Time Machine: the ABCs of Marketing Dashboards


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The world of marketing is constantly undergoing changes, especially since the advent of digital, whose omnipresence is rapidly disrupting the way we do business. No longer can we talk about the four Ps of the marketing mix, since Product, Price, Place and Promotion simply do not encompass all disparate paths the customer journey may take.

With digital obstinately increasing its share in our marketing budget allocation and swiftly displacing traditional advertising models, it is no surprise that our marketing dashboards have evolved accordingly and reflect this change.

At Sweetspot we have decided to switch on the time machine and travel back to the early 2000s, when marketing dashboards were just starting to take shape. What has changed during this decade and a half fuelled by the digital revolution? Have marketing dashboards suffered a major transformation, or are we still facing the same problems?

If you are asking yourself the same questions, then welcome aboard! Fasten your seat belts, and let the journey into the ABCs of Marketing Dashboards (Audience, Business-driven metrics and Channel) begin!



When analytics tools were still regarded as a novelty, marketers, thrilled by their possibilities, wanted to make the most of them by measuring all that was measurable. The result? Dashboards were populated by uninformative KPIs such as Visits, to account for the overall online traffic to our websites.

… and Now

Nowadays everything is about segmentation and personalisation. We don’t want to know how many people got to our website – what for? (or So What?, as Avinash Kaushik would ask). But we do want to know how they got there (traffic source), who they are (demographic data such as gender, age, occupation, etc) or where they are (location data). In other words, we now focus on Visitors rather than Visits, and pay attention to KPIs such as Customer Lifetime Value or Conversation Rate, given the rise of social media.

Bottom line:

We are far more interested in qualitative data that provides us with insights about our audience’s behaviour, rather focusing on quantitative data and counting for the sake of counting.

Business-driven metrics


The starting point is similar here. Excited about the easy availability of data, marketers used to measure everything they could and flooded their reports with unnecessary metrics. The stakeholders ended up confused by the heap of disconnected and shallow KPIs that did not point out what areas of business required extra attention.

… and Now

Effective dashboards follow a carefully designed and well-thought out marketing plan, which clearly establishes our particular business needs and objectives. Then, and only then, the KPIs get defined in order to quickly reflect the current state of our affairs and prompt the dashboard consumer to take the corresponding action. Moreover, these well-defined and easy-to-grasp KPIs encourage interdepartmental communication, by allowing analysts and business users to work side by side in order to improve the company’s performance.

Bottom line:

Efficiency, ease of communication and focus on performance are the characteristics that define modern marketing dashboards, and not the collection of all available metrics.



Ten years ago no one had heard of multichannel user experience. Customers got to our brand by following a relatively straight path: for example, conversion could be triggered by seeing a TV commercial.

… and Now

Customer journey has become extremely complex and no longer consists in tracing the straight line between point A and point B. From the moment they start researching a purchase to the point they convert, the customer may turn to various devices, such as their mobile phone, tablet, laptop, wearable, etc. Marketers are expected to adapt to this fundamental behavioural change and reflect it in their dashboards, with KPIs such as ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline) or Channel Engagement being born.

Bottom line:

Without wishfully thinking about achieving the “single customer view”, we can nevertheless define different “personas” and reveal patterns across channel-specific segments from aggregated data, thus dominating and leveraging our multiple channels much more efficiently than before.


As we can see, digital has considerably transformed the traditional marketing landscape, which is consequently reflected in contemporary dashboards. Unfortunately, many marketers are still guilty of repeating the same mistakes as in the early 2000s, since some problems are very difficult to solve, as argued by Jim Sterne. However, we hope that practice makes perfect and that by following accurately defined guidelines, such as the ones compiled in The Red Book of Dashboard Design, marketers will be able to create compelling dashboards with actionable metrics and powerful data visualizations!

We would love to hear from you: are you still struggling with the same issues as in the early 2000s, or have you learnt from your own mistakes?

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Tania Asa

Marketing and Communications Executive, focused on content, Sweetspot Academy and inbound marketing. BA in English, University of Oviedo, Spain.

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