When marketing a local business it can be difficult to judge how far you should extend your catchment area for attracting new customers. Small businesses neither have the time nor the resources to waste on targeting consumers who may not consider them local enough to be a viable business for them to use.

It’s more beneficial to target those consumers in your immediate area, but how do we know how far is too far for a local business? Just how ‘local’ do you need to be to attract new customers?

Enlisting the help of our US consumer panel we put this single, simple question to them:

How much time are you prepared to drive for to visit a local business?

We presented the panel with 13 business categories and asked them to enter a driving time against each category.  We had over 800 responses (all US based) to the poll and the answers are displayed & analyzed below.

Select Business Categories

With literally hundreds of Business Categories & Sub-Categories in existence we needed to condense these down to a manageable amount so respondents could complete the survey easily, and so the results could be easily reported.

We selected 13 sample categories which cover the majority of industries & sectors. If you don’t see your specific category then you you should be able to find a category that share similar traits & customer profiles with yours – e.g. ‘Specialist shop’ could be a bike shop or computer store, or for an Osteopath you can equate yourself to ‘Doctor / Dentist’.

Restaurant / CaféGeneral Shop
Clothes ShopDoctor / Dentist
Pub / Bar (don't drink & drive folks!)Gym/Sports Club
Specialist Shop (e.g. bike shop)Garage / Car Dealer
Hair / Beauty SalonYoga Class /Alternative Therapies
Wedding Shop / VenueRealtor / Surveyor
Accountant / Solicitor

How long would you consider driving to a local business?

There have 4 charts below which present the findings of this question and provide some interesting demographic splits.

But rather than just present the data in a bunch of charts we decided to create a simple, clear infographic which shows the key findings. This is our first-ever infographic and we’re rather proud of it! So please feel free to borrow & embed into your own blogs & presentations.

Driving Times to Local Businesses Infographic

Driving times – All Respondents

Driving times to local business

Key Findings:

  • Customers will drive further to a wedding shop than other local business categories
  • Customers will drive a shorter distance in search of leisure pursuits (eg. pub, gym, yoga)

Analysis:

A wedding is for many people a once in a lifetime event, so local businesses offering wedding related products or services can expect to attract customers from further afield.

Local leisure services such as gyms, sports clubs, yoga class, pubs & bars are considered less essential and will therefore struggle to attract as much business from outside the immediate local area.

Essential medical services such as a Doctors or Dentists will attract customers from further away. Interestingly clothes shops feature highly – possibly down to the personal nature of the product – consumers are far more particular the clothes they wear compared to say the items they may find in a general store.

How far will different age groups travel to a local business?

Age groups travel to local business

 Key Findings:

  • Very little change in habits depending on age
  • Local business attraction has less to do with age and more to do with habits / preferences

Analysis:

It’s clear that overall, age doesn’t play a big part in the decision process. The average time that a consumer is willing to travel to a local business is 17 minutes and this has little change depending on age groups.

However, there is a slight change with the types of local businesses that those of different age groups will travel to. The categories of local businesses that showed the biggest differences in travel time are shown below:

Travel to business vs age range

Key Findings:

  • Younger age groups will travel for longer to visit a local wedding shop / venue
  • Older age groups will travel for longer to visit an accountant / solicitor

Analysis:

There are two types of local businesses that produced notably different results for different age groups; Wedding shops and Accountant / Solicitors.

This may be more of a reflection on the importance of these two ‘events’. In 2009, the average age of people when they first marry was 27.9 (US), so it stands to reason that this age group would typically treat it as more of a special occasion.

It’s more difficult to suggest that one age group uses an accountant or solicitor more than another, but there is evidence to suggest that older customers will certainly travel for longer to visit one.

How long men / women will drive for to get to a local business

Whilst women will generally drive for a longer time to visit a local business (women = 17 mins men = 16 mins), there is very little difference overall. However, there are types of local businesses where there is a clear difference in preferred travel time between men and women:

Driving time to local business vs gender

Key Findings:

  • Women are more willing to drive for longer to visit a local business that interests them
  • Men will travel further to reach a specialist shop, accountant, pub or gym
  • Women will travel further to reach a local clothes shop, car dealer, realtor, general shop, hair salon or yoga class

Analysis:

There are 4 types of local businesses that demonstrate the biggest differences in terms of gender – and in all 4 it is women who would drive for the longest.

Women would travel on average:

  • 5 minutes longer to visit a local wedding shop
  • 4 minutes longer in to visit a local clothes shop
  • 5 minutes longer to visit a local hair / beauty salon
  • 3 minutes longer for local yoga class / alternative therapies

Although the majority of the differences are marginal, it does demonstrate that men and women view different local businesses with varying importance levels.


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