The quick-service restaurant industry has gone through upheaval over recent years as the ways customers engage with brands and how they make purchases have evolved dramatically. Brands have been forced to totally rethink customer experience. Providing in-store tablets and touch-screens to allow for self-serve ordering and implementing digital signage and opening online click-and-collect services are all now quickly becoming de rigueur. Heavyweights like Burger King and McDonalds are leveraging digital-first touchpoints to entice eaters, using branded apps that provide discounted prices, pre-pay, and even mobile check-out.

While the tactics and media plans may be evolving to fit changing consumer behavior and technological advances, the overarching objective remains the same—get customers to the physical stores. Drive-to-Store (DTS) advertising is any form of advertising with the direct intention of increasing foot traffic to physical locations. Sure, brands are indeed intent on leveraging app downloads and third-party online delivery services so that consumers can get their meals at home with just a few clicks, but the bulk of their marketing is still focused on getting people to visit.

As a dominant vertical market with $256 billion in sales in 2018 (according to Statista), there is a lot at stake for quick-service restaurant players to get it right. As reported by IHS Markit this year, nearly $6 billion in advertising by quick-serve marketers invested in 2018 was to attract diners through their doors. 

Why drive-to-store advertising is so appetizing for quick-service restaurants

A recent study from IHS Markit found that in 2018, 67 percent of the total amount that U.S. quick-serves invested in advertising was allocated to DTS advertising. On a global scale, the U.S. is one of two countries, along with France, that registered above the industry average for restaurant investments in drive-to-store, with the investment level predicted to rise to 77 percent by 2023.

So why do restaurants see so much value in drive-to-store advertising? The level at which brands can measure results with the method is a critical motivation to invest in it. U.S. retailers value the impact on both visits and sales that DTS can drive for their brands and cite that as a key reason for investing. Furthermore, several marketers have focused on the importance of not only looking at total visits but specifically measuring incremental visits to understand a more precise impact of their advertising. These visits are those that can be directly attributed to their campaigns. If they are unable to isolate their incremental visits, they might be measuring and paying for footfall caused by organic or other channels of advertising.

The most effective way to drive incremental visits 

In the U.S., marketers expressed a clear preference for digital channels over traditional ones such as print and OOH for their DTS campaigns. This is due to the capability that digital has to measure overall visits and incremental visits. Mobile performs strongly with 60 percent of marketers considering it the most effective channel for DTS. Mobile will maintain its lead of the U.S. DTS market, with social closely following, growing its share as the key method from 22 percent in 2018 to 28 percent by 2023, according to IHS Markit.

Leveraging mobile for drive-to-store campaigns is an increasingly key strategy for driving incremental in-store visit. An international sandwich franchise launched a mobile-to-store campaign in order to increase footfall uplift to their locations in France recently. The innovative campaign drove measurable results on behalf of the brand including uplift in visits and sales.

In addition, the increased reach and improvements in the quality of customer data and insights that DTS provides are important motivators. Marketers have started to move away from vanity metrics like frequency, impressions, and click-through rates to measurable KPIs that help to meet their business objectives such as increased revenue. So, while quick-service restaurant brands may be ramping up on the growing array of digital branding and performance tactics, their priority remains driving consumers into their restaurants.

As Chief Revenue Officer, North America at S4M, Ed Silhan is responsible for leading the strategic increase in revenue and sales for the entire region. With nearly 20 years of experience in the digital and advertising space, Ed is an executive leader with a history of driving growth in mobile advertising, data monetization and cross channel digital media. Prior to S4M, Ed held sales leadership positions at PayPal, eBay, Meredith, and Remedy Health Media. Most recently, he served as EVP, Head of Sales at SITO Mobile where he led their substantial increase in revenue as well as the development of their presence in the marketing technology industry.

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