Data Storytelling and the Experience-Led Business: A Report from Adobe Summit 2016

    1024 573 Tu Nguyen-Brown

    I recently attended the Adobe Summit 2016 in Las Vegas, an annual digital marketing conference that provides opportunities to hear from marketing innovators and to explore the latest Adobe tools and trends. While once focused mostly on data and analytics, the growth of Adobe’s brand into both the Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud has expanded the size and content of the conference. This year’s massive summit was an exciting event, and a tremendous place to learn how businesses are using Adobe Marketing Cloud to gain deep insights into their customers and better manage personalized content and campaigns.

    Because Smart Panda Labs is an Adobe Solutions Partner, I was also able to take advantage of Partner Day, which included keynote and breakout sessions led by Adobe executives focused on helping partners address customer pain points, both at a strategic and tactical level. As an Adobe Solutions Partner, we are better equipped to help our clients solve challenges and drive business success using Adobe Marketing Cloud tools, like Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target.

    smart panda labs attended the Adobe Summit and Partner Day March 2016.We’re in the midst off a digital transformation, and perhaps even a disruptive one. Consumers are now using an average of five connected devices in the purchase process, compared to 2.8 devices in 2014. Devices of all kinds, from toothbrushes to jet engines, are now going online—the so-called Internet of Things may in fact change everything. As technology exponentially grows and new technology emerges, digital marketers and entrepreneurs need to stay relevant as products, marketing and services are being reinvented. All aspects of the Adobe Summit were aimed at helping us stay ahead of these trends and aware of their effects on the digital marketing landscape.

    telling stories with data

    One of the most compelling sessions I attended was dedicated to data storytelling, led by Chris Haleua, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Adobe and Edward Latour of LEGO. The technology behind the digital transformation of marketing is still ahead of the actual practice in many organizations; data is being collected, but there’s a general lack of awareness about what to do with it. The key takeaway from this session was that if you want data to be grasped and remembered, an insightful story with meaningful visuals can be far more effective than spreadsheets or graphs.

    If you’re an analyst, or a marketer communicating with stakeholders, you need to give your audience a compelling reason to take action based on the data you’ve collected. For example, your leads have decreased this past month. How do you explain that to your stakeholders? A mere table with percentage of change doesn’t tell much. Maybe a campaign ended, or it’s low season. Explain the effects by using trending graphs to help give context. Or, maybe there was a design change—show a visual example of before and after and give highlights to the customer experience.

    data storytelling - influence change with data stories

    Look for more than just the top of the cake—dig deeper and give it foundation. People will remember a story better than a data point, especially if you can connect to the emotional part of decision-making. If you’re presenting a snapshot of data, what visual elements might make it memorable? What kind of imagery can you use to not only explain data but to give it context? While people generally gravitate toward structure—tables upon tables!—that structure isn’t always the best way to help people understand what is happening now and what needs to happens next. With data, the psychology of the storytelling will drive and influence decision-making.

    As digital marketers and data practitioners, I believe we have to become better at using data to find answers and tell stories. To that end, here are some questions we must ask ourselves as we collect, assemble, and present our analytics and intelligence:

    • Are you pulling data to show an executive, a product manager or an analyst? Know your audience before you go digging for numbers.
    • Are you tracking the right data for that audience?
    • Do you have a thorough implementation on analytics tracking, and is it accurate?
    • What visual story can you craft to represent this data? Stories are the most effective way to communicate and translate data into a narrative experience, and narratives are a great way of simplifying complex data by providing context around numbers.
    • What are your goals for this data? Provide evidence to help stakeholders make the right decisions.
    • Are you providing too much data? Sometimes, less is more! Give too many numbers and your audience can become hyper-focused on a few vanity metrics and too easily forget the whole picture. Give what is necessary to be insightful, incorporate that data into the story so there is context and then provide a point of view with an action item to help jumpstart the right conversations.

    The key takeaway? Data is there to help understand what’s going on, but the story is there to lead change. You can and should control how it’s being interpreted so the right message gets out and the best possible action is taken as a result. In the end, the data may be only as good as the story.

    Unfortunately, many companies still experience red tape when it comes to accessing and understanding data. As customers are increasingly interacting with brands and marketers through online and offline channels, our job at Smart Panda Labs is to help you understand your data to respond to your customers’ needs. Digital marketing has evolved greatly over the last few years and the influence it can have on business strategy should not be ignored.

    the experience-led business

    One of the recurring themes at Summit revolved around customer experience and how that experience defines a brand. Marketers often dedicate a great deal of focus on conversion, such as the booking of a reservation, while the experience of booking a reservation gets short shrift. If that experience is not what customers want—if it’s not clean, concise, and compelling—then the brand suffers and the end goal isn’t met. The wave of experience business has raised customer expectations, and we, as marketers need to create the personalized and engaging experience at all channels.

    According to Gartner, 89% of companies expect to compete mainly on the basis of customer experience this year. By 2020, it’s predicted that a customer will manage 85% of their relationship with a brand without even interacting with a human. For many brands, delivering in-the-moment digital experiences requires a transformation of their technology foundation. While most accounts of “digital in business” focus on Silicon Valley and tech start-ups, the truth is that mobile, analytics, social media, sensors and cloud computing have already fundamentally changed the entire business landscape as we know it. Digital experts like us need to help our clients navigate these transformations and provide improved experience for their customers.

    The Adobe Marketing Cloud is a powerful suite of tools that can help businesses identify, understand and engage customers. Upcoming enhancements to the cloud—including Adobe Certified Metrics, a new partnership with comScore to provide global insights on media consumption—are further changing the way digital marketers analyze consumer behavior and respond to it. Our Adobe experts can help clients connect all their data using Adobe Analytics, the most advanced enterprise analytics solution available, and make the most of this tool by connecting in-market messages to actual content and services. Throughout the conference, Adobe and their partners revealed new tool features and shared tips and tricks that can help specialists like me do an even better job of helping clients build long-term relationships with their audience through exceptional and personalized customer journeys. The summit sessions were a great reminder that these experiences should be constantly iterated—staying innovative is key to keeping customers loyal and not losing them to the competition.

    Perhaps the biggest reminder that we constantly need to reinvent digital strategies is in the data of Adobe Summit itself—over 10,000 attendees, more than 150 in-depth sessions and hands-on labs and a huge convention center full of partner vendors. To be successful, businesses need to create worthwhile customer experiences—and then innovate to exceed customer expectations. This is what it means to be an experience-led business.



    Tu Nguyen-Brown

    Tu manages analytical design implementation to meet our client’s digital analytics + intelligence needs. She is an analytics professional with more than five years of experience using data-driven analysis to guide clients in optimizing their site and increasing revenue. Previous to smart panda labs, Tu was a Senior Analyst for YP (formerly AT&T Interactive), where she was responsible for deep-dive analysis across multiple platforms and analytics project management on, and YPMobile apps (phones, tablets) and at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online, where she was lead analyst for several Disney sites including, and She is an Adobe Analytics: Reporting and Analytics Certified Expert and is Google Analytics Certified.

    All stories by: Tu Nguyen-Brown

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