Geographic information systems (GIS), sometimes called geospatial information systems, capture, store, analyze, manage and present data that are linked to location. In the most simplest terms, GIS merge cartography, statistical analysis and database technology. The latest iterations wed data analytics with satellite mapping to better locate and identify prospects/customers.
Web-based GIS applications deliver data visualization capabilities, giving marketers the ability to “see” trends or issues from new perspectives. There is wisdom in the words “A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the human brain can process pictures faster than spreadsheet numbers. Pictures also can facilitate the extraction of previously unseen relationships that can prompt outside-the-box thinking. Luckily, GIS applications then allow marketers to test derived hunches or theories in mere minutes without involving IT departments, avoiding delays that can translate to lost business opportunities.
Direct marketing focused GIS data solutions, in particular, can broaden the impact and efficiency of marketing efforts. Easy-to-use interfaces enable marketers to visualize, select and manipulate data in limitless ways.
When it comes to marketing, everything must take place somewhere. Customers have addresses, while stores and offices possess specific locations. Knowing where customers, work, live and play can enhance a firm’s ability to serve their needs, improve marketing performance and create competitive advantages.
By incorporating demographic, geographic, purchasing and spending-pattern data in a map interface, relationships between customer data and actual geographical locations are easily visualized. Then, by leveraging location-based data by adding customer-rich information, such as customer purchasing patterns and preferences, businesses can easily pinpoint geographical pockets of opportunity and areas with growth potential and frame answers to questions such as, “Where are my most profitable customers located?” “Where should we open our next store to better serve our most loyal customers?” and “Where do our likely prospects live?” Such knowledge allows more precise behavior predictions, which in turn provide better structured up-sell and cross-sell campaigns, precisely targeted renewal efforts and improved prospecting campaigns.
For marketers, long-term growth hinges on understanding customers so that others like them can be identified and converted. GIS technology’s data visualization helps achieve this objective, as it creates more efficient marketing campaigns that deliver better return on investment.
Robert Salta is principal of DirectMail.com, a provider of integrated direct marketing solutions.