Big data is a powerful resource. But it’s not enough just to have large amounts of data. Without proper visualization of your information, making the right business decisions could end up devolving into guesswork.

Big data is here to stay. Data sets too large for traditional analytic tools to process are no longer the purview of massive conglomerates. Anyone with the means and know-how can aquire nearly limitless information.

When properly applied, big data can help develop powerful strategies and uncover an effective market fit for your products. Perhaps most importantly, it can create a fuller picture of your consumer base, as insights from big data can even identify when a customer is pregnant. The headache of visually representing these enormous data sets and representing them effectively and efficiently, however, is universal.

Having a lot of good data and knowing how to apply it is a daunting task. Data is ubiquitous, but deep-level comprehension is not. In the U.S. alone, anywhere from 140,000 to 190,000 data scientists and 1.5 million managers are employed in the workforce to use data-driven insights to make decisions. The data utilization deficit is especially stark when you consider that firms using a data-driven approach to decision making see 5-6% better results and report improved decision-making through well-visualized data.

Get Visual

Successful visuals depict measurable, actionable data and allow decision makers to easily pinpoint and examine outliers. This, in turn, allows for quick analysis to expose patterns, correlations, business conditions, and trends.

The key to success in using data visualization is ensuring that the best and most appropriate types of visualizations are used, and that the data is paired with contextual information — allowing the information to be universally understood and ensuring that the data being observed enables the user to take action. Not being able to clearly identify and share your discoveries and insights to support your decisions can mean the difference between taking appropriate and decisive action and losing momentum or failing to act.

While most businesses have massive amounts of data at their fingertips, harnessing, parsing, and visually representing it has become an unequivocal challenge. However, the fact of the matter is that companies in every industry are embracing big data.

In retail, big data can open up a 60% increase in operating margin. Specifically, grocery stores examine customer loyalty data to identify sales trends, optimize their product mix, and develop special offers. And aggregating big-data algorithms can provide insights into the nuances of subpopulations (such as the presence of gluten allergies) where smaller data sets may not demonstrate statistical significance.

Properly visualizing your reams of data can make identifying these insights — as well as making powerful, data-driven decisions — a reality. Failing to do so could literally doom your business.