Assistant Editor,GIS Development
North Arizona University (College of Business Administration) has started MBA in GIS. At University of Redlands, School of Business, students can customise their MBA by electing an ‘Emphasis’ in Geographic Information Systems (GIS); Finance, Global business and Information systems being the other three.
UK’s Coventry University too has MBA in GIS! Geotechnologies are moving to business, read retail and marketing. GIS is taking roles beyond its traditional use by public and related government agencies to businesses analyses that enable movements in the marketplace.
It was couple of years back that Levi Strauss, North America was on the look out for a cost-effective solution to manage the growth and approval of new authorised retailer locations. It wanted a tool that would geographically display its existing authorised retailers, potential retailers, and the customers the distributors serve. This objective was to ensure that new stores do not impact the sales of existing stores adversely. The company’s Sales Center started using BusinessAnalyst of ESRI. The solution streamlined its review process of new retailer applications that allows it to see prospects geographically in relation to existing stores. It reduced onsite visits to new retailers, accurately modeled locations of existing and potential retailers and provided quick analysis that was repeatable with same evaluation criteria for each prospect.
Geomarketing, which in simpler terms means marketing analysis using geolocation (geographic information), also includes physical analysis of sales and service issues. It is about bringing maps together with critical data on customers to gain better insight on how and whom to target the marketing efforts. Starting from the background of various research and application fields, such as geology, economic geography, urban planning and environmental technology, GIS has evolved continuously and achieved a high level of maturity. The movement to business might be attributed to the pushed-up business scenario world-wide (consumerism) as a result of globalisation and opening up of economies. With the terms “sales-engineering” and “market analyses” coming on the centre- stage, businesses are vying for solutions to get the two working for profits. Added to this the fact that 80% of the data that an organisation uses has spatial component, GIS have its wider role cut out. As opined by 64% of the business executives, as part of an international survey, Location Intelligence, which may be taken as the subset of Geomarketing, largely improves business processes. The survey carried out last year by the then MapInfo in collaboration with Businessweek Research Services also mentions that a 3rd of these executives have GIS-based solutions in the pipeline. It is also interesting to note one more result of a survey that says more and more GIS players are now moving to develop location-based services and applications.
Map-overlays enable market and company-specific data visualized and structured that thus can be directly related to the tasks of sales and marketing, further enabling their optimization (Geo-optimisation; see box). A reliable and updated data handled by means of GIS massively supports the entire sales process. This in turn guarantees improved customer orientation and productivity.
Typically, Business GIS (term used interchangbly with Geo-marketing) in sales and marketing process leads to study and analysis of
i) Geography – topography, infrastructure, economy, culture – at local, regional and global level
ii) Market factors – Offering answers to where can I find more of my best customers; Where are competitors impact-ing my business? Where is my newest product or service most valuable? The decision support is offered while going for new locations and distribution points.
iii) internal corporate factors, such as the location of production plants, purchasing and delivery stores and branches
An interactive thematic map application presents geographic sales and marketing data that proves useful in many situations, as:
i) comparison of sales to historical results or to budgeted plan by geographical area
ii) regional/ geographical comparison of market share and price point data relative to the products of competitors,
iii) evaluation of the influence on local sales of regionally targeted advertising or promotional campaigns,
iv) comparison of the effectiveness of sales person calling efforts by geographical area, and
v) quick preparation of exhibits to present financial performance in a map format. A GIS solution can be linked to a marketing organization’s ERP/ accounting system so that GIS reports for marketing analysis can be generated as automatically.