Out of Home Traffic is Exceeding Pre-Covid Levels

Based on the most recent Covid mobility reports released by the Geopath, not only has traffic recovered from its 2020 COVID lows, but Out of Home traffic is exceeding pre-covid levels, surpassing 2019 travel for the same period.

Since the beginning of the pandemic Geopath has been releasing updated travel statistics to help advertisers better understand what was really happening with traffic, and by extension audiences for Out of Home media.  Looking at the numbers for 2020 was particularly difficult, but as vaccines began to roll out traffic began to recover in significant ways.

For the months of April & May 2021, the average miles traveled per day blew by the numbers from 2020, and are exceeding the numbers observed for 2019. So, not only is traffic back, but it is above pre-pandemic levels for the same time period. So what does this mean? It means that consumers are getting out of their homes and moving around more than they were before Covid.

This data provides hard evidence to back up what is being reported anecdotally – that Out of Home traffic is exceeding pre-covid levels , and consumers are anxious to get out of their homes. Whether that means shopping, travel, or just visiting vaccinated family that they haven’t seen in a year or more the combination of vaccinations, relaxed restrictions, and pent-up need to move is leading to consumers traveling more than they were before the pandemic.

This trend is also reflected in the percentage of people leaving their homes on a daily basis. This number has also been trending upward for the last several months, and for the month of May, it exceeded the numbers from 2019.

All this information goes to support what we are seeing in the news and other media – that confidence for U.S. consumers is returning. The practical application for this information with regard to Out of Home media is that not only is OOH a completely viable and effective media choice again, but it is also in fact more valuable than it was before the pandemic. These travel numbers correspond directly to the audience that is on the road, and thus in proximity to OOH media – and at least for the time being that audience is even larger than it was before Covid. 

Now that Out of Home traffic is exceeding pre-covid levels marketers need to take a long look at how the are working OOH back into their media plans – whether it’s using proximity to drive foot traffic, or focusing on delivering specific audiences, or stepping into the new capabilities afforded by programmatic OOH. Given the pent-up need to get out and move around, the continued distribution of vaccines, increased confidence, and comfort being outside, all combined with the onset of summer vacation would lead us to believe that this trend is likely to continue. It seems likely that travel numbers will continue to increase over the summer, and quite possibly continue to exceed the 2019 benchmarks. That will make Out of Home even more desirable over the coming months and provide a great opportunity for brands to reconnect with consumers after a long absence.

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Matthew Noll
Director of Marketing and Digital StrategiesEMC Outdoor
Matt is crazy about outdoor advertising, design & technology, electric bass guitars, chocolate covered pretzels and scrapple. He has been working in the out of home industry for 16 years, is Co-Chair of the Geopath Futures Council, and sits on the 2020 OAAA/Geopath Conference Committee.

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