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Customer Sciences in Motor Retail: Keynote 1. The Actionable Insights That Result From Mapping Your Customers

Actionable Insights are those views of data that cause managers to ask new questions about how processes work and take action.  They differ from key performance measures and daily operating control (DOC) reports that focus on delivering a picture of progress against a strategic objective, operating budget or forecast.  What actionable insights can dealers expect to source from mapping their customers – and is it worth it?

Maps are a fantastic tool in customer science and these days they’re very accessible to all sizes of dealership.   Maps are useful because they provide ANOTHER perspective on the customer relationship.  It’s quite remarkable what new actionable insights are derived by looking at map data and in this article I examine some of the ways dealers can put maps to work. 

Tools for Mapping Customers

Before I get started on describing the practical uses of maps for Motor Retail customer science, let me quickly summarize the sort of mapping tools that are out there that dealers can use.

The obvious ‘king of mapping services’ is Googlemaps.  It’s a great application to use not only because it has great looking maps that work well on practically any computing device but also because of the richness of third party data that’s accessible through Google.  Unfortunately, if you’re a business you have to pay to use Googlemaps so it’s not a cheap option (check out ‘Google Maps for Business’ for more details. Clever third party companies like Maptive make it easier to put your data on Googlemaps for people that don’t want to fuss with APIs and they include Googlemaps charges in their tariff.

Second on the list of mapping services is Bing Maps from Microsoft.  Bing is a reasonable attempt by Microsoft to be like Googlemaps.  It has swishy features like heat-mapping that are very useful for customer profiling and analysis.  The pricing model is again quite expensive for business users (difficult to explain too as there are so many wrinkles to the terms) but the big benefit of using Microsoft Bing Maps is the fact it integrates very easily for .NET developers with the other apps they’re probably using.

Another couple of options not to be ignored are Yahoo! Maps (yep Yahoo! Does mapping too) and MapQuest who provide a chargeable mapping service – but there again, none of the online tools are free to businesses, so you will have to pay ‘something’ to map your own data.

One of the challenges of using online mapping services like Google, Bing and Yahoo! is that you’re never quite sure whether it’s safe to add your own customer data to the maps or, if you do, whether you’ll ever be able to download it and get it back.  Vendors will typically charge for meta-data created by their system including the geo-code!!  That’s probably why vendors like eSpatial and Squork Maps have entered the market.  They charge a flat fee for use of their mapping services, but you know when you publish your own data to a map that it’s safe. They also don’t add charges on for exporting data with geo-data or resources sourced by their platforms. Naturally anyone wishing to do upload customer data – even when it’s being uploaded to a dedicated private-cloud - would be wise to make sure they’re up-to-speed with Information Security policies and protocols surrounding use of personally identifiable data.  In the UK it’s important that dealers adhere to the common sense rules of the Data Protection Act while in Europe there is similar legislation in place - see Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights; Directive 95/46/EC – the Data Protection Directive.

An alternative to subscribing to a third party mapping service – and having to do all of the legwork yourself of getting your customer data on a map – is to find a technology or marketing partner that knows how to do it and have them effectively provide the service and the technology platform for you.  It’s likely you already know of a marketing agency, web design agency, DMS provider or technology partner that knows how to do this and can simply serve up your customer data on a map.  At NDMC, we include mapping into our Actionable Insights and Lead Generator software platforms as standard because we know how useful it is for customers to use maps in their business.

How the process of mapping customers works

There are a number of ways to plot customers on maps.  These are the most popular:

Postcodes – The quality of postcodes varies from one country to the next.  In the UK postcodes are highly accurate and take you to within a few houses of the exact pen position of the customers. Systems like Encanvas Maps integrate with Dealer Management Systems to automatically publish customer postcodes on a map via a simple upload report.  This means if you have accurate postcodes, the customer data will instantly appear on the map!  In many countries however, including the United States of America and South Africa, the accuracy of postcodes is not great and so a street address is needed to create an accurate customer map.

Address – Some mapping applications like Googlemaps are so advanced that they can plot customers based on address data.

Longitude and Latitude – Whilst the entire world used Longitude and Latitude geo-codes to plot places on a map, it’s not easy to obtain longlat details for customer records.  Some third party agencies offer services to source and apply these geo-codes to records but the process is expensive and it’s not easy to find a supplier as it’s quite specialist.

Eastings and Northings – In the UK, Ordnance Survey and many other public authorities adopt a geo-coding approach based on Easting and Northing coordinates.  Where data exists on customers based on Eastings and Northings, it can easily be applied to Ordnance Survey maps – but it’s quite difficult to source customer data with this attribute.

Manual Plotting – If you have no other option you can manually plot point on many of the geo-spatial applications and mapping services.  This is time consuming and risks inaccurate manual entry of locations.


Extracting value from maps for customer science - It’s all about data connections!

When dealers start to analyze their customer data in order to begin the journey of understanding what matters most to their customers through profiling and persona building, it soon becomes obvious that the more information you can access about customers, the richer the picture becomes.  Building an understanding of customers is about connecting the dots in your data.

There are some obvious ‘dots’:

  • Affluence and life-style – Spending power; Whether they are married or single, own their own property or live with parents, retired, employed, unemployed etc.
  • Locations – Where customers live; where they shop; where they work; where customers are now
  • Interaction behaviors – How customers prefer to communicate
  • Buyer behaviors – How customers pay for products and services; What sort of relationship they want with their dealership and aftersales providers; What options they consider
  • Driver behaviors – How customers drive their vehicle
  • Purchasing behaviors – What customers buy; Why they buy what they buy

Location-awareness is an important connecting line between the dots.  With maps marketers can better understand where their customers are and this can reveal affluence, risk, likelihood of seeing an advert and many other profiling characteristics.  Combine maps with profiling data and suddenly it’s possible to understand where your best customers are, where the worst customers are – and if we turn the table upside down, where the addressable market of ‘potential’ best customers are!


A few examples of the actionable insights that maps can uncover

Here are a few scenarios that are typical of what happens when you map your customer data. 

Actionable Insights that Drive Data Quality Enrichment and Qualify Size of Addressable Market – Plot postcodes on a map and you’ll be amazed how many end up in the sea! 

Actionable Insights that Drive Data Quality Enrichment and Qualify Size of Addressable Market – Send customer data off to a consumer data company like Experis, Equifax, TransUnion or and they can assign an affluence (Cameo) profile to your customer database.  Once your data is cleansed you can also source data on similar profiles within your territory to qualify the addressable market in your region.

Actionable Insights that Drive Marketing Campaigns – Plot customers on a map and filter by type of service, buying behavior, which customers haven’t had a service from your dealership and see where the customers are located.  Then, create a campaign selecting customers from the map and outputting them as a data list.

Actionable Insights that Drive Operating Efficiency – Plot customers on a map to qualify how best to arrange collections and deliveries.  

Actionable Insights that Drive Advertising Returns – Plot customers on a map and find locations where they’re most likely to view advertisements and events.


The examples above are a snapshot of the use cases employed by dealerships.  If you have other examples I’d be very interested to hear about them!




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