How to Perform a Site Suitability Analysis in 10 Minutes or Less
With a comprehensive suite of tools for business analysis, it’s possible to see people, places and opportunities clearly. Business Analyst, Esri’s premier tool for market analysis, combines demographic lifestyle and spending data with map-based analytics for better understanding where to build, buy and expand. It provides built-in, no-code tools for dynamic report and infographic creation. It’s the go-to tool for location planning, site selection, merchandising, territory design, customer segmentation and suitability analysis.
Business Analyst Web App is an online application from Esri that provides walk-through information about every tool you will use. The product also has desktop and mobile versions for deeper analysis and site data collection. In this blog post, I’m going to walk the suitability analysis function in Business Analyst Web App. The process can be quite simple – and you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to perform suitability analyses online with just a few clicks – in under 10 minutes.
We’ll begin with some initial considerations. These can be broken into three simple steps:
Identify trade areas for analysis based on circumstances critical to your industry – from property locations to emergency shelter spots.
Analyse the areas using Esri demographics alongside your own data. Interpret the results in a spatial context, run market analysis and generate insightful maps.
Present or pitch your findings with custom reports, informative infographics and map-based stories that showcase the analysis.
Before beginning the analysis, make sure you have a Business Analyst license. If you do not, but this is something you are interested in,please reach out to Esri Ireland regarding pricing and access.
You’ll get started by creating a new project and giving it a name. This project will be home to your map, map layers, reports, and infographics.
Figure 1 - Business Analyst Web App Map Interface
When you create your project, you will begin on the 'Map' tab. For this example, let’s take a womenswear retailer that wants to perform a suitability analysis on where to open up the next shop. First, you’ll plot the locations with proper zoning that you currently have in mind, with their attributes, on the map.
You can add points via an Excel spreadsheet set up like the example below. After creating your Excel workbook, you’ll click on the 'Add Data' tab, then select the 'Import File' square.
Figure 2 - Excel spreadsheet
The Import tool will walk you through the steps to add your file.
Select your file by browsing to its location on your machine. Click 'Import'.
As you’ll be adding points, make sure the circle for 'Point layers' is selected before clicking 'Next'.
Make sure your Excel column fields match up with those in Business Analyst before clicking 'Next'.
Business Analyst will confirm that all points have been found provided the address and location information for each is correct. Here, you can change how the points are symbolised, decide whether or not to cluster points when you zoom in/out on the map and how points will be symbolised.
Finally, opt to 'Create and save sites for all points', adding and editing your desired drive-time radius around each site.
Figure 3 - Sites with 10-minute drive-times
Save the default settings and click 'Save', and the new layer is created with drive-time radii. From here, select 'I'm Done'. It's now time to add in a competitor layer. If you know the locations of 12 different competing womenswear shops in Dublin, you can add these to the map. Esri also ingests premium data sources that you can add to your project to pull all known womenswear shops, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping centres + more.
Having a competitor close by may negatively impact how your business performs, so keep this in mind for the analysis.
Next, you can add the competitor layer as a point layer from ArcGIS Online. You can add this layer to the map by selecting the 'Add Data' tab and clicking on the 'Web Maps and Layers' square. Navigate to your web layer and select it to add to the map.
Now you’ve added and visualised all of your store and competitor data, so it's time to perform the analysis. On the blue ribbon, click on 'Run Analysis', then select the 'Suitability Analysis' square.
Select 'Add Sites from Project', and you will see your sites appear. Make sure all are selected and click 'Next'.
Now, you’ll add the criteria you would like to take into consideration for the analysis.
Click on 'Add Criteria', then '+ Add variables from data browser'.
Here, you have access to over hundreds of different data variables for the Republic of Ireland that range from spending on consumer electronics to household size, all recently updated to a 2019 vintage. You can also combine different variable subcategories using simple mathematical functions to create your own custom variables.
Additionally, if you have your own demographic datasets that you'd like to use, you can set these up and store them right inside your project as a custom data setup for use in any future analyses.
Let’s consider the variables that may be of importance to a womenswear retailer. These might include 'Clothing Expenditures', 'Total Female Population', and 'Total Purchasing Power'. You’ll add these variables to the analysis.
Figure 4 - Data browser
There’s data you’ve added to the map prior to this that you’ll want to use in the current analysis. Select '+ Add attributes from sites (e.g. square footage)'. As you’re looking at retail stores, select 'Parking'. You’ll want to ensure this attribute has a positive influence on the analysis, meaning potential locations with a greater number of parking spaces will be more favourable than those with fewer.
Finally, let’s add in competitor locations. click on '+ Add criteria' and select '+ Add point layer (e.g. competitor layer)' from the drop down.
Here, you will see your Web Maps and Layers show up. Click the arrow next to 'Competitors', then make sure the box next to your 'Competing Stores' layer is checked. When you click 'Close', this layer will be added to the map. Now, click the blue 'More options' button under Competing Stores to ensure the Influence circle is checked for 'Inverse'. Then, change how the point layer will contribute to your analysis.
Figure 5 - Selection of an inverse influence
You know most of your shoppers will drive to your stores, so click the circle for 'Distance to nearest point', then for Distance Type select 'Drive distance' from the drop-down menu.
With the analysis complete, it is possible to continue making adjustments. In this analysis, I’ve kept an equal weighting for each variable. However, if a particular variable is more important to your ideal new store than the others, you can adjust its weight accordingly. When you adjust the weighting on your suitability analysis criteria, you’ll see the scores will update on the map immediately, on the fly.
Figure 6 - Completed suitability analysis
Now that your analysis is complete, you have a few options on how to share your results. You can export your results, shown in the table, to an Excel spreadsheet. You can also export your findings to a new suitability layer that can be added/removed from the map at any time.
Perhaps most importantly is the ability to save your criteria by clicking on 'Save criteria' at the bottom right of the left-hand panel. This saves time and resources in re-creating this analysis for different sites in different locations, as all variables and their weights are saved. This also provides consistency and prevents human error. You can now pan and zoom to the site with the highest score to analyse further by building custom infographics and reports. You can enrich these with additional demographic and market data to get a fuller picture of the winning site.
A suitability analysis is just one of the many analyses you can complete with Business Analyst Web App. For more information on the Business Analyst suite of products, along with documentation and tutorials, check out our web resources on it here.
Meg is Solutions Engineer at Esri Ireland with a background in sales & sales engineering at tech companies ranging from hypergrowth to enterprise across the globe. She’s an American transplant in Dublin who enjoys designing and sharing data-filled maps & infographics for the commercial space. She loves travelling, drinking iced coffee and cooking plant-based meals.