From a marketing perspective, the principal attraction of spatial analysis is still probably a psychological one. Marketeers seem to feel that geography is important in that they know that there are major geographic variations in the demand for products. Maybe they feel that geographers should be able to help them perform better and that there might be methods that geographers know about that could be beneficial to them. Those in the industry who believe this will probably already be displaying more confidence in the value of geography than do many geographers!
Yet at the same time it is evident that there are mutual benefits to both the marketing industry and to geography from closer collaboration. The geographer might gain access to data not in the public domain, new publishing opportunities may arise and there is at least some prospect for technology transfer and commercialization. The marketing industry might gain access to a largely untapped skill base. The question is, however, which methods, which applications, and which new products might be created through such collaborations?
Targeting of clients and modelling predictions of their needs for consumer products will reach unparalleled degrees of sophistication and accuracy.
As computer speeds increase and costs diminish, so the economics and capabilities of information processing relevant to marketing will be revolutionized. New forms of analysis and modelling will become practicable commercial propositions and, perhaps more importantly, spatial analysis technologies might well become a mainstay of a new computational marketing era. As marketing databases become more sophisticated and customer information systems become operational and mature, so important new opportunities and needs for spatial analysis and modelling will emerge.
Dangermond (1993) lists what he terms several major areas of business: real estate, energy electrical utilities, forests products, tourism and recreation, transportation, communications, publishing, and insurance. He writes:
“In just the last few years the application of GIS to business had begun to grow very rapidly. This seems to be because the technology is getting significantly easier to use, much less expensive, and because the business community now accepts the value of GIS in performing many kinds of necessary work.”
There is no doubt also that there is a growing number of PC-based marketing systems that allow various GIS operations to be performed on marketing data. Various site evaluations performed – for example – population or potential sales profiles within x km of a retail site – and, indeed, this can be a highly profitable and popular activity. Dangermond (1993) notes that this can be useful as a means of locating new business. Spatial decision-support using GIS often reduces to no more than just eye-balling map displays, or querying spatial databases by pointing a mouse.