4 MINUTE READ
Monetizing Traffic Counts
Vehicle traffic is key to a successful retail location. However, not all traffic is created equal. Commuters, lunch crowds, and weekend shoppers all consume products and services in different ways. You need traffic data that is accurate and detailed enough to identify different groups of customers so you can make decisions accordingly.
We have been helping businesses find and understand traffic counts for years, and we’re excited to share the methods we’ve discovered to getting the most value out of your traffic counts.
1. Know your average daily traffic
The industry standard Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) shows the typical vehicle traffic per day in front of your location.
Knowing AADT is like knowing the number of residents in your market. You must be aware of this number to understand your maximum customer reach. If 100% of the customers who drove past your business stopped and spent $10, how much money would you make per day? Would it cover your daily costs? If you can’t cover your costs with every single vehicle stopping and spending money (which is highly unlikley to happen), you probably shouldn’t locate along that road.
Of course, not everyone will stop. You’ll want to know the percentage of total residents in your target market that fit your expected demographic and are interested in purchasing what you have to sell. In most cases, you can multiply this percentage by your average daily traffic and get a rough estimate of how many vehicles will stop to visit you per day. (Highways and large arterial roads should be excluded from this method since they carry through-traffic from further away). Alternatively, if you have existing locations then you can build a model from average daily traffic and demand at those sites to your metrics on number of customers per day, and apply the model to traffic at a new location.
2. Reach your customers at the right time of day
Most experts will tell you that AADT is only the beginning of the story.
Let’s consider a scenario. Say you’re opening a coffee shop for morning commuters and are looking for a heavily trafficked street to locate on. You look around and finally find a strong prospect with 12,000 vehicles per day. It’s priced right and seems to be in good condition! Great location, right?
Well, maybe. Those 12k vehicles could be evenly spread throughout the day, cutting the morning traffic down to three thousand. Still not bad, but thorough consideration of traffic at other locations may show that while another location has a lower AADT, morning traffic counts are higher than three thousand elsewhere. Furthermore, since the average daily count is lower at our hypothetical comparable location, rent may be lower as well because marketers can’t use it as a strong selling point. Without time of day counts, you might miss out on a great deal that would have netted you more customers because you didn’t fully understand your location’s morning traffic. And of course, this example can apply to other times of day as well. That’s why we recommend time of day vehicle traffic counts in addition to AADT.
3. Be on the best side of the street
Let’s continue with the coffee shop example. You found a location with high morning traffic counts. Great! But we’re not done yet; you need to know side of street traffic before you can nail this one down. Morning commuters generally head in one direction: toward work. Often this is toward an urban area, away from residential areas. If you’ve choosen the wrong side of the street, you’re erecting a huge obstacle between yourself and your customers. For your customers to reach you, they must:
- See your sign from across a busy road.
- Navigate into the turn lane.
- Wait until they can cross the street. This may involve going through a light (potentially waiting through several light changes), oncoming traffic, pedestrians, or otherwise backing up the traffic behind them.
- Cross the street, sometimes requiring a U-turn that causes them to go backwards – AWAY from their final destination.
- Pull into your lot, buy your delicious coffee, leave.
- Turn out of your lot and make their way back to the other lane (with all the same barriers).
- Finally continue on their path to work.
We’ll tell you right now: that’s a lot of effort for a $3 cup of coffee! Instead of causing that collective hassle and inefficiency, you should instead aim to be on the same side of the street as your customers from day one.
Last thought here – if you’re a coffee shop on the wrong side of the street, and a competitor moves in on the right side of the street, you’re in for a difficult fight. Nip that one in the bud if you can.
4. Compare weekdays to weekends
AADT only provides an average between weekdays and weekends. Again as a coffee shop, you’ve decided your target audience will be morning commuters. Do you think they’ll be driving by on weekend mornings, when they’d rather be sleeping in, eating brunch at a local diner, and spending time with their families? You’re going to spend a lot of time, energy, and money developing your brand as a stop for morning commuters. This is a competitive segment and if you’re on a road better suited for weekend warriors, then you’re not reaching the audience for whom you are spending valuable ad dollars. Day of week traffic counts will help you distinguish between these segments.
5. Use high-quality, recent data
Most public counts track average annual daily traffic, but not side of street, day of week, or time of day traffic counts. However, with the advent of mobile location tracking technology stronger traffic data sets are emerging across the industry. For instance, our data tabulates from 300 million devices and vehicles across 1.8 million roads throughout the United States.
If you’re not careful, you can accidentally make decisions based on severely outdated information. Most public and private traffic data providers include counts up to a decade old. Let us remind you that a decade ago the iPhone first launched, the housing bubble was approaching its zenith, and George W. Bush was still president! INRIX, on the other hand, only uses data from within the last three years, and metropolitan areas tend to have much more recent counts because more devices and vehicles are being tracked every day.
One final point to consider when assessing data is that the methodology for counting traffic has changed significantly over the last few decades. Historically, counts would be taken by someone standing on a corner for eight hours with a clicker and notepad. Over time that transformed into a rubber tube laid on a road for a couple days that increments a digital count when a set of tires rolls over it. Now with device and vehicle location tracking, we have 24/7 digital counts every week of the year, often along with origin and destination statistics. Which method would you trust most?
6. Compare several locations
As we mentioned above, you might come across a location that looks like it has a lot of traffic due to high average daily counts, but which won’t put you in front of the right consumers depending on time of day, side of street, or day of week. There are also different kinds of roads that urban planners use when drawing up plans for cities. Highway traffic is very different from traffic on a local residential road. You might find that being a community staple on the only road out of a neighborhood suits you better than sitting in a large shopping center off a busy highway.
IdealSpot Vehicle Traffic Reports
That’s a lot of information to consider. Not only do you have to find clean, high-quality, up-to-date data, but you have to find counts for every time of day, day of week, and side of street for any location you’re interested in!
Fortunately, we at IdealSpot have already solved these problems for you. Our vehicle traffic reports include Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT), Day of Week, Time of Day, and Side of Street traffic using the most up-to-date traffic counts. You can also compare up to 10 other roads in one report.
The data we provide normally costs large brands hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to access, let alone visualize and digest.