By Kyle Spinuzzi, Traffic Data Expert
Ask any large retailer about the most important factors that contribute to site selection, and "accurate traffic count data" will almost always make the top of their list. After all, understanding the amount and flow of vehicles passing by any prospective site is critical to success; those vehicles represent potential customers. Accurate, up-to-date traffic information provides insight into consumer movement patterns that can't be gained via traditional demographic statistics alone.
While traffic count data is an essential piece of the puzzle for retailers looking to invest in a new piece of land for a site build, other retailers with different needs can also benefit. For example, a commercial real estate company can use traffic count data for marketing properties. A tech company can integrate traffic data into its platform to model consumer behavior. Regardless of what they sell, retailers who can access detailed, accurate traffic counts can achieve their various business goals.
Not all Traffic Data Suppliers are Created Equal
Of course, you can't achieve any of your many goals if the data supplier you use is not able to reach your standards for accuracy and digestibility.
Did you know that most traffic data organizations do not update their count data on a regular basis? Some of these agencies may update only portions of data annually, while others could go years between updates. If all you are looking for is a single traffic count at a local intersection or the traffic count in front of your local competitor’s storefront, you can usually obtain that traffic count for free from your local government agency’s website.
When you access that free data, though, you are at the mercy of the agency's process, including how that process affects accuracy. The value of the information you can access truly depends on when the organization last collected and published the count. Some areas of the country might have traffic counts from the current year and some might be from five years ago.
What if you are looking to build a new business at the corner of 5th and Main, but the most recent traffic count is from 2007? Clearly, that count is no longer a useful piece of information now that it’s 2017. A successful user of traffic count data would ask for more: an estimate for the current state of traffic at 5th and Main.
If you are trying to collect traffic counts for an area larger than a zip code, you will likely run into the issue of each obtained file being in a different format. That's because there isn’t one universal traffic count format. In fact, some agencies (there are 6,000+ of them, by the way) may publish traffic count data in PDF format, while others may publish in a CSV file without latitude and longitude coordinates. This makes things difficult if you are trying to create a useful database of traffic counts, or if you're trying to extract deeper information that can assist in your decision making. It will be unattractive and cumbersome to assimilate all of the formats from varied agency sites into actionable insights.
Instead of tracking down these disparate formats and trying to make sense of them in order to find a valuable contribution to your retail initiative, consider partnering with a data provider that has expertise in translation. The type of partner you should invest in would offer data format standardization, geocoding and sorting. Further, they'd solve for your biggest pain, accuracy, via estimation capabilities.
Whether you are a large retailer looking to build your thousandth location or a mom-and-pop shop ready to expand across town, traffic data is a vital ingredient in the site location decision making process.
Read more about traffic counts and the Kalibrate database and process in our eBook on TrafficMetrix: