Communicating insights in a compelling and creative manner is becoming more and more important in the industry. In the most recent GRIT report, almost 4 in 10 researchers view storytelling and data visualization as a game-changer in the insights industry. And this sentiment is growing with data visualization up 9 percentage points as an industry game-changer among researchers in 2017, compared to 2016.

Researchers are responding by dedicating an increasing portion of their analysis time to data visualization. According to the GRIT report, researchers spend about 21 percent of their analysis time on data visualization – more than any other task. Yet, many researchers have not fully embraced new technology and tools in creating their visualizations. Most researchers continue to rely on Excel to create data visualizations, with only 18 percent using dynamic interactive dashboards.

Despite dedicating increasing time to visualizations, the results are not resonating. Client satisfaction with data visualization ranked lower than any other aspect of research. Other areas of research examined included research design, project management, cost, and data analysis. Only 23 percent of clients are satisfied with the data visualizations they receive from their suppliers.

We know that data visualization is vital to the insights industry and a huge opportunity for those who are able to tackle it. So, how can researchers overcome challenges to improve client satisfaction?

Data visualization as a practice area is still relatively new in the industry. And as a result, there are not consistent expectations of deliverables. To some, data visualizations are Excel charts. To others, dynamic dashboards are data visualizations. Inconsistent expectations lead to lower levels of satisfaction. Suppliers must set proper expectations and ensure they are on the same page with clients about how data should be visualized.

Visual communication is both an art and science. Researchers must strike the perfect balance of data and design with both the team assembled to work on the data visualization and the resulting visual. Poorly designed data visualizations can be misleading and lead to incorrect interpretation of results. Successful visualizations use data and design to tell a compelling story that resonates with a wide audience.