Measuring the Local Consumer Drive Radius: 17 Minutes

BL infographic-6501Local SEO firm BrightLocal has published the findings of a US survey (n=800) about consumer willingness to drive to local businesses. The firm found, “The average time that a consumer is willing to travel to a local business is 17 minutes.”

This is broadly consistent with the persistent anecdotal assertion that most of US consumer spending happens within 15 – 20 miles from home. The survey asked consumers how far they were willing to drive in each of 13 local business categories:

  1. Restaurant/cafe
  2. General Shop
  3. Clothes Shop
  4. Doctor/Dentist
  5. Pub/Bar
  6. Gym/sports club
  7. Specialist Shop (e.g. bike shop)
  8. Garage/car dealer
  9. Hair salon
  10. Yoga class/alternative therapy
  11. Wedding shop/venue
  12. Realtor/surveyor
  13. Accountant/solicitor

There were some differences by gender, age and category. Below are the category averages: driving distance by time. But assume that time and miles here are roughly equivalent.

Drive time to local businesses

The immediate marketing implications are somewhat obvious: SMBs don’t advertise to people more than about 20 minutes away. The caveat is that people’s attitudes and behavior may be different. Someone may be willing to drive a longer distance based on the reputation of the business or an available discount, for example.

Restaurants may also be a unique case as well because travelers and tourists often look for restaurants in cities they’re visiting.

On the PC this implicates zip or post-code level targeting. In mobile it implicates geofencing if we’re talking about real-time targeting. The mobile scenario is somewhat more complex.

As a basic matter, campaign data from JiWire and YP has shown that geotargeted mobile ads appear to be most effective when they’re served 1 and 2 miles from a business location. Yet this is a very broad generalization.

Mobile ad targeting is evolving, especially when it comes to location. It is to some degree moving away from pure geofencing to something more nuanced that includes audience identification and targeting. Location is increasingly being used as a “behind the scenes” tool to discover audience behavior and affinities rather than a real-time targeting methodology.

Regardless, the BrightLocal consumer survey data appear to confirm the conventional wisdom about consumer drive-time and distance tolerances.

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3 Responses to “Measuring the Local Consumer Drive Radius: 17 Minutes”

  1. myles says at

    Hi Greg – thanks for picking up this survey & great to know that it falls in line with other data out there on the topic.

    A number of people have asked us why we used ‘Time’ & not ‘Distance’ as the metric. Thought i’d answer that in case any of your readers have the same question. The reason is 2 fold – 

    1. people usually reference how to get somewhere based on time taken as it’s easy for others to grasp – 15 mins means a lot more than 8 miles

    2. distances have greater variation in cities vs rural areas. Travelling 10 miles across New York to visit a Gym might take you an hour, but 10 miles in a small town would take you 10 minutes

    Thanks Greg

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Agree with your time analysis. Interesting material Myles.

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  7. Bob Czubiak says at

    Good point here. My brother is a dentist and he is 25 min from my house when there is no traffic. When I recommend friends to see him and I mention the city, they question the distance. But when I tell them it’s only 25 min away they are generally ok with that. 

    A 17 minute drive on city streets here in Los Angeles can often get you 4-5 miles!

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