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Nov. 27, 2020 | Friday
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Mobile phone data tracks thousands of visitors to NOTL
A town ad campaign through Bell Media shows about 135,000 people entered Niagara-on-the-lake during a 30-day period from mid-September until just after Thanksgiving. (File photo/Richard Harley)

A whole lot of data about who is coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake is now available, thanks to a targeted marketing campaign the town did with Bell Media.

Ashleigh Myers, marketing executive at Bell Media, told council Monday that in 30 days from mid-September to just after Thanksgiving about 90,000 unique Bell devices entered Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Bell mobile phones make up about 30 per cent of all digital devices, she said.

To estimate how many people that actually represents, the number is multiplied by three, she said. "In those past 30 days, you had about 267,000 people entering Niagara-on-the-Lake," Myers said.

About 50 per cent of the Bell devices belonged to people from the Greater Toronto Area, she said.

"So you're looking at approximately 135,000 people were coming into Niagara-on-the-Lake during that 30-day period from the GTA."

Of 90,000 Bell devices, 78,000 came into Old Town, she said. "It gives you an idea of the power of the information that we have available," Myers said.

The Bell campaign was part of the town's pandemic response in the summer, and was directed at people entering NOTL, to advise visitors of certain COVID restrictions, such as the Queen Street closure, washroom closures and mask bylaws.

The click-through rate for the advertisig campaign, specifically for people entering from the GTA, was extremely high compared to national averages, with about a 3.71 per cent engagement ratio. The national average is about 0.8 per cent, Myers said.

"That is unheard of within the industry and just goes to show how well done the ads were from your communications team. And they knew how to properly target the people that were coming, what information was important to them."

She said the numbers are based on a daily count, so if someone who works in Niagara-on-the-Lake comes in daily, they would be counted once for each day, though people entering NOTL multiple times in a day were not counted more than once per day.

The numbers include people entering Niagara-on-the-Lake for a brief period on the QEW.

However, the campaign has the ability to get "very targeted," she said, adding that when the messaging went out to devices, Bell was able to exclude people who didn't get off the highway.

"So any messaging went to people that were specifically entering Niagara-on-the-Lake proper, in order to actually visit the municipality," Myers said.

People entering NOTL from the GTA, from inside the Niagara region and residents were targeted with different messaging, and anyone entering more than three times per week did not receive any more messaging as they likely worked in the area.

She said the town was "able to pivot messaging on a minute by minute basis, almost, talking to people about safety protocols."

The data will give the town valuable insight when planning its pandemic response plan, Myers said.

"All of this gives you the opportunity to target tourists right now, talk to them about safety measures," Myers said, adding the town could also target people entering town with its proposed "buy local" campaign.

Coun. Clare Cameron said the data has "tremendous" value, offering "an insight that has long been desired and has been very difficult to piece together."

Myers said the second-highest volume of people was coming from the Niagara region, and many are coming from the London, Kitchener, Cambridge area.

Coun. Gary Burroughs asked if there was data on the number of people coming from Quebec.

"We actually did a ranking of the Top 20 cities from which we were finding people were coming from. And to be honest, Montreal showed up, but it was less than a two per cent of the population, I want to say was around 600 people, really not something very significant at the time," Myers said.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said during her monthly Coffee with the Lord Mayor session Tuesday that the town will be keeping a close eye on those numbers to decide whether further COVID precautions are needed, such as an outdoor mask bylaw.

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