4 Ways To Use Visitation Data To Make Better Location Decisions

Sep 28th 2022

Having the correct market planning information means that you can make informed business decisions based on the empirical data.

Visitation data, sometimes referred to as human movement data, is becoming a powerful tool that many businesses can’t do without. But to get the most out of visitation data, you need to understand it, know what it is and what it can do for you.

So, what exactly is visitation data?

Imagine a restaurant, café, supermarket or shopping centre — every day hundreds of people visit from all over the city. Everything about their visits is unique to them, but collectively, there are clear patterns in their movements, intentions, motivations and behaviours.

This is visitation data. It’s highly detailed data concerning people and places. It can shed light on their  visitation patterns (“where from” and “where to”), frequency of visits, profiles of consumers and much more.

Understanding the “where from” and “where to” trip pattern, and where people live, work, shop, recreate, travel, learn and play are fundamental to understanding what drives people to any given location.


What kind of questions can visitation data answer?

Visitation data is very powerful and can help you answer questions like these:

● What is the demographic profile of customers visiting my locations?
● What is my primary catchment? And where within that catchment do most of my  customers travel from to reach my locations?
● What key local generators drive customers to my locations (ie. work, shopping, recreation, hotel or education facilities that are in the area) ?
● How far do my customers travel and what is the distance decay (ie. distance beyond which most customers stop visiting as it is too inconvenient to visit regularly)?
● Where are the potential gaps in my network for new developments?
● What is the sales  impact on an existing store if a new store is opened nearby?
● Is my marketing strategy targeted to the right audience?
● Where are my competitor’s customers coming from?


Mobile data provides more accurate data to understand real-time visitation patterns

Visitation data uses location data on mobile phones which is steadily collected from smartphone apps when the users have given their permission to track their location.

Mobile data has been a game-changer because it isn’t modelled or extrapolated — each data point represents real action by a person. Yet, the data is flexible and customisable enough to explain the nuances of customer visitation patterns.

For example, say your business was observing highly variable foot traffic on different days of the week or times of day. By drilling down into the mobile data, you can measure where your business/ centre draws customers from by time of day and day of week to explain the variability and understand how marketing campaigns or external factors are impacting your stores.


Visitation data allows a superior approach to competitive analysis

It would be impossible for one business to understand where a competitor’s customers come from unless using in-store survey results. But mobile technology can provide insights that can make competitor analysis far more productive.

You could conduct an in-depth analysis of the full competitive landscape around your store. Mobile data can be used as a standalone modelling strategy or as a supplement to other datasets.

For example, you could choose to do an in-store survey of customers for a handful of store locations to ask some qualitative questions but use mobile data for the rest. It’s possible to calibrate that data to deeply understand the drivers of current store performance and identify potential new store locations with the best likelihood of success.


The benefits of visitation data

Visitation data provides a host of benefits and qualities that make it a valuable addition to location intelligence services:

● Real-time
● Low-cost at high scale
● Accurate
● Flexible
● Non-proprietary
● Empirical


Highest quality visitation data insights with GapMaps Live

GapMaps knows the importance of data quality and validity. That’s why we  partner with Near — the world’s largest privacy-led data intelligence platform which tracks over 1.6b mobile devices across 44 countries.

Near have created robust screening methods to evaluate the quality of location data collected from multiple sources to ensure that their data lake contains only the highest-quality location data. This includes partnering with trusted location SDK providers that get proper end user consent to track their location when they  download an application, can detect device movement/visits  and use GPS to determine location co-ordinates. Data received from partners is put through Near’s data quality algorithm discarding data points that receive a low quality score.

When doing any sort of analysis using location data, it is also critical to have confidence that a location visit is actually a visit. For this reason, we spent the past 4 years testing and refining mobile device data from Near to ensure the outputs we make available in GapMaps Live only include observations where we know the device origin prior to the visit, the visit dwell time and the device destination after the visit,

This level of accuracy has been verified with actual customer research studies used to gather customer visitation insights; against sales potential data provided by retailers and landlords and against cannibalisation impacts provided by clients for new store openings.

And how could you use that visitation data? Here are four use cases as examples.


Four use cases for visitation data in GapMaps Live


1. Understand your customers


Understanding your customers is key to the success of every business. A business that deeply understands its customers is more likely to attract and retain them in the long term.

Let’s say you’re trying to identify the best site for a new store.

Visitation data can help identify the areas where your customers live, work, shop, and play.

Understanding what attributes drive a successful location can help you make superior decisions on selecting a new location and develop a network strategy.

Detailed heat maps in GapMaps Live can show where most customers travel from to visit your locations or nearby generators/ reference brands and where they travel to after visiting your locations. Were they at work, school, nearby points of interest like hospitals or parks?  And where do they go when they leave?

It’s easy to then create a catchment to help you understand the detailed demographic profile of your customers that will help you find your next optimal store location.

This use case applies to many sectors such as restaurants, cafés, recreation, and large format retail. For example, shopping centres can use visitation data to understand their true catchments and find potential locations for new centres/ precincts.

Visitation data can help you find the best site for your business

2.  Optimise marketing strategies


Visitation data helps inform marketers about many essential consumer behaviours — dwell time, frequency of visits, most popular days/times for visits and where they go after visiting a location.

These visitation data insights can be used to inform your marketing and advertising strategy, optimise messages and target the right audiences. For example, you could:

Understand where your customers come from by home, work, shopping, school or recreation.
● Understand where else your customers shop and visit.
● Determine customer visits by weekday or weekend and time of day.
● Benchmark visitation data intel to understand key business drivers across the entire network and compare what successful stores look like.
● Determine marketing spend allocation to media, online, 3rd party signage and local marketing strategies.

3.  Identify network cannibalisation


If you operate a franchise or multi-store operation, there’s always a risk as the network grows that stores get closer to each other, and one store could cannibalise the sales from another one.

And if they’re too far apart, you could be missing out on a sales opportunity or potentially developing two stores in the area.

In an ideal world, you would optimise your network so that each store is the perfect distance from other stores. That location decision is now made much easier with GapMaps Live, using visitation data.

You can use visitation data to visualise the density of customers within the catchment areas of your existing locations and accurately determine whether there’s an opportunity to open new locations or whether it would be more profitable to consolidate.

You can minimise cannibalising your network and maximise your sales using visitation data to help answer these questions:

● What is the estimated percentage and dollar value impact on an existing store if a new store is opened nearby?
● Is there overlap across my existing stores and potential consolidation opportunities?
● What is the average drive time distance between stores to minimise impact?
● Should a store be company owned or allocated to a franchisee, and if it is a franchisee, then which franchisee should be offered the store?

4. Gain a competitive advantage


One of the strongest capabilities of visitation data is its ability to provide actual people movement insights. By simply defining the boundaries you want to study of any site/store or precinct in GapMaps Live, you can get data on any location.

You can use visitation data to measure your own store performance by observing:

● What is the best location in the market and where are the white space opportunities, relative to your existing store network?
● Where are customers coming from and what are the major drivers of customer trips?

Naturally, you can also get all this information on your competitors’ stores which is a powerful strategy to seek a competitive advantage and respond strategically or tactically.

When you use this location intelligence to better understand and attract your ideal customers, you are proving the value of smart visitation data.

Curious to know how visitation data can help you? Let’s chat.

Anthony Villanti
Posted by Anthony Villanti

Managing Director & Founder

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