Why You Need GIS
Why You Need GIS
“Geography blended with time equals destiny” — Joseph Brodsky
Geography is probably the most important day-to-day factor in a person’s life that they think about the least.
Physical (and political) geography dictate how all of us behave and move through the world. As a modern rule, we like to think we’ve conquered geography — that through highways, planes, and trains we can get anywhere we want, that we’ve already explored all there is to map, and in particular, the internet has rendered traditional physical barriers like mountains, rivers, and forests irrelevant to communication and commerce.
While the world feels smaller and more connected every day, geography — the physical reality of the environment — still plays an enormous, and sometimes incredibly subtle, role in steering our behavior.
The effect of geography is especially pronounced in cities and metro areas: our highways serve the same purpose rivers and canals did 100 years ago, and similarly, they serve to connect and divide people. Even with numerous crossings, people tend to stay on side or the other of highways (and if you assume customers are unaffected by this barrier, you will either overestimate your potential customer base, or worse, get cut off completely from your target demographic).
Another example: let’s say you want to flip a house. You know the area you want to target, but there’s a highway that runs through the neighborhood. As a whole, the neighborhood looks great — houses are selling above asking prices, and overall, per capita income is rising.
But, without adequate mapping, what you can’t see is that the highway has created a pocket where income is not rising, and houses aren’t selling the way they are just one street over.
While you need The Map Nerd’s help determining where this line divides, you certainly don’t need us to tell you how much this little difference can make or break a major investment of yours.
After all, geography isn’t just about how we move around to live, shop, or work. If you own a business, every item you sell has a piece of geography associated with it: every item in your inventory has a maximum distance your customers are willing to travel to obtain it. Some products, like a gallon of milk, have an extremely small distance associated — not just how far your customers are willing to travel, but how close by the dairy farm that produced the milk needs to be. Of course, bigger items, such as cars, have a larger area from which you can draw customers.
Understanding this principle — and quantifying it with customer purchasing data — can reveal where you are vulnerable to competitors, unwittingly introducing an intervening opportunity to buy the same product. Likewise, knowing and understanding the “geography of commerce” can also prevent you from opening up a new location that will cannibalize your existing customers… leaving you with the nightmare scenario of the same amount of revenue you had with one location, but now supporting the overhead costs of two.
It is critical, in just about any industry, to have someone on your side that understands the importance and effect of geography, as well as how the data associated with that geography is collected, analyzed, and utilized. Most importantly, you need someone that thinks geographically: anyone can learn software or statistics or where to find data, but if they don’t see the world through a geographic lens, they might have the tools… but they sure don’t have the specialization to fully utilize them.
Nobody likes cannibalization (except cannibals, but that’s kind of their M.O. — and even then, they probably don’t like cannibalizing their business).
Don’t cannibalize your business. The Map Nerd’s got your back.