Facebook is offering a new way for business owners and consumers to tap into community habits of its 1.5 billion monthly users: Popular Hours.

Much like Google’s Popular Times feature, Facebook’s Popular Hours shows consumers when a merchant is busiest. While Facebook hasn’t released any official documentation about this feature, the site likely collects the information in a way that is similar to Google, by tapping into the mobile phone data of customers who allow Facebook to track their location.

Another thing that may increase the reliability of Facebook’s Popular Hours, is the potential for incorporating data that comes from user check-ins and comments on the site. Many of the people who don’t turn on mobile location services will still check-in or mention businesses in a post (#eatinglunch #lovelampostpizza). Such users can be tracked over time to determine their habits regarding visits to specific businesses.

Popular Hours is valuable to consumers because the feature shows them when to avoid crowds; for instance, they may learn to avoid the gym immediately after work on Monday or go to a popular restaurant when it’s less … popular. While the benefits to consumers may be obvious, business owners can also benefit, especially if you are a multi-location franchisee or general manager. In such cases, it’s not likely you are in your specific business location(s) every day of the week, and Popular Hours grants you the ability to see the traffic you may have missed.

How to Leverage Popular Hours for Your Business

  1. Compare Your Popular Hours with Your Competitors’
    Your biggest competitor is likely facing the same challenges as you every day. He is in the same region; has the same demographic audience, and must work to find the best ways to reach that audience to increase his revenue. Your biggest competitor doesn’t have a magic pill, and likely, doesn’t have access to anything you do not. So what is he doing to earn customers that could be yours? 
    One way of uncovering this is by going to his Facebook page and examining the hours when customers are frequenting his business. Is he getting heavy traffic on Tuesday nights, when your business is slow? Or maybe your competitor’s business stays consistently busy every day of the week, while your Popular Hours is full of peaks and valleys. If either of these things is happening, there is a reason for it, and the next step is to discover why. One way of doing this would be to check your competitor’s website for clues to promotions or special offers that might bring in traffic during times you are typically slow.
    Going a step further, you may want to secret shop your competitor on the days and times he is busy and your business is slow (you’d have some extra time). Try to uncover what’s making people come in.
    Is the afternoon or evening staff particularly exceptional? Maybe there is some kind of special event, class, or once a week offer going on; or maybe – the atmosphere is simply more inviting. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to take note and find a way to incorporate similar enticements in your own business, which leads very nicely to the next way you can leverage Facebook’s Popular Hours.
  2. Create Time Sensitive Promotions
    Disney is making news lately based on its new ticketing strategy that focuses on when guests are in its parks. During the slower times of the year, tickets cost less. When the parks are busier (i.e. Christmas), tickets are at a premium. 
    The company’s official reason for this new pricing structure is to better manage crowds to keep its parks from reaching full capacity, but it’s also smart business.
    If you know you are going to be busy on specific days and times no matter what, then special offers are unnecessary during those times. The trick is to find your slowest times, and then offer special discounts to encourage people to come in when they normally wouldn’t. For instance, restaurants could offer a late lunch promotion if they are slow on Wednesdays at 2pm. 
    If the Popular Hours chart shows your gym is missing customers on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 6pm, maybe you could set up memberships so people who come in only on those days and times get discounts. If you operate a bar and grill, you’re likely already familiar with the concept of happy hour, which shares this concept of enticing customers to come in at times they normally would not.
  3. Adjust Staffing to Accommodate Demand
    Once you gain an understanding of when customers are visiting, and take steps to increase business during slow hours, you’ll want to make sure you staff accordingly. Gone are the days of paying employees to walk around, looking for things to do, while the aisles of your store or the chairs of your restaurant remain empty. On the other hand, you can also say goodbye to the word “understaffed.”
    With Popular Hours, you can better ensure your staff is on hand only when you need them most (when paying customers are visiting).

As a business owner, Facebook’s new feature is a great tool that lets you see when people are frequenting your business and when they aren’t, so you can employ strategies to get more customers and increase revenue.

If you need a one-on-one consultation on how you can leverage Facebook’s Popular Hours for your business, and/or if you need a way to create online promotions and gain insight into your competitors, Merchant Centric is here to help.

Contact us today: (818) 889-1688

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