The problem of identifying the optimal location for a new retail store has been the focus of past research,
especially in the field of land economy, due to its importance in the success of a business. Traditional approaches to the problem have factored in demographics, revenue and aggregated human flow statistics from nearby or remote areas. However, the acquisition of relevant data is usually expensive. With the growth of location-based social networks, fine grained data describing user mobility and popularity of places has recently become attainable.
In this paper we study the predictive power of various machine learning features on the popularity of retail
stores in the city through the use of a dataset collected from Foursquare in New York. The features we mine are
based on two general signals: geographic, where features are formulated according to the types and density of nearby
places, and user mobility, which includes transitions between venues or the incoming flow of mobile users from distant areas. Our evaluation suggests that the best performing features are common across the three different commercial chains considered in the analysis, although variations may exist too, as explained by heterogeneities in the way retail facilities attract users. We also show that performance improves significantly when combining multiple features in supervised learning algorithms, suggesting that the retail success of a business may depend on multiple factors.
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