Location, location, location--everyone knows it matters, but Jim Robeson, co-founder of Waterloo, Ontario-based analytics startup PiinPoint, knows from experience how critical this business chestnut truly is.
Robeson was inspired to develop a way to quantify the merits of various business loca-tions after his parents moved their Ontario deli to a new space. "I saw firsthand how location can affect sales negatively," Robeson recalls.
"That got me thinking, Why is one spot so much better than another?
Obviously there's intuition, but it would be better for retailers to make fact-based decisions."
Last year Robeson took his background as an economic development manager and teamed up with geographic information system (mapping) software developer Adam Saunders to launch PiinPoint. The web-based tool helps businesses identify optimal expansion sites by collecting multiple types of data, from local demographics and tax rates to traffic patterns and property listings, then shapes them into a report that provides an in-depth analysis into the locations. The system, now in pilot phase, is already drawing attention from U.S. retailers with expansion plans.
Here's how it works: Say you want to open a coffeehouse in San Francisco. PiinPoint lets you identify your target market from thousands of variables, including age range, income levels and food and drink consumption, drawing from in-house and public data and paid data sets from Toronto-based Environics Analytics. PiinPoint then searches the city to see where your customers live, breaking down the results into neighborhoods as small as a quarter mile
Once you find a neighborhood with potential, PiinPoint serves up specifics such as foot- and car-traffic patterns and food and drink expenditures, using data from Twitter and Foursquare, among other sources. If you're torn between two neighborhoods--say the hipster Mission District vs. the toddler-friendly Noe Valley next door--the tool's forecasting model will estimate what your sales and market share would be in each spot. And when you're ready
to sign a lease, PiinPoint lists the available real estate, including cost per square foot and brokers' contact information.
Once you open your doors, PiinPoint's dashboard monitors your business with regular uploads of sales data. If you're underperforming based on PiinPoint's aggregate data from public records and other PiinPoint clients, you can see what factors may be affecting business.
Robeson says PiinPoint will only get better based on suggestions and input from its test users, who are undisclosed quick-serve restaurants and midsize retailers. "We want to build something that will work for people who ask the 'where next' question on a regular basis," he adds.
PiinPoint plans to charge monthly SaaS fees starting at $3,000 after it finishes up the three-month pilot program. At $36,000 a year, PiinPoint isn't cheap, but Robeson need only point to his parents' struggling deli to show skeptics the true cost of choosing the wrong spot.