How can you add location to your data analytics?

When it comes to understanding more about your business, one factor that's increasingly important in many considerations is location. Data on where customers are is much more readily available than ever before thanks to tools such as mobile devices, and this can give firms new insights to exploit when drawing up a strategy.

Retail is one sector where the use of location can play a key role – with some organisations even testing tools that can use real-time analytics to monitor a customer's position within a store and deliver targeted offers at the most appropriate points.

But aside from this very precise technology, wider location data has a wide range of users, many of which may not be immediately obvious to companies. but those that are able to tap into this information stand well-placed to make their operations more effective.

In a piece for, Michael Goldberg suggested location could be used for everything from banks planning how to revise their ATM networks to multinationals pinpointing the best place to build a new research centre in order to attract the best talent.

"Geographic information systems are no longer the domain of government cartographers and retailers looking for the next great place to set up a store," he stated. "With the rise of analytics – and with every businessperson carrying a smartphone with a built-in mapping app – the idea of adding location data to big data is taking hold."

Incorporating this data into a firm's analytics can also show companies where they are going wrong in making assumptions about their customers. One example of this is athletic wear maker Lululemon, which recently introduced the idea of gathering information on its customers' addresses – something it had previously resisted.

Director of store development strategy at the firm Booth Babcock told a recent conference learning where their customers really come from was a surprise. "We found our guests were more diverse than we expected," he said. "They were more likely to be older, more likely to live in the suburbs and have kids." 

This information is likely to inform its decision-making when Lululemon comes to plan its growth, as it could influence where it chooses to site stores – in suburban malls, for instance – or increase floor space to accommodate more families.