Magazine article Marketing

Putting Data on the Map

Magazine article Marketing

Putting Data on the Map

Article excerpt

This year's geographical information systems exhibition at the NEC has plenty to offer marketers.

Even the most technology-focused marketer wouldn't have been seen dead at the geographical information systems (GIS) shows of the late 80s. They were attended by anoraked local government planners and gas company geologists intent on mapping the length of their piping.

Since the early 90s, the use of GIS in marketing departments has taken off and now site planners, relationship marketers and Internet gurus can't get enough.

Last year's event, GIS 96, was a watershed. For the first time, Blenheim Exhibitions and industry body the Association of Geographic Information pooled resources to create a single exhibition, including conference agenda, at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

The aim was to popularise GIS further while retaining the element of sophistication and analysis required by GIS specialists. Some 4188 visitors attended GIS 96 - an improvement of 11% on Blenheim's 1995 exhibition.

The organisers expect GIS 97, at the NEC from October 7 to 9, to be bigger yet. This year's conference will be particularly relevant to marketers because of its broad array of speakers and discussion matter. Next Tuesday (October 7) includes a session devoted to using GIS in retail and marketing. It focuses on using customer data in conjunction with geodemographic profiling and mapping products to achieve real bottom-line results.

The exploitation of customer data through GIS is explored in the morning session, chaired by Martin Callaghan, group market research director of Whitbread. Emma Reid, database marketing manager of PPP healthcare, will talk about how the company has used geodemographics to profile customers, providing a model for likely targets. It also uses GIS to screen out customers for new product marketing if they don't match the profile.

Ian Thurman, director of SPA field force planning, demonstrates how category management at local stores can be planned using GIS. This has been a major growth area in recent years, with retailers such as Tesco, and FMCG firms such as Procter & Gamble, using GIS to decide which products should sit on the shelves.

The use of geodemographic data, indicating likely purchasing habits, can provide accurate models for implementing product ranges at a localised level. "GIS is now about saying location affects marketing decisions and using test sets of data to maximise resources," says Thurman.

Press for action

Simon Perry, director of York-based GIS supplier Beacon Dodsworth, will explore the growing use of GIS in planning regional press advertising. Beacon Dodsworth works with JICREG (the regional press research committee) on taking its research data and putting it on to media planners' desks. Ad agencies Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Bates Dorland have both worked with Perry using GIS to plan local media drives.

Perry says: "You can overlay circulation areas on a car dealership's territory, for instance. It's mainly about geographic catchment areas rather than demographics of readership, but you can now access age and sex breakdowns of readerships."

In the afternoon, John Rae, a director of CACI, chairs a more technology-led programme on geodemographic profiling.

A discussion about the marketing of insurance products to rivals' customers will provide insights for all marketers seeking a more strategic approach to winning new customers.

Later Mark Heaton, network planning manager at Halifax, explain how GIS can now cope with large databases. A traditional problem for marketers has been the convergence of large amounts of diverse and often incompatible data within a GIS system. However, specialist data warehouse attachments to GIS provide advanced database access features and can cope with the influx of customer data.

How GIS has been used in pricing wars between rival forecourts will be looked at by Andrew Doukanaris, retail pricing co-ordinator at Texaco. …

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