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Different Traffic, Different Trends

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | October 25, 2022
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Measuring modes of transport for consumer behavior can enhance business outreach!

Traffic counts are drivers that set a majority of development decisions for many lifestyle businesses over the 1980s and 1990s. Finding a big highway with a lot of traffic volume enticed certain types of developers to plop down a strip mall, fast food franchise, or big box. As the ability to collect data improved, so did our understanding of different types of traffic, and how traffic types influenced both consumer behavior and business best practices. Data platforms have allowed communities to determine unique consumer traffic qualities for their town, and communicate that information to businesses to convert traffic into sales.

Emporia Main Street has engaged a new consumer data platform that can allow access to customer traffic information, basic demographics, psychographics, and market opportunities. In conjunction with solid design, great products/service, and effective promotional strategies, the new platform can help businesses evolve their concepts. Over the next several months, we will dive more deeply into actionable data, but for today, let’s concentrate on traffic patterns.

When it comes to transportation measures, we are really looking at the following modes people use within the context of “getting to work”. The categories are: Drive alone, carpool, walk, work at home, public transport, bicycle, and “other”. Here’s how we stack up in the realm of how we travel in town compared to comparable averages:

Drive alone- Slightly below the national average, but still by far the most popular way to travel to work in Emporia. This mode of transportation to work represents 74.21% of work travel.

Carpool- Well above the national average. Of all the transportation types measured, carpooling ranked number two from a positive outlier perspective. Carpooling represents 13.26% of local work travel.

Walked- This transport type ranked number one for positive outliers, and it wasn’t really close. We have a lot of people living within walking distance of their place of work, and they take advantage of that proximity. A contingent of 5.78% of the local population walks to work.

Work at home- Slightly below average- 4.5% of locals work from home.

Public transport- We know we have a lot of people that use public transport for necessities, but we rank well below average for use of public transport for work. Less than 1% (.85%) use public transport as their primary transport to work.

Bicycle- As one might expect in a community of cyclists, we are well above average in cycling to work. Bicycle as a mode of transport to work ranked sixth in the most popular way to travel to work, but was third among positive outliers. Less than 1% (.75%) bike to work.

“Other”– For all other forms of transportation we scored well below the national average. Less than 1% (.67%) use “other transportation modes.

So, what does that mean and why does that matter? Understanding how people move around the city is important to help us develop strategies to attract and retain customers. Carpooling workers are difficult to attract consistently to most environments because everyone in the carpool needs to agree to visit a location outside of work. Quick lunch options, marketing your establishment as the “official after work” stop, or emphasizing online orders with in-store pickup may allow you to intermittently attract carpool customers.

For every other type of travel, attracting customers can boil down to a few basic strategies:

  1. Third space creation.- Social media platforms and pandemic restrictions have contributed to a social system disconnect in many populations. The calibration of your business as a “third space” helps draw in consumers more consistently and generates loyalty. Have you ever heard a customer refer to your place of business as their “happy place”? Have you listened as a group of customers talk about a store/restaurant/bar as “ours”? Those are third spaces. If your business is set up and your employees are conditioned to get people into and out of your business as quickly as possible, you probably aren’t a third space. Interactive amenities, warm greetings, the ability to converse on non-sales related topics (but still within your category of expertise), “monument” items that start conversations and more help your business entice drive alone, walk, work at home, or cyclists.
  2. Cooperative engagement.-  If people are walking, you are more likely to capture their customer traffic if they are aware of several things to do within the walkable area. While businesses are tired of getting hit up for donations every, single, day… Your business can cooperate with nonprofits that closely align with your business strategy to develop mutually beneficial activities (not just donating cash). You can work with other immediate businesses in the area to generate shopping or service nodes. Basically, think about shared opportunities to give people multiple experiences once they choose to stop. 
  3. Passive market presence.- I know we emphasize business windows and external display A LOT, but the data shows low speed consumer traffic in many areas that could be attracted into businesses given the correct window display strategy and exterior decor. It is difficult for some consumers to feel like they are “invited” into your place of business. Creating a storefront that generates engagement and crystalizes what you do can help generate a passive market strategy that pulls in-town travelers to your business more consistently.
  4. Top of mind awareness.- Car travel is still king, and you have multiple outlets, both in traditional radio and through music apps, to reach customers. Some employers have community boards for your in-house events, spots for menus (with QR codes for online ordering), or desktop advertising options to push messaging concerning who you are and what you do. Your strategy to reach your target market needs to go well beyond social media and hope to achieve resonance. 
  5. In business store design.- It may sound strange, but your business design can either make you money or lose sales for your business. Remember that people make up their mind about your business within the first ten seconds of hitting your door. People naturally look to their right as they enter, and that space should have your “signature”, high margin, or memorable items. Stimulating all senses (positively) with sights, sounds, and smells is important to setting the spending mindset. A tired storefront can reduce your energy and demotivate your consumer. A proper design can enhance sales, encourage exploration, and generate positive word of mouth.

There are some general inferences we can make through community and regional market data. Emporia Main Street staff worked hard to find resources to fund a data platform that can get much more specific for your business. Staff is conducing business “check ups” right now that can asses the types of information, resources, and strategies that can help your business grow. If you would like to schedule a free checkup, please contact Emporia Main Street. Our organization is working hard to develop the tools you need to succeed.

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.

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