Market information services firm Smartal Solutions will expand into the mainland, with an eye on harnessing more demographic and economic data to help companies do business in China. Smartal managing partner Lucy Kwan said: 'China represents not only a very large market for us, but also a big challenge to deliver the same high level of marketing analytic solutions and business intelligence services we provide our customers in Hong Kong.' After more than 10 years of mining statistical data in Hong Kong for large enterprises, Smartal was keen on helping mainland authorities put consumer market statistics to commercial use as the company has done with Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department. She said discussions were ongoing with both potential technology partners and Chinese authorities. Smartal has an existing alliance with the National Bureau of Statistics of China from whom it licenses official census and statistics data. Founded as research and information management firm Huang Kwan & Associates in 1986, Smartal changed its name in 2000 to focus on marketing geographically-based official census and statistics data. Although it has developed proprietary software programmes for analysing customer databases, Smartal has grown its business through its so-called geodemographic research and marketing tool called Supermap Hong Kong. Smartal hopes to develop and market a similar product for each major commercial urban area in the mainland like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. A nationwide Supermap would follow. 'We still have much work to do because there are other organisations in China looking at this sort of project,' Ms Kwan said. George Haylett, Citibank's Hong Kong-based director of database marketing and analytics for the Asia-Pacific, said more market information made available to companies entering China would result in a better targeting of customers. 'The challenge is getting that system available,' he said, noting that geodemographic information in China is not as mature as in most western markets. Since 1991, the company's Supermap system has been used by large enterprises such as retailers and banks in planning their branch networks. 'Supermap Hong Kong displays the best location for your business and provides a better understanding of your target markets using a combination of census data, mapping technology and other features,' Ms Kwan said. Census details of Hong Kong's population are displayed over digital maps. Together with Smartal's geographic information system (GIS) tools, users can turn dense statistical data into easy-to-understand visual presentations. Supermap was developed using the ArcView platform from California-based GIS technology firm Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). It claims to have a 35 per cent share of the world market and on any given day, more than a million people globally use its software. In Hong Kong, ESRI's platforms are used by various large enterprises and about 10 government departments. A recently introduced Smartal service, called Hong Kong Mosaic, is also expected to form part of the proposed portfolio of products and services in the mainland. With help from technology partner Experian, Hong Kong Mosaic can classify the SAR's population according to the demographic characteristics of the neighbourhood they live in. 'It is easy to learn PC-based analysis package which enables you to establish the Mosaic codes of individuals, analyse customers, or survey respondents based on their address,' Ms Kwan said. Experian consultant Richard Webber, developer of the Mosaic technology, said a retailer could use the census information to work out where their customers would be most likely to live. 'Users of Mosaic are able to segment customer records for analysis, mailing selections, area reports or maps,' he said. With Hong Kong Mosaic, Smartal hoped to boost Hong Kong customer numbers to include small and medium-sized enterprises, Ms Kwan said. Smartal clients include Citibank, HSBC, Dao Heng Bank and Hong Kong Post Office.