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How to Build a Catchment Area Map for Enhanced Trade Area Analysis

April 6, 2021
Stu Kendall

To understand customer acquisition and choose the best new sites for your stores, you need to have a clear understanding of where your customers are coming from. Catchment area maps (or trade area maps) help you visualize this information so you can draw better insights.

We’ve already covered everything about catchment areas in the ultimate guide to catchment areas, so this post will focus on the value of a catchment map and how to build it. To do that, we’ll cover the following:

Before we dive into how to to build a catchment map, we’ll explain exactly what it is and why it’s so useful for your analysis.

What is a catchment map?

A catchment map is a data visualization of one or more catchment areas, enabling analysis of customer acquisition and foot traffic. Catchment areas are geographic locations from which a business, organization, or service attracts visitors. These catchment areas are determined by the region under analysis.

Various forms of a catchment map

Catchment areas are determined based on a variety of factors, such as the distance to the location, travel time to the location, population within an area, and even geographic boundaries. For example, a retail location will have a catchment area surrounding the building to analyze foot traffic. However, there may be multiple catchment areas for analyzing inbound traffic to your retail location, such as billboards, bus stops, and more.

Trade areas can also be enriched by additional information, such as mobility patterns data that will provide demographic information about the trade areas and help you improve your retail locations.

Why is a catchment map useful?

Catchment area maps allow you to visualize customer foot traffic, drive times, and more. A map is the best version of this data, as it enables you to analyze your store locations and get a good idea of how they perform. You can draw better, deeper insights from this type of data when it’s displayed as a map.

  • Identify coverage gaps and overlaps - By mapping all of your locations and analyzing catchment, you will be able to easily visualize gaps and overlaps in your coverage. This can help you expand your business to areas that are looking for your business and eliminate any chance of cannibalization.
  • Site selection - Being able to easily visualize the trade area that your business locations cover helps you easily identify the best options for new site locations. When trying to identify new sites, you can use catchment maps to view your existing coverage, identify your gaps, and consider competitor threats, helping you choose the best site locations.
  • Competitor analysis - Catchment analysis allows you to plot competitor locations in relation to your existing or proposed business locations, which is extremely useful for determining your performance in relation to competitors. This can help you choose new site locations and help you better compete in the market.
  • Analyze market potential and penetration - Depending on what you include in your catchment area analysis, you can gain a clear understanding of the market potential in your area and possible market penetration.
  • Focus your marketing on your core audience - Understanding your catchment area can save you money on wasted marketing, as you can stop sending marketing messages to people outside of your trade area, focusing on customers that are more likely to visit your physical location.

Now that you know why having a catchment area map is so important, you’ll want to know how to build one. We show you how to build a catchment map below for your trade area analysis.

How to build a catchment map to conduct better trade area analysis

A catchment area map is an extremely useful asset for your trade area analysis, helping you easily visualize data and make better (and faster) decisions.

You can build your trade areas with or without considering data analytics, but it is recommended that you use as much mobility and point of interest (POI) analytics as you can to inform your catchment area mapping. Below, we walk you through the steps to build a catchment map to enable trade area analysis.

Step 1. Identify store location points

Identify store location points

Identify the stores or locations you want to run a trade area or catchment analysis map of and obtain the relevant datasets. Plot these locations on a map. This will form the basis of your catchment area map, and will determine the trade area(s) that you want to analyze. Be sure to include not just your store locations, but also those of competitors and complementary businesses that may impact your strategy.

Step 2.  Identify methodology

An example of methods for calculating catchment area

Based on your needs, choose the methodology right for you: calculating catchment areas by buffer trade areas, walk/drive time trade areas, or mobility trade areas. These determine catchment area boundaries based on different methodologies, allowing you to analyze your trade area based on a variety of factors.

See more about the methods for calculating catchment area to help you decide the best method for you.

Step 3. Load the data into the geospatial processing tool of your choice

After choosing the methodology, you can load data into the geospatial tool you want to use to process the data. Select a GIS or BI tool with capabilities that match the methodology you want to use, and set the parameters in the geoprocessing tool.

You can download helpful neighborhood pattern data and custom datasets from the SafeGraph Shop.

Step 4. Perform the geoprocessing necessary for your methodology

Perform geoprocessing of your catchment data

Run a radius based on distance or a drivetime or walktime isochrone, representing the travel time based on method of transportation. You can even load mobility data to see where people are coming from and map those CBGs and POIs with a symbology that reflects the different volumes from each place.

Step 5: Publish the map with necessary map elements

Example of drivetime for Costcos in California

When the data is reflecting trade areas in the way you want, create a map that is easy to read, has appropriate labels, a legend, and at the appropriate scale for your intended audience. These catchment area maps are the best method of visualizing trade area and customer acquisition data, painting a vivid picture of your catchment area.

Building a catchment area map is extremely important for visualizing foot traffic to your business and understanding where your customers come from. Using a catchment map can help you analyze your trade area, making it easier for you to target your customers and drive more traffic. When building your catchment area maps, be sure to rely on high-quality data from SafeGraph.

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