As the site selection industry matures, the services its member firms provide are growing in scope and complexity. For example, Buxton, a Fort Worth, Texas-based provider of customer analytics, has always tried to accommodate retail clients considering international expansion. But with no single reliable source of international data, it could sometimes take Buxton up to 35 days to identify the right information channels to perform the kinds of analysis on shopping habits in foreign countries as it does in the U.S., says Charles Wetzel, Buxton’s president and COO.

But if a new partnership pans out as the company expects, Buxton will be able to deliver that information in as little as eight hours. On March 5, Buxton announced a new alliance with Experian, a global information provider, that allows Buxton to use Experian-gathered customer information data in 26 countries. Dublin-based Experian employs more than 15,000 people in 38 countries. Its alliance with Buxton will cover a large number of countries in Asia and the European Union, as well as South America—all potential points of expansion for U.S.-based retail chains.

And although the difficult market environment has stalled some chains’ growth—a number of Buxton’s clients have been looking at repositioning existing portfolios recently—others continue to expand, says Wetzel. He estimates that approximately 15 percent of Buxton’s 1,700 retail clients either already have an international presence or have been looking to open stores overseas.

"Retailers might be holding back on growth in the U.S., but the larger [ones]—the Home Depots, the Wal-Marts, the Fed-Exes of the world—are always looking for international opportunities," Wetzel notes. "By giving them an opportunity to create a [a customer analysis] platform relatively seamlessly, you are actually going to see a lot more that are interested."

Besides its global reach, Experian’s main attraction for a site selection intelligence provider is its vast database of research on consumer behavior, including shopping preferences, and Internet traffic patterns. (In 2007, Experian acquired Internet traffic monitor Hitwise). As a result, Buxton expects that the new alliance will give it access to more than 75,000 customer lifestyle characteristics, making its customer profiles more precise.

Buxton has always been able to gather consumer lifestyle information, including reading and music listening habits, as well as shopping preferences, according to Wetzel. If a consumer made a purchase at amazon.com, Buxton would know about it. Now, however, the firm is able to track not just the fact that a shopper uses amazon.com, but the frequency with which the consumer visits the site. Buxton has not yet had a chance to research which of Experian’s consumer data will prove the most useful in helping retailers figure out appropriate real estate and marketing strategies, but Wetzel is excited about the possibilities.

"From a marketing standpoint, it really allows the identification of who your customer is," he says. "You are actually able to use the data sets not only to say ‘this is the profile of where I should put my stores, but it’s the profile of the types of people I should be reaching out to.'"