What is a heat map?
A heat map is a geographical representation of data, one that highlights the data’s density according to a color-coded rubric or another form of map key. Usually, higher-density areas are indicated by warmer colors like red, while lower-density regions are marked using cooler colors, such as blue.
Heat maps help sales team leaders and reps quickly understand key data and develop actionable insights from it. The heat map generator is a key feature of eSpatial – one that can be majorly valuable to your organization’s revenue generation efforts.
What is a heat map generator?
Heat map generators are mapping software tools that take your geographic data and organize it by its activity levels. In one click, this turns a table of data into a map where you can visually understand how your data is geographically spread out.
You can easily see where dense pockets of customers are located and where the most high-performing sales reps are stationed. Heat maps also help you examine these variables across any number of different ZIP codes or post codes.
Two types of geographic heat map and where to use them
Let’s take a comprehensive look at two of the most useful types of heat maps that we can generate using eSpatial:
Hot spot heat map
You and your team would put a hot spot heat map to use when boundaries of territories or regions aren’t important. Instead, we’re more concerned with understanding patterns of high and low activity and identifying where those trends are located.
One common example of a hot spot heat map is a customer location map. High levels of customer density are indicated by a dark shade, whereas low levels are expressed in lighter hues. You can modify the colors and shades to best present the story you’re telling or gain greater insight.
Regional heat map
A regional heat map — also known as a choropleth map — uses graded differences in shading or color in order to clearly represent the average values of some number in particular areas. For instance, you would use a color scale to indicate ranges related to the aggregate value or volume of sales for each state or sales territory. Each hue would stand for a different value range.
Regional heat maps are used to compare numbers within the given boundaries. This allows you to:
- Get a big-picture overview of your market performance.
- Quickly identify high- and low-performing sales areas.
- Uncover trends in sales of specific products in particular locations. These patterns may include:
- Higher sales of a product or service among a customer demographic within the area in question.
- Sudden changes in the habits of customers. E.g., once-reliable clients cutting back on their usual orders with little or no advance warning.
- And many more.
- Identify areas that are ripe for further investigation based on the density of sales opportunities that your competitors are currently taking advantage of (or other, similarly intriguing key performance indicators).
Which type of heat map should you generate?
Conventional wisdom suggests that the main difference between these two kinds of heat map is this: Hot spot heat maps provide a much more detailed analysis of density trends in a single location, while regional heat maps are a better choice when you need to analyze and compare patterns in different areas.
Your choice of heat map will depend mainly on why you wish to compare the data. Specifically, what decisions are you hoping to make based on your examination of this information?
A regional heat map works best if you want to compare different areas. For example, comparing data by ZIP code, or in different states. (To learn more about categorizing and comparing different ZIP codes on a heat map, check out our blog.)
If you’re more interested in understanding the local density in a specific place, then a hot spot heat map will be much more suited to the task.
One piece of good news regarding either of these heat map tools: Both of the maps will look great when you make them using the styling features in eSpatial. When you present data to the rest of your team using this form of data visualization, the key information will be easier for your reps to understand (and make the most of in their day-to-day efforts).
ZIP and post code heat maps
ZIP codes (in the US) and post codes (in the UK and other countries) have an important role to play when creating regional maps with eSpatial’s heat map tool. To run a regional heat map, you need to start by including a boundary of some kind.
For data on your sales in the U.S., that boundary will likely be one of the following:
- Individual state boundaries
- Boundaries dictated by three-digit ZIP codes
- County lines
(Note: Running national heat maps at the ZIP level may lead to somewhat slower performance, depending on the volume of data you want to look at when you initially configure the map. For a comprehensive overview of ZIP codes and other U.S. boundary data sets available in eSpatial, click here.)
In the UK, the most likely boundaries for a regional heat map are:
- UK county lines
- English government office boundaries
- Post code areas (the biggest category used to differentiate postal distribution in the UK)
- Post code districts (approximately 2,900 smaller areas that England’s 120 postcode areas are divided into)
- Post code sectors (about 9,000 of these; roughly equivalent to five-digit ZIP codes in the US)
Similar data sets exist for other nations. (To see whether the boundary data you need is available in our extensive data library, get in touch with us through the web chat portal at the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.)
What are heat maps good for?
The right heat map, when generated using the versatile features in the eSpatial platform, can be a critical element of better business decisions for you and your sales team. Here are a few 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 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 regarding customer density, you can look at your heat maps and identify where to best locate each center so that it’s accessible to as many of your customers in a given area as possible. You can quickly see if a distribution center is too far away from existing customers, or would provide more efficient service if it was moved closer to big clusters of customers.
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, say a fashion retailer in Texas is planning to run a campaign that involves putting up eye-catching billboards. Using a regional heat map of demographic data, the company’s marketing department can quickly see which Texas ZIP codes contain the majority of their target audience.
This allowed the marketing team to effectively use their budget and resources by planning and executing their campaigns in the high-value areas they found on the map.
4.Identify areas for franchise expansion
Franchises that are in search of areas to expand their brand can also put regional heat maps to good use.
In the situation illustrated below, an organization has mapped its existing locations (shown as stars) in comparison with the number of customer inquiries (represented by the heat markers). Any area where the franchise gets a high volume of inquiries that isn’t particularly close to a store location will be an ideal spot for the next franchisee.
5.Quickly spot customer trends or areas for further investigation
We mentioned earlier how regional heat maps are useful for location-based comparisons. The sample map below shows a regional heat map of customer satisfaction rates nationwide: Green indicates a high level of customer satisfaction, while red represents the opposite. This quickly highlights which territories have the most dissatisfied clients, so management can immediately start making whatever changes are necessary to improve the situation and avoid any serious loss of business.
6.Where are our profits being generated?
It’s crucial for any company to 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 with one another.
7.Where do we need more sales coverage?
Similarly, you could ask, “Where are our customers coming from?” These questions are opposite sides of the same coin. Understanding where your customer inquiries are coming from and matching that to current sales coverage is very common in heat mapping for sales.
As you can see in the sample below, this helps to easily visualize what the team’s addressable market currently looks like. With this information, you can quickly decide where current levels of sales coverage levels are appropriate. Then, you can work to eliminate any gaps and address overlap so that your team and its resources are always allocated 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 a starting point.
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 it’s tempting to look closely at raw revenue, evaluating salespeople purely on one metric won’t give you the complete picture you need as a manager.
Heat mapping allows you to judge your salespeople while understanding the market realities they face – the presence of 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
It’s easy to create a heat map for regional analysis in eSpatial. Start by setting up a free trial account and then follow these steps:
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 U.S. 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 U.S. states. Then, click Complete to generate your regional heat map.
View your generated regional heat map
Below is the regional heat map you created with our heat map generator. It 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.
Need some help? Go to the chat at the bottom right to get assistance from eSpatial mapping experts at any time. Or watch our tutorial:
Creating a hot spot heat map
1.Upload your point value data
As with regional heat maps, you won’t get anywhere without data. Upload a data set 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 ensuing instructions.
2.Choose the heat map styling options
From the control panel, select Style from below your data set. Then, 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.
3.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.
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.
Make your heat map understandable and useful
The purpose of heat maps is to make sure your users understand the story that your data is telling. Using sensible design practices when creating your map is key to accomplishing this. Consider the following key factors when the time comes for you to generate your map.
1.Choose the right base map
Because you’re using a varied palette of colors to represent different density bands in your data, the map you overlay these colors onto shouldn’t be in competition with those hues. You don’t want the map to be hard to interpret for any reason.
Users checking out your map may be looking at it from a distance, on a small monitor or maybe even on their smartphones while they are out in the field. By muting the base map’s colors, the data will stand out more and be easier to interpret at a glance.
2.Choose colors that are easy to understand
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) to indicate 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 density, respectively. The information is easy to understand and apply!
3.Choose the right data display settings
How you cluster your data will determine if your users understand the story. If you’re creating a national-level map, 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, then having the data divided into sub-level clusters will give your users a more granular view of the data.
Should you use a 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, you’ll have a much easier time of it if you link data to boundaries. You can do this when uploading data to eSpatial using the built-in wizard.
What’s the difference?
What’s the difference between these map types, you may wonder?
A heat map takes one metric and uses color to represent the value or density. A heat map is used for showing levels of similar data occurrence, while a color-coded map simply defines different variables in multiple regions (levels of occurrence are not expressed).
Layer additional data onto heat maps
A heat map is often used as a base map on which you can plot other data. The heat map generator in eSpatial can create either, but the process differs between the two (as we outlined above).
Imagine you run a chain of long-term care facilities across the U.S. You could use eSpatial to create a map that shows the levels of retirees 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. This will allow you to spot opportunities for expansion in an instant.
If you want to learn more about any of eSpatial’s territory mapping capabilities, get in touch with us today – or sign up for a seven-day free trial and start creating heat maps now!