Market Analysis Gets A Better Focus On The Community
By James Lennon,
Over the past five years, the Public Sector has faced ever-greater challenges in making sure it meets the diverse needs of the community. Organisations are increasingly taking the lead from big business to manage themselves more efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before. As budgets are squeezed, the pressure is on for a more targeted approach to providing public services. Citizens are now viewed as customers and as a result, the tactics and techniques of the marketeer are playing a crucial role in Public Sector life. So the big question is, can marketing analysis really enhance the provision of public services?
One key element of the process is the adoption of a more customer-centric approach. By using market data and profiling techniques, often in conjunction with Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a wide range of Public Sector organisations, from councils and health authorities to police constabularies and universities, are learning more about the socio-economic make-up of their communities. This, in turn, is helping them to focus resources on the most appropriate people and areas of their communities.
Market analysis in the fight against crime
For some time now, Stephen Radburn, working at The Home Office, has championed the adoption of intelligence-led problem solving to reduce crime in local areas. In particular, encouraging police forces to use GIS – this practice is now widespread in the 43 police forces of England and Wales.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary is one such force that has adopted market analysis techniques and GIS to radically improve the effectiveness of its services in the fight against crime.
The constabulary wanted to reduce instances of burglary by increasing the public’s participation in their own safety through Neighbourhood Watch schemes. It also wanted to proactively identify vulnerable households to enable targeting with home improvement measures undertaken by the “Bobby Van”. The Neighbourhood Watch and Bobby Van schemes provide the police force with a two-pronged approach to reducing burglary rates. While the Neighbourhood Watch scheme provides communication at a group level through bulletins, watch-out messages and talks from crime prevention offices, the Bobby Van, which is operated by trained carpenters and locksmiths, visits people in their homes to provide specific advice and improve security.
In order to effectively target communication and resources for the schemes,
Avon and Somerset Constabulary needed to understand which socio-economic groups are most susceptible to burglary.
Identifying crime hot spots
The Constabulary invested in market analysis tools. In particular, it adopted a tool specifically designed to help organisations understand the needs of distinct communities within any given geographic area. To describe the unique characteristics of each of these communities, the Constabulary also licensed a range of consumer classification datasets.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary then imported postcode points for its Neighbourhood Watch coordinators into its market analysis tool and profiled them to understand how effective the scheme is at attracting vulnerable groups. The resulting social make-up was then compared with those socio-economic types at greater risk of burglary.
Following the analysis, Avon and Somerset Constabulary realised that the majority of participants in Neighbourhood Watch schemes did not match the profile of those groups most at-risk from burglaries. This highlighted the need to implement communication programs to encourage those high-risk groups to become more involved.
The profile developed for groups most at risk from burglaries has enabled the Constabulary to target resources, such as the Bobby Van, much more effectively. It has also allowed them to build better relationships with the local community, through an increased awareness of individual needs.
The Constabulary also imported its beat areas into the system to understand the incident rates for each area and the resident socio-economic types. This simple solution has enabled potential crime hot spots to be identified and effectively communicated to officers.
Jennifer Norman, Consultation and Knowledge Centre Manager at Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said: “We are adopting a much more customer-centric approach to fighting crime through the use of commercial marketing techniques, not widely used in the police force at the moment. By identifying vulnerable groups through market analysis, we can be much more proactive when targeting the services and support we provide. In the future, we will be using this type of analysis in our fight to reduce other types of crime.”
Stephen Radburn continued: “No force can afford to target its resources in the wrong areas, or continue to maintain Neighborhood Watch schemes in predominantly white, middle class areas. Police forces must work smarter, not harder, and Avon and Somerset Constabulary is a great example of this.”
Market analysis for council services
Kent Council similarly turned to market analysis techniques to better understand and address the needs of the local community. In this instance, retail developments were the focus of attention.
The Council wanted to ensure that new investment in retail was being targeted at those communities with the greatest un-met demand. It also wanted to avoid an over provision of retail, and ensure that any new developments would improve the overall flow of shoppers within the county.
In essence, the Council needed to introduce a system that would enable it to test new planning applications against pre-determined criteria, so it could ensure retail sustainability across the county.
Kent Council was the first Public Sector organisation to license a planning and analysis tool widely used by private property developers. The system predicts how shoppers flow to different centers within an area and takes account of changes in housing provision to determine un-met retail demand, commonly referred to as “headroom”.
The impact system enables Kent Council to run “what if” scenarios, so it can understand whether new developments will fit within the headroom of the proposed location, and therefore meet the future needs of residents. If a particular development exceeds the headroom of its location, the model can balance this by decreasing the required headroom in neighboring regions.
Kent Council is now able to assess the true impact of retail developments in relation to the needs of distinct communities and the county as a whole. The Council is also able to engage with private development companies at a much earlier stage in the planning process and, in doing so, is able to influence development plans and ensure that new investment in the county is directed to the most appropriate areas.
Through this strategic view of the county’s retail needs, the Council is able to make sustainable decisions in relation to not just retail, but also housing and leisure.
Rachel Tinsley, Principal Planner at Kent Council, says: “Market analysis provides a powerful tool for assessing the potential impact of proposed developments in the county. The system enables us to combine our own population projections with a calibrated retail model, which gives us greater understanding of the retail market than ever before.”
Increasing Council Revenue
Medway Council has also been researching customer needs and targeting services. Like many other authorities, it has sought to generate additional revenue by offering wedding packages at Council owned locations. With this in mind, it licensed a market analysis and demographic tools to help it understand the demand for existing and new services.
Firstly, the Council was able to identify which of its many sites were suitable for wedding services and likely to be granted a licence to conduct weddings. Local facilities, including the Rochester Corn Exchange and Upnor Castle, were analysed using a range of marketing analysis tools and geodemographic datasets. A demographic profile of the area was also created. The results showed that the areas around the proposed facilities were highly populated with the target groups and provided significant opportunity.
To ensure the locations were feasible, and the wedding packages were correctly priced and of a similar level of service, a study was conducted of the 150 other non-council premises that provide wedding facilities. These too were analysed to provide a holistic view of the market, showing the likelihood of other providers to encroach on sales.
Sarah Beresford, Research Manager at Medway Council, commented: “Market analysis has been used to help Medway understand the needs of local residents so that it can provide strategic direction to the planning of local services, as well as refining and developing new services.”
With projects such as these, the trend for using market analysis in the Public Sector looks set to soar in the coming years. Never before has so much information about the community been utilised to such a successful degree. Public services will continue to be refined with greater accuracy for the benefit of all in the community.
James Lennon is Managing Consultant at CACI Ltd. a leading marketing solutions and products company in the UK with a wide range of services including classification systems, lifestyle databases, GIS software, consultancy and modeling expertise. http://www.caci.co.uk/