3-Digit Zip Code Maps: What Are They and Why Are They Useful?

zip code boundary mapping

Dividing maps up based on established geographic boundaries is a great way to create sales territories and analyze demographic information. US zip codes are a popular boundary to use, but what if you want something larger than the standard five-digit code?

Three-digit zip codes divide your map into bigger territories. Use these boundaries to analyze larger areas at a time and take a higher-level look at your map.

Types of Zip Codes

There are actually four different types of zip codes used by the United States Postal Service to make sure our mail is delivered to the right location:

    1. Unique Zip Codes: Some addresses that receive a large amount of mail are given their own unique zip code.
    2. P.O. Box Zip Codes: P.O. boxes are also given their own zip codes. 
    3. Military Zip Codes: These are used for any mail or deliveries being sent to the U.S. military.
    4. Standard Zip Codes: Any address that doesn’t fall into one of the above categories is given a standard zip code. This is what most homes and businesses use.

What Are 3 Digit Zip Codes?

Population Density Map - 5-Digit Zip Codes

A three-digit zip code is simply the first three numbers in a zip code. Each zip code is divided up into three parts:

  • National Area: The United States is divided up into ten groups of states called national areas. The first digit of a zip code indicates which one of those groups an address is located in.
  • Regional Area: The ten national areas are divided up into smaller geographic regions (usually ten per state), determined by the next two digits. Each of these areas has a sectional center facility that sorts and distributes mail.
  • Delivery Area: Every regional area is divided up further into several delivery areas, indicated by the last two digits of a zip code. This is the area that the mail is actually being delivered to.

So, a three-digit zip code represents a regional area and is made up of several smaller five-digit zip codes.

Why Use 3 Digit Zip Codes Instead of 5 Digit Zip Codes?

Standard zip codes are a useful geographic boundary, but they are rather small compared to other boundaries. If you’re looking to divide cities into multiple areas you’ll find that three-digit zip codes are usually the ideal size.

Use three-digit zip codes to:

  • Establish Sales Territories: Combine zip codes into several larger areas to use as sales territories for your team.
  • Create Distribution Areas: Do you work in transportation or logistics? Use three-digit zip codes to establish distribution centers throughout a city.
  • Analyze the Demographics of a Larger Geographic Area: Simplify your demographic research by increasing the size of the areas you’re analyzing. Instead of reviewing data for 30 – 40 zip codes, you’ll now only be analyzing the data for 6 – 8 codes.

How to Map Zip Codes with Maptive

Zip Code Map - Median Income - 3-Digit Zip Codes

Use Maptive’s boundary tool to easily map five-digit zip codes on your interactive map:

  1. Click the tools icon in the top lefthand corner of the screen.
  2. Select the “Boundary / Geographic Territory Tool.
  3. Under “Select Boundary Type” choose “US – Zip Codes.”
  4. Click “Add Boundary.”

While Maptive doesn’t have the ability to automatically map three-digit zip codes, use the Territory Drawing Tool to draw them in manually:

  1. Follow the instructions above to map the five-digit zip codes first.
  2. Click the tools icon in the top left hand corner of the screen.
  3. Select the “Territory Drawing Tool.”
  4. Under “Select Task” choose “Create New Territory Group.”
  5. Give your territory group a name.
  6. Click “Add Territory Group.”
  7. Select the data that you would like to appear in your territory popup, then click “Done.”
  8. Click “Draw Territory.”
  9. Choose a name and colors for your territory, then click “Start Drawing.”
  10. Move your cursor to where you want to create your territory. Click on the map to create the points of your polygon, then click on the first point to complete it. Use the five-digit zip codes, and the three-digit zip code maps found here, as a guide when creating your territories.

Ready to Start Mapping Zip Codes?

Want to start mapping five and three-digit zip codes for sales territories, distribution areas, and more? Sign up for a Maptive free trial account and create your interactive map today.

How COVID-19 Maps Can Help Businesses Reopen Following Shutdown

Closed and Open Locations Map for Businesses

With COVID-19 case numbers starting to fall in many parts of the world, a number of businesses are starting to reopen. However, most business owners are approaching this gradually as they adapt to the new climate we now live in.

Many businesses with multiple locations are opening some stores while keeping others closed in order to measure the level of demand and test new measures in the time of social distancing. If you find yourself in this situation it can be difficult to determine what the right course of action is.

If you open too many locations too fast you may end up with empty stores and unnecessarily high labor costs. If you open too few locations you might not be able to keep up with the traffic and encounter public health risks. And whatever your reopening strategy might be, you need to find a way to effectively convey it to your customers.

Interactive and customizable COVID-19 maps can solve these issues and help you establish a successful reopening strategy for your business.

Here are four ways mapping software can assist your business during these times:

Plotting Population Density to Determine Which Locations to Reopen

Population Density Map - When to Reopen After COVID-19

If you’re planning to start off by only opening a select few locations you’ll first need to determine which stores to open. 

While you surely have data showing you which locations are generally the busiest, population data can also be extremely valuable. A certain location may not have been your busiest before the shutdown, but you may find that it’s more centrally located in a high population area than others, making it a good choice to reopen.

By plotting population data onto a map using heat mapping technology, you’ll quickly be able to determine the most populous regions within your service area. You can then plot your store locations on the map to see which of your stores are best positioned to service your customers.

Creating a Map to Let Your Customers Know Which Locations are Open

Open and Closed Locations Mapped - COVID-19 Maps

Once you determine which locations will be opened and which will remain closed, you need to find a way to effectively relay this information to your customers.

COVID-19 mapping software can allow you to create a visual representation of your reopening strategy. By plotting your locations on an interactive map and indicating which are open and which are closed, your customers can quickly identify the open location nearest to them.

Plotting the Locations of Your Employees to Determine Who Can Be Utilized at Which Locations

Radius Map - Employee Availability After COVID-19

Depending on your reopening strategy, you may need to adjust how you utilize your team. Some employees will need to be transferred to different locations, and you may need to reactivate certain team members as you open more locations.

By plotting the locations of your stores and employees, and creating a driving radius around each team member, you can instantly see which employees can work at which locations. This allows you to quickly make staffing decisions as you adjust your strategy and start opening more stores.

Plotting Sales Density to Help Determine When More Locations Need to be Opened

Sales Density Map - When to Open After COVID-19

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to lessen, foot traffic at your locations should begin to increase. You need to have access to the right data so you can accurately assess your demand and determine when it’s the right time to open additional locations.

By plotting your sales density on a map you’ll be able to identify which locations are becoming exceedingly busy and which ones are remaining relatively quiet. If a location begins to experience higher levels of demand you can start looking at opening other nearby locations.

This helps ensure that you reopen the right locations at the right time, giving your business the best chance at success.

COVID-19 Maps by Maptive

Are you looking for a way to visualize your location-based data so you can establish an effective reopening strategy?

Maptive’s interactive mapping software can help you transform your spreadsheet data into a customizable Google map. Simply input or import your data into our software and we’ll take care of the rest. You’ll also have access to a wide array of tools to help you visualize your data exactly how you want.

Reach out to us to learn how our mapping software can help build maps so you can make more informed decisions about your business reopening in the wake of COVID-19.

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If you didn’t take advantage of the power and value of mapping in 2015, this year is the year to do it. As we’ve written before on this blog, there are a number of reasons why you should be visualizing data for your business.

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