Is Your Marketing Dashboard the Chevy Nova of Analytics?


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If your marketing platform’s dashboard is still providing a CD-player version of data insight streaming, then chances are your analytics are skipping a few beats – enough so that it’s costing you customers.

Outdated dashboards can be as common as discontinued cars, and I get why – the drivers are accustomed to the way the system works, and upgrades require getting used to. And it all takes time and money. However, not upgrading the dashboard – or not using an upgraded third party – will cost even more, because lots of new software and tech features are coming to market, and guess who might be using them? Yep, your competitor.

Look, one-third of consumers are frustrated that businesses do not understand them and their needs – despite sharing gobs of data at every turn. Top execs especially may be overestimating how well they get it right – 87% believe their companies understand customer preferences, while just 63% of their customers feel the same.

This disconnect can be rooted in marketing program dashboards that are running on outdated features. Here’s a look at a few of the most common.

4 Old-Model Dashboard Malfunctions

Let’s make this simple. Anything that delivers “what” data, but not “why” insights is not doing its full job and should be discontinued. Dashboards that are bursting with stats but do not easily explain what the stats mean are not likely producing profitable results.

Here are a few practical issues that can be fixed with an update:

The design is going for baroque. So your dashboard’s got a lot going on, but if it’s as embellished as the penthouse suite at the Venetian in Las Vegas, then it’s time for a designer upgrade. Minimally architected dashboards are easier to access and can be understood with greater precision; they simply require less time to take in the important stuff. That said, a minimalist design can still pack a lot of aggregated insights – the meaning behind it is just embedded in the navigation. The goal of the design is to present the information in a way that unfold for the users, allowing them to follow the relevant leads they were trained to spot.

The visuals aren’t navigating the story. Once every chart, graph and other metric image is provided its own communications lane, designers have the opportunity to show how much ground each can cover. This is especially important if the dashboard is accessed by multiple departments, each of which may have different goals or agendas. Every graphic should justify its existence by including only information central to the program’s purpose – the kind of narrative users require to know they are on course. If something looks promising or worrisome, the graphic can step the users to deeper insights.


Outdated or incorrect tags. Tags are website tools that enable third-party tracking, analytics and reporting, among other things. A simple oversight, such as an incorrect tag, can throw metrics into reverse, or overdrive, by overcounting or undercounting activities. Dashboards that are not equipped with software to help to perform automatic screenings are like cars without warning indicators. Regular, automated tag maintenance (or governance) can ensure proper placement and root out duplication or broken tags.

Color clash. Pretty much everyone likes a rainbow, but when the dashboard’s colors are predictable, bright and flat, they can be hard on the eyes and also feel void of meaning. Yes, this is tactical stuff, but it is necessary for clean communication. Designer colors – teal rather than blue, peach instead of red – are less likely to overstimulate and compete with the brain’s need to interpret the very important meaning behind all of those bars, graphs and charts. Colors also should contrast, highly, so they are easier to interpret, especially on a small screen. Think black copy on yellow rather than yellow copy on black – this is particularly important for viewers with vision issues (including aging eyes).

These 4 Dashboard Features Will Reward You

Sticking to the importance of revealing the “why” behind a dashboard’s data, let’s shift these outdated practices into four must-have dashboard functions.

It tracks performance, not metric mile markers. Yes, redemption rates, average purchase sizes and promotional click-throughs are important metrics, but they are not the finish line. Rather, they are the material that paves the road to the finish line. Broad measures should be applied to specific key performance indicators (KPIs) and presented in that context. This ensures the right information is gathered and tracked and that the dashboard user can focus on said bottom-line objectives. A good dashboard will combine and model complex data sets to do this, even create a library of dashboards, so the user can track performance over time and weed out quirks.

It’s detailed for each user. Goal customization improves performance not just for marketing managers and other non-data scientists who rely on the dashboard for their game plan, but also for customers and loyalty program members. After all, they have a game plan, too: To earn rewards and be treated like they’re special. A dashboard should be designed to send members personalized stats, so they know not just how many points they have earned and can redeem, but also what rewards are available and how to get them, now. Bonus: When members interact with their dashboards, via an app, they provide additional, real-time insights.

Put a thinker behind the blinker. A big part of accurately interpreting the customer’s story, and then communicating it, requires getting into their heads. Many metrics, from cancellations to new-service use to an uptick in activity, can yield promising story-behind-the-story insights. If the dashboard is designed to flag and alert marketers about notable actions, the program can automatically dispatch follow-up emails to learn why members did whatever they did. Even multiple-choice feedback is effective at making sense of the actions.

Predictive analytics. A dashboard should include artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. Period. It helps the data scientists make better use of the data for other users, and it works tirelessly around the clock. This could be a big ask for companies that do not have the expertise or budget, and may be worth seeking out in a third-party provider.

ReFocus: Treat Your Dashboard Like a Navigator

Lastly, know that the dashboard is just a messenger, and the message is only as good as the information it receives. Rather than collect everything, organizations should focus with exceptional discipline on collecting only the data they need to achieve their predetermined goals. This will make the entire process through the dashboard quicker, easier and less prone to misunderstanding and misfires.

Done well, all of that data should come out of the dashboard sounding like music – high-def, of course.

Jenn McMillen
Incendio Founder Jenn McMillen has been building and sharing expertise in the retail industry for 20+ years. Her expertise includes customer relationship management, shopper experience, retail marketing, loyalty programs and data analytics. She's a retail contributor for Forbes.


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