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What NYC Retail Traffic Patterns Mean for Media Delivery

Peak retail spending traditionally happens during the holiday shopping season, but the January sales period is an important time for retailers, as well. In an effort to learn more about shopper behaviors and patterns during this important time, the data science team at the mobile location firm Blis analyzed post-holiday foot traffic patterns at Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, and Lord & Taylor in New York City.

“Like Black Friday, it’s a time of year retailers still pin their hopes on for increased foot traffic and in-store sales,” said Michael Buttigieg, senior sales director at Blis. “In-store visitors are more likely to be in-store spenders. But there’s also a tendency to wield ad budgets as a blunt weapon during the period with TV & OOH campaigns pushing the same message to everyone.”

Blis’ study, which was conducted over the course of a week in January, monitored devices that were detected at Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, and Lord & Taylor stores in New York City. The greatest amount of foot traffic was seen at Macy’s, and the smallest amount of foot traffic was seen at Lord & Taylor.

Given Macy’s’ prime location in Herald Square, placed between a number of subway stations and marketed as an international tourist destination, the fact that it came out on top in terms of foot traffic is not a surprise. But raw foot traffic numbers weren’t what the team at Blis was really looking at.

In tracking foot traffic at Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, and Lord & Taylor, Buttigieg said the goal was to show retailers how they can be smarter and more effective in audience segmentation and marketing. That meant digging into the foot traffic data and segmenting specific audiences using location technology.

“Once you’re in possession of clean, accurate, trustworthy location data—including GPS, beacons, and WiFi—you can set the system in such a way to identify previously hard-to-define consumers,” Buttigieg said.

Monitoring device IDs after in-store visits, Blis was able to determine whether shoppers had visited local schools during traditional school hours or exclusively during school pick-up and drop-off times. This allowed Blis to pinpoint which consumers fell into the “students” and “parents” categories.

Audience breakdown within those targeted groups was very different than among the general population. Although Macy’s still came out on top among students, it was Lord & Taylor that took the top spot among parents in Blis’ analysis. According to the data, Lord & Taylor indexed with the most parents, with a 71% share.

One group of consumers was not valued as more relevant than the other, but Blis’ analysis was designed to show retailers and brands the importance of using targeting in marketing and advertising campaigns.

“With talk of a retail apocalypse, brick-and-mortar stores need to work harder than ever to keep drawing their customers through the door, and their wider movement habits are key identifiers, ready and waiting to be utilized,” Buttigieg said.

Location data can be used to extrapolate more than whether consumers fall into the “parent” or “student” demographics. Buttigieg said a common request among Blis customers is to target specific managers, such as IT staff working on Wall Street. In that case, specifically, Blis has been able to set its system up to cross-reference devices connected to office WiFi on Wall Street with those seen at IT conferences in order to pinpoint IT staffers working on Wall Street.

Another example Buttigieg mentioned is new mothers. An infant CPG brand could market a formula to moms with two-month olds, but not older babies, by relying on time-stamping devices that show up in prenatal centers and then paying attention to when those consumers started visiting Baby Gap stores and nurseries. Equipped with this information, the brand could determine what type of infant formula to recommend to the consumers in question.

While Blis’ most recent analysis looked strictly at foot traffic in New York City, the company says trends that start in the city can still be extrapolated. National retailers with local stores can learn from Blis’ foot traffic data as they plan their next campaigns.

“Location and audience movement data is here to stay and marketers are more aware of the opportunities it affords than ever,” Buttigieg said. “We hope they continue to push the sophistication of their movement data usages and start to look beyond mere geo-fencing that assumes everyone visiting their store is the same customer type.”

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