Geofencing: Guiding Main Street Decision-Making
October 27, 2022 | Keith Winge
There are countless decisions that Main Streets have to make throughout the year such as should we continue doing an event or how do we communicate the impact that this event has on the community and its businesses. Analyzing the effectiveness and impact of an event can be tricky because it requires the right data for Main Street’s board and staff to make informed decisions. Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street utilized geofencing to garner valuable data on the attendees of their largest event as their free technical service through Missouri Main Street Connection available to Accredited Main Street programs in Missouri.
Geofencing uses GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary enabling software to collect data when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area. Since geofencing is coming from cellphone data, it does not register anyone that is not carrying a cellphone or has GPS location services off. In Main Street applications, geofencing is used to create a boundary around the Main Street district or specific area of downtown to gather information about those visiting the district. This is a technological upgrade from zip code surveys where Main Street businesses and Main Street event volunteers ask visitors for their zip codes in order to track where visitors are from. Geofencing now allows this to be done in the background. While geofencing registers mobile devices that enter or leave the selected area, it only denotes general information from the mobile device, but not any identifying data. Instead demographic information is viewed from primary trade areas that represent areas where a significant number of attendees visited from.
Missouri Main Street Connection worked with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street to gather demographic information with a third-party company on those that attended one of their largest events, Downtown Days. This is a three-day event that the Main Street leadership believed attracted thousands of attendees, however they never had a good way to measure if it was true. They also thought they knew what cities many of the attendees were from, but it was only a guess. Through the use of geofencing they would have solid data to turn there guesses into an understanding of the demographic profile of those in attendance and to measure the number of attendees to better measure the impact of this event.
The third-party company collected the information from a map and boundary of the festival grounds that they determined with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street. The company also collected data from the weekend following the festival from the determined boundary to include in the data set to compare to a standard three-day period for reference.
From the data collected during Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street’s Downtown Days, almost 65,000 people attended the festival. The geofencing company used the criterion “register devices that have remained in the geofenced area for seven or more minutes” to ensure that the data collected was an accurate reflection of event attendance and not simply people driving through the map. Below is a heat map showing where people gathered within the festival grounds once they entered the festival.
The map below is a visual reorientation of the data collected based on attendee’s location of origin that shows the Downtown Days event draws people from as far away as Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and Nebraska. St. Louis, Des Moines, and Springfield were three metro areas that also showed a high volume of attendees that originated from there. Of course, most of the attendees were from the Kansas City metro area. This information will help determine marketing and advertising for the event in future years.
The two charts below showed what times garnered the most traffic and how long people stayed within the festival grounds, which was on average 116 minutes.
The data goes on to share demographic and market information for the typical attendee based upon where they are from. This information provides an insight into the spending habits and purchasing power of this group. The data dives into median household size, household income, age, gender, and race/ethnicity. All the information that was provided through this geofencing technical service will provide a guide for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street to better understand the attendees for their event, help determine future programming and advertising for the event, inform vendors about traffic counts that allow them to stock enough product, and to manage public safety procedures for the crowd size.
If you are interested in geofencing your Main Street district or festival grounds, please reach out to Keith Winge, Missouri Main Street Connection’s State Community Development Director for more information.