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Foot Traffic Patterns at GNMAAs Lights Festival

White Paper

Research Team:

Kate Baumann
Mackenzie Gorham
Jay Jaeger
Tiffany Kwong
Britany Trujillo

Executive Summary

From September to December of 2013, research was conducted on behalf of the
Greater North Michigan Avenue Association for the 2013 Lights Festival. During the
initial stages of this process, multiple research opportunities were identified to
direct the research. It was agreed upon by the research team that safety risks due to
the large number of Lights Festival attendees would be an important opportunity to
investigate. Thus, the Management Decision Opportunity identified was:

How can GNMAA effectively control foot traffic patterns during the Lights

To attempt to answer this question, five research objectives were identified:

1. Identify consumer perceptions of the most/least congested areas of the
2. Identify the best way of directing foot-traffic
3. Determine the most effective way to communicate event updates/alerts
4. Determine consumer cell phone usage during the Festival
5. Discover the most popular events at the Festival

After the research opportunities were identified, an exploratory research design
was created, which utilized a literature search, observations, focus groups, and a key
informant interview as the main research methods. Besides secondary data used in
the literature search, all data collected was primary. A Focus Group Moderator
Guide was created to gain in-depth insight from festival attendees, but due to time
constraints, the focus group was unable to be held.

In order to gain consumer insight into the Lights Festival, a questionnaire was
designed through Qualtrics to survey festival attendees and to collect data to
explore to the five research objectives. A variety of questions were asked for each
research objective, and multiple question types were used to give the questionnaire
variety. This questionnaire was administered throughout the day at the Lights
Festival on November 23, 2013 from 10am to 6pm. In total, 67 attendees responded.
Surveys were conducted in Pioneer Court and the surrounding area along Michigan
Avenue, where many festival attendees were located for the concert and events
happening throughout the day.

The survey responses gathered from the Lights Festival were submitted into
Qualtrics but exported to SPSS for statistical analysis and interpretation. Frequency
checks and crosstabs were used to analyze different variables in the data, which
provided insights for reliable recommendations. Significant notable findings include
100% survey participant satisfaction in the presence of safety personnel at the
Festival as well as over half the participants reported that the busiest area of the
Festival ranged from Chicago Avenue to Pioneer Ct along Michigan Avenue itself.
Finally, the majority of participants, 61.7%, reported preference to receive event
updates and alerts during the Lights Festival.


The managerial decision opportunity and the research objectives were identified via
the first client key informant interview where the clients noted that the significant
size of the events attendance impacted the quality of the activities during the event.
The objectives were selected to understand the movement of foot traffic patterns
and possible methods of influencing these patterns. The research on behalf of the
client, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association, was executed after GNMAAs
approval of the request for proposal (RFP). Qualitative data was collected through
in-depth interviews both before and after the event, in addition to observations at
the festival. Quantitative data was collected via a Qualtrics survey, which was
distributed to attendees at the event. A literature search provided secondary data
that helped form the basis of the interview questions and survey. For example, a
study performed by Pew Research Center in 2012 identified the share of cell phone
users who use their cell phone to upload videos to the internet in 2012 by age. The
results showed that 68% of cell phone owners aged 18-29 upload videos using their
cell phone in conjunction with 54% of cell phone users aged 30-49 who also use
their phone to upload videos to the internet. This study illustrates some of the cell
phone usage habits of these distinct consumer age segments. In addition, a previous
survey conducted for GNMAA found that 30% of consumers who attended the 2012
Lights Festival were in the 18-30 age range. Pew Research Center, found on Statista,
also provided research describing the activities of mobile phone users. The research
concluded that the majority of phone users check the weather, get directions, read
the news, and social network on their mobile phones. This data illustrates methods
of communication which may be best for certain consumers. Ultimately, this
information could be used to identify effective methods to communicate Lights
Festival information to attendees who own mobile phones.

The research objectives that were finally chosen are: 1) identify consumer
perceptions of the most/least congested areas of the Festival; 2) identify the best
way of directing foot-traffic; 3) determine the most effective way to communicate
event updates/alerts; 4) determine consumer cell phone usage during the Festival;
5) discover the most popular events at the Festival. Other research objectives were
also considered, such as the identifying consumer perceptions of the largest
Christmas carol and the inclusion of the language safety alerts. This language was
eliminated due to concerns about the potential negative consumer awareness about
safety during the event, while the Christmas carol objective was eliminated do to its
lack of relevance with the MDO. GNMAA works closely with the police and third
party safety personnel and does not want to highlight safety concerns. The language
was revised to a more positive term that includes all forms of communication with
attendees. In total, the five research objectives respond to concerns brought up by
GNMAA multiple times during the key-informant interview that all together
combine to effectively measure the MDO. For example, the first, second, and fifth
research objective speak specifically to consumer activity, attendance, and foot
traffic at the event. The third and fourth research objectives help GNMAA
understand how to control the foot patterns of the attendees based on
communication and consumer online interaction with the brand.

The problem formulation began with the key informant interview where potential
problems concerning the Lights Festival were identified by GNMAA. Once the
problems were identified, the MDO and research objectives were determined to
outline a research design that could provide understanding of GNMAAs problems.
This research design used secondary data, provided by a literature search, to
understand the best method to formulate primary data collection. The research
design of the MDO is exploratory. This provides insight to possible sources of data
collection such as focus groups, key informants, secondary data analysis, case
studies, and observational methods. Exploratory research design is flexible and
allows the conclusions to highlight trends and consumer behavior. This research
design was submitted and reviewed by GNMAA through the RFI before data
collection could begin. Descriptive research was not used as this research design is
used in research where there is a need to test a specific hypothesis concerning
consumer behavior. This form of research is very specific and requires extensive,
secondary pre-data collection research.


Focus groups are an important research tool to gain deep insights about Lights
Festival attendees. To most effectively earn these insights, the Focus Group
Moderator Guide was divided into Engagement, Exploration, and Exit questions. The
Moderator questions follow the broad to specific funnel approach. The first three
questions within the Engagement section are intended to establish trust with the
moderator guide. They are open ended questions that allow participants to begin
talking about their experience at the Lights Festival. Within the Exploration section,
six questions were asked that specifically target 3 research objectives: identify the
best way of directing foot-traffic; determine the most effective way to communicate
safety alerts; determine consumer cell phone usage during the Festival. They are
open ended questions that offer a greater in-depth insight to the participants
experiences at the Light Festival. The third and final component of the Focus Group
Moderator Guide is the Exit section. One final question is asked which allows the
participants to end the survey or provide more feedback on their experience at the
Light Festival. The Focus Group Moderator Guide is provided in the Appendix.

The Qualtrics survey consisted of a total of 26 questions. The majority of question
types fall under the nominal category. There are 4 ordinal questions and 1 interval
question that are also included in the survey. Nominal questions give more reliable
results, enhancing the credibility of the survey. The survey was taken by several
pre-testers to find and correct errors such as double barreled questions or
misleading questions. The pre-testers were classmates, who took and reviewed the
survey over the course of several different class periods. The pre-testers gave
feedback that eventually led to the final survey. From this exercise, it is accurate to
say that the questionnaire is free of leading questions and other biases. Additionally,
the response options are not exhaustive. Certain features from Qualtrics were
optimized to diversify question types, such as adding graphics, skip logic, and sliding
scales, in order to make the survey engaging and interactive for all participants.

The sampling frame was people age 18 and older along Michigan Ave. on November
23rd, 2013. Samples were taken from approximately 10am until 6pm. The majority
of samples were taken in Pioneer Court and along Michigan Avenue from Grand
Avenue, heading south to the Chicago River. The sampling frame represents people
that were downtown Chicago attending the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. This
included people who arrived early in the day as well as people who showed up right
before the parade. The sample included locals and tourists from other states. Since
this was nonprobability, convenience sampling, all attendees were selected at
random and had a fair chance to participate in the survey.

The quality of the data can be confirmed since each member of the research team
read the survey aloud to the participants in order to ensure proper understanding of
each question. At times this can lead to systematic error; however, since systematic
error is constant, it does not dramatically skew the accuracy of the analysis. This
survey method also minimized response errors as any confusion among participants
was clarified as best as possible by the surveyor. One issue with quality of the
results was uncompleted surveys due to fast moving lines, cold weather, and
children in need of attention. These issues also led to surveys being rushed through
instead of thoughtfully answered. These errors were nonsampling response errors.
Internal validity was partially compromised in some questions on the survey
because participants did not answer the question the way a response was expected
to be given. This forced the data collected to be analyzed in a manner different than
originally intended. Strong statistical results were still able to be gathered and
analyzed from the data. The reliability of this survey is exemplified through its
external validity. Multiple research objectives from the survey can be used to
generalize any winter festival such as cell phone use and how to direct foot traffic.
Other specific questions, such as how to communicate with attendees, can also be
applied to similar events as the Lights Festival.

Childrens responses are underrepresented as data could only be collected on
participants ages 18 and above. A majority of the data collected was from women.
While woman may have been the more prevalent gender at the event, there are
some possible sampling errors leading to this data; surveyors may have been more
comfortable asking women to participate, or mothers were more vocal and willing
to answer questions. Another underrepresented group was people aged above 54.
This may be due to the extremely cold weather or just the nature of the festival
being an event for young families.

A possible ethical dilemma from the survey, based on ESOMARs International Code
on Market and Social Research, would fall under the transparency category. There
was not a way for researchers to allow clients to check the quality of data collection
and data preparation as multiple surveyors were all separately collecting and
preparing data. Another dilemma was specifically due to the question on household
income. This was not included in the original survey design, thus surveyors were
not able to appropriately address participants questions regarding the purpose for
inquiring household income.

Data was exported from Qualtrics to SPSS via the Qualtrics website: specifically
through the view data tab and download data. The data was saved as two files:
(.sav) and (.spv). Once the data was downloaded, certain coding and office edit steps
were taken to unclutter and organize the data. In the Data View tab, the first step
was to delete columns V1 through V10, since these columns are filled by Qualtrics
and consist of information such as computer IP address from which the survey was
taken. Step two consisted of coding the variable names in the Variable View tab.
Here the questions names were changed to indicated the question. For example,
instead of having the name of a question as Q17, it was revised to include part of the
survey questions, such as Q_17_1_Group. These labels are specific to the coder and
are based on personal preference. Its sole purpose is to allow the coder to easily
reference the data sets when analysis and cross tabs are generated.

Once the variables were clearly labeled, the next step is to edit values, also on the
Variable View tab. Values in this section were question specific and depend on how
the question was set up. For example, if a survey question was nominal, the values
for this could be 0 = No and 1 = Yes. When the data was ready for analysis, such
as frequency, all the values of 0 would be counted in the No group, whereas all the
values with 1 would be counted within the Yes group. This step was done for every
question that was needed to be analyzed.

Another additional step that was taken was removing all the system missing
values. In the Data View, some questions have pindots instead of numerical values.
This occurred when the data was downloaded from Qualtrics to SPSS. Due to the
way the two systems are set up, SPSS renames Qualtrics values of zero to the pindot.
To correct this, the values were recoded into the same variables. This changed the
old value of system missing to the new value of zero. Once this command was added
and saved, the zero values can be properly used in analysis. After these steps were
completed, the data was considered clean and was ready for the analysis steps.

To answer the first research objective, identify consumer perceptions of the
most/least congested areas of the Festival, two questions from Qualtrics needed to
be asked. The first question is where is the busiest area you have been today?
while the second is where is the least busy area you have been today? For both of
these questions, participants were asked to point to a specific area on a map to
indicate the busiest and least busy areas during the festival. If only one of these two
questions were to be asked, the most important one would be the question
identifying the busiest area that the participant had been that day. Since this is a
nominal question, in the analysis the zones that participants selected with the
highest frequency counts would be the area of the Festival that was most busy. For
example, for the question where is the busiest area you have been today, the
zone with the highest frequency would be identified as the busiest area.

The second research objective is to determine the best way to direct foot traffic
during the Lights Festival. To answer the objective, questions were asked regarding
participants perceived safety, crowd size, and their opinions on viewing screens to
view the parade. The most important question under this research objective is
would be how satisfied were you with the safety personnel presence at the
festival? This question provides data not only on how safe attendees felt at the
event, but also on how well staffed the security at the event was. This lets GNMAA
know if there is enough security presence to effectively manage the crowd. This is
critical because if the crowd needs to be redirected or controlled, there needs to be
enough security to effectively carry out the redirection. If consumers feel that there
is not enough security during an average time, there will not be enough under
special circumstances either.

The third research objective is determining the best way to communicate Festival
alerts and updates. The majority of the questions asked how interested individuals
would be to receiving safety updates and alerts, and how they would prefer to be
reached. The question to best identify this information is how likely would you use
each of these platforms to obtain information about the lights festival? If this was
the only question that was asked, this research objective still could be very
accurately depicted. This is because this question gave us the spread of how many
people would keep up with information supplied on Facebook, Twitter, the Lights
Festival website, holiday guide, or an app.

The fourth research objective is to determine consumer cell phone usage during the
Festival. The best question to answer this objective is question 24, which asks, how
many times have you checked your phone at the festival? Instead of providing a
text answer, a list of available options ranged from none to more than 5 times,
making this question nominal. This question is important because it gauged the use
of phone activity from festival participants. If able to identify the number of people
on their phone and how many times they used their phones, then it could be
concluded whether it would be a good or bad idea to send information to the
attendees via phones.

The fifth research objective is to determine the most popular events at the festival.
The best question to answer this objective was question 17: what were you most
excited to attend? On the NOIR scale, this question falls under the ranking category
because it asked participants to order the events that they were looking forward to
in terms of most excited, neutral, and least excited. Seven options were available:
the parade, food, concerts, fireworks, shopping, Santa, and events at Lights Festival
lane. Since this questions is not mutually exclusive, participants could pick multiple
options that they are most excited or least excited for.

To identify participants perceptions of the most and least congested areas of the
Festival for research objective number one, the two most important questions to
create a crosstab for would be where is the busiest area you have been today? and
which events have you been to already today? The reason is that it more
accurately identifies which areas are the busiest, as people who have participated in
more events have also been to more areas of the Festival. If in this crosstab the
Pearson chi-square test showed a high association between certain events and
perceived business, there may be recommendations for next year to move certain
events of the Festival to either different times or different areas along Michigan

To answer the objective of determining the best way to direct foot traffic, the two
questions that should be analyzed through crosstab are does the crowd size
discourage you from attending the event in the future? and how satisfied were you
with the safety personnel presence at the festival? This crosstab would provide
insight to consumers who are more averse to crowds versus consumers who do not
mind crowds. Consumers who dislike crowds may be more prone to answer
negatively to the question about safety personnel presence compared to people who
do not mind or are familiar to large crowds. This crosstab may highlight any
negative data found concerning the question about safety personnel presence if
there is a high association between people who will not return due to the crowd size
and people who are unsatisfied with safety personnel presence.

To determine the most effective way to communicate safety alerts and event
updates for research objective three, the two questions that would best be paired to
create a crosstab are would you like to receive event updates and alerts from the
lights festival? and how would you like to receive event updates and alerts about
the Lights Festival? By taking a crosstab of these questions, the percentage of
people who want to receive updates is determined as well as the medium of which
they would like to receive updates. This would answer the objective of what the
most effective way is to communicate safety alerts and event updates.

To answer the objective to determine consumer cell phone usage during the
Festival, the two questions that should be analyzed through a cross-tab are how
many times have you checked your phone at the festival? in the column section and
did you experience any trouble connecting to the internet on your mobile device
via your network data plan? in the row section. This crosstab would provide
information on whether an attendee, who checked their phone a lot, had great
service reception, or if an attendee, who checked their phone less, had bad service
reception. From this crosstab, there may be a recommendation for Wi-Fi along the
Magnificent Mile for Festival attendees.

In order to gain a better insight about what participants believe to be the most
popular events at the Festival, two questions can be analyzed through a crosstab.
These questions are what were you most excited about at the festival? and how
many children are you with today? When these questions are analyzed together,
the data will show if there is an association between the number of children present
and the level of excitement for specific events. For example, the data might show
that somebody with no children present might be most excited for shopping versus
Santa. This information could then be employed to better understand consumer
segments at the Festival as well as allow for a better understanding of how children
affect popularity of certain events.


In the analysis of the survey, a few key points should be highlighted. First, it is
significant to note that increased presence of security personnel at this years Lights
Festival had an impact on Festival attendees as all of the survey participants were
more than satisfied about the safety presence when asked to rank their satisfaction
on a nominal scale of 1-5. Another significant finding to underline is the area that
was reported to be the most congested. The majority of survey participants believed
that Chicago Avenue to Pioneer Ct was the most congested area. It was believed that
around the Tribune tower heading north to Grand Avenue was the busiest area.
These significant data points were drawn from the research objectives as discussed

In order to best effectively direct foot traffic, it is important to understand where
Festival attendees are, where they have been, and what their thoughts are about the
congestion of people in that area. To identify these perceptions, consumers were
asked to label on a map what zones along Michigan Ave. that they thought were
the busiest, the least busy, and where they planned on viewing the parade. Of the 67
attendants who participated in the survey, 53.7% believed that the most congested
area ranged from Chicago Avenue to Pioneer Ct along Michigan Avenue itself. Of this
53.7%, approximately half, 25.4%, believe that the busiest area is specifically
around Tribune heading north to Grand Ave. This is not necessarily surprising or
divergent from past Festivals, but is important to measure as consumer perceptions
have a tendency to guide consumer behaviors. Conversely, when asked about what
areas were perceived as the least busiest, 23.9% believed that this area was east of
St. Clair and west of Rush. Within the observations, it was gathered that the area
west of Rush was busier than the area east of St. Clair. In fact, one attendee during
the Festival preferred to walk along St. Clair to avoid the crowds. A possible
explanation for this may be that Lights Festival attendees could be coming from the
CTA or the Metra which are all west of Rush Street.

Above, it was noted that helpful crosstabs may be analyzed for which area of the
Festival is the busiest with which events the consumer has attended already.
However, when the crosstabs were run, there was no significant association for
many of the locations. In fact, the lowest chi-squared value was 0.402, which was for
the participants who had been shopping and had indicated that Wacker Drive was
the busiest area. This crosstab does not have much statistical power since only one
person in total indicated that Wacker Drive was the busiest area. Since there needs
to be at least a frequency of 4-5 for the data to be statistically powerful, it is
suggested to interview a greater number of participants before any associations can
be drawn from this data.

To discover how to best direct foot traffic, data was analyzed pertaining to
participants perceived safety, as well as how they would like to receive information
about less crowded viewing areas. One of the strongest frequencies found in the
data was related to perceived safety. When asked on a scale of 1-5 (one being
extremely unsatisfied and 5 being extremely satisfied) how satisfied the participant
was with the safety personnel presence, all of the participants responded with a
rating of a 4 or 5. This means that 100% of people surveyed were at or above
satisfaction with the safety presence at the Lights Festival. Furthermore, over 90%
of the participants responded with a 5. This is a major shift from the 2012 Lights
Festival, when over half of participants expressed a need for the improvement of
safety personnel presence. This data was confirmed through observation in
comparison to the 2011 Lights Festival. A large police and security presence was
visible, and multiple times observations were made of attendees approaching them
for assistance.

A second frequency relating to directing foot traffic concerns how people want to
receive information. While in some cases security and police may be necessary to
direct people, providing information is a way to subtly direct attendees to different
areas of the event in order to disperse the crowd. A majority of participants would
like information about less crowded viewing areas for the parade, but they do not
want to feel like they are being directed. Sixty-five percent of people would prefer to
seek out the information, meaning they want it on an app or through email. When
asking participants this question, email was not one of the available answers, but
many people chose the other category, and specifically stated they would like that
information through email. Only 37% of participants want the information through
a more direct channel, such as voice call, text, or in-person through volunteers. The
majority of this group chose text, which is less direct as a voice call or in person.
People do not want to feel like they are being told where to go and would rather
seek out this information on their own.

After determining which areas are the most congested and what the best way to
direct foot traffic is, it is important to then find out the best way to communicate
these event alerts and updates to the participants. The majority of the participants,
which accounted for 61.7%, reported that they would like to receive event updates
and alerts during the Lights Festival. Those 61.7% of participants were asked a
follow up question as to what method they would most like to receive their updates,
and 82.8% ranked social media as the highest. This data shows that there is a
demand for social media as a means of communication for event updates and alerts.
A preceding question broke it down further into categories to see which platforms
participants would be most likely to use to seek information about the Lights
Festival. The highest percentage was for Facebook, which accounted for 52.8% of
participants. Twitter, however, only accounted for 29.9% of participants. This shows
us that the most effective way to communicate updates and alerts through Social
Media is Facebook. Having alerts and updates on Facebook is a more subtle way of
sending these updates and could possibly change the minds of the 26.9% who first
reported not wanting to receive updates.

To determine consumer cell phone usage during the Festival, data was analyzed
pertaining to participants usage of their phone. When asked how many times have
you checked your phone at the festival? 15% answered none, 17% answered once,
28% answered 2-3 times, 14% answered 4-5 times, and 26% answered more than 5
times. This means that 68% of survey participants were checking their phone more
than twice. This data suggests that most consumers have immediate access to
communication via phones. When asked if they experienced any trouble connecting
to the internet on their mobile device via your network data plan, 88% of
participants said that they did not have any trouble. However, when asked if they
would use wireless internet if it was available, 83.6% said that they would use the
Wi-Fi if it was available along Michigan Avenue. Out of the 34 people that had great
cell reception at the Lights Festival, 91.2% of them said they still would like to have
access to Wi-Fi. This highlights a strong demand for Wi-Fi along Michigan Avenue.
Finding a sponsor, like AT&T, to set that up is suggested and would likely appeal to
consumers. Today, people are constantly using phones for everything, observations
showed festival participants checking text messages, taking voice calls, taking
pictures, using social media and several other applications on their phones.
However, observations also showed that once participants found their spot at the
festival they were less likely to use their phones.

In order to effectively control foot traffic patterns, it is necessary to know what the
popular events at the Festival are. By knowing this information, it will be easier to
direct guests accordingly. When participants were asked to rank the events that
they were most excited for, 94% ranked the parade as one of the events that they
were most excited for. Similarly, 88.1% ranked fireworks as one of the events that
they were most excited for. Events at Lights Festival Lane was ranked third (79.1%),
Santa fourth (76.1%), food fifth (62.7%), and shopping sixth (56.7%). Concerts were
ranked seventh for what people were most excited about (55.2%). Quantitative
frequency data supplied from this question demonstrates that the parade and
fireworks are what people were most excited to attend at the Festival, which makes
them the most popular events. Qualitative observations also support this finding; it
was observed that less people were present during the hours of 10am-12pm
compared to later in the day from the hours of 4-6pm. During the time of 4-6pm
there was an increased number of people because people were getting ready for the
parade to start by standing in their viewing spot. A qualitative observation that
many people were either inside shopping or eating does contradict that quantitative
data that states these events were ranked among what people were least excited for.
It is important to note that the weather could have played a tremendous role in
shaping peoples activities. Although shopping and food was not among the top
activities people were excited for, a majority of the people still partook in this
activity in order to keep warm and stay out of the cold. Due to the format of this
question and the overwhelming majority of participants who did not answer it as
intended, the data does not explicitly say that people were least excited for the
concerts. However, because it ranked last as what people were most excited for, it
can be safely assumed that this was the least popular event. Interviewees frequently
said that they were unsatisfied with the selection of performers this year. In past
years, American Idol contestants performed which may have appealed to a broader
audience and encourage more excitement for concerts.

Many of the errors with the data collection process were due to the weather on the
day of the festival. Based on surveys from previous years, data suggested that the
crowd would be larger than the 2012 crowd, but due to the weather, the crowd was
relatively small until the parade began. This made it difficult to survey people earlier
in the day, as many people had not yet participated in events. Although these errors
exist, the data is still externally valid. The data collected can still be applied to future
Lights Festivals, as the weather will always be unpredictable. In addition, many of
the consumers surveyed have attended the Festival before and can accurately
answer the questions with less bias against the weather. Due to the validity of the
data collection, the data was able to be analyzed to pull statistics, frequencies, and
associations to make reliable recommendations to GNMAA.

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Johnston, Gavin. Rethinking the Focus Group. MarketingProfs. 4 Aug. 2009. Web.
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The Best (and Worst) of Mobile Connectivity. Pew Research Center Nov 2012.
Statista. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.