What is a heat map?
A heat map is a color-coded geographical representation of your data, highlighting the data's density. For example, if you are analyzing your customer locations, you might use warmer colors like red to show higher-density areas and cooler colors like blue to highlight lower densities. Red is good, but blue may need further investigation.
Heat maps are perfect for data analysts and marketing, sales, service, and operations teams. You can analyze data fast and gain hidden insights that lead to better decisions.
The heat map generator is an integral feature of eSpatial – delivering measurable value for organizations that want to grow revenue, streamline operations, or drive efficiencies.
What is a heat map generator?
Heat map generators are mapping software tools that take and organize your geographic data. Quickly visualize the geographic spread of your data (for example, customers, office locations, rep locations, equipment, delivery centers, and franchises). With a click, you turn your data into maps that are easy to understand.
See the highest or lowest location densities in seconds. Analyze high or low-performing sales or service territories. Heat maps also help you examine these variables across several ZIP codes or post codes.
Two types of geographic heat map and where to use them
Let's look at the heat maps we can generate using eSpatial:
1. Hot spot heat map
A hot spot heat map is ideal when boundaries of territories or regions aren't your priority. It's best when examining high and low activity patterns and identifying clusters.
One typical example of a hot spot heat map is a customer location map. A dark shade indicates high customer density, whereas low levels are in lighter hues. You can modify the colors and shades to present your story or gain greater insight.
2. Regional heat map
A regional heat map — known as a choropleth map — uses graded differences in shading or color to represent a metric's value in each area. For instance, you would use a color scale to indicate ranges related to each state or territory's aggregate sales value or volume. Each hue would stand for a different value range.
Regional heat maps are perfect when comparing numbers within boundaries. Allowing you to:
- Get a big-picture overview of your market performance.
- Identify high- and low-performing sales or service areas.
- Uncover sales patterns in particular locations, such as higher product or service sales among a specific customer demographic or sudden habit changes (e.g., once-reliable clients cutting back on usual orders with little or no warning).
- Identify areas for further investigation based on the density of competitor locations. (or other key performance indicators).
Which type of heat map should you generate?
Ask yourself why you want to compare your geographical data. What decisions are you hoping to make based on examining this information?
Regional heat maps work best when comparing ZIP codes, states, or post codes. (Check out our ZIP code mapping page to learn more about categorizing and comparing ZIP codes on a heat map.) Hot spot heat maps are a better fit when you want to understand the densities of points at a local level.
With eSpatial's advanced styling, you can make both heat map tools look great with customization. When you present to your team using this form of data visualization, critical details will be more accessible for your colleagues to understand (and leverage in their day-to-day efforts).
Check out our Conquering mapping software guides
What are heat maps good for?
When generated in eSpatial, the correct heat map can be critical to better business decisions for you and your sales team. Here are a few quick examples:
1. Identifying customer clusters and getting an overview of your marketplace
It is an excellent application for sales and marketing departments. In the map below, you can see a sales organization in Kansas that has used our heat map generator to map their potential customers (state population) against their office locations.
2. Refining distribution networks
Using heat maps to identify customer density can also be crucial when planning and analyzing your distribution or service network.
Based on your findings, you can look at your heat maps and identify where to locate each center best so it's accessible to as many customers as possible. If a distribution center is too far away, placing it closer to clusters of customers may make sense.
3. Analyzing third-party data to identify ZIP codes for marketing campaigns
Many marketing teams use heat maps to analyze third-party data and determine where to run effective marketing campaigns. For example, a fashion retailer in Texas is planning to run a campaign involving eye-catching billboards.
Mapping demographics with a regional heat map, the marketing department identifies the ZIP codes with most of their target audience. It allows the marketing team to use their budget and resources effectively by planning and executing their campaigns in the high-value areas they found on the map.
4. Identifying areas for franchise expansion
Franchises searching for areas to expand their brand can also put regional heat maps to good use.
In the situation illustrated below, an organization mapped its existing locations (shown as stars) compared to the number of customer inquiries (represented by the heat markers). Any area where the franchise gets a high volume of inquiries far from a store location will be an ideal spot for the next franchisee.
5. Spot customer trends or areas for further investigation
Earlier, we showed how regional heat maps are helpful for location-based comparisons. The sample below shows a regional heat map of customer satisfaction rates nationwide: Green indicates a high level, and red indicates a low level of customer satisfaction. It highlights which territories have the most dissatisfied clients, so management can immediately start making necessary changes to improve the situation and avoid any severe loss of business.
6. Where do you generate profits?
Any company must understand where it is generating the most profit. Heat maps are a powerful tool for determining where your profitable customers are based and examining how these locations compare.
7. Where do we need more sales coverage?
Understanding where your customer inquiries are coming from and matching that to current sales coverage is typical in heat mapping for sales. As you can see below, this helps to visualize the team's addressable market easily.
With this information, you can decide where current levels of sales coverage are appropriate. Then, you can work to eliminate gaps and address overlap to allocate resources as efficiently as possible.
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 sales reps find pockets of opportunity and use them as starting points.
Sales managers can use regional heat maps to assess sales team performance. The visuals transform the coaching process as you can analyze multiple metrics to gain a complete picture of sales performance.
9. How can I tell how my sales teams are performing, and where they need to develop?
Last but hardly least, you can also use regional heat maps to compare the performances of specific reps. While looking closely at raw revenue is tempting, evaluating salespeople purely on one metric will give you a partial picture as a manager.
Heat map data allows you to judge your salespeople while understanding the market realities they face: competitors, excessive drive time, and other factors. To read more details about the examples we talked about briefly above, be sure to check out these posts on the eSpatial blog:
Generating a regional heat map
1. Upload your point data
You first have to add data to your map – it will form the basis for all of your analysis and be displayed as points on your map. This could be sales data, service data, demographic information and other KPIs, with one row for each unique address.
Click the Add Data option from the control panel. Then click Upload new data and follow the instructions.
2. Choose your regional boundary
The boundaries of your regional heat map will define which groups your data points will be included in. This is often done by state or three-digit ZIP code. You can select various types of boundary data from our extensive data library.
To add your boundary, simply select Add Data and then Add from Library. Choose the eSpatial data store tab and then pick your boundary. In this example, we’ve chosen US states. (For more boundary options, visit our data set library.)
3. Start your regional analysis
From the Control Panel on the left side of your screen, select Analyze from below your dataset. From the options, select Regional Heat Map.
4. Combine your points and boundary datasets
Next, select the points and boundary data sets. In this case, the points data is Client Accounts, and the region data is US states. Then, click Complete to generate your regional heat map.
5. View your generated regional heat map
Below, the regional heat map you created shows the states with the most client accounts. You can see what each color represents by checking the legend on the right side of the workspace.
The default color range is from yellow to red, but this can be changed in the styling options.
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Creating a hot spot heat map
Creating your own hot spot heat map in eSpatial is simple. Just follow the steps below:
1. Upload your point value data
Upload a data set (such as an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file) that contains one unique address per row as well as any other 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 instructions.
2. Choose the heat map styling 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.
3. Additional heat mapping options
Exit the Style Panel to view the map you have created using our heat map generator. The legend in the top right of the screen will highlight the color range from low to high data density.
4. View your completed map
You've now created your own hot spot heat map.
Make your heat map understandable and useful
Using sensible design practices when creating your dynamic heat map is critical to ensuring other users understand the story your data is telling. Consider the following key factors when the time comes for you to generate your map.
1. Choose colors that communicate your story best
The right colors can help your users better understand the data on a map. We recommend using darker hues to represent high-density and brighter colors in the same family (i.e., darker and lighter shades of blue) for low-density. Look at the population density map on the right as an example: It uses different gradients of red, orange, and yellow to display states with higher, more moderate, and lower densities, respectively.
2. Choose the correct data display settings
How you cluster your data will determine if your users understand your story. If you create a national-level map, then state-by-state data clusters are OK. But if you believe your users will want to drill down into an individual state or ZIP code, then having the data divided into sub-level clusters will give your users a more granular view of the data.
Layer additional data onto heat maps
Use heatmaps as a base map for other data. The heat map generator in eSpatial can create either, but the process differs between the two (as outlined above).
Imagine you run a chain of long-term care facilities across the U.S. You could use eSpatial to create a map showing the retirees' levels per state in percentages. Then, you can add data from your business to the map, such as the number of care homes you operate in each state. It will allow you to spot opportunities for expansion in an instant.
If you want to learn more about eSpatial's mapping capabilities, contact us today – or sign up for a seven-day free trial and start creating heat maps now.