Geospatial Data Adds New Dimension To Retail, Property Insights

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ungrim

Mapping human movement and foot traffic have become one of the critical analytical exercises which the property and retail industries undertake as they plan new developments and investments.

As this practice has grown, the data sources which go into this analysis have increased significantly. There is the census and demographic data as a base and financial transaction data. More recently, sensors and cameras have been able to add a new dimension, giving more detailed information on human traffic and density.

One company that has evolved through all these changes is Australia-based Location IQ, which was formed in 2009 as a retail property consultancy. Working with major grocery retailers such as Woolworths and shopping mall developers, Location IQ is a business founded on delivering relevant intelligence which drives better planning.

“We maintain an accurate database on the retail industry, and we do a lot of research into population growth because obviously, where the population is growing, there will be new facilities opening up, so clients often come to us with a location and we’ll define the catchment area that site would serve,” says Greg Inglis, director of data and analytics at Location IQ.

A gamechanger for Location IQ came just over two years ago when they were contacted by global company Orbital Insight, which offered access to its AI-powered geospatial analytics platform, a leader in aggregating satellite, drone, and mobile phone data to deliver intelligence on human activity.

“We had some case studies, and we said, ‘how would your data work in this example,’ and they came back with some working examples, and the accuracy of the data was enough for us to invest in using their solution,” says Inglis.

“Initially, it was all about defining catchments, but the range of uses has expanded since then. We can use their data to understand how long people would dwell inside the shopping center, at different times of the year, and you can see how visitation changes from week to week,” he continues.

“If there is a working precinct near the shopping center, you can see that people are coming in at lunchtime on weekdays, so the owners of the assets can tailor their responses to this customer segment.”

Due diligence

Using the Orbital Insight platform, Location IQ has mapped around 1,000 shopping centers, drawing a “geofence” around each one and then completing a broad Australian study on visitation benchmarks across different shopping center categories.

This enabled planners to forecast likely visitation levels for future centers and understand how they might perform against industry benchmarks.

In one example, Location IQ was engaged by Fortius Funds Management to advise on its potential acquisition of the Central Park Mall in inner Sydney — an award-winning AUD2 billion mixed-use development built initially by Singapore’s Frasers Property.

“We were having to wait a long time for new kinds of data in between the census period, but now we can look at data which is just a few days old”

Location IQ benchmarked the center's performance to highlight opportunities and risks, reviewed the customer segments, and provided an assessment of existing and future supply, including an indication of likely gross rental margins in the longer term. This played into the due diligence process, leading

Fortius to purchase the center in October 2019.

Finger on the pulse

Inglis describes the data as “reliable and irrefutable,” and it was on this basis that Location IQ entered into a partnership agreement with Orbital Insight in March 2021.

“This meant we scaled up the use of the data, so pretty much every report we do now, we rely on their data and their platform,” he says.

“We make a request, and the data comes back the same day, and then we can come up with our report. And we can go to them with our ideas and work collaboratively.”

The broader use of data, says Inglis, delivers a “live pulse on what is actually happening on the ground.”

“We were having to wait a long time for new kinds of data in between the census period, but now we can look at data which is just a few days old and through analyzing the time series you can see how the center is performing, and people are responding,” he continues.

“For example, if a shopping center opens up a new supermarket, you can see the impact on the performance of the center very quickly, and that’s good for us because it improves the conversations we have with clients and what is going on with their asset. Previously we would have waited longer to get sales data at the end of the financial year and other data of similar age, but now we are more finger on the pulse, and that is giving us an extra edge.”

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and the NextGenConnectivity editor. He remains fascinated with how businesses reinvent themselves through digital technology to solve existing issues and change their entire business models. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ungrim