There’s no question big data can feel like an avalanche. It’s relatively easy, at least compared to the old days, to pile up stacks of consumer, sales, and product information. But what do you actually do with that golden currency? Do you need to invest in tech to acquire the info, and then invest in more tech to break it down? It really varies by the brand, of course. Yet while big data remains an uncharted frontier to some extent, there’s no denying the opportunity. Advancements in tech and data capabilities have allowed quick-service restaurant marketers to connect with guests in more meaningful ways, and reach them when and where they’re paying attention.
The key word there is “meaningful.” Restaurants are quickly moving from a world where mass marketing was the law of the land (coupons and general, discount-focused promotions) to mass personalization. Customer segmentation. Offers through loyalty and direct communication that speak to particular guests. Things like rewards-exclusive invites to wine dinners. Offers that speak to behavior more than value-driven traffic. And what’s also beneficial to marketers? This strategy cuts spend and improves ROI when done effectively. Chains aren’t forced to develop and promote new creative every time an item hits the menu just to get guests to try it. That can be an expensive cycle when it’s constantly on loop.
Ad-solution company Viant shared a study with QSR called “Demystifying Quick-Service Restaurant Customers.” Its goal was to better understand the industry’s guests by analyzing demographics and marketing tactics. The insights came from location data, transaction data, and machine learning, applied to identify several customer segments for quick-serves. Viant built the model from 4,880,438 visits by 1,889,444 people during a six-month period in 2018 to a sandwich franchise with more than 1,000 locations (it didn’t identify the brand).
Here were the five segments:
- Breakfast buyers
- Lunchtime loyalists
- Primetime patrons
- Devoted diners
"Mobile, and third party food delivery services have disrupted the quick-service restaurant industry in a big way," says Jon Schulz, CMO at Viant. "How consumers find a restaurant, and ultimately choose to order or dine in has changed dramatically over the years. For [quick-serves] to stay competitive when consumers have so many more options available at their fingertips, they have to understand their customers, and their competitors more than ever."
"With a better understanding of their customer base, [quick-serves] can build cohesive marketing strategies and drive traffic to their restaurants," he adds. "Location, transaction data, and visit frequency for example can help [quick-serves] better understand the customer journey which informs the marketing strategy. We found that not all diners respond the same to certain types of media. For example, a [quick-service restaurant] most loyal customers are three times more likely to visit in-store after exposure to a mobile ad, and six times more likely after exposure to a desktop display ad."
Buyers at a glance
Let’s look first at the “breakfast buyer.” This segment frequented the sandwich franchise for breakfast 15 percent of their visits. They came more frequently than the average and were loyal to a single restaurant. You often hear this kind of behavior among breakfast customers in general. They’re routine driven and stickier than most.
The data found that “breakfast buyers” were also generally more enthusiastic for the franchise than other consumers.
Interestingly, desktop impressions proved twice as likely to drive “breakfast buyers’” visits compared to mobile.
The chart below shows where these customers were going elsewhere in the industry. A few trends here reflect recent results. McDonald’s, which enjoys 25 percent of its business during the breakfast daypart, remains a top player for the occasions, even with recent slowdowns (shows how important it is to reignite those sales). The Burger King bar also lends credence to the chain’s recent directive to boost business with subscription coffee services and menu innovation.