THE POTENTIAL FOR ADVANCES IN THE GEOGRAPHIC
INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND REMOTE SENSING
SATELLITE IMAGERY TECHNOLOGIES IN MARKETING
RESEARCH AND DECISION MAKING
William S. Piper, Alcorn State University
Kimball P. Marshall, Jackson State University
Imagery derived from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) satellite technologies are
more than a potential or promise for marketing decision-makers (O'Grady 1998). These technologies now produce
information that can create a competitive advantage and are emerging as valuable tools to marketing
decisionmakers. Remote Sensing (RS) as defined here refers to the set of satellite technologies that produce images
for the design and production that are exact replica of a geographic location and relevant situation. These are high-
resolution images of specific geographic locations that depict the exact location on the surface of the Earth. These
technologies also include the location identification and tracking systems that employ remote sensing technologies
such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The term geographic information systems (GIS) as employed here
refers to the set of integrated computer hardware units, various software programs and database systems that
transform geographically coded data into information that create maps of the Earth's surface (Marshall, 1997). The
maps may optionally be overlaid with additional and selective information showing social, demographic, economic,
and physical characteristics and infrastructure data corresponding to specific geographic locations.
A GIS with RS technologies provides a different perspective on geo-demographics, consumer behavior and
competitive market situations because of the synoptic view provided from a GIS supported by remote sensing
perspective. This abstract describes and illustrates some examples of innovative marketing related applications of a
GIS and the associated and interdependent technologies. The many applications of these technologies are just now
beginning to emerge with the development of higher resolution imagery and more widespread access to satellite
data. Firms that are able to make fast and accurate technology decisions from among the alternatives are generally
able to stay in front of the competition (Piper and Naghspour 1996). This paper reviews the essential elements and
current state of these new technologies and illustrates their potential for marketing research and marketing
management decision-making using exemplars from trade press literature. These technologies have previously been
providing data in various forms to the community of physical scientists and especially to geographers who are more
involved in the technology. Technical advances and refinements in image resolution coupled with changes in
government regulations allowing more resolution are now making these technologies more commercially viable
and are stimulating the search for the more lucrative business applications. Several applications are chronicled in
the next paragraph to illustrate some of the many current applications of this new technology.
Transportation managers are finding many uses for GIS, GPS and RS in tracking vehicle movement and the
assignment of carriers to more optimal routes and locations (Debo 1997). The ability to assignment vehicles to
more optimal routes and to divert traffic around potential hazards and known delays increases the manager's control
and the customer's satisfaction (Zaccagnino 1996). Insurers against fire damage may now not only establish
insurance rates commensurate with the amount of risk but they may also have the opportunity to intervene and
better reduce or eliminate a potential risk thereby helping the insured as well. When an insurance company uses
GIS/RS technology simply as an assessment tool it provides value in helping the manager determine and
understand the potential risk and the factors that are emblematic the risk underwriting (Ashley 1998). The GIS/RS
technologies also help insurers determine agricultural risks to better understand the hazards of crop failure thus help
both the farmer and insurer.
Highly competitive retail firms such as Wal-Mart are using RS/GIS imagery for competitive uses other than site
selection. One of the more important uses has been the assessment of competitor traffic by counting motor
vehicular traffic in the parking lots of competitor retailers (Anderson, Graff, and McFadden 2000). Other uses of
GIS/RS technologies have been the evaluation of parking lot expansion possibilities and need, and decisions to
improve parking lot ingress and/or egress. The assessment of potential store expansion often motivate firms to
employ a GIS in place of less proficient methods and generally more expensive method of analysis.
These technologically advanced methods of data collection have entered onto the marketing research scene for two
reasons. First, a GIS may now be enhanced with a factual database for map design from remotely sensed data that is
not a cartographer's interpretation but rather an exact replica of the actual conditions. GIS maps and images can be
based on actual pictures of the earth taken from remote sensing platforms such as the space shuttle or satellites.
Second, marketing research data collection methods are also evolving to a point where marketing practitioners now
recognize and utilize GIS and GPS data and images in decision-making. These new methods and advanced
techniques have further energizing the shifting paradigm in marketing research that began with scanner data
systems technologies (Curry 1993, Perreault 1992, Malhotra 1992, Green 1992) by adding to the methods by which
data is gathered, interpreted and used. Today, RS and GIS technologies offer fertile opportunities for marketing
academics to develop practical new tools for marketing research and decision-making.
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