Consumer foot traffic is a metric that measures the number of customers who enter a retail or business location. Many companies heavily monitor this traffic to gain insight into the consumer trends which can lead to higher sales and revenue or offer visibility into the physical locations most frequently visited.
Businesses looking to establish a new location often study consumer behavior in the area during different times of the day looking for patterns of potential visitors. Owners, operators, and competitors alike view foot traffic to a particular store to gain insights into a business’ success in a targeted location.
Aggregated datasets extrapolated from smartphones are able to provide insight into the shopping habits of consumers while protecting their private information. Data scientists, consultants, and business leaders often observe consumer behavior over the course of weeks or months before making a determination on the viability of a particular geographic location.
This article will examine how consumer foot traffic data can offer detailed insight into the positioning of your proposed or current business location while revealing opportunities for future development.
Consumer foot traffic tells a story about business opportunities
Dataconomy, a top online data publication, reports that foot traffic was first tracked by manual entry methods in the early nineteenth century. Workers at shops and stores counted visitors with the use of handheld counters, corresponding each new customer with the click of a button.
But consumer traffic tracking methods have evolved greatly since the days of corner apothecaries and tobacconists. It continues to change rapidly, thanks to the dawn of constantly-connected smartphones and AI and machine learning usage. The latest methods for tracking consumer foot traffic patterns and shopper counts is now done completely online, using location signals captured by various applications that many consumers utilize on their phones. As a result, today’s businesses are able to measure and analyze consumer foot traffic with unprecedented levels of detail.
By tracking aggregated foot traffic counts, patterns in movement, and general trends in migration patterns, businesses are able to mine incredible insights from this data. For instance, by studying areas where total foot traffic is increasing, paired with demographic information like income, organizations are quickly able to determine areas primed for growth.
Other business opportunities, like benchmarking against competitors and understanding competitive performance, can also be gleaned from consumer foot traffic. Analysis of a competitor’s foot traffic reveals which types of customers are visiting competitor locations, when they’re visiting, and of course, how many. These data points give competitors an insider’s look into the relative performance, capture rate, and effectiveness of that business to pull in shoppers.
Utilizing consumer foot traffic data to measure success
Observing aggregated data trends help businesses respond to rapidly changing consumer behavior. For instance, by analyzing factors influenced by the 2020 transition to remote work, a subsect of furniture retailers were able to take advantage of the home renovation boom.
At the onset of the pandemic, many observers in the supply chain assumed the furniture store industry would take a hit due to material shortages and the resulting effect on prices of available items. Although many Americans were spending increased amounts of time at home – looking around their living spaces and considering renovations – some analysts predicted the closure of retailers even as the pandemic waned at the start of 2022.
However, consumer foot traffic analysis proved Americans were still shopping for new furniture – they simply changed how they paid for it. Retailers that offered rental solutions for new furniture enjoyed a surge in popularity, while the traditional purchase option stores – while still popular – couldn’t keep pace.
The Unacast Tableau Furniture Store Visitation workbook showed that foot traffic reached a peak for both rental and purchase businesses on the week of March 28, 2022, with 2,492,825 unique visitors choosing to shop at Rent-A-Center locations across the United States, as opposed to the 2,087,500 visitors who picked Mattress Firm.
The data shows that a total of 405,325 shoppers preferred the rental option for their furniture that day – a consumer foot traffic metric that could influence business operators entering the space to consider the emerging popularity of the alternative option.
The interpretation of retail foot traffic data offers insights into metrics that could have today’s companies rethinking their business strategy … in a variety of ways.
What foot traffic and site visitation data can tell you
Foot traffic data is critical for modern retail and real estate companies. While its applications are numerous, there are several key ways foot traffic data is used.
Measuring Store Performance
Whether you’re benchmarking your stores' foot traffic against an industry standard, historical performance, or other company locations — knowing how individual stores measure up impacts everything from promotions to staffing to future expansion or contraction plans.
Understanding Customer Patterns
As areas grow and change, identifying patterns in your customers' visits is critical to planning for both trends and long-term structural changes to how your customers interact with your brand.
Improving Site Selection
By analyzing foot traffic data, your business can discover new opportunities, prioritize popular areas, or scale new locations with confidence.
Get Competitive Insights
Discovering trends isn’t always about better understanding your own performance. By uncovering new trends about your competitors, real-time foot traffic data helps you understand where, when, and how often customers are making a choice between your products and services and someone else’s offerings.
Let’s dive into how this works in practice by examining some hypothetical use cases.
Maybe you’re looking to cause disruption in your chosen industry. You may not be the largest business in the space, but you’re looking for ways you can engage with your audience that will give you a proverbial “leg up” over the competition. Consumer foot traffic, analyzed through a lens other than total site visitation numbers, can point you to competitor strategies you may want to study.
For example, a common use case for using foot traffic data in competitive intelligence is a simple benchmarking analysis. When foot traffic for competing or nearby shops is plotted against the user’s business, a directional conclusion can be made of the relative performance of one business as compared to the others. When aggregated at the brand level, organizations are able to understand relative performance beyond a specific location and get a better understanding of how an overall brand performs against competing brands.
For example, Home Depot may observe significantly higher footfall at a shopping center outside of Jacksonville, FL compared to the Lowe’s in the same location. But when aggregated at the brand level, Home Depot may discover that this specific location is not indicative of store performance across the state, and in fact, Lowe’s stores garner greater levels of foot traffic across Florida compared to Home Depot. This knowledge has an impact at the business level, affecting whether Home Depot decides to expand or contract its number of locations, run additional marketing campaigns, create partnerships specific to businesses in that state, or expand its product offerings.
In fact, businesses can leverage foot traffic data to gain a deeper understanding of their own business performance and enhance their data-driven decisions. Staying with the home renovation industry, aggregated datasets can be used to track the length of the average visit to a retailer.
Unacast’s Home Improvement Visit Length Workbook offers businesses insights into the competitor enjoying the greatest customer engagement. Retailers may study what leader MSC Industrial Supply offers their consumers, who stayed an average of an hour and a half per visit. Additionally, when paired with in-house revenue data, a retailer is able to understand a wide variety of data points such as: whether an increase in average shopper time correlates to increases in basket size; or if spikes in visitation during certain times of day have an inverse effect on cart size due to understaffing issues.
Make the most of your consumer foot traffic data
The accurate analysis of foot traffic or location data relies on devices that capture the movement of people from place to place. This data is often collected from the use of cameras, in-store sensors and data sent from mobile devices. If the IoT-enabled technologies that can aid in capturing these analytics are so advanced, what challenges could possibly arise that would impact the accuracy of the metrics themselves?
As it turns out, while the efficiency of data collection is incredibly high, some vulnerabilities remain.
- Targeting confusion. Ascertaining and identifying your ideal consumer should be influenced by the buying power of the demographic in question. Products aimed at younger audiences may utilize consumer foot traffic metrics based on their intended customer, without the analysis of the parent demographics. In some cases, it’s the older generation that will be making the purchase transaction on your product, so be sure to factor them into any analysis of your proposed strategy. In a foot traffic study, devices for both parent and child might enter your target location, but the younger individual may not be the purchaser.
- High-touch retailers. High-volume brick and mortar stores such as Walmart sell a wide array of products, which could potentially “wash out” the intended clarity of your research over a study period. If you’re looking to understand how many shoppers would add your product to their cart during a visit, remember that many datasets will only measure the number of devices entering the location itself – and not the purchases that occur within it.
- Resupply runs. Surely the product your intended consumer enters a store to purchase is the primary reason for their trip, but – in the case they emerge with multiple items – how can you really be sure? If you’re a business that sells items for retailers to add to their shelves, foot traffic analytics could require a degree of dexterity in deployment to accurately determine the metrics you’re searching for.
Seeking the best insight for your business strategy may require enlisting the services of a trusted human mobility insight provider.
Top 9 Foot Traffic Data Providers
Foot traffic data and the insights you glean from it are only as good as your provider. When choosing a foot traffic data source, it’s important to evaluate several factors, including regions covered, data sources, whether the datasets are raw or curated and the use of machine learning or AI to stabilize the data. Here’s a look at the top 5 foot traffic data providers, starting with our own data.
By drawing our data from multiple sources and leveraging machine learning, we are able to deliver best-in-class foot traffic data that is accurate and detailed. By curating these datasets and providing deep understanding via our Insights platform, businesses are able to create more accurate forecasts and develop strategic approaches with confidence.
BlueFox provides a modern, cloud-based solution with a robust API that allows integration with third-party (3P) systems.
Designed for modern location intelligence efforts, Carto is a cloud-native GIS product that was designed to integrate with a modern tech stack.
Cherre focuses on the real estate and insurance industry to identify actionable data patterns and opportunities faster than the market.
The CleverMaps platform is an analytics platform designed to bridge business and location intelligence efforts. Multiple types of data are available in their data marketplace
Placer AI harnesses mobile data from millions of devices and applies the latest tools to generate accurate insights and behavioral predictions for any store or location.
SafeGraph has a mission to grant open access to geospatial datasets like points of interest and foot traffic. They work to empower firms with better analytics and geolocation intelligence.
Snowflake is a data marketplace offering foot traffic data from multiple providers in both raw and curated forms.
Focused on gathering, curating, and delivering high quality mobility data, they provide raw and pre-processed population movement datasets.
Foot traffic data is used by real estate, investment and retail professionals in order to understand where visitors are coming from, and where they’re shopping. Merged with additional data like demographics, these aggregated datasets form the forecasting tools that enable your business to determine the best course of action for its future opportunities.
Unacast partners with today’s business leaders to create a bespoke consumer foot traffic tracking strategy. Our data-informed human mobility insights offer you the ability to understand foot traffic to your venues, trade areas and cross visitations.
By analyzing the key metrics related to the migration patterns of your target consumer, you’ll be able to make informed decisions for site selection or deselection. Teaming with our experts will afford you the opportunity to learn how you can boost your competitive advantage.
But it’s more than just raw foot traffic data. Uncast Insights is our location intelligence software that leverages our best-in-class data to deliver deep insights and empowers your organization to make decisions and set strategies with confidence. From site selection strategies to demand forecasting tools, Unacast’s platform tells you the whole story.
Schedule a meeting to begin a partnership that will result in unprecedented visibility into the metrics that drive your industry.