September 17, 2008

Urban, Suburban and Rural: Hillstrom's Zip Code Forensics

One of the unique validations of Hillstrom's Zip Code Forensics (read about and purchase here) is the consistent difference in behavior between Urban, Suburban, and Rural zip codes.

This map features the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison markets. Look closely at Chicago and Milwaukee.

The inner city zip codes perform well below average. As you move out from the inner city, into the suburbs, you see e-commerce take over, with many Online Bliss and Online Spend zip codes.

Moving beyond the suburbs, and we begin to see Catalog Fans, and even a few Catalog Crazies.

Repeatedly, across the United States, we observe this behavior. Direct Marketing is a uniquely suburban, exurban, and rural practice --- something the marketing experts who preach multichannel strategies may not have ever had the data to validate. And this makes sense, folks! You go back to the early days of Montgomery Wards and Sears, and you'll see that the catalog was the commerce lifeline to rural folks.

You think differently when you know that many urban areas, retail hotbeds, are not always direct marketing responsive. You think about e-mail marketing differently when you think about targeting a suburban and exurban customer. You think about catalog marketing differently when you think about targeting an exurban or in some cases a rural customer.

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