5 Data Visualization Trends for 2021

Julian Alvarado

Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Sigma

According to IDC’s Worldwide Global DataSphere Forecast, 2021–2025, business and consumer data is expected to reach 180 zettabytes by 2025. But for data to be useful, people must be able to productively work with it and digest it to glean insights. Today’s data visualization trends are enabling just that.

Using effective visualizations, organizations can quickly spot new opportunities, identify issues before they become problems, and even create new products and revenue streams. And data visualizations are doing more than powering business — they’re communicating vital information to the public and shaping policy as people act on that information. Let’s take a look at the role data visualizations are playing and five data visualization trends impacting the world today.

How Data Visualizations Help Identify Insights

Data visualization describes any effort to help people understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context. We use visualization to quickly make sense of data. After collecting, processing, and modeling data, we can visualize the relationships and make a conclusion.

The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Thanks to data visualization, we can identify patterns, trends, and correlations that would otherwise go undetected in text-based data.

What You Can Learn Via Visualizations

Organizations today are seeking to become more data-driven because intelligent application of data drives growth. Data visualization helps organizations accomplish several mission-critical tasks.

Make good decisions faster

Visual information is simpler to process than written information, leading to faster decision-making. Using a chart, graph, or other visual to summarize complex data allows the audience to absorb information quickly. As a result, teams that gather and promptly act on data enjoy a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Identify areas for improvement

With the help of data visualization, organizations can quickly evaluate performance, observe trends, and identify areas for improvement. For example, suppose a marketing team looks at the data resulting from a series of campaigns and notices that ads targeting a new market segment resulted in a higher percentage of completed purchases. In that case, they can increase their advertising to that market segment in future campaigns.

Improve productivity

Because visualizing data leads to a faster understanding of information, visualizations can decrease the length of meetings, reduce the time it takes to figure out problems, and boost overall productivity. For example, according to McKinsey & Company, one major metal manufacturer increased production rates in one of its lines by 50 percent by using real-time performance visualization in its operators’ stations.

Identify patterns

The ability to visualize patterns and trends gives leaders greater awareness of company performance. It empowers them with the insight necessary to build upon favorable patterns of activity or behavior and reverse negative ones.

Data Visualization Trends

We’ve established that data visualization is a valuable tool for companies to be more data-driven and competitive. And we can observe the power of data in society as the media increasingly use data visualizations in their publications. Let’s now look at five data visualization trends that are becoming standard practice thanks to today’s requirements and modern technology.

  1. Data storytelling for public engagement.
    Storytelling has been used for centuries to share information. Journalists and media companies can communicate more effectively using data visualizations that help audiences understand the story data tells. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, media outlets such as the New York Times have used a variety of visualizations to share vital public health data. Sharing data for public awareness of important issues is sure to increase as outlets experience higher engagement as a result.
  2. Real-time visualization.
    We live in an always-on world with smartphones, IoT, and other devices functioning continually in real-time. Real-time data empowers organizations to act quickly. But to be useful, real-time data requires real-time visualizations that update with the data. Visualizations that use data extracts not only result in outdated insights but also create security vulnerabilities. Today’s organizations demand that data visualizations pull from centralized data that’s always up-to-date.
  3. Mobile-friendly visualizations. 
    As of February 2021, mobile devices made up 56% of internet traffic. People are reading articles, researching, and working on their mobile devices. As the world goes increasingly mobile, mobile-friendly data visualizations become essential. Whether you’re embedding your visualizations into public web pages, internal web portals, or third-party applications, they must be mobile-friendly.
  4. Going under the hood.
    Data visualization is not only about the visuals. It’s about empowering teams to understand and work with data to accomplish a goal. Static dashboards that merely provide a snapshot in time without the ability to dig deeper beyond trends and into the data are no longer sufficient. (They never were, but business teams are now demanding more.) Business users need the ability to go into the underlying data and conduct what-if and exploratory analysis.
  5. Data democratization.
    Related to the previous trend is data democratization. Business users, even those without technical skills, are seeking the ability to explore data on their own and identify actionable insights. This capability allows business teams to find answers to their questions without depending on the data team. Data visualizations must give non-technical users access to the underlying data without SQL skills or knowledge of proprietary software.

What to Look for in a Data Visualization Tool

Effective data visualization requires a tool that makes it easy to create attractive graphics from analyses using a familiar interface such as a spreadsheet. Here are five characteristics to look for in a data visualization tool for a streamlined implementation.

  • Agile, centralized BI provisioning — When choosing a data visualization tool, make sure it supports an agile workflow and features self-contained data management functionality that enables managers to make faster and more informed business decisions.
  • Democratized analytics — Non-technical team members should also be able to quickly and easily access data without involving IT.
  • Governed data discovery — Your data visualization tool should address users’ requirements for easy data delivery while at the same time satisfying the requirements of the IT department for managing and securing the data.
  • OEM or embedded analytics capabilities — Users should have the ability to explore any trends in data to better understand where they can increase efficiency and quickly gain actionable insights and share their visualizations easily and securely.
  • Extranet deployment — A robust data visualization tool should at the very least include an SDK and API used to provide data to external businesses, customers, suppliers, distributors, or other business partners. However, more modern tools (like Sigma) are cloud-based and can be shared and accessed right from a browser via URL.

The Future of Data Visualization is Now

While data professionals have been talking about these trends for a decade, today’s technology has finally enabled them to become mainstream. As a result, companies of all sizes can now experience the benefits these trends offer.

Explore Sigma’s data visualization tools to see how our solution can help you quickly and easily create exceptional visuals.