Ubiquity of location intelligence is near

Businesses rely on location technology to plan store and office placement and logistics - and to learn about their customers, says Ventana Research's Mark Smith.
Written by Mark Smith, Contributor
Commentary--Information about location has never been more available or more widely used. Businesses rely on it to plan store and office placement and logistics and to learn about their customers. Consumers use it to get directions and find places to shop.

Advances in products based on global positioning technology and in presence indicators in mobile phones have made this information more readily available and affordable.

The accompanying broad acceptance of technology standards has freed organizations from costly investments in proprietary handheld devices, positioning signal devices and custom-built applications that are difficult to maintain and upgrade.

As a result, location intelligence is now part of everyday life. Incorporated in commodities such as mobile phones, personal navigation devices and notebook computers, location-based services can be used with business applications as well as for consumer purposes.

A massive effort is underway by information providers and businesses across the world to location-code information about homes, retail outlets and other places; that then can be made available via satellite and other delivery mechanisms. This will particularly benefit businesses that take steps to integrate information outside of the business with relevant internal information, making its business information richer and a more useful basis for making decisions. The obvious usefulness of location information has made it attractive to millions of people who consume it in mapping applications on the Internet from Google and others or in automobiles with global positioning system (GPS) tools.

However, these consumer technologies lack an array of capabilities that would be needed to apply them for business purposes. Google’s software, for example, can do a great job of basic mapping, but it was not designed to handle the flexible tagging of associated business data to allow it to be used for analysis in location contexts.

To address this disconnect between the consumer focus of location intelligence and the rapidly burgeoning needs of businesses to be able to use location as a component of their analysis and decision-making, companies must turn to the array of software coming to market designed to work with location information.

For example, when Johnny’s Lunch, a quick service restaurant specializing in hot dogs, decided to branch into franchising it turned to location intelligence. Johnny’s Lunch, which operated for 70 years in Jamestown, NY, has ambitious growth plans. Using Pitney Bowes MapInfo location intelligence solutions, the company identified its target customer and ideal markets.

Johnny’s Lunch was also able to identify what areas to begin its franchise operations in first and how many restaurants certain markets could sustain. Location intelligence played a vital role in how the company planned and executed its expansion. So far, Johnny’s Lunch has opened five restaurants in Michigan and one in Ohio and they expected to open more than 10 by the end of the year.

These products provide a location intelligence workbench and dedicated capabilities that can be used for robust analysis of, for example, historical customer purchasing patterns and associated trending data. With location intelligence, organizations can identify where their target customers and competition are located, allowing them to maximize operations, marketing and services.

Location-enabling of business planning and operations increasingly will be required for competitive positioning. Organizations should evaluate vendors of location intelligence business tools by first establishing the ways in which location-enabling will improve business performance.

Benchmark research on location intelligence found that the largest share of participating organizations (36 percent) want to utilize it in combination with customer-focused data; demographic and market analysis capabilities was ranked the top application need. These findings suggest how business executives and managers are viewing what location intelligence can deliver for their organizations.

When approaching location intelligence, start with the basics – information that can enhance knowledge about your products and services. For example, what can location add to your knowledge of the state of your supply chain – providing, for example, transit and other availability information about shipments from manufacturer to consumer or from route to service fulfillment.

Also, the siting of retail locations relative to existing customers is a great place to start improving business processes through the addition of location factors. These basic capabilities of location intelligence can enhance the operational performance of an organization and also provide additional agility to further empower decision-making.

We live in a global economy, but every person and product exists in a specific place. By looking through the lens of location, you can learn about your organization and its customers in ways that will translate into a competitive edge, both today and tomorrow. Location intelligence can be the innovation that your business has been looking for; don’t miss the opportunity to examine its potential for you.

Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research, Ventana Research is an expert in business intelligence and information management and directly manages the Workforce Performance Management research practice. As an industry veteran with more than 18 years of experience, Mark worked at companies including SAP, META Group, Oracle and IRI Software before founding Ventana Research.

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