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Research Insight | Using Geospatial Data for International Marketing Research

Geospatial data sources cover ever more countries in increasing detail and are more readily available than ever before. OpenStreetMap, for example, is completely open-source and widely used, and it continuously grows in depth and breadth of data provided. OpenStreetMap even provides the locations of individual road signs, trees, and park benches. But international marketing research has not yet fully embraced the opportunities of geospatial data. This article shows how geospatial data can contribute to international marketing research by providing detailed insights on, among other things:

  • Individual locations of market players and, thus, their dispersion, concentration, and (local) market dominance.
  • Infrastructural conditions such as road surfaces, speed limits, and overall accessibility.
  • Neighborhood characteristics that can be indicative of local consumer preferences, attitudes, and consumption behaviors.

To propel the adoption of geospatial data in international marketing research, this article provides a hands-on application that exemplifies geospatial data collection from OpenStreetMap, analytical methods, and means of visualization. Marketing managers and researchers alike can use this article to guide their geospatial data analyses.

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What You Need to Know

  • Environments shape people and people shape environments; therefore, marketers should use geospatial data to analyze and understand their customer base.
  • When entering a new market, marketing professionals can leverage geospatial data to optimize their location and branding by studying the local market, competition, and consumers.
  • Marketers can also use geospatial data to analyze their own spatial footprint and opportunities for greater sustainability (e.g., greener parking lots).


Geospatial data have a long history in marketing research that goes back to Huff’s seminal gravity model from the 1960s. Their applications in research and practice range from location-based mobile targeting of individual consumers to store competition analysis and city marketing. In the past decades, geospatial data have become more readily available and have grown considerably in both breadth (i.e., countries and regions covered) and depth (i.e., granularity and diversity of information covered). Nonetheless, international marketing research has not yet fully embraced the opportunities that geospatial data bring to the field. To address this shortcoming, this article shows how geospatial data may propel international marketing research in various domains and develops future research questions for the field. In addition, it introduces OpenStreetMap as a rich geospatial data source to the discipline. The authors illustrate the use of geospatial data in general and OpenStreetMap in particular through a concrete application in which they analyze city center composition in nine countries across three continents. In doing so, they reproducibly describe the extraction of geospatial data, constructions of metrics and operationalizations, and visualizations.

Julian R.K. Wichmann, Thomas P. Scholdra, and Werner J. Reinartz, “Propelling International Marketing Research with Geospatial Data,” Journal of International Marketing, forthcoming. doi:10.1177/1069031X221149951