Spatial flow patterns can be classified as international, hinterland, and hierarchical:
- International (trade) patterns occur between nations and include entities such as trading blocks (European Union, NAFTA) or dependent territories (colonialism from an historical perspective). These flows mainly reflect the nature of the economic environment such as the availibility of resources, comparative advantages and foreign investments. International flow patterns are mainly articulated through networks such as for air and maritime transportation or can be more diffused as for overland flows crossing boundaries at designated points of entry.
- Hinterland patterns generally occur between a service center (e.g. city or a transport terminal such as a port) and the surounding market area. They are regional in scale and reflect the organization of markets.
- Hierarchical patterns are mostly found within the industrial or commercial sectors and include distribution-related movements through a supply chain (from suppliers to customers). These flows reflect the spatial organization of manufacturing and distribution.