If you read our recent white paper, you know how we feel about building accurate trade areas: It’s a critical step, but many traditional site selection methods and tools work against you during this phase of planning.
Today, we’re going to talk about a related, often-overlooked issue that could be impacting the precision of your trade areas: geographic barriers.
Are Geographic Barriers Influencing Your Decisions?
When you rely on drive times and radius rings for retail trade area analysis, there’s no easy way to account for natural elements like rivers and mountains or manmade hurdles like eight-lane highways. Yet these factors can significantly impact the success of your sites.
Unless your brand is a destination itself—few truly are—people aren’t likely to cross bridges, deserts or medians to get to your locations. Such obstacles present both physical and psychological barriers that traditional methods can’t account for.
How Can You Tell if Barriers are Impacting a Location?
The impacts of physical barriers are tricky, but not impossible, to predict. Unless you have the budget and resources to devote three to four days of on-site traffic counting at each potential location, there’s no way to know with 100% certainty how many customers are coming to the area. Even then, you can’t really know how they got there or what might be influencing them on those particular days.
A spatial analytics tool will allow you to get a more complete picture of these driving behaviors.
By reviewing traffic history and GPS trip data, you can see how many people go to a particular location and at what times of day (and days of the week) they travel there. You might learn, for instance, that people from a specific neighborhood—such as one filled with commuters—regularly drive over a bridge and back, while those from all other neighborhoods tend to stay on the side where they live. Or that a park stops people in their tracks, making your location an inconvenient destination for your target customers. Or that the proposed closure of part of a roadway will decrease access dramatically.
Study Your Trade Areas. Know Your Trade Areas.
Changing existing habits is much harder (and more expensive) than determining who’s already coming to your trade area. Before you settle on a site or start to market an existing one, study trip data to find out how people move around the trade area—or if they even drive there in the first place.
For example, one eSite client was recently considering a new location on a peninsula. While it would have seemed to be an ideal spot based on a typical radius ring, our analysis helped reveal that very few people actually travel to the location on a day-to-day basis.
Wondering How Your Trade Areas Are Being Impacted by Barriers?
Stay tuned! Next up, we’ll sharing how one brand was able to avoid a costly location mistake—one that traditional radius rings would have completely missed.