I came upon a video of a recent TED talk by an artist named Aaron Koblin. He takes vast amounts of data and creates stunning visualizations. The visualizations of the data help to create meaning from the raw data. Using technology -- or as he puts it, "an interface" -- Koblin combines small, individually meaningless pieces of information to form a real, human narrative.
What is cool about this is the data is far too complex and multi-dimensional to be useful when looking at in their raw form, but when you visualize this data over maps or by groupings, it tells stories that allow people to make discoveries and infer meaning. Immediately, the data becomes understandable when presented in these visual representations. This really illustrates for me how people are so good at understanding data in visual form and can immediately identify patterns.
In wireless retail, practical applications of this approach could be used to understand sales numbers, employee performance, product placement, store traffic, promotional elements, and so on.
- Sales: One application could be to overlay stores and customers on a map. You could look at your coverage and understand where your customers were from in order to target marketing. Responses to marketing could be mapped and tracked to store locations.
- Employee Incentives: The goals of incentives and commissions is to motivate employees to sell things. Visualization can be used both to motivate employees and to view effectiveness of programs.
Imagine that there is a live chart of employee sales that an employee can break down by categories and other data fields. The chart itself could be configured to resemble a horserace game, where you see movement of others compared to yourself and you can follow certain people, kind of like Twitter.
Imagine being able to see employee sales and commissions in time-lapse or compare store sales that way. Companies could compare changes in sales for products when incentive programs are introduced to help staff understand consumer behavior and responses. The understanding of traffic patterns could be huge.
This data could be combined to help owners, managers and front end staff to better understand their business and customers. We now have the potential to allow users to explore data like they never have before.
Now, the challenge is finding creative ways to effectively communicate the meaning of all of this data, and converting that meaning into actions that increase profits.