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Data Empathy:
The Marketing Dashboard Imperative

By Ross C Jenkins on May 13, 2022

According to Gartner, Customer centricity is the ability 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 increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

When we talk about developing dashboards and automating marketing insights, it’s rare to hear about the human-centric approach to data delivery. After all, building dashboards and reports aren’t emotionally charged tasks. Visualization isn’t worthy of empirical study or heuristics so, why should marketers seek to improve it; let alone study the way consumers use it?

But here are the facts: 80% of all Business Intelligence projects fail to deliver consumer expectations. Just because a solution was delivered, doesn’t mean it drives value. This is a troubling trend that must be reversed.

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 dashboard 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 we need is 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]

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 the delivery process.


Marketing dashboards often showcase goals, conversion rates, and cost per efficiency metrics. But today, to determine how business decisions are made using data, marketers responsible for dashboard delivery need new methods for defining success whether it be driving customer satisfaction, increasing adoption, or raising usage.

Until these primary metrics are understood, tracked, socialized, and improved, marketers will never achieve data empathy and the marketing platforms built will continue to be unappreciated and undervalued. Is a 20% success rate as good as it gets?

Data empathy is that critical first step. Take it.