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DataSep 16, 2011

How Virtually Any Business Can Improve through Utilizing Web Mapping Technology

Jason Heilig

Web mapping technology has become increasingly prevalent since its inception in the early 90s. In a 2008 study, maps and driving directions were recorded as the third most popular internet activity only behind email and searching. This is no surprise considering the advancement in mapping technology in recent years. The mid-2000s had the release of Yahoo Maps, Google Maps, Google Earth, as well as the release of APIs for Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s mapping services which allowed other websites and systems to begin utilizing this technology in their businesses. Since this time there has been enormous advancement in the technology. In 2008 alone, Google had 21 announcements regarding Google Maps and today the possibilities appear limitless as to the type of information that can be displayed using mapping technology. However, the vast majority of businesses today are not utilizing this technology to its fullest, if at all.

Let’s take a look at a few hypothetical businesses and how each could utilize mapping technology.

A transportation company (cab service, tow truck, bus)

In this situation there are several uses for mapping technology. When a client calls a cab company, the dispatcher could use a mapping solution to determine which of their vehicles is in the best position to be sent to the client’s location. While this could be based off a simple proximity calculation; using some of the features of mapping, driving time, including present traffic conditions, could be factored in with the system graphically displaying the best route available. Over time recording this data, the system could calculate the best divisions for zones for vacant cabs to reside to be most readily available based on historical analysis.

A distribution company

At the simplest level, a distribution company could use mapping technology to calculate best routes for drivers to use to make all of their deliveries as efficiently as possible by plotting customers on a simple user friendly geographic display. Once again this can account for traffic as well as other factors that could affect driving time. However, adding potential customers to the mapping display adds an entirely new element to the use of the technology. This system could improve sales cycles by showing potential customers that are on a route a driver already takes. Having this type of information readily available can be helpful in attaining the customer’s business. Perhaps it allows the company to offer better shipping costs, delivery frequency and speed to those prospects that are already in the delivery route.

A business with a physical presence (i.e. brick and mortar locations)

Any company with this model could receive significant benefit through the use of mapping technology. By plotting addresses of customers on a map, the company could determine where it is having success and where it should focus its efforts. If an area has a low customer base, but it in close proximity to one of the company’s locations a small local marketing campaign in that area could promote sales. Similarly, if an area has a small customer base, but fits the general target market for the company, this could present an opportunity for a future location.

A business that provides a mobile service (plumbing, cleaning, etc)

A company with this business model has many elements of all three previous hypothetical businesses, depending on the exact nature of the company’s service. If the company has several vehicles and perhaps a dispatcher, then the transportation model for identifying zones and vehicle distribution is likely to be very beneficial. Additionally, a service company of this nature is involved in distribution, even if not product distribution. Therefore, current and potential customers could be plotted on a map to provide market analysis and assist in sales cycles similar to the distribution example. And finally, this service company certainly has a physical presence, and it is probable that marketing campaigns and future locations could be determined through the use of mapping technology.

Using a map to display this information provides an easy to understand graphical representation of the market. This has only scratched the surface of the possible uses of mapping technology in business today. And the technology is continually expanding. Significant competitive advantage could be available to many companies that would take advantage of this technology and leverage it in a way that supports their business goals.

This blog is part of a series with the purpose of explaining how to create a Silverlight map application and host it within a variety of systems.

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