The Nature of Geographic Information

10. Geocoding Your Customers


Geocoded addresses allow governments and businesses to map where their constituents and customers live and work. Federal, state, and local government agencies know where their constituents live by virtue of censuses, as well as applications for licenses and registrations. Banks, credit card companies, and telecommunications firms are also rich in address-referenced customer data, including purchasing behaviors. Private businesses and services must be more resourceful.

Some retail operations, for example, request addresses or ZIP Codes from customers, or capture address data from checks. Discount and purchasing club cards allow retailers to directly match purchasing behaviors with addresses. Customer addresses can also be harvested from automobile license plates. Business owners pay to record license plate numbers of cars parked in their parking lots or in those of their competitors. Addresses of registered owners can be purchased from organizations that acquire motor vehicle records from state departments of transportation.

Businesses with access to address-referenced customer data, vector street data attributed with address ranges, and GIS software and expertise, can define and analyze the trade areas within which most of their customers live and work. Companies can also focus direct mail advertising campaigns on their own trade areas, or their competitors'. Furthermore, GIS can be used to analyze the socio-economic characteristics of the population within trade areas, enabling businesses to make sure that the products and services they offer meet the needs and preferences of target populations.

Politicians use the same tools to target appearances and campaign promotions.

Try This!

Check out the geocoding system maintained by the Federal Financial Institution's Examination Council. The FFIEC Geocoding system lets users enter a street address and get a census demographic report or a street map (Using Tele Atlas data). The system is intended for use by financial institutions that are covered by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to meet their reporting obligation.

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