How nearest neighbor maps help you know your customers better

Liam Costello by Liam Costello on March 4, 2024  |  5 minute read

For businesses, knowing where customers are located is just as important as knowing who they are. With today’s mapping software, companies can get a bird’s eye view of customer locations and how they cluster together. It helps identify opportunities for targeted promotions, streamlined operations, and more personal experiences. One powerful tool for gaining customer insights is nearest neighbor mapping.

Nearest neighbor maps aid in analyzing how spatially close entities like customers, properties, or stores are to each other. It reveals hidden patterns and relationships right on the map.

Good mapping software makes creating these maps easy for teams in industries like hospitals and healthcare, retail, real estate, and logistics. Let’s take a closer look at how nearest neighbor mapping works, what it shows businesses, and how to make one.

What is nearest neighbor mapping?

Nearest neighbor mapping involves analyzing the distances between points on a map, like customer locations, to see who is clustered together or spaced far apart. This type of spatial analysis helps businesses recognize trends in their location-related data.

For instance, a nearest neighbor map could reveal that customers who live near each other tend to purchase similar products. Understanding these relationships allows companies to target individuals better and improve offerings.

Nearest neighbor mapping utilizes algorithms to calculate things like distance or the nearest neighbor index that shows spatial patterns across maps.

How does nearest neighbor analysis work?

Nearest neighbor mapping uses spatial analysis algorithms to identify the closest data points to user-defined locations based on metrics like the nearest neighbor ratio. For example, you can find each customer's five nearest neighbors using this tool. This type of visualization helps surface patterns that plain addresses or lists fail to reveal.

The nearest neighbor algorithm computes the distance between points on a map using methods like Euclidean or Manhattan distance. It then identifies the closest points based on the selected distance metric. The output is a nearest neighbor map that color-codes connectivity between locations.

It differs from traditional geocoding, which simply plots addresses on a map. The analysis considers relationships between points and proximity. It can detect clusters or outliers that standard maps may overlook.

What are nearest neighbor maps useful for?

With visual insights into how customers naturally group geographically, businesses can get more out of their existing relationships and uncover new opportunities. Here are some examples:

1. Targeted marketing campaigns

Viewing clusters of customers can reveal neighborhoods ideal for targeted mailers. For instance, real estate agents could send personalized flyers to the five closest homes to a new listing, tailoring the message for each cluster.

Retailers can also gain valuable insights into where to promote a sale by mapping the 1,000 customers closest to a new store location and understanding their purchasing habits. This practical nearest neighbor analysis example demonstrates how businesses can use spatial data to tailor marketing efforts more effectively, ensuring promotions reach the most receptive audiences.

2. Supply chain route optimization

Mapping delivery points vs. warehouses shows efficient routing and reveals opportunities to streamline operations. For instance, viewing dense clusters informs where to position new distribution centers for optimal coverage of existing customers, shortening delivery times and reducing fuel costs.

Distribution companies can easily route the 100 nearest deliveries from each center to concentrate drop-offs in these areas.

3. Retail location planning

Customer clusters prompt ideas for additional store sites near dense populations or along busy commute routes for maximum exposure to new customers. Businesses gain a comprehensive view of neighborhoods with the greatest demand for their products and services.

4. Supplier selection

Matching supplier sites to your customers ensures reliable, cost-effective fulfillment everywhere demand exists. Strategically selecting suppliers within key customer clusters keeps transportation costs low and delivery times fast.

For example, a shipping company can pick suppliers among the five nearest clusters of recipients to optimize local routes.

5. Competitive analysis

Viewing competitor locations vs. your customers’ clusters helps you spot those who might switch to you or are easy to win over. For instance, clusters without a nearby competitor present great opportunities for targeted outreach from your business.

How to make a nearest neighbor map

Making a nearest neighbor map is valuable for gaining customer insights. The process is straightforward with the right software. Here are the basic steps:

Define your objective

Identify what business question you want to answer, such as optimal store placement. Make sure to define specific and measurable goals for your analysis. Consider how the results will impact business decisions.

Choose a mapping software

Ideally, you’ll want to choose a full-featured mapping platform for this type of spatial analytics. The software should integrate seamlessly with standard data formats and have tools specifically built for nearest neighbor analysis.

Collect and prepare data

Upload customer and location addresses into the software. Ensure the data is cleaned and standardized for accurate geocoding. This preparation allows the nearest neighborhood calculator to accurately measure distances between locations.

Set up your parameters

Select datasets, nearest neighbor distance metrics, number of neighbors, and thresholds. Choose settings that best represent real-world travel or drive times. Test a few combinations to compare the output.

Analyze the results

View the final map and analyze patterns to draw meaningful conclusions. Consider annotating or exporting visualization for presentations.

Mapping solutions for businesses from eSpatial

Nearest neighbor mapping packs powerful customer insights, whether planning new locations, optimizing routes, or pursuing cross-selling opportunities. Spatial relationships peel back layers to give you a more holistic view of your business ecosystem and those you serve.

Nearest neighbor analysis and territory mapping can reveal customer relationships in new ways, changing how you connect with them. To discover these insights from your data, check out eSpatial's territory mapping software. Our guided workflow makes harnessing the power of spatial analytics simple.

Begin your journey towards advanced customer insights with eSpatial

Liam Costello Written by

Liam Costello

Liam is an eSpatial account manager and mapping expert. He specializes in helping businesses solve problems and increase sales through mapping visualization, territory management, route optimization and more. Liam holds a Master's Degree in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing.

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