Planning & Community Development

Tools and Techniques

ArcGIS and Business Analyst provide a variety of tools and techniques that enable us to better understand our communities and the people that live in communities. The sections below describe various ways that ArcGIS and Business Analyst can be used.

Demographic Analysis

Demographic information includes age, race, income, housing, and many other conditions that may help users better understand the local area. In addition to standard demographics, employment, annual business sales, and annual resident expenditures in generalized categories are available. This information can be used to identify spending characteristics for areas of interest.

Demographic data currently available

  • Census 1990
  • Census 2000
  • American Community Survey 5-year estimates (2005-2009)
  • Projections for 2010 and 2015 (developed by ESRI demographers)
  • Census 2010 Redistricting Data

Business data currently available

  • Business listings and addresses
  • Number of Employees
  • Annual Sales Volume
  • Square Footage category

Shopping Centers

  • Gross Leasable Area
  • Total Sales
  • Anchor Stores

Defining Trade Areas

Trade areas are used to define areas of interest and better understand existing or potential customers. Business analyst provides several techniques for defining these areas.

Simple Ring

This tool generates a simple circle for the study area. If you don’t know what your study area is, this tool provides a good place to start. Many preliminary studies use 1, 3, and 5 mile radius simple rings for comparison.

Simple Ring

Drive Time Areas

This tool generates trade areas based on the length of time it takes to drive to a given location. Many studies do not account for travel limitations or barriers such as railroad tracks or rivers that may be spanned by distant bridges. Using this type of analysis can provide a more realistic representation of a study area.

Drive Time Areas

Threshold Areas

Some instances have cause to identify specific criteria in determining an appropriate site or location. Criteria might include a certain median age, number of households, median income, or others. Study areas can be developed based on these thresholds. This tool defines the minimum area which meet identified thresholds around given locations.

Threshold Areas

Hand-drawn Areas

If you already know your area of interest, or have a targeted location in mind, Business Analyst can summarize information based on user-defined study areas.

Hand-drawn Areas

Data Driven Rings

This tool uses numeric values such as sales or store size to determine influence over a study area. This type of analysis is often used to look at competing businesses or analyze new locations.

Data Driven Rings

Equal Competition

This tool defines spatial extents based on proximity to a series of locations. These areas are created by establishing boundary lines at equal distances from identified locations. A minimum of three locations are required to use this method.

Huff Equal Probability

Similar to the Equal Competition method, this tool defines study areas for several locations. This method allows the use of “attractiveness” weights such as population density or sales and detractors such as distance to estimate probable differences between multiple study areas.

Huff Equal Probability

Non-overlapping Rings

Study areas can be created around multiple locations using a specified distance. If the study areas overlap, these sections can be removed resulting in equally divided study areas.

Non-overlapping Rings

Market Analysis

The analysis component of Business Analyst provides tools that can solve complicated problems based on better understanding the potential customer base, local conditions or existing customers. Analysis can match retailers to appropriate or desirable properties and markets, better understand franchising opportunities, and develop information to encourage business retention and expansion.

Rank Markets

This tool allows the user to rank geographies (potential locations) based on one or more variables. For example, based on successes in other communities your business interested locating in a market with low median ages. Business analyst can rank identified sites based on a series of characteristics.


This tool provides a quick method for summarizing information such as sales volume, total employees or total transactions. This is useful for analyzing areas that do not fit into conventional study areas.

Market Penetration

This calculation allows for comparison of customer data to overall demographic variables such as number of customers compared to total population or annual sales compared to annual expenditures in a generalized category. This requires the use of customer information provided by a business.

Customer Prospecting

This tool allows the user to identify locations with ideal demographic characteristics in order to target new customers. Similar to market ranking, a variety of criteria can be used and locations are returned that best fit the criteria.

Hot Spots

This tool generates grid cells that can provide a normalized view of data which identify areas of interest.

Site Analysis

This collection of tools focuses on the location-based capabilities of Business Analyst. Location is a critical decision for all businesses. These tools provide easy to understand information and comparisons to enable confidence in decision-making.

Measure Distance Decay

This tool provides a way to differentiate behavior changes based on proximity. There is generally an inverse relationship between distances and inclination to visit a location.

Desire Line

This tool provides a way to visualize the area of influence for a store. Lines are drawn from each customer to a store location. This is a useful tool for analyzing cannibalization of competing stores.

Rank similar sites

This tool allows the user to compare potential sites to a well-performing “master” site using up to 5 possible variables. An alternative method is called Principal Component Analysis. This is a similar method but combines multiple factor variables to allow more than 5 possible variables.

Find optimal store locations

This tool identifies one or multiple geographic centers using either weighted or unweighted values. This can be used to locate an optimal location based on proximity to potential customers or potential sales volume.

Proximity Analysis

This tool identifies features closest to an identified location. This can be used to identify closest competitors or identify the closest zip code center.