With the recent popularity of apps like What3Words, the public fascination with geocoding has never been higher. As such, many businesses are increasingly aware of how geocode can be leveraged both to attract customers, and to better target marketing materials for improved customer conversion and retention. If you’ve just started taking steps down the geocode road, never fear – today our team has put together this crash-course in geocoding to help you get up to speed with what you may’ve missed.
What Exactly is Geocode?
A geocode is simply a computer-generated code that can be used to locate any given place. These codes are derived by computers: essentially a translating street addresses, latitude and longitude, military grid reference coordinates or other location-identifying information into a specific code that is linked to a point on the surface of the earth. The geocode can then be used by software, such as geocodeapi.io, to help you leverage location data your business passively gathers for your benefit.
What Can Geocodes Do For You?
Most technology isn’t seen as necessary to any business unless it can somehow help generate income. Sometimes this comes in the form of cost savings, other times it’s about opening new markets or helping a business identify fresh marketing information. This means the answer to the question “what can geocodes do for my business” is as widely variable as the types of businesses that exist. A shortlist of things geocodes can be used to help you do include:
- Refine your distribution network for more efficient local deliveries;
- Identify buying habits overtime to help better-manage inventory for regional hubs;
- Personalization of content, allowing customers to see the outlet nearest to them when looking up your address, for example;
- Leverage rich overlay information – by pairing your customer address database with a wide variety of other variables, such as weather or crime trends, you can make decisions on specific product development for a particular region, or clearly market existent products to the most likely targets; and
- A host of other bespoke uses await those willing to explore the options.
How Can You Get Started With Geocoding?
First things first, plan your use of the geocode data you’re going to generate. If you know what you want to use this data for, it’ll be easier to be sure the information you generate out of your address database will be appropriate for your intentions.
Whatever sort of project you choose to use geocode data for, you’ll need a solid geocoding solution to standardize your addresses and generate your geocodes. Whether you’re aiming to identify patterns, better-manage delivery and collection routes, or optimize customer records to provide a better consumer experience, there are plenty of geocode options on the market, as geocoding is a high-profile addition to many other services.
While many paid services offer a limited trial, these are some of the top truly “free” geocode solutions that experienced businesses can use:
- QGIS: licensed under a general public license from GNU, you can do bulk, basic geocoding with their MMQGIS plugin and a simple spreadsheet of customer data;
- US Census Bureau: again, providing relatively basic bulk geocoding, the Census Bureau will let you generate geocode data in 1,000-record blocks for free; and,
- Texas A&M Geoservices: there are a few universities that offer online geocoding services free of charge – the facility available through Texas A&M is among the best of these.
However, unless you have an in-house team of experts, maximizing your geocoding effort may be best done by consulting with a team of professionals, after all, the point of harnessing the power of geocodes is to make your life easier.
Other Things To Keep In Mind
Like all projects involving data, geocoding requires consideration. Probably the biggest thing you want to be certain of in an age when people are increasingly aware of the privacy implications that sharing their personal data may have, is that you treat their information with the utmost care and respect. Whatever geocode software you opt to use to channel the power of this information, make sure your customers have agreed to their data being stored and managed by your firm. Other points to consider include:
- The full scope of your project;
- Future applications for the geocode data generated;
- Return on the investment in specialist geocoding software;
- How “clean” your data is to start with; and,
- What will you do to correct geocode data that is found to be wrong?
All in all, geocoding is a powerful tool that virtually everyone can make use of to improve business prospects. How will you unlock the potential of geocodes for your firm?