How to benchmark against competitors using foot traffic data

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  • Introduction
  • Definitions of competitor benchmarking and foot traffic
  • 3 steps to benchmark against competitors using foot traffic data
  • How to understand what other venues your customers visit
  • What influences competitor benchmarking in trade areas?
  • Summary


Many businesses use competitor benchmarking to learn where, when, and which kinds of customers visit their competitors’ locations instead of their own (and vice versa). To augment competitor benchmarking and uncover new trends about competitive landscape, many turn to foot traffic data. Leading organizations leverage Unacast’s foot traffic insights to build better products and make smarter decisions.

To start our discussion of competitor benchmarking and foot traffic, let’s define those terms in a way that sets a framework for understanding real-world applications.

Definitions of competitor benchmarking and foot traffic

Competitor benchmarking is uncovering new insights about the competitive landscape and understanding where your organization stacks up. Leading organizations combine foot traffic with other competitor data to build better products and guide retail site selection. Also to:

  • Measure market share and regional dominance over time
  • Benchmark locations against competitors’ sites or total addressable market
  • Understand consumer behavior with competitors’ sites
  • Learn where, when, and how often customers visit your location vs. your competitors’
  • Compare your visitor demographics to your competitors’
  • Discover common characteristics of your competitors’ locations

Foot traffic is often discussed in terms of a specific site or area – how many people visit, the type of visitor, and traits of the visit (when people visit, how long they stay and how often they return). This is of particular interest when assessing commercial real estate and retail performance.

foot traffic competitors

Working with Unacast’s Competitive Intelligence solution, users can explore trends and insights in visitation, demographics, capture rate and area traffic, local trade area, and cross visitation behavior as well as benchmarking to brands, other venues, and competitors.

3 steps to benchmark against competitors using foot traffic data

Our datasets can help you understand foot traffic to your venues, your trade areas, and your customers' shopping journeys. You can make more informed decisions for site selection or deselection, and learn how to boost your competitive advantage. To do these things, we help you follow three key steps:

gather raw data

Step 1: Gather raw data
Unacast uses GPS location data because it is the most reliable. It works by sending signals, or “pings,” from mobile devices to a constellation of satellites. GPS uses triangulation to determine where on the planet your device is, and describes that position using latitude and longitude. Each ping from a device also has a timestamp.

contextualize data

Step 2: Contextualize the data
The raw pings are clustered by our algorithms into events that indicate activity, such as dwelling at a location, or traveling and assigning retail venues and brands. An array of latitudes and longitudes are of no use. That's why Unacast's data engine translates the raw data feed into something understandable by adding context. In addition, we assign events to the census block group (CBG).

While this is not the finest-grain map out there, we want to make sure that private information, such as people’s exact home location, are obfuscated and not discernible to an address. We can add CBGs together to measure neighborhoods, cities, counties, states, and even the entire country.

create curated datasets

Step 3: Create curated datasets
We have datasets depending on your data maturity and needs: Foot Traffic Data, Dynamic Trade Areas Data, and Cross-Visitation Data. It’s tempting to think that once you add some context to the GPS pings on maps you’re done.

But there are literally an uncountable number of ways to make these datasets say different things, some of which are unhelpful. This is where the team of data scientists and business strategists at Unacast helps you “ask” the data just the right questions.

For instance, measuring market share over time, understanding competitor performance by location or trade area, or probing foot traffic patterns at competitor locations to help inform how to place and operate your own.

competitor benchmarking trade areas

How to understand what other venues your customers visit

To understand what other venues customers visit and to learn about their shopping preferences, foot traffic data, trade area data, and cross-visitation data are key. With that data, you can benchmark competitors' volume of traffic and trends around time of day and day of week, estimate each competitive store’s dwell time per visit, and even look at where visitors originate from. This is of tremendous value in order to:

  • Identify other locations your customers visit
  • Understand patterns in the locations customers visit
  • Identify additional products to add to your store's offerings
  • Find cross-merchandising opportunities with other businesses your customers visit
foot traffic analysis

What influences competitor benchmarking in trade areas?

Trade areas are dynamic and they have several qualities that influence the effect of foot traffic on competitor benchmarking. Beyond noting changes in ‘feet on the street’, retailers and others are reliant on understanding traffic connected to local transit options, the influence on foot traffic of other nearby venues and brands, and the demographic characteristics of those who visit the studied trade area or other defined location.

  • Transit options and accessibility - Where and when people can catch transit and how long it takes them to ride a given route to reach a trade area or location is one consideration. The cost to the consumer to do so is another. The trade area or retailer is also beholden to disruptions in transit service, including downtime from traffic, maintenance, accidents, and weather events.
  • Competitive influence– Does a competitive brand nearby make it easier or more difficult to attract target customers? Is there an underserved local market in the trade area that you could capture with a new location? What other brands are people cross-visiting and what does this indicate in terms of local partnership opportunities or missing products?
  • Demographic insight – Knowing more about the visitor/customer and how to serve them is key for every trade area, location and business. That deeper knowledge is triggered by augmenting aggregated location data with demographic information, providing actionable insights down to a custom defined geographic area. That’s possible with Unacast’s location data.

Learn more about how to do an in-depth trade area analysis.


Benchmarking competitors is complex. Using foot traffic data to understand competitors and customers in a given trade area is easier than you think. A great starting point is to ask what sort of data science savvy you already have in-house, or how much of that you’d like to get from your next business partner.

With the ability to define custom geographic areas and study not just mobility trends but demographic ones as well, any trade area, retail store, BIA, Chamber of Commerce etc. can be better prepared to create a more intelligent, sustainable and customer-oriented business.

Want to know more? Schedule a meeting with one of our data experts to benchmark against your competitors with foot traffic data.


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