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GIS Solutions Ring Up Benefits for Retail

Location, location, location. The old maxim is most closely associated with real estate – you can change anything about a home, except where it happens to be – but location matters when it comes to other types of buying decisions, too.

Recently, Jay Wardle of Dstillery, a marketing technology company, wrote about how retailers can use geospatial data to predict consumer behavior, first pointing out that it’s important to understand the difference between location data and geospatial data. “Location data, collected in isolation and in real-time, merely offers measurement. Geospatial data offers location, plus the context retailers need to make decisions.” While location data can be difficult to obtain and may be too generalized to be useful, geospatial data carries more capabilities that brand marketers can apply to their business.

Adopting a geospatial approach can help marketers get a better picture of customer behavior both past and present. This is because geospatial data goes beyond location – the geometry of a point on a map – to include attribution about those geometries, such as customer demographics or where people spend the most time within stores. All of this data can be leveraged to inform decisions on store locations, merchandise mix, and other aspects of the customer experience.

GIS inside and out

Outside the walls of a store, geospatial data can tell retailers about whether the area around a particular location is growing more or less affluent, or if the population is growing or shrinking. Are new businesses opening nearby, or do zoning laws and other regulations limit the potential for growth? And how might weather patterns affect the busiest shopping days?

Once customers are inside, geospatial data – which essentially translates to tracking the flow of consumers within a store – can yield valuable information about how shoppers behave once they are inside. Marketers and retailers can learn what types of displays are most attractive to customers, or where customers head first when they arrive. Store layouts can be changed to determine what arrangements result in more conversions or increased customer satisfaction.

This consumer behavior is captured in a variety of ways, including via smartphones, wearables such as smart watches, and through the use of sensors connected to the internet of things. The volume of available geospatial information will continue to increase as consumer reliance on smartphones accelerates and wearables become more common. In light of these trends, it only makes sense for verticals like retail to capture, store, manage, and use this data to their advantage.

A big data challenge

Processing all of this location-based information ultimately presents retailers with a big data challenge, one that likely requires a robust GIS solution integrated into existing business operations. Increasingly, GIS is a must-have to gain competitive edge and grow customer loyalty. So how do retailers get involved, geospatially speaking? A GIS solution built on open technology provides the most interoperability and flexibility within an existing IT infrastructure, and, depending on what kind of data processing power the business needs, can also be cloud-based to provide the most scalability for unpredictable demand. Learn more about Boundless Server and Boundless Exchange, or speak with us about the possibilities of adding robust GIS functionality to your retail applications.