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Digital Maps Have Supported $1 Trillion In Business — Here’s How

Leave it to Google to count the ways: working with worked with AlphaBeta, it examined consumer surveys across 22 countries that showed how geospatial services make an economic impact in three distinct ways.

While location-targeted mobile ad dollars are expected to rise from $9.8 billion in 2015 to $29.5 billion by the end of 2019, for a 24.6 percent compound annual growth rate, according to BIA/Kelsey, that number only tells part of the way geospatial intelligence has impacted the way businesses and consumers interact.

According to Google and Australian/Singaporean consultancy AlphaBeta, digital maps have supported roughly $1 trillion in sales by businesses.

That’s certainly an all-encompassing number that, but the pair did offer some context around how they arrived at that very round figure. And more importantly, they looked at what it means from three practical standpoints.

To get a wider sense of the way digital mapping capabilities through smartphones and other connected devices have shaped the dynamic between brands and shoppers, Google and AlphaBeta explored exactly how location technology affects customer behavior and decisions. (Check out the Google blog post here that details the study and AlphaBeta’s What’s The Value of The Web? portal here.)

The two companies looked specifically at three areas: consumer benefits, business benefits, and broader societal benefits.

Under consumer benefits, the simple process of getting someone from one point to another is, naturally, incredibly varied and complex.

And so is the resulting impact of using digital maps and incorporating it into search and marketing strategies.

For instance, given that digital maps reduce travel time, that also help people save time on purchases by providing information like directions and product availability. “By helping people plan routes in areas they aren’t familiar with, maps also improve public safety,” AlphaBeta notes.

Efficiency Is More Than Getting From Point A To B

In particular, digital maps shorten travel time for consumers an average of 12 percent, for a collective saving of 21 million hours per year, as 63 percent of digital map users rely on location technology to plan their specific routes.

So part of getting to that $1 trillion number is through greater efficiencies for consumers, businesses, and society is that geospatial services reduced costs of finding and going to a place, generally, by 5 percent.

But it’s the role of interactive maps in promoting brands’ Digital Presence Management that makes the biggest difference.

In addition to just offering pindrops on a map, every major navigation tool from Google Maps, Apple Maps, Foursquare, HERE, Mapquest, Waze, Yelp, and others provide vital business information such as store hours, contact details, and reviews. Those maps help drive sales through discovery by potential new customers without incurring additional advertising costs.

“Geospatial services also play a strategic role in helping companies in sectors covering approximately three quarters of the world’s GDP raise revenues and/or diminish costs,” AlphaBeta notes. “For example, retail companies use digital maps for market research and to identify the most profitable locations for their network of stores.”

The Jobs Report

In terms of societal benefits, geospatial services have created an estimated 4 million jobs directly, such as in engineering and marketing of location discovery. Indirectly, Google and AlphaBeta suggest those employed as a result of digital mapping services could be around 8 million.

“Maps have positive spillover effects on the environment and societies around the world—for example, by creating jobs and reducing CO2 emissions through more efficient vehicle trips and easier identification of alternative transportation options,” Google and AlphaBeta say. “Geospatial technology can also play a role in emergencies—such as helping people prepare for a natural disaster by highlighting flood-risk areas.

“The impact of geospatial services also varies from country to country—showing that there’s still room in many places to maximize the benefits of geospatial services for everyone. To do so, the geospatial industry, businesses, NGOs and governments in these areas will need to work together to promote, adopt and implement existing and new applications of geospatial technology.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.