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GroundTruth Teams With Technomic To Track Restaurant Sales Across 200 Brands

“Consumers may aspire online, but they live offline—no one travels to a restaurant without genuine intent," says GroundTruth CMO Eric Hadley. The new partership will examine specific menu items and dayparts to help restaurants answer questions about "intent."

GroundTruth is working with restaurant sales tracker Technomic to get a better sense of of how specific times of day and menu items are performing, as the location ad marketplace seeks to provide more insight than foot-traffic analysis can show.

Over the past two years, GroundTruth has sought to stake its claim in the location-based ad attribution wars by marketing its Cost-Per-Visit ad format for brands like Applebee’s, Jack In The Box, Ted’s Montana Grill, Bloomin’ Brands and others beyond eateries. But the frequency of restaurant visits compared to other kinds of store foot traffic has made the CPV format particularly appealing, since consumers entering an eatery aren’t likely to be browsing.

While that format, among other geotargeting and geofencing programs, can tell whether a person who had seen an ad walked into an establishment.

Hence the alliance with Technomic, GroundTruth CMO Eric Hadley tells GeoMarketing.

“Location is the biggest untapped opportunity for digital marketers wanting to drive business growth,” says Hadley. “Consumers may aspire online, but they live offline—no one travels to a restaurant without genuine intent. For the last decade, we’ve focused on building the most reliable location data out there, and we’re excited to partner with Technomic to provide their clients with valuable location-based insights.”

GroundTruth’s location intelligence will be used to overlay and enhance Technomic’s brand sales performance-tracking product, Transaction Insights.

Transaction Insights currently features ongoing purchase data from more than 3 million consumers, representing more than 18 million monthly foodservice visits.

The promise Technomic makes is of “unprecedented” transparency that allows restaurant clients to see every competitive brand within the leading 200 chains, down to the market level, and proprietary modeling methodology based on Technomic’s deep expertise in the foodservice industry provides unparalleled accuracy.

With the addition of GroundTruth’s database of 3 million mapped business locations through its proprietary Blueprints technology and 75 million mobile devices, Technomic’s traffic intelligence will more closely report on foodservice visits at the daypart level and allow the company to leverage location data into comparable store performance modeling. Technomic customers will now be able to answer questions such as:

  • Which restaurant chain is winning breakfast in Dallas?
  • Which QSR is gaining market share against leading competitors? How have they grown business across dayparts and what initiatives may be driving this?
  • How has a new menu item or media campaign impacted foot traffic?

“Understanding traffic at the daypart level can inform competitive brand strategy, especially related to the menu and daypart-specific promotions,” said Sara Monnette, VP of innovation at Technomic. “GroundTruth provides us with a large, reliable location data set which in turn allows us to provide our customers with unprecedented insight into their business at a very granular level.”

“Our customers are asking for better behavioral information to make informed business decisions, and our partnership with GroundTruth allows us to continue to lead innovation to that end,” says Shawn Edwards, president, Technomic. “Our ongoing quest is to provide a holistic, transparent view of the foodservice industry through bigger and better data sets, and this partnership is one more step in that direction.”

Hadley tells GeoMarketing that GroundTruth views Technomic as “the leading consulting advisory for the restaurant and quick-serve restaurant business” and felt that there was a natural complement between the two companies’ services.

“We just do so well in the restaurant space, we have so many great partners who value the costs per visit, and want to drive people into their location,” Hadley says. “The restaurants, the coffee shops, the burger chains, the taco chains, they don’t have the ability to sell their products online, so they’re not really worried about Amazon eating their business. Early in my career I worked on regional McDonald’s, and regional Burger King, and they’re always the go-to.

“We were working on a data deal and Technomic’s name came up, so I said, ‘Let’s just find a way we can do this together where you can use our data to make your reports smarter,” Hadley continues. “You can inform your customers of what’s actually selling and when, but more importantly we can use kind of what they know about the industry to add value and put that industry expertise layer on top of the location data that we have to really help that category. I was  surprised given that the drive to location, that nobody in the location space had done anything with them. And they actually weren’t even familiar with this location marketing platform.”

GroundTruth CMO Eric Hadley

We spoke with Hadley at length about a number of other initiatives he’s taken since becoming CMO in January.  Here’s an update on what else the GroundTruth CMO has been thinking about and working on since then:

GeoMarketing: What idea and projects have you been occupied by since you took on the role of CMO? There’s been a lot of focus on the question of whether there’s a “retail apocalypse”or not — and how that impacts location-business services.

Eric Hadley: There are a couple things that are takeaways of why I was excited about taking the job. This retail apocalypse thing you talked about, if you dig in, more and more people are still buying stuff in the real world.

In terms of the idea of a “retail apocalypse is coming,”  you see it exaggerated in New York. All the storefronts are empty because so many people are shopping that the landlords jacked the rent up, so the stores left. They’d like you to believe  that all the stores are closing down because everyone’s buying everything on Amazon. In reality, people are still buying stuff in the real world. The stores are closing down because the landlords are charging more.

How has the rise of Amazon and e-commerce impacted in-store shopping?

We’ve been having these discussions with a couple partners, this idea of when you go to buy something online, say you want workout pants, you go to — for example —  “workoutpants.com.” You click “medium workout pants,” and you put them in the cart, and you hit checkout. If you go into Workout Pants retail store, you’re like, “These are the pants I came for, and here’s the water bottle I saw at the counter, and might as well buy two more shirts.”

We’re getting feedback from a lot of our retail partners, that the cart size when you go to the brick-and-mortar store, is bigger than the when someone shops in an online store.

One of the the big reasons I came to GroundTruth is the idea of cost revision. If you’re a business and you get somebody in the store, you have a ton of opportunity to make sure they buy more than the one thing they came for.

We always joke on the restaurant side that if you can get somebody into a Burger King, nobody walks in and looks at the menu and says, “Great, they still have Whoppers. If I ever want a Whopper, I’m coming back here.” If you go into that place, you’re probably 99.9 percent likely to buy something off the food menu. So that’s been exciting, just to have that discussion about the interplay between online and offline shopping behaviors.

What else drove your decision to take on the CMO role at GroundTruth?

Because I worked at The Weather Channel, which was “weather first, location second,” I became fascinated by the idea of how location technology has been evolving. It used to be “where you are.” But, now location is really “who you are.”

You can build all these predictive models, and it tells you so much, and you don’t need to put in a name. You just drop an X on a map and just search around the X. You can serve ads to people who have a high likelihood to want to do something.

What I get excited about it, really more so every day, is if you think about the evolution of intent. Google nailed it with search. You put, “I’m looking for this,” you put it in the search box, it shows you the page, the likelihood you’re not interested in that is 0 and 0.

Facebook kind of figured that out with social: if I’m willing to “like” these pages, if I “like” this brand, I’m probably intent to engage with it. Or, if I share these brands with my friends I’d like to do it.

With both of those platforms, marketers  figured out how to maximize every dollar, figure out where that efficient frontier is. I think Facebook and Twitter kind of screwed that by having too many fake accounts, so I’m not quite sure if the intent is actually as real as you’d like it to be. But if you turn to location, there’s hugely, hugely accurate intent. If I show up at Whole Foods, and a golf course, and a school, I’m probably a golfer who shops for my family and has kids. So there’s a lot of intent that’s got a high degree of accuracy associated with location signals, as opposed to social networking signals.

For the marketer, every dollar you put into location, you’re going to get so much more back. And it’s not a crowded marketplace. Everybody’s in Google, and everybody’s in Facebook. But we’re not at the point where if you go to a marketer and you’re going to be bidding against 25 of your [location] competitors, the likelihood is you’re probably bidding against a couple, or half of them. So the ability to get that intent, the impact of intent for every dollar you spent is so grave here and I think it’s our best opportunity to grow that out and put it into the platform so businesses of all sizes can figure that out.

We have a ton of  small franchisee businesses who go into our Ad Manager and find out who’s likely to be there, who’s a likely customer based on a particular model. And when they see a device ID of someone who’s never been inside the footprint of our store, you can target them and see if they come in.

It’s a direct return on ad-spend: You know that if your restaurant sees an average check of $72 when a family comes in, you can spend $70 and still make money off the deal. That’s what I think is so cool about the location space is just this whole idea, the intent signal that it gives off.

In March 2017, GroundTruth — then known as xAd — formally introduced its  Cost-Per-Visit ad format, which told clients they only had to pay for ads that led a target into their doors. Is that still an important ad format for GroundTruth?

Cost-Per-Visit’s been huge. I was at Microsoft for a year, on the buy side. One thing I learned is that no one’s getting the bonus and nobody’s getting the promotion because they bought the most clicks — they’re getting the bonus and the promotion when you drive the most people in and get the most month-over-month or year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter sale.

You look at these kinds of businesses, where you know if somebody walks in, they’re probably going to buy something. They have the ability to only pay when there’s a very high likelihood of a business transaction. We’ve just talked about our business as a location platform that uses insights and data to drive business performance. We’re not really into how many impressions you buy when you click, we want you as a business owner, our partner, to drive your business results.

What are the primary use cases of Cost-Per-Visit? How has the value of this format changed?

A client like Outback Steakhouse might say, “We don’t want to pay you to bring in customers who eat here five-days-a-week or five times a year. We want to pay you to bring in customers who haven’t been here in 12 months.” That Cost-Per-Visit model is really compelling to a client like that.

The obvious use cases are evolving in terms of the scale of driving customers to a restaurant or retailer. We have some partners that sell insurance and they’re interested in finding people who show up on auto lots three consecutive times over five weeks, because they’re highly likely to buy auto insurance.

The visit of the customer to the auto lot is not interesting because they’re not trying to get someone to buy their car; they’re trying to get the downstream behavior. If they know someone showed up on those lots, they’re highly likely to do something tangential, or related to that visit. That’s where it starts to get interesting and it’s a longer conversation. It’s not obvious, and our entire industry is trained on, “How many impressions do you get? What’s the click-through rate? What’s the cost-per-click?”

We solved that problem a couple years ago, when we got into viewability and ad-fraud. At least you know if it’s a real person. You can get the person who’s definitely in the market for a new car, they’re either going to call their insurance agent and give the new VIN number, or they’re going to call a new insurance company and get another one. So there’s an insurance transaction that’s related to a different visit, but it’s still the visit.

As CMO, part of your role entails defining the brand. What does GroundTruth stand for today versus when you started?

Having been here eight months, and kind of the half-life of the new brand,  there was the idea of the direction that we’re going when the name was changed.

To be really clear, the new GroundTruth is first and foremost about building a platform. It’ not just having all this insight and ability to execute only in the hands of the GroundTruth employees acting on behalf of clients.

The focus is on building a platform we could hand to anyone and have them sign in, make questions and find precise answers, and literally use location data when you’re reporting it. We can give it to any kind of business.

The second part is the evolution of performance. We really can’t be in the business of selling impressions, as I’ve said, because everyone else does that. You can’t differentiate well enough for one thing.

The third area of focus is the quality of the data. The location space is somewhat crowded, though we’re significantly larger than most. But if you’re going to act on performance, and you’re going to give the tools to other people, you have to have the best data because it has to be accurate. And if you’re going to bet the opportunity that the visit’s going to happen, you have to have the best sources of data. We’ve really, really pushed our SDK, we’ve really, really pushed our Blueprints technology, which allows us to do that Cost-Per-Visit performance.

And the fourth one, which is very related to all that, is the idea of making sure we have great first-party data. We bought WeatherBug and it’s is a Top 100 app, Top 3 weather app. The only people in the location space that even have apps are, I think, Foursquare. By getting WeatherBug, you get great first-party data. You care what the weather is where you are, or where you’re going, or where your loved ones are, right? If we said, “Here, sign in to the weather app,” and we give you weather for Kansas City, Kansas, because it’s the dead center of America, you’d be like, “Pretty much never care, and if I do care I’ll check.”

So getting that super, super accurate data for weather, which allows us to build more precision into those models. And as we get more and more into WeatherBug, it’s been really interesting because all weather apps appear to be the same — but they’re not.

With WeatherBug, we’ve added a whole feature that gives users air quality reporting. That’s important to specific kinds of users, such as professional or competitive-level athletes who want to know how the air will affect their performance. It gives you an added value for someone to come use the site. We get more data, and we can provide better stuff back.

And that sums up this moment for GroundTruth: we’re about about the platform, the performance, the data, and then having first-party apps that really bring the location experience to life for consumers and our clients.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.