MapInfo enters CRM territory with location-based services

MapInfo wants to help corporate enterprises navigate through their data by introducing a location-based approach to customer relationship management.

The Canadian arm of the Troy, N.Y.-based software firm Thursday said it

has launched a set of services called TargetPro which will combine CRM consulting with engineering of data marts and the hygiene and enhancement of enterprise data. MapInfo is best known as a provider of applications that can turn data into maps to provide useful information. Canadian companies like Cadillac Fairview, for example, have used MapInfo Professional to centralize customer data that helped determine the locations of its shopping mall sites and which retailers would inhabit them.

Gavin Lennox, MapInfo’s Canadian director of product management and marketing, said location-based information may be a missing element in many traditional CRM implementations. He said this will bring the company into the realm of “”analytical”” CRM, or ACRM.

A bank, for example, might want a visual representation of customer data to see how far away a given customer is from their branch location — and how close they are to the bank’s competitors. The data sorted by the software includes not just high-level demographics but credit histories and behavioral statistics. MapInfo gathers this information from a number of sources, including Statistics Canada, and offers periodic refreshes to its customers.

“”It’s like taking the data and putting it in a cauldron,”” Lennox said. “”Then you can mix it all up and make all kinds of projections.””

Paul Thompson, MapInfo’s product manager for CRM software and services, said TargetPro can help enterprises achieve greater results from the investments they have made in gathering customer information. “”We don’t want to shift them from what they’re doing right now,”” he said. “”But this technology is about more than just cutting down operational cost.””

MapInfo gives its customers the option of building data marts and installing its technology on site or hosting the data for the customer and delivering it over the Internet, Thompson added.

Jon Dermone, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group in Boston, said the service would be taking MapInfo into somewhat new territory.

“”I don’t know if there’s been a connection made between companies that deal with that geographic information problem and the CRM challenge,”” he said. “”I would imagine that companies have considered it and that there is technology in place to make that relationship work.””

MapInfo has offered its products here for several years but established a more direct presence through the acquisition of Compusearch in 2000. In two weeks, approximately 50 MapInfo employees in Scarborough, Ont. will join about 100 of their associates in a new downtown Toronto facility that will make it the second-largest office the company after its U.S. headquarters. This will include a data centre to provide hosting services for TargetPro.

MapInfo’s other area of focus is in delivering mapping technology to wireless devices through a platform called mIAware, which is being sold to telcos.

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