Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created, with 90% of the world’s data created in the last two years alone*. As data continues to exponentially grow, the way in which organizations utilize data collected for business decisions is becoming more crucial and complex. Presenting data visually can uncover surprising patterns and observations that wouldn’t be apparent from looking at stats alone. One visualization practice that can help display historical patterns is geo charting.
Some may think that advanced data mining is the quintessential way to find potential opportunities hidden in their data. Though this might be true in some cases, as a Data Analyst, I’ve found that meaningful visualization of historical data is a great way to help management find future opportunities for their business. Geo Charting visualization is a helpful way to display the origination of a data set based on location. For example, Geo Chart visualization can be used by businesses if they want to break down and analyze the behavior of visitors to their website from a particular zip code, region or country. Taking it a step further, a business could use these reports to locate areas for potential retail expansion or to manage the merchandise in a store based upon searched for items by location.
As a partner of several visualization platforms , we have helped our clients unravel the mystery around their data by utilizing visualizations to better understand their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, we have built proprietary methodologies for the creation and automation of a data framework to connect to a variety of our vendor partners as outlined in the following image:
In this post, I’m going to focus on Tableau but we have created similar reporting for clients through a variety of interfaces. Tableau is one of those visualization platforms that can help you not only identify opportunities for improvement, but also to monetize them. One of the biggest advantages of Tableau is that it provides a drag-and-drop interface, which is powerful for quickly depicting the trends within the data and helps us to identify the valuable insights rather quickly.
Setting Up Your Geo Chart with Data
The first step in the geo-charting process is to set up the fields for your data. Tableau 8.2 automatically assigns geographical roles to fields with common geographical names (Country, State/Province, and City). Fields with this geographical role will automatically generate longitude and latitude coordinates on a map view and they can be also assigned to the fields which are not automatically recognized by tableau. Recognized fields will usually have a globe icon next to it which will indicate that it is recognized by Tableau as a field with a geographical role.
Next, geo visualization of data displays the map of a continent, country or a region in the world and layers colors onto the maps with respect to the data. Consider the following sample Geo Chart which visualizes the difference in the number of successful sales generated through a marketing campaign run between two different time periods. This visualization easily enables the business to understand how the sales of a particular product varied between different states. It also provides them deeper insight on how well the campaigns performed in different states. The insights from this can help drive the strategy for future marketing campaigns.
The Importance of Color
Whenever Geo Chart visualization is used for comparing the difference in certain metrics between two different time periods, diverging color schemes are best at depicting the differences in the data. Contrasting colors should be used for visualizing the two extremes of data and the middle ranges will blend towards the lighter mix of the two extreme colors. This will accentuate the mean of the data and expose the locations which significantly vary from the norm.
Step by Step method of Creating Geo Chart Visualization
The following visualization is done in Tableau 8.2 with the help of the datasets OlympicAthletes.xlsx (Source: http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/
) Follow each step to plot the total number of Olympic medals won by each country through 2012.
1.) Open Tableau and choose whether the data resides in a file or on a server (in our case it is OlympicAlthletes.xlsx excel file).
2.) Once selected, the sheet containing the data can be chosen and the number of rows in the dataset can also be visualized in this screen.
Hint: If there is data which needs to be merged from two datasheets with a common field present in both of the sheets, they can be joined through simple drag and drop operation.
3.) After clicking on ‘Go to Worksheet’, you must select the Geographical map icon in the ‘Show Me’ section.
4.) Drag and drop the geographical field identified in the data into the ‘Marks’ card along with the metric you want to visualize in the map (in our case, it would be the geographical field identified ‘Country’ and ‘Sum of Total Medals’). By making use of the options in the ‘Marks’ card, you can visualize the way you want to see the data. You’re also given the option to add labels to the map.
5.) If there are certain areas that are not identified by Tableau due to erroneous data, you can check and modify them by selecting it and either entering the ‘Matching Location’ for the particular row of data or filtering out the data.
6.) If the ‘Matching Location’ is identified, you can choose the location from the following dialog box that appears. If no matching location is found, you can also filter out that particular row of data.
7.) Depending on the business’s requirements, you can also apply filters to modify the Geo Chart visualization based on any kind of dimensions and measures identified (in this example, the filter value applied was that the sum of the total medals count should be at least 25).
As you can see in this example, Tableau has robust capabilities when it comes to Geo Charting visualizations and, with its help, businesses can build various types of interactive dashboards in short order. This will empower the business with the ability to not only visualize the data but to also filter out the data via a few clicks. Thus, businesses can turn their raw data into more meaningful actionable insights with minimal effort.
As a frequent consultant to clients on the utilization of Tableau and other visualization platforms, I work with many organizations on how to harness visualization to make better use of their data. Look out for my next post on how visualizations can help leverage social media data to help drive your digital marketing strategy!
*Science Daily, 2013-14: Big Data, for Better or Worse.