of data product development is less clear. Because, here, we want to understand the How and the Why. This can’t be solved simply by gathering business or technical requirements, so we miss the mark on platform satisfaction, motivation, and loyalty. What’s missing? We need data empathy.

“Data-driven empathy is about humanizing data: bringing personal insights to life in a way that allows you to know your customer beyond the incomplete information that populates traditional systems of records. It’s about the intent to seek these insights, aligning systems, operational models, and processes focused on unifying and analyzing customer data so that it’s insightful, actionable, and personal.” Brian Solis [futurist, author, and Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce]

For example, Marketers know that the dashboard delivery process begins with data onboarding, preparation, and visualization. But, well before we’ve onboarded a single data row, there’s a key component conspicuously missing from our discovery and build processes. We need to understand why and how our consumers use dashboards before we can deliver one. If we don’t, we risk eroding confidence and wasting time and money. To achieve data empathy, we need to talk, listen, and learn from customers to find out their perceptions, needs, and objectives. This is achieved by adding customer empathy to our delivery process.


Marketing dashboards often showcase goals, conversion rates, and related cost per efficiency metrics. But today, we fail to understand how business decisions are actually made using data. Marketers responsible for delivering data products need new methods for defining success whether it be driving customer satisfaction, increasing adoption, or raising usage, even before considering traditional north star metrics of marketing effectiveness and efficiency. This is the missing imperative that negatively impacts platform usage.

Until these primary, behavioral metrics are understood, tracked, socialized, and improved, marketers will never achieve data empathy and the marketing platforms built for our audiences will continue to be unappreciated and undervalued and a 20% success rate will remain the standard.

Data empathy is that critical first step. Take it.

Want to know more about improving your ability to deliver better data experiences and achieving data empathy? Opt-in for future communication and take a look five principles of data-driven design.




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