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Consumer Geo-Tracking Is Changing The Game for QSR And Shopper Insights

Mike loves a good burger and just received a survey invitation that asks him how many times per week he eats at McDonald’s. Hmm….It seems like this week he went about three times. Or maybe four. Last week he was stuck in bed with a cold and guesses he only went twice. The week before he was driving all over the place for work and it feels to him like he went a lot…maybe 7 times (the real number is three because a few of those stops were actually at Wendy’s since the McDonald’s he usually goes to is closed for remodeling….but Mike doesn’t recall that). He also doesn’t recall that McDonald’s ran a big outdoor ad campaign that had him going nearly every day for breakfast (not just lunch) a few weeks ago for a total of 9 times per week.

The fact is, Mike doesn’t really know how often he goes to McDonald’s. And Mike is not unlike most consumers. Recent research clearly shows that when asked about where, when and how often they shop or dine at specific stores or restaurants, consumers are highly unreliable in accurately reporting their past visitation behavior. And why should this surprise us? Sure, as consumers we all know where we go generally, but we don’t keep track with the accuracy needed to conduct robust and reliable market research. Amidst consumers’ busy lives, most of their visits to stores and restaurants occur with little thought or attention and quickly fade into a blurry memory of days and weeks gone by.

As researchers, we’ve always known that self-reported visitation data had considerable built-in inaccuracies, even as we relied upon it heavily for screening participants, segmenting them, and developing insights. But we asked anyway because we had no alternative way of getting to this data. Until now.

At ThirdSlice, we’ve been using breakthrough opt-in geotracking technology in consumers’ mobile phones to do two amazing things:

  • Develop highly-accurate profiles of consumer’s precise store visitation behavior for our clients, with a level of detail and precision they’ve never seen before.
  • Use this data to screen participants into custom designed research studies, knowing with unprecedented certainty that the store visitation history of our research participants is real.


Beyond just knowing that the store and restaurant visitation history of people taking our surveys is highly accurate, we’re also now able to conduct time-series analysis to identify and explain changing consumer behaviors and the motivations behind them in ways never before possible. For example:

  • As Dunkin Donuts aggressively expands into California, we can geo-track the changing store visitation patterns of McDonald’s and Starbucks’ customers and geo-intercept them inside Dunkin Donuts for in-store mobile surveys to understand their attitudes and behaviors related to this new competitor.
  • As Amazon rolls out new initiatives at Whole Foods and works to expands the target market it serves, we can geo-track store visitation behavior of other supermarket chains’ loyal shoppers by intercepting them inside Whole Foods, to understand exactly if and how Whole Foods is stealing their customers.
  • When IHOP launches a new value menu, we can track the visitation patterns of past and new IHOP customers to see how the promotion is impacting visits, and intercept customers inside IHOP to engage them in in-the-moment survey research about the value menu and its impact on their dining decisions.

Opt-in behavioral tracking is one of the most powerful new customer insights tools we’ve ever seen for retailers and QSR chains because it gives our clients deeper and more accurate insight into store or restaurant visitation behavior than they’ve ever had before. In today’s competitive retail and QSR marketplace, clients who understand how store visitation is changing and what factors are driving those changes are certain to outperform their peers.

If you’re a retailer, QSR chain, or any other location-based business, contact us to learn more about how fast and easy it is to implement breakthrough behavioral tracking studies that let you understand your customers like never before. You’ll be amazed at what is possible.

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