Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Idea to steal: heat maps

If you watched the Channel 4 documentary on sex-toy retailer Lovehoney in May, you may remember that Ordnance Survey was thanked at the very end of the programme. According to Lovehoney’s head of ecommerce Matt Curry, this was because “they bent over backwards providing me with data for the sex map”. The sex map he’s referring to is the interactive heat map created by Lovehoney.co.uk in 2009, where visitors can find out which towns and cities in the UK spend the most on sex toys. 

Among other news outlets, the sex map was featured in the Sun, demonstrating that creating content like this can provide an online retailer with exclusive data that it can use for blogs, press releases and other SEO-enhancing purposes.

Now, Lovehoney says that to create the sex map it first took an anonymous sample of more than 500,000 orders placed at Lovehoney. Then it aggregated the data into regions that match the population statistics from the UK Census. Finally it divided the amount of money spent in each region by the number of people who live there to give the average spend per head on all sex products.

To steal this idea, you can also simplify it by relying on your order history.

For Halloween, fancy-dress retailer AllFancyDress.com analysed three years of sales data to pinpoint where in the UK spent the most on zombie costumes. It then used the data to create a landing page on its website where people could track the hot spots and choose to stay away or join the throngs of undead roaming the streets on 31st October.

Zombie apocalypse

The product types a heat map could work for is potentially unlimited. Take anti-allergy items, for example. A retailer could create something similar to the Kleenex hay fever map in the summer. By analysing sales of allergy-related products, it could show where in the country is suffering the most.

Another example is the UK Snow map. The Brits love talking about the weather, so perhaps a heat map where most of your umbrella buyers are? Or which city in the UK spends the most on bikinis?

Of course, it’s not all for the benefit of consumers or the media. If you don’t already analyse your sales by geography, this is a great way to really understand your customers’ behaviour and tailor your product offering to their needs as well as promoting your most relevant offers at key times.--MT

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