Geo-mapping tools have broad application for sales and marketing, as I explained in my last blog. But there are so many other areas where geo-location can make a huge impact, blending data visualization with geographic data for location-based analysis and decision support. Let’s look at a few examples that might be relevant for you.

Heat maps for tracking movement and traffic

One of the most popular uses of geo-mapping, also known as geo-location, is to support decision-making based on traffic flow and concentration of activity. Heat maps are ideal for this. Essentially, a heat map is created by using sensors to gather data about anything that’s moving. (It has nothing to do with temperature, by the way, as I found out in my research; “heat” in this case is more analogous to “hot spot.”)

In this map of a shopping mall, for example, you can clearly see the high concentration of traffic in the red areas, and less out in the blue fringes and in the center aisle.


Imagine the deductions you can make from this data visualization:

  • Setting pricing for retail space
  • Intelligently placing customer information kiosks and seating
  • Strategically locating advertising displays
  • Targeting a certain type of retailer to take over a vacant store (if Rocky Mountain Chocolate moves out, find another chocolatier, quick)

Now picture this same type of a heat map inside a store. You can determine, for instance:

  • The best place to display high-margin items for maximum visibility
  • Where to set up in-store promotions
  • How to place merchandise strategically, yet avoid congestion

Or how about a casino? Gambler beware: the casino owner is likely to place games that pay out more frequently, but with less value, by the front door to draw people in. The games with bigger payouts hide out somewhere in the lower 40, away from the higher-traffic areas. Wouldn’t you? The casino can also determine which are the most popular games, and make you walk through the entire casino, past all the games that make them more money – shiny lights and ringing bells tempting you the whole time.

As with all modern data visualization software, you can use these maps in meetings with your management team, clients, prospects to make your case and drive decisions – with graphical representation that people can grasp immediately. With simple point-and-click, you can change up the information however you want it.

Heat maps for illustrating proximities

Let’s take a look at a different type of heat map, this one showing the Bay Area in California. This one is a territory map illustrating proximities of store locations relative to known customer base. This is why stores have memberships and special offers “if you’ll just provide us with your information.” This way, the store gets information to help identify likely areas for expansion, and you get promotional offers targeted to your buying habits … it’s a win-win.


Now imagine a map of a city overlaid with data showing existing vehicular traffic routes and potential for widening them for bike paths, relative to population and business centers. Urban planners, with the aim of encouraging safe bicycle commuting, can see where to begin laying out the network, the best places to locate bike rental kiosks, and how to phase in expansions of the network city-wide.

Zip code map for demographic data

Let’s stay here in the Bay Area for the third example: a zip code map. These are useful for a number of purposes. For example, knowing a customer’s zip code can help you understand buying behavior, because people who live in the same area often have common home-ownership types, family size, income level, and so on. This knowledge can help you with target marketing, to determine store locations, sales rep concentration, and so on.


Point maps for matching one type of location against another

Now let’s take a look at another type of geo-mapping application: a point map. This type of data visualization uses spatial information to match one set of points against another. For example, you can use point maps to track movement, such as a flight path or shipping, using RFID codes or satellite imagery translated in to longitude and latitude points, instead of the sensors used for a heat map. Essentially, the route of the aircraft or ships is one data set, matched against actual locations on the map. The map below shows marine shipping movement.


Learn more

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