Behind the expensive marketing campaigns and corporate branding, B2C/C2C ecommerce is essentially the movement of parcels from one location to another. What distinguishes it from more traditional remote-purchase markets is the range of items on offer and the manner in which the buyer and seller interact. While the latter is dependent primarily on technology, techniques can be applied to the former to unlock information of surprising relevance to logistics providers and online retailers.
Spatial analytics is a research approach that uses the geographic properties of an entity to better understand it. Its application has been present in multiple fields for centuries, with one of the most widely referred to historic examples being Dr. John Snow’s 1854 geographic research on cholera outbreaks in London. By plotting cases of the disease on a map, he was successfully able to identify a single water pump as being the cause of the epidemic, thus saving many lives. While the requirements of ecommerce logistics may not be as life dependent as the work of Dr. Snow, the use of spatial analytics can be equally insightful, providing information and perspectives not easily visible through other forms of research.
In 2015 the GEODIS Cross-Border ecommerce unit, based in Dublin Ireland, developed its ecommerce atlas platform. This system is designed to take multiple aspects of the ecommerce sales and logistics process and translate it into a geographic format becoming, in essence, an intelligent mapping system built to help non-technical users understand the complex driving factors in the global ecommerce industry. As any parcel movement has multiple attributes associated with it, both in terms of the physical item being moved (cost, weight, product type etc.) and the method and time in which this is achieved, such data can be converted, compiled and translated to a geographic context based on its origin and destination. As such, the atlas can be applied to numerous aspects of the ecommerce logistics ranging from initial market reconnaissance, product origin research, predictive modelling, consumer habits, regional transport studies, final mile analytics and ecommerce area ranking, ranging in scope from a global, national or even neighbourhood level.
One of the most interesting elements revealed by the atlas is the impact underlying socio-economic trends have on ecommerce, often exposed by applying non-logistics background information to support ecommerce analysis. This has revealed that issues, trends and fashions affecting ecommerce markets. Perhaps one of the most expressive feature related to the combination of ecommerce and background data is that a country’s population is not necessarily reflective of its ecommerce population. As a general rule the two differ based on a variety of factors related to issues as diverse as access to credit cards, historical trade connections or pop culture influences. The atlas ultimately aims to turn ecommerce logistics into a measurable, empirically based scientific discipline designed to help GEODIS better understand markets around the world and provide a value-added service to clients and strategic partners.
One of the primary benefits of the atlas is that it is more than simply a nice graphic to accompany a paper report. The digital nature of the system allows it to be shared online giving users the opportunity to interact with the information, permitting them to directly manipulate multiple related datasets to supply answers of most relevance. It has become a valuable means of empowering decision makers and providing information on their businesses in a manner that previously may not have been available to them. While initially designed to assist smaller ecommerce retailers, the atlas has found significant interest from market leaders and global business development organisations, demonstrating that one of the most attractive elements of the system is its approachability for all levels of technical user.
The atlas has been an important element in helping GEODIS comprehend market realities in the growing B2C/C2C ecommerce market and has allowed retailers, partners and clients gain a better comprehension of what their customers ultimately require.