Product Overview: iMODEL from Claritas

By Joe Francica

Claritas Corporation recently released iMODEL, a site selection tool that uses Claritas' suite of demographic and segmentation data products.We asked Claritas to review some of the technical advantages of the product and provide specific details with regard to the modeling capabilities, flexibility to incorporate retailing scenarios, and its ability to calculate sales potential for sites under review by the retailer.Here are their answers to our questions.

1.The functionality appears similar to iMARK.How are you differentiating iMODEL and what is its unique selling proposition? Please be specific.

Although the interface of the two applications does appear similar, their are fundamental differences between them.For example, iMARK reports raw data, whereas iMODEL takes it a step further and translates raw data into a more meaningful metric, such as a sales forecast.iMARK enables users to query a market or site in order to yield a descriptive analysis drawn from Claritas' rich databases of demographics, lifestyle behaviors, consumer spending, and so on, based on any geography in the country.By contrast, iMODEL is a predictive analysis tool that is designed to forecast demand in markets or at sites.It uses customer transactional data, demographics, segmentation, economic behaviors, activity generators and competition - running the information through a series of equations to deliver results. In short, iMARK answers questions like, "How many people live around this site?" and iMODEL answer questions like, "How much sales would a new store do here?".

2.How are you defining 'multi-dimensional' functionality? Are you referring to spatial dimensions or the ability to integrate multiple data types such as basic demographics with lifestyle segmentation? Do you require a certain level of geography to be maintained (Census Tract, Block Group, etc.) during the modeling procedure?

Multi-dimensional is truly a marketing characterization.For publicity purposes, it was used to describe a system with a multitude of complex information.Specifically, we see iMODEL as having more than one dimension or aspect in the following areas:
  • iMODEL is not limited to only one source of data.iMODEL uses multiple data inputs from various sources.Some of these sources include, but are not limited to client data about customers, transactions, and stores or branches; Claritas demographics, lifestyles, consumer spending patterns, competition etc.
  • iMODEL is geographically neutral - handling all levels of geography such as postal (ZIP Codes) and census geographic boundaries (Census Tract and Block Group), etc.
  • iMODEL does not apply "black-box" modeling techniques.Instead, we consider the range of analytical techniques that exist, then utilize the best, and most appropriate technique(s).
  • iMODEL enables the user to approach a market in both reactive and proactive fashion. For example, a user may want to evaluate potential at a specific site such as the corner of 4th and B.In this case, iMODEL enables the user to select that (or any other specific location) for evaluation and get a sales prediction for that specific location. On the other hand, if the user wants to find the best possible location in a market regardless of where it might be located, iMODEL enables the user to create a grid network to cover the market and identify the grid that offers the most potential.

3.It includes a "comprehensive GIS" this built on an existing platform such as ArcView or ArcIMS, MapInfo, etc., or one that Claritas has written specifically for iMODEL?

iMODEL utilizes MapInfo Professional as the GIS engine.This represents a natural extension of Claritas' and MapInfo's long-term relationship.Claritas developed iMODEL with the specific intent that all the power of MapInfo Professional be available to users. With the release of iMARK 3.0 this month, iMARK and iMODEL will use the same mapping tool.

4.What is the basis for scoring sites? Does the system rank the site individually (and what method is used for this part of the analysis) or based on a weighted combination of all potential sites? Are you using a specific retail model? Huff? Reilly? Other spatial interaction model? Please be specific.

There is no one standard set of algorithms associated with iMODEL.iMODEL is a tool to deploy site evaluation and market optimization models developed by Claritas' Analytical Services Group. It supports a wide range of model types such as analog, regression, gravity, spatial interaction, and location-allocation. iMODEL enables Claritas to employ the analytical methodology most appropriate to the needs, objectives, and business of each individual client.

5.For your "what-if" scenarios, is the user allowed to interactively move, add, or delete sites from each scenario?

Yes.iMODEL is designed to allow maximum user flexibility in assessing locational scenarios.iMODEL allows markets and sites to be set-up and configured to test any possible what-if scenario.The user can add and delete sites, interactively move or close existing sites and add new sites (both sister locations and competitor locations), as well as change characteristics about any or all of the sites in a market.The user can also grid markets to identify opportunities, control grid sizes, and much more.These what-if scenarios can be done for a specific session and discarded, or saved for future analysis.

6.Do you allow the user to calibrate the model based on POP data or competitive sales data?

From the start, Claritas encourages our clients to participate in the design, development, and creation of analytical models.Claritas' Analytical Services Group then develops and calibrates the models using both client and Claritas data.This is an interactive process in which Claritas' analytical personnel incorporate knowledge and feedback from the client into the modeling. Updating and recalibration of the models in subsequent years is performed by Claritas and includes key findings from the client based on their experience using the models.
7.Does the result of an iMODEL score provide a 'quantitative' analysis of predicted sales for each store in the scenario? If not, what is the output from an iMODEL scenario?
As a site evaluation and market optimization tool that can be used for sales forecasting, iMODEL expresses a quantitative result in dollars.The application does support pre-formatted summary and detailed reports, exports to other programs, and generates thematically shaded maps.Each scenario can be saved, the parameters changes, and iMODEL re-run.This provides for easy comparative analysis among markets and sites.

8.Is a special suite of Claritas data needed or required to use iMODEL? Is it included with the purchase of iMODEL?
Because iMODEL utilizes multiple data inputs, a selected combination of client data and carefully chosen Claritas data are eventually recommended to achieve the best results. We review each client's current data license to determine what variables they currently license and leverage those datasets.
9.What is the platform for iMODEL? Desktop? Internet?
iMODEL is a desktop application that allows multiple users to share data, such as site locations, market plans, and deployment strategies over a network.
10.How does a customer license the iMODEL product?
iMODEL , the delivery platform, and the data used in the models are both licensed annually and separately.
11.What is the cost of a single user license?
There is no one fixed cost for a single user license.The annual iMODEL software licensing fee is $8,500.But, the user will also incur costs to develop the model(s), which can vary in complexity; for the data license, which can vary depending on what they currently license and how much data goes into the models; and the geographic extent of the analysis, e.g., a single market vs.a national study.

Published Monday, July 29th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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