How GIS Technology is Changing Our Ground Game – Part I

One of the many acronyms tossed around these days is GIS – Geographic Information System. In the world of commercial real estate, GIS technology is an important component in matching a client to the right location. In fact, Metro Commercial Real Estate has a staff of eight working on GIS, graphics and reports, and using those materials as marketing tools.  It’s become that important.

According to ESRI, the leading provider of GIS technology, a GIS lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand spatial relationships, patterns and trends.

The process commences when a Metro broker identifies a potential property for a client—for example, a property within a shopping center in New Jersey. We then identify a trade area, a region surrounding the property where potential customers are likely to be located.  These trade areas can be as simple as concentric rings or as complex as drive time polygons bound by natural or physical barriers like a river or highway.

Based on our client’s needs we then select demographics that are most relevant to their success; income, population, and education often play a huge role. These demographics are retrieved from data sources such as the 10-year U.S. Census and the annual American Community Survey, also conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. This data is delivered at varying scales, from a large national dataset to a focused census block group (approximately 1200 people).

In addition to demographics, psychographics are becoming an important tool in our toolbox. Psychographics look at characteristics that are more nuanced: attitudes, lifestyles and values.  So a category of “Milk and Cookies” could mean a cohort of families with young children, play groups and SUVs. Psychographics are a fascinating, and more personal, way to look at market segments.

Metro’s GIS reports are tailored to each client’s target audience. A client who relies on a big lunch business may be most interested in an area’s daytime population and less interested in education level. A national retailer might be drawn to the mix of other retail in the area. In suburban areas, drive times and traffic patterns might be of primary concern. Whatever the client is looking for in a location, Metro’s GIS team can compile a report that illustrates the most important data points.

For a retailer—large or small–opening a new location and investing in facility improvements and operational logistics is a long term and large financial commitment. Carefully crafted GIS analysis and reports provide the information clients need to make a well informed decision and validate the potential investment. GIS technology is helping Metro clients breathe a little easier when they’re ready to say “go.”

Check back here for Part II when we discuss how GIS technology helps companies of all sizes prepare and prioritize expansion plans.

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