Location, location, location. It’s not just important for real estate; it’s a huge part of running a business, even an online-only one. You need to know everything about your business’ location, including how long a potential customer might have to drive to reach you, how far your delivery drivers should go, and more. The best way to do this? A radius map tool.
Let’s cover how these tools work and five of the best options out there.
What is a radius map?
A radius map is a circular area drawn on a conventional map, usually using travel times or distance as a unit of measurement. That area will be centered on the specific address — or even GPS coordinates — of a private home, a business, or an institution. Radius maps can be used to find services within a specific driving range (like hospitals and schools), to visualize a delivery radius, or even to optimize business logistics.
What do you need from a radius map tool?
You could always print out a map and draw a radius on it manually, but a dedicated tool will allow you to create radius maps faster and more accurately. When choosing a radius map tool, here are some features you should be looking for.
- Simple drawing: The ideal radius map tool should allow you to create a map in just a click or two. You should look elsewhere if it’s any more complicated than that.
- Point of interest data: A point of interest is any location on a map that someone will find interesting, from restaurants to hotels and warehouses. A radius map tool should allow you to cross-reference this data with your map.
- Location intelligence: Whenever you have data represented geographically, you’re working with location intelligence. That can include demographic data, infrastructure data, or personal data, all of which can be incredibly useful when combined with a radius map.
Now that you know what you need, let’s have a look at your options.
Smappen: Best overall radius map tool
Smappen is a radius map tool that can also do a whole lot more. You can draw out multiple radius maps in just a few clicks, overlay them, and cross-reference them with a ton of data for market research, logistics optimization, and more.
That’s because Smappen comes fully loaded with points of interest, demographic data, and even competitive insights. That makes it a natural pic for marketers, franchisers, retailers, and anyone else who needs to use radius maps for this kind of research!
Some radius map tools have a bit more data to work with than Smappen, which might suit your needs better. But these tools are usually a bit harder to wrangle, meaning you’ll need more technical skills to make them behave.
Maptive is an example of enterprise-level GIS mapping software you can use to draw radius maps that combines Google Maps data with your radius map. You can also use this tool to optimize routes, create heat maps, and add up to 100,000 locations to the same map.
This might be one of the most customizable radius map tools you’ll find out there, allowing you to color-code individual pins, use branded images in your maps, personalize your base map, and more.
Unlike most of the tools on this list, Maptive doesn’t have a free plan. It does offer a free trial, which will let you test the tool out for 10 days. After that, you’ll have to pay at least $110 a month to keep using the tool — unless you get the 45-day pass for $250.
CalcMaps is a completely free suite of online mapping tools that can help you calculate areas, distances, and elevation, as well as draw radius maps. Drawing these maps is dead simple. All you need to do is open the tool, pick an address, pick a distance, and you’ll instantly have a radius map. You’ll also know the area of the circle you’ve just drawn, which can be useful for some types of research.
The different tools you’ll find at CalcMaps don’t really interact with each other, meaning you couldn’t draw a radius map and measure distances between two points on the same map, for example. But more limiting than this is probably the fact that this tool doesn’t have any of the data you’ll get from other solutions. No POI data, no demographic information, nothing. So while it’s a simple, free way to draw a radius map, you won’t be able to do any deep research with it.
Free Map Tools
Free Map Tools is another website that comes loaded with a number of free mapping tools that let you calculate distances and draw radius maps. To use this tool, you just need to open it, put a pin on the map, and drag out your circle. You’ll know the exact radius of that area, and even get an option to export that area — with coordinates — to import into whatever other tool you’re using.
While it shares some of the limitations of other free options on this list — like not having any POI or demographic data — the most frustrating one is trying to get your radius map to start in exactly the right place. Other tools usually let you start from an address, but this one doesn’t. You can certainly put in coordinates, use your current location, or even the name of a city, but you can’t manually enter an address. That can be pretty limiting.
There’s one thing that sets TravelTime apart from most of the tools on this list. Where they only let you draw simple radius maps (measuring distance without accounting for terrain) the maps you create with TravelTime are isochrone maps (showing you how far you can travel in a specific amount of time). These maps are particularly useful for figuring out delivery ranges, identifying coverage areas, and even picking a new location for a franchise. You can even layer multiple maps to compare locations.
TravelTime might allow you to draw a more detailed map with more data, it’s really all you can do with this tool. You can’t even switch from isochrone maps back to simple radius maps. That means TravelTime can be a solid free option for very specific tasks, but it’s far from being the all-in-one radius map solution you need. Compare this with Smappen, which can draw simple radius maps, isochrone maps, isodistance maps, and more!
In your radius
Radius maps are incredibly useful for marketing research, logistics optimization, and business strategy, so most businesses will benefit from having a tool that can let anyone draw them quickly. But, as you’ve seen, not all tools are created equal. It’s best to have a tool that strikes the right balance between being easy to use and fully featured, allowing you to draw all kinds of maps, compare them, and combine them with data. If that’s what you want, you should try Smappen! You can get started for free and see how radius maps can completely transform your strategy.