Ripon’s downtown shopping experience is as strong as it’s ever been.

   So why are visits to downtown Ripon dropping?

   That was one of the early discoveries revealed by the Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce and Ripon Main Street’s new geofencing initiative.

   It’s all part of a pilot program Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) is running with select communities around the state — an initiative communities such as Ripon are hoping will help them better understand their target audience.

   Simply put, WEDC is tracking, in broad strokes, how many cellphones enter downtown Ripon — which is surrounded by a virtual “geofence” — and recording demographic information about the individuals who own those cellphones.

   That information, for a fee, is being provided to the Ripon organizations.

   Though the program just began last fall, the chamber and Main Street can look back through a previous year’s worth of data, while collecting another year’s worth.

   That means, as data now starts rolling in, the city can do year-over-year comparisons for visits to downtown Ripon.

   And, so far, the news hasn’t been positive.

   In the third quarter of 2018 versus the third quarter of 2019, the number of visitors from outside Ripon dropped 6%, from 4,370 to 4,108.

   During the fourth quarter, the numbers were more staggering: outside visitors dropped by nearly 20%, from 3,466 to 2,780.

   But that’s a limited amount of data to sift through so far. As such, Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Mansmith is taking a measured reaction to the news.

Read the full story in the Feb. 27, 2020 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.