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TGI Fridays, Taco Bell, H&M Adopt Foursquare Analytics

Equinox is also among the brands that are using the new Foursquare measurement that is being positioned as ‘a Google Analytics for the real world,' says Mike Harkey.

As major brands continue to look to the promise of geo-data to offer deeper insights into “why, how, when, and where” smartphone-toting consumers eat, shop, and visit, Foursquare is rolling out another in a series of measurement offerings in a bid to answer those big brick-and-mortar questions.

The launch of Foursquare Analytics is in keeping with the company’s positioning as a provider of location intelligence. As Mike Harkey, Foursquare’s VP for business development, this new product is intended as a complement to existing tools Pinpoint, which provides cross-channel insights for real-time programmatic media buying and planning; Attribution, a panel-based system that collects place-data on the more than 8 billion check-ins users of the flagship discovery app Foursquare and its companion, Swarm; and Place Insights, which turns the Big Data from Foursquare Attribution into actionable uses for its brand and agency partners.

The first brands to start using Foursquare Analytics include TGI Fridays, Taco Bell, H&M and Equinox.

“TGI Fridays is focused on evolving along with our guests to continue giving them the fun and carefree experience they’ve come to expect from our restaurants,” says Sherif Mityas, Strategy and Brand Initiatives, TGI Fridays. “The Foursquare Analytics dashboard allows us to react faster to category trends and get a much deeper understanding of our guests, their preferences and behaviors outside of Fridays.”

The simple goal Foursquare has for its Analytics product is to be able to show a clearer picture of a brands’ desired customers what the patterns of the places they go can tell brands on how to market to them, says Harkey.

“We’re trying to create for them a Google Analytics in the real world,” Harkey says. “If they’re a retailer, you’re trying to understand why your sales are increasing or dropping in a particular region.

“You can’t necessarily get the exact answer to that question using one of our other products,” Harkey continues. “Foursquare Analytics presents a dashboard that shows business performance insights with deeper insights into your customer base. We can give brands the answers to ‘Who are my loyal customers Where all do they shop and eat?’ We can help to optimize their product strategy and ultimately their media spend, by giving them historical trends, behavioral data from the offline world right at their fingertips.”

Staking Claims In Location Intelligence And Insights

In releasing Foursquare Analytics, the company is attempting to meet the competitive dynamics in the increasingly crowded location marketing space. For example, just last week, xAd sought to further stake its own claim in the location-based ad attribution wars by offering advertisers a guaranteed, pay-for-performance ad format called Cost-Per-Visit with Applebee’s and The Home Depot as the first clients.

For Foursquare, the Analytics product opens up its capabilities—which its used to accurately predict iPhone 6s sales and Chipotle revenue declines —to retailers and restaurant chains who need to understand changing foot traffic patterns to their stores in the U.S.

In unveiling Foursquare Analytics, Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck calls the new offering a “clean, simple dashboard that puts the power of our proven location intelligence in the hands of brands.”

“Foursquare Analytics allows brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurant chains to understand how their own company and an entire category are performing based on actual, measurable, real-world visits—and much more quickly than any option out there,” Glueck writes in a blog post. It’s a dashboard for insights on chain-level foot-traffic performance that can be easily compared to a competitive set and to the broader industry, providing unprecedented metrics that measure loyalty, reveal demographic insights and uncover sources of acquisition and loss.

“It allows analysts to have a precise understanding of changing store visit patterns and share of visits from a competitive set. Like every product within the Foursquare suite, Foursquare Analytics is powered by our industry-leading location intelligence,” Glueck adds.

A Google Analytics For The ‘Real-World’

One of the challenges Foursquare has to deal with is the creeping suspicion on the part of marketers and agencies that geo-data is often inaccurate and/or becoming “commodified” to the point where the differences are hard to discern.

Glueck is ready for the commodification question, outlining four ways that Foursquare Analytics can offer something “different” in the location space.

  • Brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurant chains have never before had access to these types of category analyses via a dynamic dashboard in such a timely manner.
  • Foursquare Analytics provides new metrics that before today have been nearly impossible to identify, such as loyalty, frequency of visits by group, and sources of acquisition or loss.
  • With Foursquare Analytics, an analyst can understand customer profiles and identify differences between loyalists and other shoppers, for example.

Fourquare’s technology rests on a a foundation of an “always-updating map of 93 million locations worldwide,” Glueck writes, though rivals such as Factual and Google each claim to have insights on roughly 100 million global sites (PlaceIQ has said it has in-depth data covering 425 million places around the world). Elsewhere in the battle for scale is Seattle-based Placed, which is supporting xAd’s Cost-Per-Visit ads, with geo-data from over 2.3 million active app users share their location information on a daily basis.

But Foursquare isn’t just resting on scale. Again, the emphasis is on being able to present actionable online-to-offline foot-traffic intelligence.

As Glueck notes, its existing data collection goes beyond its own Foursquare and Swarm apps to include information from its Places database. That database powers over 100,000 mobile apps including Snapchat, Twitter, and Apple — as well as “aggregated and anonymized” in-store visit data from Foursquare’s mobile panel who have opted-in to always-on location sharing.

That “passive” data, which also forms the basis of Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK that is now being licensed by brand partners such as Capital One and Retale, allows Analytics to accurately measure visits to thousands of retail brands each month “without the need for any in-store hardware or the necessity of setting up geofences,” Glueck says.

Who Are T.J. Maxx Shoppers?

At a time when many large brick-and-mortar chains are looking to scale back their footprint, ‘near luxury’ stores like T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack have been expanding.

As a demonstration of what its Analytics product can offer brands, Foursquare offered some unsolicited insights (Foursquare is quick to note that the discount apparel chain is not a client) about its customers’ online/offline behavior.

Foursquare describes T.J. Maxx shoppers as “passionate consumers” who are more likely than the average American to visit department stores, accessories shops and clothing stores.

Stops at T.J. Maxx are often preceded or followed by visits to other retailers who offer lower prices, particularly at Nordstrom Rack and DSW.

In addition to their passion for the brand, people who go to T.J. Maxx tend to shop a lot more than the general population.

About 5 percent of  T.J. Maxx shoppers visit the store nearly every other week, Foursquare Analytics found. Meanwhile, 80 percent of T.J. Maxx customers shopped at the retailer at least twice in the past 12 months.

Last month, more than 40 percent of T.J. Maxx visits were by those high frequency T.J. Maxx shoppers (up from ~30 percent a year ago).

The combination of their partiality to T.J. Maxx along with the appeal of rivals such as Nordstrom Rack and DSW to its shoppers, Foursquare Analytics would suggest that a marketing analyst at the retailer consider directing geotargeted ads toward the mix of Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers who frequent its stores, especially as Foursquare finds that Target is starting to make inroads in capturing greater market share among discount-focused consumers.

“Though T.J. Maxx is especially strong with loyal shoppers, the retailer can accelerate growth by bringing in new customers,” Glueck writes in his study of shopper place patterns. “Market penetration among the broader category—comprised of department stores, outlet stores and other comparable retailers—hovers below 15 percent. Converting a fraction of new customers could be hugely valuable to T.J. Maxx, particularly if these new consumers evolve into medium- or high-frequency shoppers.”

While the tension between “data” and “gut” by retail marketing decision makers is always fraught, Harkey is quick to add that this is not another question of the machines taking over for humans.

Furthermore, as some marketers also look askance at the promise of predictive analytics, Harkey says that hope is to add some nuance to the discussion of what data can (and can’t) do.

“The way we approached this was that T.J. Maxx is a chain that defies convention,” Harkey says. “How is it possible that a chain like T.J. Maxx is striving, consistently striving? We try to unpack that through behavioral trends, demographic trends, that we’re able to see in the location data. We can showcase areas where their succeeding and areas where there’s some opportunities for improvement. Does that provide predictive capabilities to those that access? Well ultimately it’s in the hand of the analysts at the brand or the agency.

In that sense, Foursquare Analytics is about taking in recent history and using it to project possible directions going forward for marketing designed to get connected consumers into a store.

“What we’re providing are monthly trend reports, so at the end of the month, within 48 hours, we’ll update our data in the dashboard and it’s up to the analyst to do make it what they will,” he says. “We’ll walk them through all of it, of course, and make sure they understand how to use it. But, at the end of the day, whether its a retailer, quick service restaurant, or travel brand, they’re the experts on their business and we recognize that.”