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Geographic Market Intelligence is a key to good business decision-making.

By Kevin Abraham - Nov 15, 2017
Geographic Market Intelligence is a key to good business decision-making.

Kevin Abraham* argues that geographically linked market intelligence is a must have, not just a "nice to have".

The value of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) is growing.

GIS applications for business, have seen tremendous growth over the past few years. This has been made possible as the software for finding geographical locations, is now commonplace, and of course, the internet has driven the opportunity for commercial entities to radically alter the way that they engage with their markets.

Consumers too, find GIS driven applications, to be a particularly handy means of locating and engaging with a variety of good and services. ("Google My Business"and "Google Maps" are two excellent examples of this synergy.)

"Geomarketing" is impressive, but not the whole story.

"Geomarketing"is a buzzword. Yet, strictly speaking, it represents only one category of GIS activity: Using geographical links to target consumers, and engage with them more effectively. It allows business to be very specific in targeting their offerings, thereby greatly enhancing the efficiency of features such as customer contact, advertising, and marketing activities.

Less well recognized, but still of considerable value, is the use of GIS for augmenting market research data. Geographic Market Intelligence, or GMI, is fast being recognized as a powerful new tool for enhancing traditional market research sectors that include Retail Tracking, Competitor Analysis, Customer Satisfaction, Market Execution, Routing, Segmentation, and more. In fact, just about any market research activity benefits tremendously from the GMI methodology.

GMI connects research information with precise geographical locations. This connection of data to geography allows us to investigate market research data in a manner that was formerly very difficult, if not impossible.

Geographic Market Intelligence delivers a fresh range of understanding.

The era of location based data collection could only really take off with the arrival of mobile applications, which can track their own location over time. Place and time can now be efficiently collected along with research data.

That makes GMI a game changer, because we can now incorporate "geographic enquiry" into the conventional interpretation of research. GMI technology delivers rich layers of understanding that combines spatial and time bound relationships, clustering attributes, and highly granular market intelligence.

Most notably, GMI methodology offers insights that conventional data analysis simply cannot deliver. Some of the complexities inherent in the data simply cannot be analyzed without a visual component.

Geographic Information Systems are no longer just a "nice to have".

Once there is a location attached, then information can be mapped. In turn, we can identify where things are, or where things were at the time that the data was collected. We can ask a range of geographic questions. Better yet, if we apply standardized coding, we can hook up with a global library of other similarly coded data.

Governments are often the source of significant analytical data. At the same time, private business is filling in the spatial information gap with a variety of location linked info. It can be pricey, but like most other pioneer offerings, the prices will come down as economies of scale take hold.

The point is that geo-linked information, and the software to drive it, is not longer out of reach. Businesses with customer databases, which contain locations, are already at an advantage, since every bit of data, tied to a customer address or code, can rapidly be connected to a digital map, and linked to other coded databases.

At the same time, providers of research can, and should, commit to applying GIS elements (especially place & time) to all the data they provide, so the GMI methods can be applied.


The AA beverage company experienced a worrying loss of share across its area of distribution. Interrogation of the data through conventional methods suggested that the share had been eroded by several new players in the market, of which BB beverages was the leading distributor.

The research analyst was advise to call for location and temporal links going back several months. When these links were applied, it became possible to map the events of the past months. The growth of BB beverages was confirmed, but some important new insights now became apparent:

Once mapped, the team could now see that BB beverages had begun trading in a single isolated region; a region where AA presence was sparse. (In addition, it traded at a discount to AA). After a month or so, BB could be seen to have infiltrated at least three new, similar regions, where after its growth accelerated as it entered more areas.

By linking a separate demographic database, it was discerned that the areas all had similar demographics. Very recently, BB had moved into a key AA territory, and was doing quite well there, trading at a discount to AA. If left to its own devices, BB would soon be capable of distributing over a wide area. The geographical enquiry of the research allowed the AA team to clearly spot the expansion, and plan a counter strategy.


Businesses that are early adopters of GMI, as a procedure, will have an advantage in a rapidly evolving field. I expect that it will become one of the indispensable market research tools within the next five years or so.

*Kevin Abraham is a founding member of the Frontline Research Group, working extensively in Africa.

**Disclosure: Frontline's service offerings include a variety of market research options, as well as Geographic Market Intelligence Systems, similar to those discussed here.