Local data isn't a new concept. Brands know they need it to win local markets. Even a decade ago in "The Chipotle Effect," Paul Barron said that "the face of change is in the challenge of distilling a global message down to a local level and turning it into something authentic and organic that really connects with consumers."
National and regional data is no longer good enough. Restaurant brands need local data to win the local battle, so why has it been so elusive?"
Lack of Local First-Party Data
Technical barriers, lack of expertise, lack of tracking tools, and broad advertising targeting are some of the most common reasons that brands don’t have granular data at the local level. Why?
Valuable actions (transactions, add to cart, other e-commerce behavior) take place off the main website, and data may be "owned" by third party. It's very common (and increasingly so) for brands to use third-party vendors to execute transactions which makes getting that data even more difficult. Many brands outsource their ordering/delivery platform and use third party POS systems. While helpful for transactions, brands are at the behest of third parties to provide data from it. Third parties collect an enormous amount of data that would greatly benefit local franchises. In cases where the third party makes the data accessible, technical knowledge and skills are required to derive insights, which many brand teams don’t possess.
A lack of technical knowledge and expertise. Even without technical barriers, a team or individual who manages digital efforts needs to be in place to ensure that data is being properly collected and leveraged. Many contemporary websites use form fills for certain calls to action, but these elements are more difficult to track. Brands know that prospective customers want a modern experience on the website but, even with out-of-the-box solutions like Squarespace, bigger hurdles for tracking can be caused down the line. These solutions simplify the process of integrating tools like Google Analytics, but this is only half the battle; someone still has to be responsible for using and maintaining it.
Brands are too focused on conversions. Marketers of mid-size brands typically run lean operations that track a limited number of site sections, which are primarily focused on sales. This commonly leads to marketers ignoring, or not having the platform to track, other non-monetary actions such as engagement with site content, click to call, and the use of location finders on the site.
These actions can offer valuable insights that can be used to enhance the design and execution of advertising campaigns. When marketers track these behaviors, novel insights are often revealed. For ex., there may be a noticeable sales increase when the location finder is used on the website. This detail can be leveraged in digital campaigns by either directing ad traffic to these pages, remarketing to people who have used the tool, or building lookalike models to target more people who are likely to behave the same way.
A single national or DMA-focused ad fund setup is frequently used by lean teams to support locations across large areas. This means brands lack the ability to collect unique local data sets, down to the neighborhood or zip code level. DMA-focused ad funds target larger demographic areas and don’t empower brands to gather or leverage data for individual locations in any community. This restricts campaigns to appeal only to the lowest common denominator across locations.
Mid-size marketers have to answer up the chain and report to regional or national heads of marketing. This often leads to time spent analyzing and evaluating data that speaks to the top, like aggregated performance at the regional level, and may overlook how to collect and evaluate valuable insights that drive performance at the local level.
Invest in Solutions or Training
There are lots of actionable ways that your brand can help you fill the local data gap, from analytics experts to marketing technology.
Work with certified analytics or marketing data partners who can help navigate setting up conversion and behavior tracking on the site and/or app. For those who want to tackle it in-house, most prominent ad providers like Google and Facebook offer detailed instructions or even free courses to bring novices up to speed. There are also a variety of paid courses. Regardless, the time and/or money is well spent and can be critical to enhancing brand sales.
Track all location-relevant site behavior
This can be as simple as tracking how many people have been to a specific restaurant location’s web page or as sophisticated as determining whether site visitors have physically entered your locations. The goal is to understand how some or all of these factors impact sales, including how the behavior varies by region and community.
Paint a picture with data
When advertisers track more actions than transactions or “conversions”, insights begin to emerge that indicate what behaviors and/or traits are most valuable to the business. For example, brands may find that people who use a specific site feature, or view content in a specific order, are more likely to complete a purchase. It’s also very likely that these characteristics differ, potentially significantly, based on where prospective customers are located. Putting all of this data together gives advertisers a more detailed view of customer behavior per region. These learnings can then be applied in digital campaigns as optimizations.
Analyze data, optimize campaigns, rinse, repeat
Equipped with valuable local customer data, marketers can analyze this information to determine what sort of campaign optimization can make the most impact. If advertisers see similarities among converting traffic in upper funnel actions in a specific region, lookalike models of users who have performed these actions can be built, which will bring new traffic to the site that is highly likely to convert.
When you have local insights for every community, new data sets can be applied to other areas of your business, revealing new opportunities for local recruiting, brand expansion, and of course, more effective marketing.
Spencer Moody is an AdOps lead at HYPERLOCOLOGY, a multi-location marketing platform that enables multi-location and franchise brands to centrally control local advertising, across the most powerful digital channels, for their hundreds or thousands of locations. Hyperlocology’s best-in-class technology includes automated local advertising campaign builder, location-level analytics, community data, and per-location insights to drive meaningful business outcomes.