How retail cross-visitation data can inform competitive analysis

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Nordstrom has an anchor store in the Burlington, Massachusetts, mall 18 miles from downtown Boston. In a previous article, we leveraged foot traffic insights to examine Nordstrom’s impressive foot traffic performance relative to smaller mall rivals lululemon and Athleta. 

Cross-visitation data suggest that Nordstrom has an opportunity to target both grocery and apparel shoppers at nearby stores across price points. On the flipside, it indicates a potential opportunity for grocers to move into the mall and for other retailers to capitalize on Nordstrom’s foot traffic.

The cross-visitation data that drove the competitive intelligence available here was collected from May 2 through July 31 of 2021. All data and insights are sourced using the same Venue Data Platform in Unacast Now.

Apparel competition in the mall

Macy’s and American Eagle rank as the top two cross-visited retail apparel locations for Nordstrom. Athleta is the third and final general clothing store in the mall that Nordstrom visitors also frequent. But at 16 in our list of 25 cross-visited stores, it receives considerably less traffic than competitors. 

The data suggests that Nordstrom would do well to cater to Macy’s and American Eagle customers, who are also often Nordstrom customers, while considering how it can differentiate itself. Similarly, Macy’s and American Eagle might endeavor to entice Nordstrom visitors. 

All of these brands can benefit from analyzing their foot traffic in a broader context to understand how the mall’s locations are performing compared to the national average, or other locations of the same chains. 

As for Athleta, it is drawing considerably less foot traffic than Nordstrom and the other leading apparel retailers. But in the unflattering comparison also lies an opportunity: Athleta should view the anchor stores, Nordstrom and Macy’s, as feeders and consider ways to reach their customers with promotions to drive more foot traffic back to their stores.

Cross-visitation outside the mall  

Not only was Target the most visited of the Burlington mall Nordstrom’s offsite cross-visited locations, but also, other Target locations in the area ranked seventh, 13th, and 20th for cross visitation with Nordstrom. 

This shows at once how deep Target’s penetration into the market is while also pointing to which stores are outperforming the others. Another retailer offering groceries, Market Basket, ranked fourth for overall locations visited by Nordstrom customers. Whole Foods ranked ninth.

The high cross-visitation rates of grocery stores and clothing retailers — or hybrid grocers and clothing retailers, in Target’s case — suggests that grocers can expect to benefit from synergy with a department store as shoppers complete their errands. 

Indeed, Target’s considerable success in drawing Nordstrom visitors suggests it may be benefiting from multiple tailwinds: It is both a complement to Nordstrom and an alternative. The former, of course, also applies to the high-performing Market Basket.

Strongly overlapping audiences for Target, Market Basket, and Nordstrom provides a couple of perhaps counterintuitive lessons:

  1. Higher-end Nordstrom shoppers appear to have interest in more broadly appealing brands. One might assume that Nordstrom shoppers flock to Whole Foods or Wegmans for groceries, but at least in this neighborhood, Target outranks those higher-end grocers. 
  1. Nordstrom and other apparel retailers would do well to target both the patrons of rival clothing stores but also grocery shoppers, who, foot traffic wise, also appear to be in the market for clothes.

This intelligence might also inform site selection for future retail stores. Notably, there is no grocery store in the Burlington mall. 

Given that Nordstrom shoppers are so frequently going elsewhere to patronize Target and Market Basket, it would appear there is opportunity in the mall for a grocer.

Cross-visitation outside apparel and grocery

Two outliers offering neither apparel nor food stand out among places Nordstrom customers frequented. 

The first is a commercial building home to Kelly Services, the fifth most commonly cross-visited location for the mall’s Nordstrom. While the exact frequency of its cross-visitation with the Nordstrom is a surprise, the correlation can likely be attributed to its location right quite near to Nordstron, and so, convenient for workers to visit as they commute, or while on breaks.

The second surprise was Homewood Suites, a hotel which is a 10-minute drive from Nordstrom. For Nordstrom and other retailers such as Macy’s and Athleta, the high number of visits from hotel guests suggests a possible untapped audience. 

For Homewood Suites, and for the company that manages the property, the high foot traffic to Nordstrom suggests Homewood Suites should further investigate where its guests are going in the mall as a whole, in order to ascertain what retail partnership opportunities would appeal to their guests.


The topline cross-visitation data above is only the beginning of the insights foot traffic can provide for brands like those we discussed in this post. The recommendations we can draw from the cross-visit data are as follows:

  • Nordstrom customers are also Macy’s and American Eagle customers. All three should be looking to distinguish themselves but also considering who their rivals’ customers are and making overtures;
  • Athleta is struggling to compete with its larger rivals. The company needs to figure out how to lure the department store customers to its own location;
  • Market Basket and Target might consider opening up stores in or near the mall. Nordstrom shoppers frequently go outside the mall for groceries; perhaps a grocer nearer to the mall would meet their needs; and
  • Homewood Suites, or the property company, might do well to investigate partnerships with mall brands. Hotel guests appear to be frequently traveling to the mall to shop at Nordstrom. 
Unacast can help your brand go deeper into competitive intelligence data to craft a plan for new stores or a revised marketing strategy. Our data extends far beyond Burlington, MA. to learn more


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