In this Sponsors in Action series, we’re highlighting Buxton, a UNITE sponsor who developed a Consumer Impact Dashboard for the city of Brookings, South Dakota.
Brookings, South Dakota, has a unique demographic makeup. Home of South Dakota State University, nearly half of the community’s population, which numbers more than 25,000, is made up of students. It is the epitome of a college town. But more than that, it is also a highly entrepreneurial community. As the second largest employer of manufacturing – second only to Sioux Falls, which is the largest Metro and employment center in South Dakota – Brookings has a vibrant economy and was named the 16th best performing micropolitan in the country in 2020. The Brookings Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) partnered with Buxton to better understand how their thriving community had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the national economic crisis caused by COVID-19, one of the most important questions for which Brookings needed an answer was which local business categories have struggled and which have thrived during the pandemic. Brookings needed a solution to track the level of consumer activity at local businesses to help inform sales revenue projections. Understanding trends in consumer traffic would not only help keep the community informed, but it would also empower local leaders to make decisions to maintain the economic success that they had achieved over the past few years.
In response to COVID-19, Buxton developed the Consumer Impact Dashboard, which provides a window into local consumer behavior trends by business type and by consumer type. The release of this dashboard garnered the attention of the BEDC.
Believing it important to be open and honest with the residents of Brookings about the impact of COVID-19, the BEDC – together with the city, the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Brookings Convention and Visitors Bureau – developed the concept “together Brookings.” This then led to the development of the website togetherbrookings.com, which leverages the data from the Consumer Impact Dashboard.
Togetherbrookings.com tracks employment, construction, and sales revenue, as well as provides updates on local prevention efforts to keep the community informed. BEDC also identified four key business categories – restaurants, grocery stores, general merchandising, and building materials – that are updated each week using the consumer behavior trend graphs from the dashboard, which “shows how residents are responding to the city ordinance and to COVID-19 in general,” says the BEDC Marketing Director, Kristi Larsen.
Tracking consumer activity is made easier with the trend graphs featured in the Consumer Impact Dashboard, which are both quick and easy to understand. Rather than rely on delayed sales revenue data or anecdotal accounts about how the parking lot of Lowe’s seems busier than normal or how downtown seems empty, Brookings can use powerful visuals to answer important questions about consumer activity.
As expected, grocery stores and general merchandising – both essential business categories – have done well. What Brookings didn’t expect was the success of building materials and supply stores, which have seen a significant spike in activity during the pandemic with sales up 11%.
“The dashboard supports our conclusions that there has definitely been increased activity at Lowe’s and the sales tax show that as well. Plus, it’s important,” said Larsen, “because building materials and supplies accounts for a good percentage of our overall retail sales revenue.” Insights such as these help Brookings during the immediate crisis but also prepare for the months ahead.
Since 1994, Buxton has provided big answers for retailers and communities. Our insights go beyond broad demographics, drilling down to the household level to give local government officials the clearest picture of their communities.
Buxton was well-positioned to help Brookings find the answers they needed thanks to a unique combination of data and technology. Not only does Buxton have access to robust mobile GPS datasets that are updated daily, but we also have proprietary processes to cleanse the data and make it useful for analysis. When this data is combined with our household level insights, it gives communities unique insights into the consumer dynamics of their local market. All of this data is combined in Buxton’s Consumer Impact Dashboard, which allows communities to benchmark consumer traffic volumes by business category, brand, and/or consumer segment so they can make more informed tax revenue projections and keep a pulse on the health of the local economy.