August 13, 2015 Jason Khoo

Utilizing Google to Access Competitor’s Customer Traffic

On July 28th, Google announced yet another update to its search engine app, by rolling out a functionality that allows users and customers to see how busy a business is. The update is geared towards helping users identify not only the best place to go, but also if that potential location is too crowded, or in some cases not crowded enough (i.e: Bars, clubs, etc).

CheckingCustomerTrafficToABusiness | Ron Wave Design

The update is really geared towards customers and users, however for businesses it offers a valuable tool in learning more about the local market. Obviously certain trends will be seen throughout you and your competitors, for example, Friday and Saturday nights are usually a busy time for restaurants. What businesses should look out for is if their competition is having a large inflow of customers at a certain time, when no other competitor is.

This allows for further research into why this might be happening. Business owners could then look if the restaurant is running a promotion at that time or if a local organization has a partnership, sending in customers. The thing to remember is that the the charts shown are NOT based on searches, but actual physical visits to the location.

One thing to note though that the information is aggregated by Google users. Thus, the information may be skewed because its not tracking all the iPhone users who may not be using Google on their phones.

How to Use the Google Update to Your Advantage

Using the tool isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially because the feature is ONLY available for mobile devices. So the only way to access the data is to search on your mobile browser and then you will have to screenshot the data. There isn’t an option to download the chart or raw data. Why there isn’t a button? My hypothesis is because that would be too easy and Google wants us to work 10x harder than needed to keep us on our toes. In all seriousness, it is most likely for privacy reasons.

Once you have got all the screenshots you needed, upload them to your computer and from here you can start constructing your analysis.

There is a number of ways to do this, you can either just set the charts side by side for comparison, or if you have the technical know how, you could also overlay them. (Note: You will have to lower the opacity and then color code, again you will need some technical knowledge to do this) At the end of the day, because Google doesn’t allow you to download any raw data, you will have to be creative with how you set up your models.

Here is an example of how we set up an analysis for one of our clients. We used Photoshop to do this, but there is a number of ways to do this. (If you’d like a PDF version we have it available as well)

GoogleUpdateCustomerTrafficModel | Ron Wave Design

Results

You can see with the analysis above that certain patterns and holes do exist. For example, here are some conclusions that you can quickly see:

  • Business 4 seems to be performing poorly on Sunday afternoon to night in addition to Tuesday night.
  • Business 1 seems to have a much higher traffic count in the morning compared to the other competitors.  From here, a business can investigate why this may be happening and try to cover ground.
  • Business 3 is suffering on Thursdays

Taking it from here

Immediately do a check on your mobile device to see if your business has the data. If it does, plan on making some screenshots and uploading them to your computer. Select some of the competitors and go ahead and start comparing.

If you want to just understand the update a little better, here is an explanatory post.

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About the Author

Jason Khoo Jason is a graduate from California State University Fullerton's Mihaylo Marketing program. Starting his career in marketing consultancy as a sophomore, Jason went door to door asking businesses to give him a chance. From then on, Jason has been helping businesses understanding the vast bevy of marketing and online tools to help accomplish business goals on behalf of his clients. Jason writes at Ron Wave Design, his personal site and at medium (@jasonjkhoo).
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