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Circle Case study

How Westminster Council use mobile footfall data for evidence-led decision-making

Harnessing the council-wide power of mobile footfall data

The challenge

In 2020, Westminster Council became the first local authority to acquire mobile footfall data as a means for evidence-led decision making. The Council is using it to monitor footfall in the city across time and space, analysing associated geodemographic information to differentiate between the activity of residents, workers and visitors.

The data has an exciting range of potential uses. But using such a large dataset posed a technological challenge. Working with CACI, the Westminster City Council team, led by Research and Intelligence Analyst Dr Curtis Horne, has begun to generate insights for different departments across the council.

The approach

Curtis Horne explains:

We have been getting our heads round how to use this massive resource for the first time – having access to millions of rows of data is a huge amount in comparison to datasets we’ve previously worked with.

The anonymised, aggregated and GDPR compliant mobile footfall dataset provides demographic insight, with estimated home location data. This has helped Curtis and his team analyse residents, business users and visitors from outside Westminster.

The outputs

Curtis Horne describes a recent project: “We’ve been monitoring changes in footfall relative to pre-COVID levels at different locations throughout Westminster, both in the interest of public safety and economic recovery. We can see, at a top level, how different demographic groups are returning and how their behaviour is changing, including tourists.

The data reveals new opportunities and relevant audiences.

Working with our Campaigns and Communications team, we’ve been encouraging households to come back to the West End for Covid-secure leisure and dining outdoors. We identified consumers with the means to do this but whose footfall has been below average recently. The #SightseeCrowdFree social media ad campaign in August used Acorn to target the Home Counties to resume their spending in the Westminster area, to help our hospitality businesses recover.

Curtis and his team measured a 50% uplift in visitor footfall from the target areas, compared to uplift from other London boroughs of just 10%. “We could show we had spent wisely on the campaign, using a targeted approach to reach the right audience and achieve a good return. Going forward, we believe campaign recipients will be more satisfied with our communication, because they’re receiving tailored and relevant information.”

During the pandemic restrictions, Westminster City Council has also used footfall data to review the flow of pedestrians and traffic around the borough. Responding to patterns of travel and behaviour, the Council has been able to apply effective social distancing barriers and direction systems on the streets, to keep visitors, workers and residents safe.

The benefits

What does the data deliver? Curtis Horne says: “The dashboard we’ve created gives people across the Council an easy and relevant way to understand sophisticated data. It provides evidence for decision-making that helps us deliver better services and get the most value from our budgets, because we can act with confidence and target precisely.” 

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