How far will consumers drive to find you?

About 9 in 10 U.S. consumers drive to work, logging 3.7 billion hours a year plowing through traffic. This means if you’re selling something, chances are consumers will find you by car.

So if you own a retail store, theater, or coffee shop, you need to plot where your customers may come from. The best summary of drive-zone strategy we’ve seen is in Directions Magazine, which points to four basic approaches: radial studies that put concentric rings around your location; gravity models which consider the magnetic power of competitors who may pull customers to them vs. you; drive-time analyzes which plot driving distances in minutes via real roads, accounting for barriers such as rivers etc.; and customer-level data using point-of-sale information, customer databases, or prospect databases to determine precise, address-level spatial forecasting of store trade areas. Sexy stuff, eh?

We’re plotting trade areas now for several clients (the smartest data so far coming from a regional theater), but the client we really want to help is a little deli-coffee shop in a Mobil station off I-84 exit 14 in central Connecticut. These guys make the best breakfast sandwich in the world, created by a local cop and called the “Killer Miller”: Two eggs, hot peppers, onions, cheese, salt and pepper, and hot sauce, on a lightly grilled bun. They probably can’t afford media planners, so here’s a little gift for them: Readers, if you live in the map area below, you’re only 20 minutes from the world’s greatest deli. Drive on in.

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