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Heat Map Generation

The Complete Guide To Creating A Geographic Heat Map

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What Is A Heat Map?

A heat map (also known as a choropleth map) uses colors and shades to outline how something is distributed over a given geographic area. You can tell the extent to which something is taken place by the color, or by the intensity of the color. If you’ve ever seen regional population densities shown on a map, it's likely you were looking at a heat map. High density is typically expressed by darker/redder shades, while low population levels are expressed by graded shades of a lighter color.

Two Types of Geographic Heat Map and Where to Use Them

As discussed above above, there are two different types of heat map that we can generate.

Hot Spot Heat Map

The first type of map is a hot spot heat map. Hot spot heat maps are used where the boundaries are not important, but we want to understand the density in a geographic way.

A good example of this is where you have a city like New York that is on a state border between New York and New Jersey. Let's say you want to understand where your customers are most densely located. A regional heat map will share out all of the customers and consider them to be New York state, whereas a hot spot heat map will demonstrate the importance of the different parts of the metropolitan area.

A common example of a hot spot heat map would be a customer location map. High levels of customer density are expressed by a dark shade, whereas low levels are expressed by lighter shades. You can modify the colors and shades to best present the story you are telling.

Hot Spot Heat Map

Hot Spot Heat Map

Regional Heat Map

A regional heat map is one that uses graded differences in shading or color in order to understand the average values of some number in particular areas. For instance, the aggregate value or volume of sales for each state or sales territory is color-coded into several ranges, with each color representing a value range.

Regional Heat Maps are used to compare numbers within the given boundaries. This allows us to:

  • Get an overview of your market performance.
  • Quickly identify high and low performing areas.
  • Uncover trends in sales of specific products in particular locations.
  • Quickly spot areas for further investigation based on the density of sales.
Regional Heat Map

Regional Heat Map

Which Type of Heat Map Should You Generate?

Hot spot heat maps allow a much more detailed analysis of density trends, while regional heat maps allow more easy comparison and grading.
Which type of heat map you should use depends mainly on why you wish to compare the data. What decision are you hoping to make based on this data? If you want to compare different areas, for example, comparing data by Zip Code (Learn about Heat Maps by Zip Code) or by state, a regional heat map likely works best. If you want to understand the local density, then a hot spot heat map will likely be better. The good news is that both look great and are easy to understand when presented to the rest of your team.


Why Do Businesses Generate Heat Maps?

As mentioned above, the right map is only the right map if it helps you make a better decision. So what business decisions are heat maps used for? Here are a couple of quick examples.

1. Identifying Clusters Of Your Customers & Getting An Overview Of Your Marketplace

This is a great application for sales and marketing departments. In the map below you can see a sales organization in Kansas mapping their potential customers (state population) against their office locations.

Heat map of Kansas state

2. Refining Distribution Networks

Another example of using heat maps to identify customer density is when planning and analyzing your distribution or service network. You can use heat maps of their customer base to identify where to best locate each center. Then you can quickly see if a distribution center is too far away from existing customers locations or would provide a more efficient service if it was located closer to clusters of customers.

Customer locations heat map

3. Analyzing Third-Party Data To Identify Zip Codes for Marketing Campaigns

Many marketing teams use heat maps to analyze third-party data to help decide where to run effective marketing campaigns. For example, a fashion retail store in Texas is planning to run a billboard campaign. Using a regional heat map of demographic data, they can quickly see where the majority of their target audience is located using Texas zip codes.

This allowed the marketing team to make effective use of their budget and resources by planning and executing their campaign in these areas.

Regional heat map of Texas

4. Identify Areas For Franchise Expansion

Another interesting use of heat maps is for franchises looking to identify areas to expand. In this situation, the organization has mapped its existing locations (shown as stars) in comparison with customer enquiries (represented by the heat markers).

This gives them data they need to make informed decisions on where to locate their next franchisee.

Dispersed heat map clusters

5. Quickly Spot Customer Trends Or Areas For Further Investigation

We mentioned earlier how regional heat maps aid relative comparison for areas.

The example below shows a regional heat map being generated to monitor customer satisfaction rates nationwide (Red being a low customer rating, while green is a high customer rating). This map quickly highlights which territories have a low customer satisfaction rating, allowing management to act quickly.

Regional heat map of the United States

6. Where Are Our Profits Being Generated?

It is crucial for any company to understand where they are generating their profits. Heat maps are a wonderful way to demonstrate where your profitable customers are based, and how these locations compare with each other.

7. Where Do We Need More Sales Coverage?

This question could just as easily be asked as "Where are our customers coming from?" These two are the opposite sides of the same coin. Understanding where your customer inquiries are coming from and matching that to your current sales coverage is a very common heat mapping use for sales.

Hot Spot Heat Map of Sales Volume Overlaid with Sales Reps

As you can see this helps to easily visualize what our addressable market currently looks like, and as a result we can quickly decide where our current sales coverage levels are appropriate or not. From here it is very easy to reach decisions around gaps and around overlap.

8. Where Do I Start Field Selling?

A common challenge for any field salesperson is choosing the best place to begin. Heat maps can help the salesperson to figure out where the pockets of opportunity are likely to exist and use this as the starting point for figuring out where to begin.

Hot spot heat map opportunity clusters

9. How can I Tell How My Sales Teams Are Performing, And Where They Need To Develop?

A final common use for heat maps is to compare. Even though there is typically only one number that matters; comparing salespeople based purely on one metric will not give a complete picture. Heat mapping can allow you to compare your salespeople with an understanding of the market realities they face and their execution against those.

Sales performance analysis heat map

You can read more details about these examples in our blog posts; 5 Ways Organizations Use Heat Maps, and 4 Crucial Sales Questions Answered By Heat Maps


Regional Heat Map Generator - Create Your Own In Minutes

Creating a Regional Heat Map is easy, just create a free trial account and then follow these steps:

1: Upload Your Point Data

The first thing you need to do is add point data to your map. This is the data that will form the basis for your analysis and will display as points on your map. This could be sales data, service data, demographics and more, with one row ideally for each unique address.

Click the "Add Data" option from the control panel. Then click "Upload New Data" and follow the onscreen instructions.

Add Data To Generate Regional Heat Map

2: Choose Your Regional Boundary (Typically States, or Zip Codes)

Secondly, you will need to choose your boundaries for the heat map. This is what defines which groups your data points will be included in. This is often done by state or 3-digit zip code. You can select various types of boundary data from our extensive dataset library.

To add your boundary, simply select the "Add Data" and then "Add From Library". Select the "eSpatial Datastore" tab and choose your boundary. In this example, we've chosen US States. For more boundary options you can visit our dataset library.

Add Boundary/Region Dataset To Generate Regional Heat Map

3: Start Your Regional Analysis

From the Control Panel on the left-hand side of your screen, select Analyze from below your dataset. You will then be presented with various analysis options, select Regional Heat Map from the list.

Open the Regional Heat Map Analysis Panel

4: Combine Your Points and Boundary Datasets

Next, you will need to select which Points dataset and boundary dataset you wish to put together. In this case, the points data is the Client Accounts, and the Region data is US States. Then simply select complete to generate your Regional Heat Map.

Complete Your Regional Heat Map Analysis

View Your Generated Regional Heat Map

The map shown below is the Regional Heat Map that we have now generated. It shows the states with the highest amount of client accounts, this can be seen in the legend on the right-hand side of the workspace. The default color range is from yellow to red. However, this can be changed in the styling options.

Need some help? Press the chat button in the bottom right of the product for assistance from a mapping expert.

Prefer to watch a video? Check it out below.


Watch Regional Heat Maps Video On Youtube


Hot Spot Heat Map Generator - Create Your Own In 4 Simple Steps

1: Upload Your Point Value Data

The first thing you need to do is add data to your map. This data should contain the address of each customer or contact in each row, as well as any value fields you want to add to the map. In your new Workspace, select the "Add Data" option from the control panel. Then click "Upload New Data" and follow the onscreen instructions.

Add Data To Generate Hot Spot Heat Map

2: Select Style from the Control Panel

From the Control Panel on the left-hand side of your screen, select Style from below your dataset.

Access Heat Map Option Via the Style icon in the Control Panel

3: Choose The Heat Map Styling Options

Next, you will need to select Heat Map from the Style & Color panel. From here, you will see various options allowing you to change and edit your Heat Map, such as the colors and radius of the hot spots and the data to be used in the Heat Map.

Choose the Heat Map Styling Options

4: Additional Heat Mapping Options

If you wish to see the originally mapped data expressed as pins on top of your Heat Map, tick Overlay pins from the bottom of the menu. Color Snapping removes the noise around the edge of your Heat Map.

Choose the Heat Map Styling Options

Exit the Style Panel to view your completed Hotspot Heat Map. The legend in the top right of the screen will highlight the color range from low to high data density.

Hotspot heat map


Configuring Your Heat Map To Be Easily Understood

The main use of heat maps is to help your users understand the story your data is telling and the key to allowing them to do this is to employ good design practices when designing them. When creating a heat map to represent your data here a few design tips to consider:

1.Choose The Right Basemap

Because you're using a varied palette of colors to represent different density bands in your data, the map you overlay this onto shouldn't fight to compete with your data's color palette or make it hard to interpret. Users looking at your map may be looking at it on a small monitor or they may be looking at the map from a distance, by muting the basemap's colors the data will stand out more and be easier to understand at a glance.

2.Choose Easy To Understand Colors

Choosing the right colors can make all the difference with helping your users understand what your data represents. Going back to the population density example again, if darker shades of color represent higher densities and the colors that represent lower densities use brighter colors in natural color order then the second map below may be a better example of how to represent your density data.

3.Choose The Right Data Display Settings

How you cluster your data will determine if your users can or cannot understand the story it's trying to tell or if the information provides enough detail. If the intention of your map is to be viewed on a national level then state by state data clusters are fine, but if you believe your users will want to drill down into an individual state or zip code level, then having the data divided into sub-level clusters will give your users a more refined granular view of the given data.

Heat Map or Color Coded Map?

It's possible to create a color-coded map using the eSpatial heat map tool manually, assigning specific colors to each region that appears on the map. However, an easier method is to link data to boundaries. You can do this when uploading data to eSpatial using the built-in wizard.

What's the difference between these types of map, you may wonder? A heat map is used for showing levels of similar data occurrence, while a color-coded map simply defines different variables in different regions (levels of occurrence are not expressed).

A regional heat map, which is a form of choropleth map, is one that uses graded differences in shading or color in order to indicate the aggregate or average values of some property or quantity in particular areas. For instance, the aggregate value or volume of sales for each state or sales territory is color-coded into a number of ranges, with each color representing a value range.

Layer Additional Data Onto Heat Maps

A heat map is often used as a basemap on which you can then plot other data.

Imagine you run a chain of care homes across the US. A practical map you could create using eSpatial would show percentage levels of retirees per state. You can then plot your own business data on the map - for example, the number of care homes you operate per state. This will allow you to - in an instant - spot opportunities for expansion.

Ready To Generate Your Own Heat Map?

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