When the difference between a good decision and a poor decision is measured in thousands or even millions of dollars, you want to ensure you aren’t basing that decision on faulty assumptions. Investing in data that comes from high quality sources, is precise and is updated frequently will give you the highest chance of avoiding costly mistakes.
For your company’s internal data, this means investing time in collecting, compiling and cleaning data. Creating new datasets by measuring store operations, evaluating your existing store’s site characteristics, creating a competitive intelligence program and surveying customers can pay big dividends. Licensing market data sources can be the most expensive part of any market intelligence program and is the one area where most companies cut corners.
For some maps and analyses, free government data sources and the data that comes packaged with your desktop GIS software might be good enough, but are risky for major business decisions. Where the best sources might update data every year or even every quarter, the low cost sources are often several years out of date, or worse, based on data from the last Census and trends are used to estimate today’s consumer demographics and behavior. Areas can change rapidly, new competitors open, consumer lifestyles and spending patterns change as families with children become empty nesters and retirees, and an area that was recently a patch of dirt is now a thriving suburban neighborhood. Good data gives you the confidence to stand behind your decisions and often pays for itself tenfold in higher sales and profits.