Vacationing shoppers are hyper local

Jul 09, 2014

A new survey finds one subset of shoppers — those on vacation — have naturally been "buying local" well before it became trendy. And many are now tapping their mobile devices to find those local joints.

The survey from Placeable, a provider of location marketing technology, found that 65 percent of travelers seek restaurants and retail stores within five miles of their current location while on vacation. Seventy-six percent report that they search for local retailers rather than a national retailer and 89 percent look for local restaurants rather than a national one while they are away from home. Fifty-four percent postpone researching restaurants until they are already on vacation.

Half would visit the closest retailer to replace an item they forgot to pack, regardless of the store. Only one percent of vacationers consider reviews when looking to replace a forgotten item.

Over 85 percent searched for restaurants and retailers on their mobile devices while on vacation.

In a statement, Ari Kaufman, CEO of Placeable, says the findings show national retailers need to "optimize themselves locally to capture vacationers searching for non-brand products, services and places."

Past surveys have shown how avid vacationing shoppers can be — and not just for tourist trinkets:

  • A survey from the Travel Industry Association of America found that the majority of vacationers (51 percent) rated shopping as the first or second reason they made at least one leisure trip a year. The largest segment shop for apparel or shoes (77 percent), followed by souvenirs (49 percent), books and music (42 percent) or jewelry (36 percent). Men spent $349 a trip versus $319 for women.
  • An Orbitz survey found that 51 percent of travelers have done their holiday shopping while vacationing. For 73 percent leisure travelers, shopping is as important, or more important, than nightlife when planning a vacation. Forty-nine percent of survey respondents admitted to purposefully leaving room in their suitcase to bring back purchases made while traveling.


Do local retailers have an advantage over national chains in reaching vacationers? Should location-based marketing be a strong tool for both local and national stores in reaching leisure travelers?

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9 Comments on "Vacationing shoppers are hyper local"

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Ryan Mathews

Seems logical. Vacationers are, presumably, at least superficially interested in looking for local color—otherwise they would probably stay home. Add to that, that if you aren’t sure where anything is, the default option is to go to the nearest provider of a service rather than risk burning out hours of valuable leisure time looking for alternatives. And, finally, locals often have a lock on all the prime real estate in tourist traps—er—destination leisure areas.

Location-based marketing clearly has great potential but, again, most vacationers are path-of-least-resistance shoppers, not real explorers.

Zel Bianco

Yes, and that’s a very good thing. Seeking out local establishments, whether grabbing a quick lunch at a lobster roll place or a good seafood restaurant for dinner is what makes vacation special. God forbid we go to Red Lobster or any other national chain while on vacation. We all have the national chains at home, why go there when you are away? Many vacation spots, at least in the Northeast, do not allow any chains whatsoever. We have just returned from a trip to Block Island and there is not one national chain on the island, and it is one of the many things that make vacationing there very pleasant and enjoyable, especially during July 4th. It is truly old-fashioned America, before the days of the national chains. All your needs are available from the local people that are happy to serve your needs.

As my dad used to say, “God Bless America!”

Dan Frechtling

This study speaks to the advantage of mobile-local marketing, not local retailers, among tourists.

It’s interesting that mobile-local marketing wins across very different purchase occasions.

“I forgot toothpaste.” Utility purchases are urgent and low-involvement. The buyer wants to quickly solve a problem in an unfamiliar place. Mobile devices win because they deliver proximity.

“I’m looking for a restaurant.” Experiential purchases are “vacation” and high involvement. Research by Angelsmith found that user-generated reviews were the most trusted source after word-of-mouth. Mobile devices win because they deliver reviews.

Tony Orlando

I use exclusively local restaurants when I travel, and yelp plus trip advisor have helped quite a bit. Most are family run, and usually I am very pleased.

Napa Valley has some great places, and some we go to every year. Vegas has some awesome places as well. We are going to Italy in October, and I am already checking out the small restaurants for lunch, and dinner now. I doubt there will be an Olive Garden around, so yes I’ll use local shops and restaurants wherever we go, and it helps the local economy as well.

Ed Rosenbaum

Sure local retailers will have an advantage over national chains with vacationers. Especially in the food service industry. Why go to a national chain when on vacation when you can and do go to them when at home? I have lived by that for many years. (Zel is right about Red Lobster home or away.)

The shopping exception might be when looking for items we forgot to pack. Then we would tend to shop at either the closest retailer or one we are familiar with the store setup in order to get in and out quickly.

Graeme McVie
Graeme McVie
3 years 2 months ago

Retailers that both know their customers and understand their needs will have a competitive advantage irrespective of whether they’re local or national. National retailers should leverage their deep understanding of individual customer’s needs and combine that with location-based services so they can continue to deliver relevant communications while valuable customers are on vacation. By understanding that a valuable customer is on vacation the retailer can provide them with information about local store locations and provide them with offers that are relevant to their specific needs while on vacation.

In addition, retailers who employ slightly more sophisticated loyalty programs than the common two-tier discount programs can be sure to increase their chances of capturing a greater share of their vacationing customer’s spend by rewarding them for their loyalty even when they’re not shopping in their local store.

Anne Bieler
Anne Bieler
3 years 2 months ago

This seems an overlooked opportunity in many markets. Consumers are reliant on smartphones and tablets at home to answer questions and shop—on vacation, possibly even more important to locate local stores and restaurants.

An easy way to get directions, hours, menus, services in a timely manner. Time is precious on vacation, the closest, easiest options often win.

John Karolefski

Local establishments have an inherent advantage that national chains can’t match. It’s called local color. Eating in local restaurants while on vacation is part of the enjoyment of vacation. Seeing a McDonald’s in Old Montreal or a Starbucks in Istanbul (yes, I have seen both) is a downer.

Ralph Jacobson

There is no good reason why local merchants should have this edge over the national companies. I truly am a bit skeptical in the results of this survey, though. I have a hard time believing that beyond the factor of “location,” there should be no further advantage for the locals, really. If a national store is more conveniently located, the advantage is theirs, right?


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