Customer Migration and the Pandemic: A Case Study on Starbucks in Austin, Texas

The pandemic has chipped away at the foot traffic of mega retail brands in even the hottest-growing metropolitan area— Austin Texas.


The COVID-19 pandemic has turned foot traffic among retail sites upside down. As our data previously showed, even mega brands like Starbucks in a historically high-traffic area such as New York City aren’t immune to significant drops in their customer base as the pandemic forced many people to leave the urban hub.  To better understand the implications of COVID-19 in high foot-traffic locations, we conducted a similar analysis on Starbucks locations in Austin, Texas, the fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the U.S. The pandemic hasn’t slowed relocations of businesses and individuals to Austin. As of mid-April 2021, relocations were already 45% ahead of where they were in 2020, putting Texas on pace to have the most relocations ever this year. Yet, despite this hotbed of growth, our data shows that Starbucks locations in Austin have experienced a significant drop in foot traffic since COVID began, similar to their counterparts in New York City. 

Austin Starbucks Customers Shift Home Locations

We leverage cell phone tracking and geofencing technology to collect vital, real-time information about retail customers, including changes in home and work locations. By analyzing hundreds of thousands of mobile data impressions, we found a 7.5% decrease in population among Austin’s Starbucks customers.  Where are all these java lovers going? Take a look at the map below. Orange cities have experienced a net loss of Austin Starbucks customers since pre-COVID. Green cities have experienced a net gain of Austin Starbucks customers since pre-COVID. We used our proprietary platform, along with the power of AI, to examine where former Austin Starbucks customers had migrated since COVID. We found that highly populated areas around Austin saw a notable increase in foot traffic as a result of the pandemic. For example: 
  • Hutto’s customer base increased 47.5%.
  • Manor’s customer base increased 21.6%.
  • Georgetown’s customer base increased 12.3%.
Our data analysis of both the Austin and New York City Starbucks locations corroborates the gist of customer migration: A drop in traffic in certain markets means an increase in traffic in others. The key for retailers is in understanding where, and why, their customers are migrating.

Customer Location Data = Better Decision-Making

The ability to pinpoint changes in customers’ home and work locations enables retailers to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a retail location, and act accordingly. The most successful site selection decisions hinge on well-informed, data-driven insight into your customers’ psychographic and demographic behavior along with their migration shifts. It’s been a year since the COVID-19 outbreak, and the pandemic has chipped away at the foot traffic of mega retail brands in even the hottest-growing metropolitan areas. What does this mean for the future of your brand?   

To get COVID-19-related or other customer behavior data for your brand, competitors, or cotenants, simply fill out the form below.


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