Discrete data refers to countable, whole numbers without fractions, ideal for tracking distinct, quantifiable elements. In contrast, continuous data encompasses an infinite range, including decimals, suited for precise, variable measurements over time or calculated metrics. This overview dives into continuous and discrete data, offering insights and comparisons between the two and their roles in effectively demonstrating value to clients.
Clients want data. Even clients who don’t understand discrete and continuous data want data. Everybody feels better about what they’re paying your agency for when it’s backed up by numbers–especially when those numbers are visualized in a way that’s easy on the eyes.
Whether it’s foreseeing a trend and capitalizing on a great opportunity or adjusting a strategy when one method is not succeeding, data should influence every decision and recommendation your team makes. That’s why it’s make-or-break for your agency to have a solid grasp on the data you collect, manage, and present to your clients–at the very least, a better grasp than your competitors. Because in today’s world of data-driven insights, your clients will not only appreciate it, they’ll expect it.
The good news is there are tons of data available to be collected. Studies suggest that we’re on track to produce approximately “463 ZB of data every day by 2025”. (That's a lot of video streaming and messages being sent, images being posted and links being clicked!) Also, good news is that you have plenty of options to help you collect, organize, read, display, and share that data to better inform your decision-making and foster trust with your clients.
In this article, we’ll be looking at two prominent types of quantitative data that you’ll use every day in your agency: discrete and continuous data.
Hang On… There Are Different Kinds of Numerical Data?
To the layperson, the word “data” may make you think of spreadsheets and numbers. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But data comes in a range of forms. (Discrete and continuous data sets being two of them).
Quantitative data can be structured or unstructured, qualitative or quantitative. Some kinds of data are more useful to marketers than others.
In this article, we’re honing in on continuous and discrete data expressed numerically.
Numerical data can be further categorized into either discrete or continuous data sets.
For instance, if you want to know how many sales a client made last year, that's a question best answered with discrete data. If you want to know how much revenue the company earned, that's a question best answered with continuous data.
Let’s take a closer look at each type to gain a deeper understanding.
What Is Discrete Data?
Discrete data represents items that are countable. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, back to high school math class. Discrete data is made up of integers, which is a fancy way of saying a whole number, not a fraction. To get even more specific, discrete data is composed of non-negative (and, again, non-divisible) integers. So if math wasn’t your favorite subject, you can take a sigh of relief. We’re talking about plain and simple, basic, finite, and regular numbers. No decimal points here.
Discrete data counts things like:
The number of unique views on your ad
The number of landing page visitors who click your CTA today
The number of contacts who opened your latest promo email
For this reason, discrete data is your best option for straightforward statistical analysis of things that are all or nothing. For example, you can’t have half a CTA click. It’s a click, or it’s not. There is no in-between. Discrete data lends well to summarizing, particularly in bar graphs and pie charts.
Agency Tip: Still a bit uncertain? Think of it this way: discrete data is for tallying up visitors, opens, clicks, conversions, purchases, and so on.
What Is Continuous Data?
Then there’s continuous data–the complete opposite of discrete data.
Where discrete data deals with plain and simple whole numbers, continuous data works with measuring.
Continuous data deals with Point A and Point B–and the vast, messy chasm between those two defined points.
Continuous data is used for precise measuring because it can get far more granular than discrete data can. So we’re talking decimal points, variables, and intervals–because continuous data often changes over time.
Where discrete data deals with the finite, continuous data deals with an infinite scale–because you can always go to the next decimal point if you choose.
Use continuous data to determine:
Average time on a landing page in milliseconds
The rise and fall of open rates in the last quarter
How frequently did social media engagement rise above a specified threshold this week
A continuous function graph.
Histograms, line graphs, control charts, and more are great ways to visually plot continuous data and derive some insights from this data, such as spotting when engagement spikes or drops off.
Should Your Marketing Agency Use Discrete or Continuous Data?
As marketers, we use data to track, test, understand, and validate continuous and discrete data. It helps us determine what we’re doing right and where we need to course correct. It allows us to segment groups of people and target specific audiences. Additionally, it demonstrates our value to our clients.
Most marketing dashboards will include a mix of continuous and discrete data. Let’s take a look at the Google Analytics 4 reporting dashboard as an example. You can see which are considered discrete data points versus which are considered continuous data points.
Data doesn’t lie–but it can be misunderstood, misrepresented, or collected faultily. So to the question, “What kind of data is best for digital marketing agencies?”, we say: the data you can trust and the data you can use because it’s a big waste of everyone’s time and resources to have a bunch of inaccurate numbers that you can’t make heads or tails of.
Digital marketing agencies should focus on customer value, use data-driven insights, experiment and innovate, and foster a culture of continuous learning.
Adam Binder, Founder, and CEO, Creative Click Media
Furthermore, one of the most effective and persuasive ways to differentiate from your competitors, win new business, and keep existing clients is to show that your agency has a spectacular mastery of analyzing data and making it readily available to clients.
Nothing breeds trust better than being able to quickly and easily show the results of your work–or give clients the keys to check on the discrete and continuous data in real time.
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If you’re still asking, “OK, but which will I use more? Discrete or continuous data?” Realistically, your analytics will use continuous data more than discrete data to measure the performance of your content, A/B tests, advertisements, social media activity, campaigns, and other marketing work done for your clients.
That being said, you’ll need a strong grasp of both types of data to impress your clients–and most of your clients won’t care what it’s called either way. How quickly your team can get comfortable with the best practices of collecting, monitoring, reading, and presenting data will be much more important for scaling your agency.
Mastering Discrete and Continuous Data for Your Agency Clients
When it comes to discrete and continous data, there are two main challenges that agencies face:
Mastering the collection and manipulation of data (especially with discrete variables and continuous variables at play)
Mastering the art of data storytelling
Let’s start with number one.
Collecting the Right Data
The first problem is that collecting continuous data can be quite a heavy lift. It can take years to become an expert at this and it can require some powerful tools and technology to do it right. To start, you’ll need a reliable data pipeline that combines all relevant data into one usable workspace.
There are plenty of failure points along the way, from trying to manually scrape data to setting up individual APIs. Aside from the time it can take to set this all up for each client, you’ll also have to factor in hidden costs for some of these data extraction tools and platforms. And don’t forget; miss any data source, and you won’t be getting the whole picture.
An easier solution? Use client reporting software to do most of the heavy lifting for you… But more on this later.
Using Data for Storytelling
Once you’ve gathered your raw data, you still need to figure out how to use it. How to set it up so that you–and your clients–can understand it. You may want to use a method such as data blending to visualize results and gather insights. Simple Excel workbooks or the free tools in Google Analytics probably won’t cut it.
It can be a serious challenge to make the data understandable, actionable, and even exciting for your team and, most importantly, your clients. We’ve all dozed off during a boring, numbers-heavy Powerpoint presentation, and most of us have seen clients get a little frustrated when we’re not able to explain something in a way that clicks for them.
It's very difficult to explain the value of a service to a client without visuals. Using the web analytics report and the SEO reports side by side, helps us show that traffic growth - from SEO and PPC - does have an impact on the number of conversions and revenue (their bottom line).
Ruben Roel, President, Investigator Marketing
This is where data storytelling comes in–and there are plenty of data experts who focus their entire careers on how to accurately and effectively present data to others so that it isn’t a snoozefest or a dance of smoke and mirrors.
Your team needs to be able to quickly get the insights they need and relay them with confidence, clarity, and evidence to your clients. This is no easy feat.
Not every agency has a department of data scientists on hand to do all this work. No agency has enough spare people power to manually create monthly performance reports for each client. And not a single agency leader we’ve ever met has enough spare time to go to YouTube Academy and become their team’s own leading data expert overnight.
So what’s a team to do?
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The Shortcut to Mastering Discrete and Continuous Data
If all of this data talk has made you cringe at adding another item to your team’s massive to-do list, it’s time to evaluate which solutions can achieve the greatest data mastery for your team with the lightest lift.
Not only will you want an affordable option that suits where your agency is in its current lifecycle stage, you’ll also want to automate reporting, saving your team hundreds of hours a month that they can spend on billable work.
Perhaps most importantly, you need a solution that you can white label so that your clients have a seamless experience working with you from the first pitch to the recurring check-ins to the review of the final results.
When it comes to discrete vs continuous, AgencyAnalytics empowers you to gather, visualize, and report on both discrete and continuous data, sharing what it all means with the people who matter most: your clients. Try it free for 14 days today.
Find out how agencies, from startups with 20 clients to veterans with 500+ are reclaiming thousands of dollars’ worth of billable hours by leaving the heavy data lifting to AgencyAnalytics. Check out our customer success stories here.