Author Archives: Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson is responsible for global marketing strategies in the commercial business development team at Esri. She believes that we are entering a phase of business platforms and geographic understanding supported by Location as a Service (LaaS). This will change the way we think about IoT, Driver-less Cars, Wearables, Big Data and a whole lot more.

Recent Posts

Young Guns—The New Face of Real Estate

Sometimes it seems like everything in my world is challenging my notion of normal. Last week, I saw the owner of a restaurant punching check amounts into a huge calculator. This calculator was twice the size of the smartphone I was using to request pickup by an Uber car.

While I was riding away, I was wondering who, besides that restaurant owner, still uses calculators today. The last time I used one was 30 years ago, for my high school science and math classes. I can’t imagine needing a calculator in my business today. After all, I’ve got Excel and virtual calculators on all my desktops and devices to use instead. In fact, I ordered my ride, paid for it, and got a receipt, all by pressing two buttons in an app on my smartphone.

When you use a Location Platform, it’s simple to build, publish and share data on the web from simple data files to elegant, interactive 3D web scenes that can be viewed everywhere. Continue reading

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Ten Reasons You Should Attend the Esri Business Summit

I’d like you to consider attending the Esri Business Summit, being held in San Diego, California, June 25-28, 2016. This event provides an excellent opportunity to network with others from the commercial industry who are using GIS technology to create location strategies within their organizations.  The Summit will have content specifically for managers and C-level executives to discuss the business strategy behind the technology. Those who work with business data every day will benefit from focused presentations on workflows and solutions to specific challenges. There will also be lots of time to meet with Esri partners that specialize in focused commercial areas.

Ten Reasons You Should Attend:

  1. Network with peers facing common business challenges such as connecting a GIS vision to an enterprise strategy and understanding the business value of big data.
  2. Your executive team can attend sessions focused on the business value of a location strategy while your technical team can attend tracks tailored to some of your organization’s biggest business challenges. Continue reading
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Seven Easy Ways to Use Location as a Service

Retail is a location-centric business. Every transaction; every customer’s home address, online search, and IP connection; every coupon offered and used; every delivery, store, and missed omni-channel purchase—each one of these can be analyzed and connected to any and every other action by location.

If retailers use location analytics delivered as a service to drive their omni-channel initiatives, they can know so much more about their customer interactions and expectations. Individual transactions become touch points along a journey to purchase, and new patterns emerge from oceans of data—islands of concrete value and understanding that grow and interconnect, linking silos and breaking down barriers.

Here are seven easy ways to use Location as a Service (LaaS) to bring new insight and add value to every transaction to gain a more intimate understanding of the customer: Continue reading

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Localization and Location as a Service (LaaS)

Today’s customers expect a seamless experience as they research, engage and purchase across mobile, web and physical store locations. Successful retailers have put customer retention, marketing, and back-end IT systems in place to make sense of these behaviors in order to enhance the customer experience.

Many retailers are using localization, applying the unique nature of specific locations to reflect the product or service being offered, to integrate messaging and operations across these channels.

What is localization? In this context, it is using local market characteristics to place the right products at the right price in the right store at the right time. It requires location-specific planning and execution strategies across departments included targeted marketing, sales, merchandizing, store operations and distribution.

This movement uses data-driven processes and solutions, including gathering and analyzing local customer demographics, to better understand what needs to be offered in each location. Retailers do this in hopes of getting marketing, distribution, merchandizing, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail operations all working in harmony. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars, many times, the results haven’t lived up to the hype.

Why is this? One reason is that retailers have missed one fundamental element,  the location in localization. For all the focus on integrating demographics, merchandizing, transaction history and store size and format, none of these systems have been designed to truly create, manage, and share location-based insight. Continue reading

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Challenging Banks to Take an Uber-like Approach to Innovation

Today’s shopping takes place mainly via credit and debit cards that are linked directly to banks. Stores use details from your bank so you can buy online on the Web and through branded apps. While newer mobile payments from Apple, Google, and others are starting to cause disruption to this, basically the model is the same. Details are provided to a third party who brokers the sale when sufficient funds are available to cover the purchase.

This is causing some to view branches as increasingly irrelevant. Why? Because mobile transactions like payments and deposits (you can take a picture of a check while lounging at your home now, for example) are removing the reasons consumers need to visit a bricks-and-mortar bank.


Scaling up service to change the model

Financial institutions are missing out. What if institutions with 18th century business ideas took an Uber-like approach to innovation? Instead of a collection of apps on a customer’s phone, what if there was only one?  And what if that app was for the consumer’s bank, not a store? Continue reading

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Location, Location, Location: Everything or Nothing

I work with amazing people in real estate. They’re dedicated, intelligent, and talented yet I’m constantly surprised by how much their careers and prosperity vary. It isn’t that anyone is more ambitious than the others or that they have more to begin with. What I’ve noticed is that those who excel learn what really works and keep learning. We all heard Thomas Edison’s quote that “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” But does it have to be that way? I don’t think it does. For me, Edison’s less famous quote “Opportunity is missed by most people because it looks like work” is much more revealing. Let me explain why.


What is the difference?

The difference in these two outlooks lies in how you regard the application of learning, a.k.a. your knowledge, experience, and habits. Every day we use information to get ahead in business and information is the root of success. Unfortunately we can lose sight of what we don’t know, what information we don’t have, and suddenly we are not succeeding. We’re outperformed and outsmarted by those we should beat. Continue reading

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Risk, Insurance, and the Location Domain

Recently I had the chance to work with one of the world’s largest insurers on improving their business processes. In discussing insurance workflows and data, we all recognized that every twenty-first century dataset contains location. What our sessions highlighted was the fact that every business process in insurance requires location data. The more we explored business units, governance, data management systems and the way people work, the more we hit on the notion of the location domain. Let me explain.

Domain describes a discrete set of land or computers that share a common purpose, owner or role. It’s also a sphere of knowledge, influence, or activity. The location domain is the influence of location within these business activities and systems, how it enables new or improved knowledge and can drive significant process improvement.

Fooled into Complacency

Think about risks and insured people and assets. Risks are often indistinct; they influence a large area without an exact or precise boundary. The insured are more discrete—they contain an address, a building, property, or asset which can be identified to a known location somewhere in the world. This has led many of us into a false sense of security about the accuracy of location specific data. Continue reading

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A Location Strategy versus a GIS Strategy

It has been said many times that every 21st century dataset contains location. Geoenabled databases and systems exist everywhere in business, government, and society. But somehow we are still missing the value of that location data.

In my role as a marketing director at Esri, I meet a lot of people. Usually, they fall into two camps: those who’ve been enjoying the benefits of this GIS technology for decades and those who are new to the world of spatial data, analysis, and GIS.

One of the questions I’m often asked is, What’s the difference between a location strategy and a GIS strategy? The two are close cousins. While a GIS strategy many times refers to the implementation of systems and technology, I see a location strategy as implementing the business of using and understanding location data across an organization. Let me explain. Continue reading

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Go Big Time with Big Data

Big data is measured by volume, velocity, and variety. My colleague and fellow big data lover Mansour Raad recently highlighted how these three measures themselves are increasing almost exponentially in today’s sensored world while talking at one of the commercial business special interest groups (SIGs) during the Esri User Conference (UC).

Big data is expanding at an ever increasing rate. Businesses need to find a way to manage and measure it to be successful.

We no longer store and batch process data. Today, everything is in a stream—a misnomer when we consider the tidal wave of data. We have also become living, breathing, walking, talking sensors thanks to our smart phones and Fitbit-like devices that track us as we are active, eating, and even our sleep. Continue reading

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Success through Data Science

How a start-up is helping big name brands cash in through spatial modeling and analytics.

Shawn Hanna, Managing Partner of Retail Scientifics

Finding a successful retail site doesn’t require a crystal ball, but it does take the ability to clearly see and understand what your data is really telling you. And this is a whole lot simpler and easier when you couple GIS technology with real-world experience.

Shawn Hanna, Managing Partner of Retail Scientifics, knows this well. For thirteen years, he was responsible for advanced analytics at Petco, helping the company with real estate, market planning, marketing, and pricing, all using location intelligence.

When Petco moved the company’s analytics function to Texas from San Diego, California, Shawn and several others decided to venture out on their own. They opened up a consultancy that performs analytics projects for retailers broadly. The group focuses on modeling, forecasting accuracy, ad hoc analytics, and other data driven projects. Continue reading

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