What SXSW Foot Traffic Data Means for Location & Event Marketers

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One of the most talked-about festivals of the year, South by Southwest draws a crowd of influencers from around the globe. With almost a half million people visiting Austin during this year’s 10-day event, marketers used new and innovative ways to draw attention to their brands.

Data scientists at the local programmatic advertising platform Simpli.fi went one step further, putting the company’s geo-fencing technology to work by capturing a dynamic audience of users and analyzing foot traffic patterns during SXSW’s film, interactive, and music festivals.

Using the company’s Event Targeting solution, Simpli.fi created geo-fences around Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Austin Convention Center, where most of the Interactive Festival events took place this year. The company also set up geo-fences around registration for all events. Simpli.fi also hand-selected popular venues from SXSW’s film and music festivals for its analysis, with the goal of identifying the most attended programs based on the highest increases in foot traffic across the course of the event.

Simpli.fi’s team began capturing user locations one week before each festival in order to show the lift in user traffic and continued for the duration of the event through March 18.

The results? According to Simpli.fi’s analysis, the largest increase in foot traffic at the Austin Convention Center came late afternoon on March 12. A notable happening during that timeframe included a session with Rian Johnson, director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“Forty years after the first film, Star Wars is still drawing in the crowds,” says Ryan Horn, vice president of marketing at Simpli.fi.

Simpli.fi found that the three busiest days at the Austin airport were March 12, 13, and 14, although this was likely due to the overlap between the film, interactive, and music festivals. The largest increase in mobile users at the airport was March 14, when there was a 25% increase in users over the average day in Simpli.fi’s analysis.

“This was interesting to us because we expected a more consistent increase in foot traffic during the whole event,” Horn says.

Over at the Austin Convention Center, Simpli.fi found the greatest increase in foot traffic on March 14, followed by March 13 and March 12, the same time period when all three festivals were going on.

Simpli.fi’s analysis shows the role that timing plays in creating effective mobile marketing campaigns. It could also help marketers uncover hidden opportunities to reach targeted groups of consumers at next year’s SXSW event. 

For example, there was a 27% increase in users seen at the airport between March 11 and 12. The airport saw the most users at the wrap of the interactive portion of SXSW, indicating that the Interactive Festival drew more out-of-town attendees than other SXSW festivals.

Looking forward to next year, Horn says marketers for music festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo could build custom audiences of music lovers at specific stages during SXSW, reaching out to those audiences with mobile advertising related to their upcoming events.

“Major events with large crowds of people who share a common interest happen every day,” Horn says. “Sporting events, music festivals, political conventions, trade shows — all are picture-perfect targeting opportunities for marketers to build a custom audience chock-full of their ideal consumers.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.