Business mapping software lets users import their customer records, prospect databases, or other location-based datasets and view them on the map. That feature, which we call data visualization, is the most popular, and possibly the most powerful, feature offered by web mapping tools. For many businesses the visualization of their business data against a map background is transformative. It creates new ways of seeing your business.
The Spatial Search
But business mapping software offers much more than simply importing and viewing your business data. By querying business data geographically managers can learn more about their business. Users often query their data using map based querying tools. In full featured geographic information systems this querying device is known as the Spatial Search. Spatial Search is a very Map Geeky term, so keep it in your hip pocket for impressing acquaintances at highbrow cocktail parties and keep it under wraps at tailgate and frat parties. No need to risk life and limb over mapping software.
The term Spatial means in three-dimensional reality. For our purposes Spatial refers to places on the Earth’s surface. These places in space are three-dimensional because the Earth’s surface includes topography – mountains and valleys. So when you are conducting a spatial search, a typical business user is looking for objects or data points on the Earth’s surface. Your map application’s data import process locates or geo-locates these points on the map based on their address, latitude or longitude placement, or some other less exact geographic placement like a zip code or a county. A spatial search is simply searching data within a specific area of space. For instance, population by specific zip code, or the number of ice cream stores within fifty miles of a specific rest area. Those are examples of simple spatial searches.
A good web mapping software will let you create a circle or radius map and search all the data within that circle. You should be able to conduct the same search within a polygon – a multisided object on the map. Businesses use these spatial searches to conduct market research, competitive analysis, or store expansion research.
A more advanced method of spatial search is built into territory analysis. When you have designed and create a series of sales territories that represent sales accountability, you should then be able to search those territories for customers, prospects, or other pertinent data records. These spatial queries might be great to file in your sales person’s performance file as records supporting territory assignments and progress against goals.
Taken a step further, demographic analysis places Census data, describing population, income, ethnicity, age, and many other statistics, in a spatial context. Mapping applications distribute that demographic data over administrative districts (county, state or zip code) and can display values in color shadings. For example, a zip code map can display population densities as varying shades of blue or any color for that matter.
So why do people query data using mapping software? They do it because it allows the user to visualize business data geographically. A nationwide database of customers in QuickBooks can suddenly become a region by region tally of customers by type. A decade old SalesForce.com customer data dump is now a world-wide analysis of where your top five products are sold over ten years. An Excel spreadsheet that Kim used to update before she went on maternity leave is now the basis of your company’s sales territory structure.
And they also do it for the Spatial Olympics’ tailgate party – don’t forget your calculator.
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