Economic Mobility Index™: Answering the “Where” and “When” Should I Ramp Up My Marketing Spend

One of the biggest challenges marketers face right now is where and when to increase marketing spend as part of a recovery plan. There is inherent uncertainty over how markets re-open and the pace with which consumers return. On top of that, tighter marketing budgets demand greater efficiency in execution than ever before. Data that simply indicates population mobility isn’t enough. Rather, marketers need a signal of whether economic activity is returning in each market. This is why we created the Economic Mobility Index™, or EMI™ for short.

Interactive EMI heatmap and line chart graphic

Figure  1: Interactive EMI heatmap and line chart example

EMI is a dynamic measure of economic activity in each market. It is calculated by using current consumer commercial shopping behavior and visits to businesses, indexing these activities against a pre-COVID period. By doing so, marketers can track how well a market is recovering economically. Quite simply, EMI increases as more consumers return to re-opened businesses. The flexibility of EMI allows this approach to be applied on many levels. EMI is measured by state or by DMA. It can also be looked at as an overall market score, by industry, and by individual brand. Being able to compare economic activity at each of these levels give marketers one of the most accurate ways to measure what matters most right now – the pace of economic recovery on a geographical level.

CDR & QSR National and DMA Comparison Chart Graphic

Figure 2: CDR and QSR Comparison at the national and DMA level

Economic Mobility vs Basic Mobility

The pandemic has created two primary challenges for everyone to overcome. There is the physical health challenge, understanding the spread of the virus and the economic challenge, understanding the impact to businesses. Basic mobility data has been a useful tool for addressing questions of whether people were adhering to stay-at-home orders during quarantine. However, we felt something different was needed for addressing the economic challenge – economic mobility.

Mobility vs Economic Mobility Comparison Map Graphic

Figure 3: Mobility vs Economic Mobility

Take for example a person who goes for a drive in their neighborhood just to “get out of the house,” and doesn’t stop at a drive through, doesn’t do curbside pickup, or doesn’t go into an essential business. This person is showing high mobility, but there is no economic activity. By comparison, someone who goes a quarter-mile to pick-up lunch from their favorite cafe is showing meaningful economic behavior, although their overall basic mobility is very low. It is this signal of economic activity that is most important to marketers and businesses. That is the signal which is the foundation of the Economic Mobility Index.

Customizing the EMI for Your Brand

Overall EMI and Industry EMI provide a wealth of data on how each market is doing. By looking at trending data, marketers can not only see which markets appear strongest economically, but also which markets are trending up or taking longer to recover.

Adding a brand-specific EMI allows marketers to take these insights to the next level. For example, as you can see from figure 4, marketers can benchmark their own brand’s performance relative to their industry’s performance, as well as the performance of the overall economy in each market where they have a brand presence. Identifying markets where they are over performing and underperforming relative to their industry allows them to deploy their marketing budgets more efficiently. What’s more, brands can customize an industry EMI or look at an individual competitor EMI for an even more relevant set of benchmarks.

Economic Mobility Index by City Graphic

Figure 4: Illustrative purposes only

What Can EMI Reveal Beyond Brand Performance?

This year’s Memorial Day weekend, the official kick off to summer, marked a major milestone towards the nation’s economic recovery. The EMI significantly spiked during the holiday as people not only ventured outside but also began to once again visit businesses.

Memorial Day Weekend activities drove the biggest increase in economic activity across numerous categories to date.

Industry Economic Mobility Index for May 2020

Figure 5: Industry EMI for the month of May

Partygoers Flock to The Lake of The Ozarks – Did It Have an Economic Impact?

Missouri, home of the popular Lake of the Ozarks, garbed national headlines as an unprecedented number of partygoers flocked to the Midwest’s premier lake resort destination during this year’s Memorial Day Holiday.

Springfield & Columbia-Jefferson, Missouri WOW increase EMI Compared to National WOW EMI increase during Memorial Day Weekend 2020

Figure 6: Springfield & Columbia-Jefferson, Missouri WOW increase EMI Compared to National WOW EMI increase during Memorial Day Weekend 2020

EMI is one component of an overall Recovery Playbook. NinthDecimal created the playbook to help marketers plan, execute and measure a comprehensive recovery marketing strategy that is attuned to both the current economic environment and the current consumer mindset. We’ll be introducing additional parts of the playbook in upcoming blog posts.

EMI Methodology

EMI uses the week of Jan. 20, 2020 as the baseline for pre-COVID-19 activity with a score of 100. It calculates current economic mobility relative to that baseline, both geographically and by business category. Index results below 100 indicate a reduction in commercial visitation relative to the pre-COVID period. The lower the number, the greater the reductions. Index results approaching 100 indicate commercial visitation is increasing and getting closer to pre-COVID activity. Index results above 100 indicate higher commercial visitation than pre-COVID activity.

EMI is an extension of all the research we have been making available since early March. You can explore an interactive version of the EMI in our COVID-19 Resource Center, which is dedicated to providing real-time intelligence and downloadable research on the rapid changes to businesses and the economy.