January 08, 2009

Sprint Cell Phone Coverage And Zip Code Forensics

There are many applications of Zip Code Forensics in marketing (free to you if you contribute anonymous annual zip code sales).

One of the more interesting applications is in understanding channel preference.

This map illustrates Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. The orange zip codes represent "Catalog Crazies" and "Catalog Fans", zip codes that spend a lot of money because catalogs are sent to these customers.

Now take a look at the next image, one from the Sprint website, illustrating cell phone coverage on the Sprint network.

Green is good on the map ... it means that your phone will actually work!

Now compare the areas on the Sprint map that are white (no coverage) with the Zip Code Forensics map. Areas that are white on the Sprint map are often orange on the Zip Code Forensics map (orange represents old-school catalog responsiveness).

There is a correlation (not causation, mind you) --- no mobile marketing channel correlates with a robust old-school catalog marketing channel.

This is where we, as marketers, repeatedly fail.

We try to integrate everything, to make everything the same, as if the same customer is using mobile marketing and social media and e-mail marketing and television marketing and radio marketing and newspaper marketing and direct mail and catalog marketing to make the crucial decision to purchase a $19 shirt.

The maps suggest an opportunity. Why not work with the natural constraints that customers live with? In other words, in areas where mobile marketing isn't possible, why not fully capitalize on catalog marketing? And in Minneapolis / St. Paul (heavy e-commerce --- with ubiquitous 3G mobile broadband available), why not take full advantage of communicating with users who are updating Facebook pages on their 3G phones?

The data suggest we could do this.

And why not contribute your anonymous annual sales data at a zip code level, so that you can have access to the insights available in Zip Code Forensics?


  1. With Catalog crazies.. how to you adjust for general spend levels? In other words, am I a catalog crazy because I spend $450 through the phone order channel... or because of the $500 I spent in the last 6 months, $450 has been through the phone channel? (Raw vs. percentage....)

    Forgive me if this has been covered long ago, I'm catching up with the blog.

  2. Catalog Crazies represent a cluster of a few thousand zip codes where customers do two things.

    (1) Over the past twelve months, they spent far more than the average individual in the United States across the catalog brands participating in Zip Code Forensics.

    (2) Over the past twelve months, these customers spent a disproportionate amount of their sales over the telephone, compared to all other zip codes.

  3. Anonymous3:37 AM

    Have you seen fortune article on web 2.0? http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/07/technology/hempel_threepointo.fortune/index.htm
    Funny as I read it right after I read your mention int his post about facebook.
    Curious as to your thoughts on article.

  4. There is an important distinction in the article ... a Web 2.0 company isn't necessarily successful if it figures out how to make money ... it is successful if it figures out how to get people to talk to each other or to work together.

    I'm not confident a Web 2.0 company is ever supposed to make money.

    Take this blog. Based on the way the traditional world views it, it highly disappointing ... we haven't figured out how to "monetize" it, have we? But does it have value? That's up to the reader to decide.


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