Location Intelligence for Emerging Markets: Step 1, Getting the Data Right

By Ian Clemens

Emerging Markets Data There is no surer sign that emerging markets like China, Russia and India are coming of age than the increase in the number of requests we are getting from our customers for location data and analysis for these markets.As companies search for new markets for growth opportunities, they quickly realize that lack of established presence in these markets leaves them with no historical or internal data resources to pull from - such as customers, point of sale, or even supplier information.In these cases, location data sources such as geography and demographics can provide the foundation for establishing location intelligence.

Examples of business activities, related to emerging markets, for which location intelligence can help include:

  • Market & Demographic Analysis - "Where is the best market, and where are my best customers likely to live and work?"
  • Site selection - "Where should I locate my plant, or retail location?"
  • Competitive Analysis - "Where are my competitors?"
These all involve the question "Where?" and that's exactly what location intelligence is all about.

The Value of Location Intelligence
Location intelligence can bolster these strategic business activities by providing visualization, advanced analysis, and data enhancement.When we talk about visualization in relation to location, we usually mean mapping, and maps are an easy and intuitive way to see and understand data; plus, everyone likes maps. What may otherwise be complex information can sometimes be simplified using a map.For instance three separate tables in Excel representing customers, competitors, and demographics may not tell you much if viewed in a tabular format, but the three tables geocoded, or referenced to the surface of the earth, and then overlaid on a map, can quickly show you where your best customers are, where they are in relation to your customers, and where those regions are that represent the most potential based on the underlying demographics.The visual power of maps reveals trends, patterns, and insights that are not as easily detected in other data presentation formats such as tabular views, or even the ubiquitous bar and pie charts.

But location intelligence is more than mapping.It also includes advanced analysis related to spatial relationships.Spatial analysis allows you to ask "where?" questions, and when combined with Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) in your business intelligence systems, the location component can be the dimension in your analysis that leads to better, more focused decision making.Spatial analysis asks questions in terms of location: Show me all the available land parcels within 30 miles of a major city? Find me the nearest supplier to this proposed site? Where is the best location for transporting merchandise to point B?

Another linchpin of location intelligence is data enhancement; that is, enhancing enterprise information through combinations with other data sources.Location data is fabulous for this, as geography can be used as common attribute to combine otherwise dissimilar data sources.In site selection, for example, customer location data, combined with rail networks, power lines, and road network geography integrated on a map could quickly show where you might locate a manufacturing plant. These are the areas that IDV Solutions has seen the greatest increase in demand for emerging markets.

Getting started
We have shown the value location intelligence can bring to some strategic business activities, but none of this is possible until your business data is location-enabled, and referenced to the surface of the globe, and then combined with geographic and other data such as demographics.So where does a business begin, especially when focused on markets like China where the geography may be unfamiliar, and the data difficult to track down?

This series of articles, beginning with China in the next article, will help the reader through the task of acquiring data for these emerging markets.For each market covered, we'll begin with an overview of the data available, especially focused on data relevant to business needs, identify the best available and what's missing, and then identify potential pitfalls.The hope is that these articles will serve as a useful starting place for moving your business toward location intelligence.

Published Thursday, September 2nd, 2004

Written by Ian Clemens

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